It was Friday. I decided to pedal down to the Center of the Known Universe and have a cup of coffee. The sun was shining and it was in the high 60’s. Why go on a “serious” bike ride when you could leisurely pedal along the strand, taking in the waves, the surfers, the volleyball players, and the last few thongs of fall?
I reached CotKU in a great mood, shelled out $1.75 for a bad cup of coffee, and parked my rear on the bricks as an endless stream of talent ambled by. On the far side of the street stood an old man, waiting for the signal to cross. The light changed and he began limping across the street. His face was set in a scowl, but even though the light turned red long before he reached my side of the street, the turning cars and oncoming traffic waited patiently.
He got to the bricks and scowled some more. “Can I make sitting here?” he gruffly asked.
“Sure, pal. Sitting’s free.”
He sat down and scowled for a few moments, his angry eyes darting at the blue sky, the blue ocean, and the talent. I sipped my coffee. “Hey, you fella,” he said.
“Yes?” I answered.
“I gonna question for you.”
“Shoot,” I said.
“Let’s me say I was walking on a path down by this beach.”
“And let’s me say that some dumb bastard son of bitch on bicycle hits me and I fall onto a floor.”
“Sounds very reasonable.”
“So I’m lying on floor and some dumb bastard son of bitch on bicycle runs away from me and I’m me leaving there lying on a goddamned floor.”
“That sounds reasonable, too. Bad, but reasonable.”
“I’m lying on floor with broken goddamn ribs, I have three of them. You know how much it goddamn hurt trying to sleep on broken rib?”
“It hurt a goddamn bastard lot, that how much. And I’m lying there on a floor hurting like goddamn bastard and a walker man walks by and you know what he say?”
“He say to me ‘Are you okay, fellow?’ Can you believe a dumb bastard like that? And I say ‘What you think I’m okay, I’m lying on a floor with goddamn broke rib you dumb son of bitch. You can’t say anything more smart than that why don’t you keep your stupid mouth shut?”
“Then what did he do?”
“He go off and leave me there.”
“Sounds extremely reasonable.”
“So I got question for you.”
“You a riding on a bike kind of fella, eh? So if you run me over like a goddamn bastard and knock me onto a floor, how come you ride off like nothing happen? This country gone to shit because of you biker.”
“You’re asking me what I would do? Or you’re asking me if I’ve ever hit-and-run on a pedestrian?”
“I’m asking why everyone such a dumb bastard. You can’t say something makes a good sense, why don’t you keep a goddamn mouth shut?”
I thought about answering, but realized that it would probably fall into the “dumb bastard keep a goddamn mouth shut” category, so I kept browsing the talent and sipping my coffee.
“My rib hurt so goddamn much if I had a gun I shoot every goddamn bicycle in Manhattan Goddamn Beach.”
I glanced to make sure he wasn’t going to pull out a pistol and punctuate the conversation by shooting me in the head.
“And I gonna tell you something else, fella,” he said. My coffee was only half gone, but it didn’t taste good anymore.
“No, fella, you aren’t.” I pitched the cup in the trash, threw a leg over my bike, and started rolling down the hill. The bike gained momentum as it left behind the angry little black cloud sitting back there on the bricks. And then it hit me. It was still a beautiful goddamn day.
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