The quarantine was slowly wearing Baby Seal down. Actually, the quarantine had been wearing him down since before the quarantine. He’d gained 45 pounds and was waking up at noon. His fat pants now looked like tights. Every shelf in his walk-in closet was a nest of secret snacks for munching in between his five daily meals. And best of all I mean worst of all, his $19,872.22 all-carbon bike made of 100% carbon and pure carbon everything and electric extra everything, remained untouched, unridden, unloved.
Baby Seal lay on the floor every morning thinking about his post-Colombia Tour de Smuggling, when he had returned triumphantly from the highest, hardest climbs on earth fit as a goat, easily able to crack out NPR and then a Donut loop on top of that. He thought about his skinny pants, about the empty secret snacking shelves, and about how his iron will, fortified as the fitness of a thousand barking seals, carried him gloriously from party to party showing off his skinny legs, his skinny buttocks, his leanly carved face, his scrawny cyclist arms and sexy pencil neck, and his farmer’s tan.
Finally, it got to be too much. Baby Seal threw off the covers, hoisted himself out of floor with the help of a small handicapped railing he’d installed on the wall, and waddled into the bathroom.
“Today,” he barked, “is the return of the Seal. Mark yer fuggin’ calendars, bitches.”
With that oath sworn, and exhausted thereby, he returned to floor and snoozed until it was time for his second lunch.
That night he dialed up Ram-Ram. “Yo.”
“Hey, JP. What’s up?”
“I’m starting my new fitness plan tomorrow. It will be hard. Grueling. Intense. Ordinary riders would crumble. It’s so tough that I need a partner in crime. And you’re he.”
“Uh, sure. What’s up?”
“Here’s the plan. Day 1 we do a loop around the Hill. 22 miles, 1,700 feet.”
“Day 2 we do two loops.”
“Hmmm. Day 3?”
Ram-Ram nodded to himself. “When does this stop?”
“Cumulative loops for seven days till we finish off with 154 miles and 11,900 feet?”
“Exactly.” Then Baby Seal paused stragetically. “Of course if it’s too hard for you I can try to find someone else.”
“No, no. I’m in.”
“K. See you tomorrow at 5:30.” Baby Seal fell back into floor smiling to himself. It was a crazy plan but sure to get him out of his fat pants and back into his slimming t-shirts. Ram-Ram was the perfect sucker partner because he lived 15 miles from the start, so he had an additional 30 miles every day. This would not only compensate for the vast fitness differential between them, as Ram-Ram had never ridden less than 500 miles a week, and it would provide excellent stragety. As the days passed, each ride would finish later, giving Ram-Ram less recovery. Then, since they’d be increasing the number of loops and therefore starting earlier, Ram-Ram would have to keep getting up earlier. If everything went according to plan, Ram-Ram would be a flubbering puddle of Jello-O by Day 5, Day 6 at the very latest, and Baby Seal could bark his way to fitness with the world’s greatest Stravver ‘Gram celebration ever.
Day 1 went great except that Seal found out that all the spigots had been turned off at all the usual stopping places. Of course the cafes weren’t open, except for Angry Lady Cafe in Lunada Bay. Seal had a hate-hate relationship with the angry lady who ran Angry Lady, and it was only partially because he would always dash into the toilet, which had a “Customers Only” sign on it, dump a corn-studded bowl buster, and dash back out without ever buying anything.
Angry Lady could never bust his chops because she was always busy with customers, and by the time she saw him the door would be locked and the log machine would be set at 11.
However, with the quarantine and the Angry Lady Cafe having been designated as an essential business, she was ready for his hijinks. “Oh, no, you don’t!” she yelled, grabbing him by the arm as he ran in. “Pay!”
“I was gonna get, uh, a crossant,” Seal hangdoggedly said. $25 dollars later he was back on his bike, vowing never to return.
Day 2 was uneventful except for all the events. He was still only taking one water bottle and nothing to eat except Barbie food. Ram-Ram was in fine fettle, but they both ran out of water … in front of Angry Lady Cafe. $50 later they were riding again. “This is getting expensive,” said Ram-Ram.
“Yeah,” thought Seal, “but you’re tacking on an extra 30 miles each way and it’s going to get you in the end.”
By the end of Day 3 Ram-Ram was still fine, but their mutual subsistence on Barbie food had begun to play havoc with their bowels. On Lap 3, the moment they got close to the Angry Lady Cafe, their water bottles emptied and their bowels filled with the loose, gummy pieces of all that Barbie food. This time there was a struggle over who’d get to sit down first. Seal won.
As Seal stood outdoors waiting for Ram-Ram to finish, Angry Lady come up to him complying with social distancing. “What are you two doing?” she asked suspiciously.
“Riding our bikes, what does it look like?” For $50, Seal thought he was entitled to at least one rude comment.
“It looks like you are both homeless and have lost your minds,” she snapped.
Day 4 and Seal was wrecked. The thought of four laps around that dog-damned hill was more than he could imagine. They’d begun seeing the same people, who had also begun seeing them. Now it was weird, a Groundhog Day within a Groundhog Day. Still not organized enough to take additional water bottles, Baby Seal ran out early and stopped instead at the Yellow Vase Cafe in Malaga Cove, another business essential to the maintenance of life as we know it.
The second time they stopped there, the manager had removed the free water cistern out front, scowlingly, and tacked up a “Customers Only” sign on the bathroom door. Another fifty bucks gone.
Day 5 and no one cared about the cost of water and a poop anymore. “At least my taint doesn’t hurt now,” Seal mused as he took the most expensive leak-poop in history. But a quick glance Down There revealed that there was a reason it didn’t hurt: All of the skin had been ground into a bloody, meaty pulp and the nerve endings were permanently dead. He pulled up his gore-soaked shorts and continued on.
At the end of Day 5, Ram-Ram cheerily waved good-bye. “Have a safe ride home,” Seal muttered, hoping that his fake cheer wouldn’t fail to remind Ram-Ram that he still had another miserable fifteen miles of nasty urban traffic ahead of him.
The day dawned fair and clear on Saturday, Day 6. Seal lay in floor, staring at the ceiling, hoping, praying that Ram-Ram would experience a crisis of confidence. The phone rang. “Thank dog,” Seal said. “Yeah?” he answered.
“Where are you? It’s already six.”
“Uh, my alarm, uh, breakfast, um, flat tire, uh, dirty laundry, ah, be there in a few, uh, almost out the door.”
Seal put on the bloody rags from the day before and drove to the start. “You look fresh,” he growled.
“Yeah,” smiled Ram-Ram. “It’s great to have a nice warm-up before the real riding starts.”
The real riding on Day 6 slowly obliterated Baby Seal. He spent a hundred dollars on coffee and toilets. He bled. He shat his shorts and didn’t care. He stared at his paunch, which had shrunk to the size of a tiny throw pillow, and hardly even cared. (I did say “hardly.”) By the sixth lap, climbing up the wall out of Portuguese Bend, Seal could only whimper as Ram-Ram looked back quizzically.
“You okay, man?”
The final day arrived but Seal didn’t. His phone rang and rang. With each buzz he curled up more tightly in his cozy floor. “No way,” he told himself, “that punk is gonna finish seven laps today. No fuggin’ way.”
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