I bought a bike. A used, blue mountain bike that I wanted to ride to enjoy being outside in the sun and get some exercise. We made a good team out on the trail, my legs pumping and growing stronger, the bike gleaming proudly in the sun.
This is the story of how the bike turned on me.
On only my second ride on the trail, I was going through a railroad tunnel. When you hit the middle, its pitch black. The light from in front of you and behind you has all dissipated and you are alone in the darkness, just the sound of the bike tires rolling through the dirt and if you’re like me, your heavy breathing because you’re fat and out of shape.
After about thirty seconds of just me and the invisible things in the dark, a faint trace of light illuminated my front tire and I saw a ridge at the edge of the path. Then I saw the tire smile: A deep, snake-like grin. A licorice-black tongue snapped out, grasping the edge of the path. The bike slid out from under me and I went down, dragging my left leg through a morass of mud, gravel and dirt. When I stood up I was filthy and bleeding from the palm of my hand, my knee and from scratches all over my lower leg.
It didn’t make me “mean mad” as Ma Joad asked in the Grapes of Wrath. I felt stupid: An adult who can’t go on a simple bike ride. I did have questions about the bike though. I had the whole damn tunnel to ride in so how did the tire catch the only place that would send me to the ground? I didn’t want to believe the bike was bad, didn’t want to make the obvious “Christine” comparisons, but then it got worse. The bike lulled me into a false sense of security. I continued to ride it for weeks with no problems. On the road, on the trail, took it on vacation with me to the shore. I put dozens of miles on the bike without incident. Except for one thing.
I had a cut on my knee, a remnant of the crash, that wouldn’t heal properly. It started bothering me again on vacation and continued in the weeks after until last week when my own knee joined forces with the bike in a diptych of evil. Pus-filled blisters started appearing around the original cut. I drained them, put on ointment. But then, in a move straight out of the necronomicon, the demonic pairing created a blister on the back of my knee. Of course I didn’t notice it because who the hell looks at the back of their knee except for deviants and the Dutch? The abscess soon swelled to the size of a golf ball. By the next day my knee and ankle were swollen and hot and I knew. I knew that my bike had corrupted my own body against me. In the libertine smoke of the early morning hours, I had been infected.
I had to alight to the hospital where I was put on nefarious drugs which broke my skin out in hives. I was tortured by a tall man in a blue smock who resembled the angel of death. With metal instruments he cut and poked at the bulbous growth on the back of my knee, delighting a contingent of Dutch residents there to observe and squeezing out tainted, hellish pus. By the next day, immobile and itching, mercy was relayed to me by an angel with better drugs. I spent the next 4 days sitting on the end of my couch, my leg propped up and hurting. My cat used me as a bed and cleaning station. And all the while, from my spare room, I could hear the bike laughing, low and wet.
And the moral of the story comes from my brother: “It never pays to exercise. Put the bike away and forget it exists.”