The Phone Rings
Who knows which way the wind blows? Well, cyclists, sailors and old men who find themselves performing attempted feats of strength that have outrun the capabilities of their aging bodies. Just when it seemed that all was lost, when it seemed that my excruciating poverty was about to overwhelm my very soul, (not with debt but just with plain old fashioned poorness), the phone rang as I always knew it would and Hey! Hallelujah! It was Bear Dye, calling for help from Orlando, the City of the Golden Goose where I was wont to travel for high pay in my heyday. Bear, (formerly Sugar Bear but now just Bear since he has become a Leader of Men) is a former protege turned Contractor who has experienced some sizable success in the City Beautiful, crafting custom homes for the undeserving and meanwhile carving for himself a quite respectable existence.
Help Me, Obi Wan Kenobi!
But Lo and Behold, in a fit of pique it seems he has dismissed his entire crew and now, after cooling off, realizes he is in need of further assistance. So he calls Me! Hah! We old guys aren't that useless after all, are we! Seems the young scamp has work that has to be finished by the weekend in order to get paid and could I round up a couple guys and come help him out? Again, Hah! But of course, Shuggie, We're On Our Way! (cue the trumpets) I dash about the Trailer Park rounding up Coyote and a couple of the more able-bodied guys to accompany me on my mission, we scrounge together some gas money, throw the tools in the truck and the next morning before sunrise We Are Off to the Rescue.
How Long, O Lord?
As always, things were not what they seemed, even when, by rights, they should be. This project in need of rapid completion was no custom home; in fact, it was the roof of an aged custom home, the old shingles had to be removed and all the old staples and nails pulled and it had to be done really fast. Also, for a guy who had just fired his whole crew there sure were a lot of, well, dudes up there with the Bear. But what the hell, We're Here! and me, Old Captain Courageous his Ownself, would By God save the day whether it needed saving or not. I guess.
The Bear was as funny and stern as I remembered him, saying something to the effect that his whole crew had come crawling back but he was glad we were there and there's the roof, there's the dumpster and let's get going...
89 Degrees In the Shade
This is Florida. By ten o'clock it was 90 degrees. In the shade it was cooler, maybe 89 degrees. And this was a big damn roof and there were a damn lot of shingles. But I was determined to show What An Old Man Can Do and so I scanned the roof for the hardest job and saw that there was already a guy, maybe thirty years old, doing it. I went over and without a word started banging away next to him, yanking old roofing and staples at an alarming rate, banging away like a banshee, Getting the Job Done. This went on for a couple hours. And then another couple hours, and something was happening. I was feeling it, man. What the hell, ain't I the guy that rides 200 miles a week, with a Sunday Century thrown in once a month just because I can? Yeah, said the Voice, but this ain't cycling...”
It sure wasn't. Mercifully, lunch came and we went down to a shady spot to cool off and eat. The turkey sandwiches I had dutifully prepared earlier were not that appealing, but a cold tangerine and some cold water certainly were. While we ate Bear regaled the crew with tales of the Exploits and Victories of Old Tim Joe in the years I spent traveling the Gulf States building restaurants. During those long years of endless travail the Sugar Bear would frequently join up, bring five or six of his best guys to boost me through a tough period. Since tough periods were also highly lucrative periods the Bear and his boys were always handsomely rewarded and there was plenty of saloon time and hell raisin' and so on...
All of which was coming back to haunt me on this 90 plus degree day Here and Now in Orlando, where a fifty-five year old man finds himself trying to live up to a Legend That Never Was. While Bear told Tim Joe Stories to his enraptured (paid) audience, I laughed along while surreptitiously checking my pulse. What the hell, I thought, it's normal to be dizzy and short of breath when it's this hot out. Although it had never happened before, not even when I had bonked on what used to seem like (then) long rides of fifty miles.
Oh, I'll be alright, I said to myself. I paused and listened for some smart-assed comment from the Voice, but he was strangely quiet. Then we went back up on the roof.
Back up there, I realized I was done. Toast. Nothing left. This wasn't like being thirty miles from home on the bike and feeling your legs turn to jelly and a dull throbbing starting in your left temple. This was what it felt like just before you find yourself regaining consciousness in the back of an ambulance or coming to as they wheel you down cold antiseptic hallways on a gurney with someone yelling STAT! in the background. The Bear noticed my trouble and gave me an easy job, screwing off some new plywood in a section of the roof that had been replaced. I was grateful, but it didn't matter. It took supreme effort to fit the screw onto the gun, and when I bent over to screw it in I felt actual pain as the fiendish sun glared at me in the reflected light off the shiny new plywood. This is it, I thought, I'm screwed while trying to screw screws and there's still three screwing hours to go.
But not really. Moments later I was on the ground, vomiting. Hey! There's my tangerine, I remember thinking. That vomiting felt good. Nothing but cold water and tangerine. I didn't care. I was off that damn roof and out of that damn sun. That was all I cared about. I didn't have to look up from my doubled over position to know that I had an audience. As we loaded into the truck for my Ride Home Of Shame, the Voice finally spoke up:
Looks like another Tim Joe story, it said.
Whispering Pines Trailer Park and Bicycle Emporium