chapter 9 - all the king's horses
Jack glanced to his left and right as he rode along with the pack. “I’m surrounded by lunatics,” he muttered. He had already ridden over a hundred miles that day, and now he was on his bike again, riding at night with a bunch of hooligans. Bananas pulled up alongside Jack and swept his arm around in a big circle to point at everyone around them. “This is a beater brigade. The beater bikes you see us riding are clunkers that have been pulled from bike racks and curbs on trash day. Sometimes three or four old bikes go into making one cruiser. Like uranium or plutonium, these cruisers are heavy, unstable, and have a half-life of about one semester. You’ll want to be careful with your road bike. It’s not meant for demolition.”
Just then, Sluggo cut across Jack and Banana’s front wheels, jumped a curb, and smashed through several trash cans that had been set out for garbage pick up. He slid out on a trash can lid and cart-wheeled into some shrubs. Jack was surprised that no one stopped. Instead, they circled around laughing like a pack of hyenas.
Sluggo untangled himself and got back on his bike. He didn’t seem any worse for wear, and once again the group flew off along the dark streets, crossing the Iowa River and riding toward the brightly lit “Old Crapital,” as Dog Bait put it.
At the top of the hill they met up with Brendan and Bill waiting next to a streetlamp. Paul came in for a landing too fast and hit the curb hard. He flew over his handlebars and did a belly flop slide across the sidewalk, coming to a stop right at the feet of some sorority girls who were walking to the bars. Paul jumped up and declared himself, “Safe!” the way a baseball umpire would.
Then a puzzled look crossed his face, and he lifted his shirt to reveal a line of red gouges, one for each button on his shirt. Everyone cheered but Jack, who was lost in thought, wondering if he was ever going to get on with the escape and the mission that Sister Kim had given him last night.
More high jinks and tomfoolery followed as the rough riders rolled over to a convenience store where Dean Wrong bought a pack of cigarettes and two-dozen eggs. “We’re makin’ a really big omelet,” he told the clerk in a matter-of-fact way. Once outside, Dean handed Jack the eggs saying, “I’ve got to get the winger ready.” The winger turned out to be a huge water balloon launcher, but tonight they would be launching eggs with it. Jack was relieved when Dean took charge of the eggs again.
Jack spent the next hour running and riding from alley to side-street to parking lot to alley, following the group as they sent eggs flying at frat houses and cars. Finally, when the last egg had been spent, the midnight omelet chefs made a tactical decision to head for the bars. This proved disastrous for Mongo, who crashed hard on some railroad tracks that crossed the road at an odd angle.
No one cheered or laughed this time. The riders circled back to Mongo and helped him sit up. There was so much blood flowing out of Mongo’s face that Jack couldn’t tell where it was all coming from exactly. Someone found a towel and handed it to Mongo to staunch the flow of blood. Then, to Jack’s amazement, they put him back on his bike. The handlebars were skewed, but the bike rolled all right, and while Mongo held the towel to his face, they pushed him along the dark streets. The riders rode without talking. Jack wanted to ask where they were going but decided not to break the silence. A few minutes later, when they rounded a corner and he saw the entrance to a hospital emergency room, Jack understood.
Dog Bait and Brendan took Mongo through the emergency room doors. The rest of the group milled around outside for a while before nodding goodbyes and drifting off by ones and twos. Jack was soon left alone sitting on a bench outside the emergency room doors. It was late and he was tired. The worst part was that Jack couldn’t see how he would ever make the journey west. Jack was supposed to escape to the big western mountains, taking beans to someone named Kelby. Jack felt his pockets for the beans but to his surprise, came up empty. He checked his pockets again with the same result. Jack’s mind started racing. He might have dropped the beans anywhere along tonight’s ride, or they might have fallen out back at Dog Bait’s. The doors to the emergency room slid open and out walked Dog Bait and Brendan. They were talking with each other. “He’ll be alright. Just some stitches,” said Dog Bait. “Mongo’s roommate is coming to pick him up. You done for the night?” “Yeah, I still have to pack,” answered Brendan. “Right after my ten o’clock class tomorrow, I’m driving out to see my folks in Denver.”
“Well, smell ya later,” said Dog Bait as he picked up his bike. Jack, however, was frozen in place. He had just heard the word “Denver,” which temporarily connected with the word “omelet” from earlier in the evening to form the familiar phrase, “Denver omelet.” This had nothing to do with Jack’s present situation.
Then the two words disconnected and Jack was able to reconnect the word “Denver” with the directions Sister Kim had given him about escaping to the big western mountains.
to be continued...
[a serial by little orphan dbax]
BONUS: public service for all bicyclists--
how to make life easier for motorists [see this morning's post]