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jaded bitter joy crusher
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19,723 Posts
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Inspired by the fact that I'm too aged to qualify as a MAMIL.

He was an old man who raced unattached on a steel frame with downtube shifters in the Wednesday crits and he had gone forty-four weeks now without taking a prime. In the first ten weeks a boy had been with him. But after ten weeks without a prime the moderators had told him that the old man was now definitely and finally on the failboat, which is the worst form of unlucky, and the boy had gone at their orders on another team which took three good primes and a podium place the first week. It made the boy sad to see the old man come in each day with no points and he always went down to help him unpin his race number or carry the spare wheels that sat, propped up like a mechanized teepee next to the fourth turn. The tires were worn to the cords and looked like the flag of permanent defeat.

The old man was thin and gaunt with deep wrinkles in the back of his neck.

The brown blotches of the benevolent skin cancer the sun brings from its reflection on the tinted lenses were on his cheeks. The blotches ran well down the sides of his face and his legs had the deep-creased scars from years of road rash. But none of these scars were fresh. They were as old as the chip-seal roads on which he trained.

Everything about him was old except his eyes and they were the same color as flint and were cheerful and undefeated.

“Santiago,” the boy said to him as they wheeled the bike across the parking lot toward the man's rusted Volvo. “I could go with you again. We’ve made some money.”

The old man had taught the boy to ride and the boy loved him.

“No,” the old man said. “You’re with a lucky team. Stay with them.”

“But remember how you went seventeen weeks without a prime and then we took big ones every week for two months.”

“I remember,” the old man said. “I know you did not leave me because you doubted.”

“It was coolio made me leave. I am noobsauce and I must obey him.”

“I know,” the old man said. “You're a normal.”

“He hasn’t much faith.”

“No,” the old man said. “But we have. Haven’t we?”

“Yes,” the boy said. “Can I offer you a beer in the Lounge and then we’ll take the stuff home.”

“Why not?” the old man said. “Between not-non-cyclists.”

They sat in the Lounge and many of the cyclists made fun of the old man and he was not grumpy. Others of the older cyclists looked at him and were sad. But they did not show it and they spoke politely about the attacks and the corners they had held their lines at and the steady good weather and of what they had seen. The successful cyclists of that day were already in and had taken their pies out and laid them across two planks both stale and succulent. Those who had grabbed primes had gone to collect their schwag from the LBS on the other side of the road, while the rest sat and breathed, sweat falling in puddles around them and diluting their beer.

When the wind was in the east a smell of old clams came across the harbor from the chowder house; but today there was only the faint edge of the odor because the wind had backed into the north and then dropped off and it was pleasant and sunny in the Lounge.
 
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