I recognize the hill where the crash happens flattened by the helicopter camera perspective. From above, it looks like a pebble dropped in water with the golden leader’s jersey hitting the asphalt and other riders rippling away to safety in a rainbow of team kits just past the right hand curve and next to the little turn out where birders and photographers park to get their blue herons or coastal sunsets. I used to have to get off my bike to walk that hill, pushing my Free Spirit—red, white, and blue with ape hanger handlebars, the glittery banana seat, and the oogah horn I got for my birthday. Mom and Dad disguised our carless poverty with family bike rides to the park, and oh, let’s just stop at the store on the way. One day as we neared that hill Dad dropped back to ride beside me, grinning. “I’ll bet you a quarter,” he said “you can’t ride up that hill without stopping.” I yelled in triumph as I crested the top and only realized years later his clever reverse psychology. He handed over the quarter and I contemplated the riches 25¢ could purchase: A Hershey bar I wouldn’t have to share. (Though I probably would.) Cylindrical double scoops of Thrifty ice cream. (Mint chip and chocolate.) A super bouncy ball from the vending machine. (Maybe I’d get lucky and get the swirly one.) Or—I could add it to the 3 nickels and a dime in my little leather change purse and get a Snoopy paperback the next time Mrs. McCabe hands out the Scholastic book order form. I still ride, though now I’m on black carbon and fancy Italian wheels. But I continue mentally rewarding myself with 25¢ on the toughest hills, and that 20 bucks I once won in a criterium feels paltry in comparison. On today’s ride I saw a quarter on the road. I stopped to pick it up but it was one of those newer state quarters, eliminating even the tiniest chance it was the same coin my dad gave me.
About the Author:
Rick Magee grew up in California, then moved to the east coast for graduate school and never left. He teaches literature and writing at Sacred Heart University, and he teaches in study abroad programs in Ireland and Italy whenever possible. He lives in Bethel, CT, where he is the current Poet Laureate, with his wife, son, two dogs, and a parakeet. He also writes a monthly column for the Connecticut Hearst papers.
This piece is a part of Issue Two: CHRONOS. Read more like it here.