I am riding my bike at sunset. I’m doing this because I am a writer and I can’t find anything to write about. So I went pedaling.
Not knowing what to write about can be frustrating for a writer. Sometimes you stare at a screen for hours trying to think of something, but nothing happens. Finally you end up resting your head on the keyboard and falling asleep. When you wake up, it’s suppertime and your screen is full of text like:
My wife suggested riding my bike. So far I’m having a wonderful time riding through nearby neighborhoods, waving at people, dodging speeding SUVs driven by teenagers who are typing important text messages. It’s great.
You can see a lot of life happening in a neighborhood at dusk on a summer night. For instance, I saw a man in his front lawn who was practicing fly fishing.
He was wearing a floppy hat and a pocket vest. He tossed a long rod back and forth and I almost wrecked watching him. I’ve always wanted to learn how to fly fish.
I waved and asked, “How’s it coming?”
“Fly fishing is hard,” he said. “But I’ve always wanted to learn how.”
Me too. I grew up fishing the more traditional way—with lures, jigs, and non-lite beer. But I have a longtime dream of learning to fly fish, standing in some distant river, nestled within the Purple Mountains Majesty.
“Good luck!” I say, whizzing past his front yard, dinging my bicycle bell like a dork.
I pass another house with a wide porch. I see an elderly woman and a small girl. Granny is teaching the girl to sew. I hear them talking. Granny’s voice has the tone of a teacher. The girl is watching Granny with serious eyes.
I’m glad grannies still teach little girls to sew.
This granny, however, is not your typical old woman. She wears shorts and has muscular legs. She doesn’t look like the grannies from my childhood. Our grannies wore bib aprons and dipped snuff. This granny is either a weightlifter or a former Soviet gymnast.
Which brings up something I’ve been thinking about lately. Have you ever noticed how today’s old folks look younger than your grandparents looked?
When my granddaddy hit fifty-five he retired and began pulling his pants up to his nipples. He looked old, acted old, and sat in a rocking chair. By the time he was seventy, there was moss growing on the north side of his shoulders.
But today seventy-year-olds bench press Buicks, take kickboxing classes, run ultra-marathons, and can even eat raw onions without acid reflux. We have come a long way.
Granny is showing the girl how to use the needle to make a basic stitch on a piece of cloth.
And I am reminded of my mother, who was a seamstress from the day she was born. Throughout my childhood strangers would always appear on our porch asking my mother to alter their clothes. And hapless brides would need rescuing from wardrobe disasters.
Granny waves at me. “Evening,” she says. I can see the muscles in her legs flex.
I look at my own scrawny legs. I look like a guy riding an ostrich.
In another front lawn are two brothers and a dad tossing a baseball. I know immediately which game they’re playing. They are playing “horse.” The rules are simple. Whenever anyone drops the ball, that person gets a letter. First one to spell “horse” loses.
My father and I would play this game every single summer evening. He was a baseball fanatic. Some of the greatest memories I have are playing catch with my father until sundown. And we often played past sunset until one of us lost a tooth. I still miss him.
I wave at the ball players. They wave back. I shout: “Are you ready for this season to start?”
They all nod and give the thumbs-up.
Everyone is ready for Major League Baseball to return after months of delay due to the pandemic. Though it won’t be the same. There won’t be any fans in the stands. And less games. A typical baseball season has 162 games. There will only be 60 this year.
Even so, some of us are excited. COVID-19 is horrible stuff, but it couldn’t kill the spirit of baseball. And I’m glad it didn’t.
I keep riding. I pass a house where a man in a wheelchair sits parked in his driveway, wearing a surgical mask. An older woman is behind him, trying to hoist his limp body into the front seat of a Toyota. But she is having a tough time.
So I pump the brakes. I’m planning on helping, but I am too late. Because a teenage girl jogs across the yard, barefoot. She has come from another house across the street to help.
I hear the older woman holler, “Oh, thank you, Marcy!”
Marcy looks fifteen or sixteen. Blonde and lean. She is the kind of girl my aunt would say needs to eat one extra biscuit.
The girl lifts the man from the wheelchair and into the front seat. Single-handedly. I am dumbfounded. The girl folds the wheelchair and loads the heavy implement into the trunk. It all happens so fast I’m not even sure I saw things right. Did that small girl just lift a grown man?
Marcy trots off. The man in the front seat waves goodbye to her. “Thank you!” he shouts.
“You’re welcome!” shouts Marcy.
And just like that. I know what I’m going to write about.