The other day I took a bike ride. It was a perfect day for it; the sun hidden behind expansive grey clouds, occasional cooling showers of rain, and a persistent breeze. I started out going down the county road across the highway from where I live. Someone told me that, were I to take the county road by the quonset hut, I could get all the way to Towhee Canyon without having to use the highway.
The road was gravel, and tough going for my mountain bike. I bumped and jostled around, and gaining traction to climb hills was problematic. I veered off the road and biked down a dirt track by a bean field. This terrain was preferable, but the track petered out after only half a mile or so; rough clods of red dirt, beans and wheat spread out before me, and there was nowhere to go but back.
I persevered down the county road, and was soon met by a pack of barking dogs. I knew I couldn’t outbike them (I was facing uphill, and it was slow going indeed), so I stopped and averted my eyes. A man came out of the log house that sat atop a gentle slope flanked by dead trucks, farm machinery, horse pasture, and another quonset hut, and yelled at the dogs to cut it out. He was talking on a portable phone, and when he hung up, I introduced myself and shook his hand. I recognized his name; he was the cousin of a guy in town who’d died in a hunting accident just two weeks previously. The man told me about his property, his horses, his numerous antiques (furniture, glass, farm equipment) all of which he intended to sell. I asked if I could meet his horses, and he took me up to the paddock. Only two were near at hand; a small bay stallion and a larger chestnut one. He asked me if I’d seen the two paint horses in a pasture off the highway right before town; I had, and he told me with pride that they’d been sired by the chestnut. I voiced my appreciation, for they were fine horses indeed. He told me that he was ashamed, however, of the unclipped feet of the bay stallion, and of the general disarray of the property. Of course I didn’t care, but I could see that it hurt him to feel that he’d been neglecting his charges.
After I left my neighbor, I crested the hill, and turned back. The dogs barked at me on the return too, but let me pass without too much fuss. My bike skidded and fishtailed on the loose gravel as I flew down the hill.
I wasn’t yet satisfied with my bike ride (I’d been out scarcely half an hour), so rather than turning for home, I continued down the county road on the opposite side of the highway. The roads here are layed out on a grid, and named with numbers and letters, with lettered roads running east to west, and numbered roads running north to south. I found road 5 and continued down it for a few miles, turning right onto C, heading west. The road was pleasant and lined with trees in places; sunflowers grew wild in the ditches on either side. I was grateful for the clouds and the occasional spatters of rain on my bare arms and legs, but strong gusts of wind proved toublesome, especially as I tried to climb hills.
Every now and again I’d pass some horses in a field, or someone’s house. Some of the properties were well kept, with a few large trees and neat little gardens. Others teemed with mobile homes and enough cars for a small dealership. At one point I passed an abandoned trailer at the edge of a field. It was an eerie sight against the backdrop of the deep grey sky; some of its windows were broken and it was in an obvious state of disrepair. Through the open door I could see a mattress and box-spring and book shelves. I’ve always been drawn to abandoned buildings, but didn’t seriously consider going inside. It seemed dangerous, in more ways than one.
Around a bend in the road was a muddy depression in the ground filled with cattle prints and a crusted with a white substance that I took to be salt. My curiosity was piqued, so I dismounted and walked onto the mud. I sank in half an inch, and bent to touch the white material. I surmised that there was a high degree of salinity in this patch of ground for some reason and that when the rain had evaporated, salt was left behind. I lifted my finger to my mouth and daintily touched my tongue to my finger. Whatever it was, it wasn’t salt, and I spat quickly and prolifically. Was it some kind of creepy chemical fetilizer residue?
By this time I’d been out for about two hours, and was growing seriously weary. Thinking that I was going on a short bike ride, I’d neglected to bring any food or water. My breakfast of yogurt with canned apricots, dates and almonds was certainly nourishing, but was no longer doing the job. Nor was I in peak cycling condition: it had also been several weeks since I’d ridden my bike at this point. I decided, however, that rather than backtracking (which would have been the safest bet) that I would head north on the next numbered road I found. Road 4 was a dead end. I found 3 after what felt like a mile, but may well have been less. These roads were seriously hilly; for every gloriously carefree descent was a gruelling climb. I couldn’t stand up on the peddles because doing so only resulted in more slipping. It was after a couple of miles on 3 that I came to a massive compound in the dip of a hill comprising several houses and trailers and innumerable vehicles. I knew there’d be dogs, and there were. Hounds, mutts, even a little weiner dog bounded fiercely towards me. This time there were no humans to call them off. I prayed that they wouldn’t attack me, and slowly backed away. The only one that followed me as I turned around and started to climb the hill was the mini daschund.
I felt like I was nearing collapse, and had to walk my bike up one particularly steep hill. I was desperate for rest, but forced myself onward, past the propane pump station where earlier I’d heard an eagle’s unmistakible cry and seen her take flight from the top of a power line, past the lighting-blasted tree, and back onto road 5. I took a short rest under a tree and peed in a ditch, then continued on my way.
At the house where I’d earlier noticed some rows of small, stunted corn and a few other garden crops, a woman was standing in the yard with a little blond boy. A small blue heeler bounced out of the yard to bark its high-pitched bark at me. The woman apologized, from a distance, and called her dog. I walked up and asked her about her dog (I was half-way in the market for a heeler). I introduced myself and told her that I was new in the neighborhood, who my grandparents were, all the standard items. She was guarded but kind, offering me water when I told her I hadn’t brought any and warning me of a bear that had been seen in the area. I declined the water and continued on my way, knowing I was close(ish) to home.
There came an intersection at which my memory failed me. Left or right?
I went right, entertaining nagging doubts that I had chosen wrong. Which, as I neared a cemetary, it became clear that I had. At this point I was tired of backtracking, so I forged ahead, knowing that the road I was on would lead to the highway. Sure enough, I found the highway. There was another moment of uncertainty while I tried to figure out which way to go (apparently it doesn’t take much for me to become disoriented), but figured out which way was north and followed it. Up to this point I had assiduously avoided biking on the highway; the shoulder is narrow and the speed limit is 65mph. But traffic was light, and the paved road was a blessed relief after my struggle through the gravel of the county roads.
After a quarter of a mile, I saw a huddled group of buzzards, and as I neared and they scattered, the object of their interest, a little fox that had been completely eviscerated by the vehicle that had struck it. It was relatively fresh, and its innards were vividly deep red and purple, laid out like a pretty display of produce at a market. After another quarter of a mile or so, in the middle of the shoulder, was a single, severed, foreleg.



About ea

Reluctant technophile, immoderate lover of words, food, cogitation, the sensory world. We are not done evolving and there is no free will.
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2 Responses to Paw

  1. Hillary Rockwell says:

    I certainly didn’t expect the story to end that way! Yikes! I found it interesting that you described the entrails as beautiful. 🙂 I guess there is beauty in everything, if you only look at it the right way. Poor little foxy.

  2. emilya says:

    Well, I didn’t exactly describe the entrails as beautiful… just LIKE something beautiful :p

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