Charlie’s Last Stand pt.4

He proceeded to ride his bicycle to UNM just like he always did. It was a good seven-mile trek from the Hoffman House to the University. The terrain was mostly flat however, and Zane quietly peddled his way across the city with only a slight amount of effort. He possessed a special kind of endurance that was tailor made for bicycling. He was borderline fanatical as far as biking was concerned and was able to cover the modest distance in no time! A few years earlier, Zane purchased his bike from a co-worker by the name of Tony. Looking back Zane suspected the Marin Sausalito was stolen; even though Tony insisted the bike was acquired from a legitimate pawnbroker. The bicycle was what they called a ‘hybrid,’ meaning that it had tall and narrow wheels, coupled with mountain-bike styled handlebars. Zane was tickled when he discovered the tires came equipped with high pressure inner-tubes. They were of the ‘Presta’ valve variety, meaning they withstood air pressure in excess of 100 pounds per square inch! The hybrid wheels provided less rolling resistance because they were hard as bricks! The narrow tires were specifically engineered to traverse smooth pavement. The bicycle had long legs with 21 forward gears, meaning that she was built for speed! Zane delighted in the fact as he smoothly glided past slow-moving mountain-bikers with ease! You wouldn’t hear any clicks or clacks emanating from Zane’s machine! The chain was perfectly adjusted and so were the shifters. The high-pressure road tires ran silent, meaning they didn’t produce the annoying whirring noise which was commonplace among the knobby mountain bike tires. Albuquerque was internationally renowned for the Balloon Fiesta, and famous for her bike paths. The pavement was adequate to safely accommodate two-way traffic, while being smooth as glass! There were no speed limits! This was especially important in Zane’s case, because his bicycle was finely tuned, and it ran quietly; and it was fast! The Marin Sausalito was so speedy that Zane could give the pretentious racing bikers a run for their money as well. Zane’s bike was so silent, that it startled unsuspecting mountain bikers as he attempted to overtake them. It was proper etiquette to announce your intention before passing slower travelers, so Zane voiced the words “ON YOUR LEFT,” as he crept up on unsuspecting commuters. Before swerving around the slow-moving traffic he would downshift one notch and sprint past the slow-moving vehicles as if he were on a mission! The sprawling UNM campus provided an excellent cool-down opportunity for the athletic cyclist. Slowly and methodically he would peddle his way through the crowd of students while his heartrate slowly returned to baseline. He would carefully navigate his way directly to the hitchin’ post where he would secure his Marin with his U-lock. With the authority of a victorious gladiator he proudly marched the few paces that led towards the building’s entrance knowing he was early enough to secure a good seat! He reveled in the fact that he didn’t have to contend with parking issues and shuttlebuses. There is an unspoken hierarchy among college students, and the ecologically friendly bicyclists were always rewarded with the best parking on campus!

Zane was effortlessly gliding through under-grad in much the same way as he sailed through high school. He held his instructors in high esteem, and they respected Zane just the same. He had three classes scheduled for the day and he attended them all. Admittedly his mind wasn’t on task because he couldn’t stop thinking about his father as he daydreamed about the perfect truck racks. In Economics, the lecture centered around global commerce and the professor was articulating the difference between capital vs. commodities. Naturally, this conjured memories of the flea-market.  Zane couldn’t help but to remember a time when Dad sold a Christmas tree four days after the holiday had passed. Zane wrestled with an urge to raise his hand in an attempt to contribute to the conversation when it dawned on him that no one would believe such a tale. Be that as it may, Charlie sold an extremely uncelebrated Douglas Fir to a group of Native Americans who intended upon using the boughs for their magic. Charlie’s neighboring vendors were impressed to say the least, and they still boast about his skills to this day. He was a self-proclaimed junk dealer and a highly skilled negotiator. Charlie would often boast, “I can turn trash to cash!” It was true. He really could. Zane found himself dangling at the precipice of an emotionally charged rabbit-hole as he recalled the unauthorized sobbing that had paralyzed him just hours before! “Get your shit together,” his cognitive mind silently commanded! Prompted by the insipid fear, Zane resisted an urge to remove himself from the classroom. “I could just say I needed the restroom,” he reasoned as he weighed the odds of being reduced to a slobbering mess in front of everyone! Time marches on, but in Zane’s case it warbles. Because of this the remaining class period evaporated into the ether while Zane was lost in his head. Suddenly a spontaneous hustle and bustle heralded the end of class! Zane nearly lost it and he considered himself lucky! It was a secret mercy Zane reasoned as he gathered up his belongings and followed the stragglers out of the classroom. In total Steve McQueen fashion, he slung his backpack upon his right shoulder from its left strap! Looking like a tribal hunter he presented it as if it were a piece of choice game while marching the few paces back to his Marin Sausalito!

After being steeped into the rigors of higher education, Zane made his way back home. The seven-mile trip was slightly uphill, so he paced himself upon the return voyage, passing slower bikers all along the way. During the silent ride he contemplated the solicitation he placed online. Promptly upon returning home, Zane checked his email. A self-identified welding student by the name of Curtis promptly indicated that he could build the racks in his driveway with minimal effort. In the correspondence, Curtis made it clear that he could do the job as long as Zane leave his truck with him during the construction process. Prompted by Curtis’s enthusiasm, Zane set up an appointment to hash out logistics. By this time Renee had heard her husband rummaging around in the front room. She understood Zane was enduring terrific pain, and yet she lacked the words to reach him. She correctly assumed that he was stifling all of his anguish, but she hadn’t yet honed the skills to process. “How was your day,” Renee asked?  Zane looked at his wife as if she had asked a forbidden question! It was if he expected Renee to read his mind!  Zane was still reeling over his crying jag, and he was in no mood to be interrupted.  He intended on taking a much-needed shower and he wasn’t to be trifled with; and he still had to cook! With little more than a disrespectful grunt he said, “I’m going out after dinner.” Luckily for Zane, his wife loves him infinitely. “He’s only being so dismissive because he’s in pain,” Renee told herself as she turned her attention back towards the computer monitor.

Zane finished with a quick shower as Renee put the finishing touches onto a sparkling essay! He knew he was working under a time frame, so he decided to go with spaghetti because it was quick and easy. He was in the habit of preheating the oven right away because he would forget to otherwise, and it would annoy him.  He leaned down into the cabinet where the pots were stowed and retrieved his favorite saucepan. He filled it with water and added a healthy splash of vegetable oil, and a dash of table salt. The oil was the secret ingredient as far as Zane was concerned. He had gotten it into his head one time that the oil would keep the strands of pasta from sticking to one another. The net result was pasta slathered in grease, but the kids would absolutely devour it! As the oven warmed, he stepped through the doorway leading to the attached garage, where the deep freeze was kept. He rummaged through the well-stocked appliance until he came upon a frozen loaf of ready-made Garlic bread. At the same time, he absent mindedly grabbed a tin of Hunt’s traditional spaghetti sauce from the adjacent pantry. He stepped back into the kitchen, closing the garage door behind him. The water wasn’t boiling yet, so Zane opened up the tin of sauce with a hand-held can opener and dumped the contents into another smaller saucepan. Zane was fishing through the cabinetry looking for some salt when Elise marched into the kitchen from out of nowhere! She had a furrowed brow which indicated the three-year-old girl was experiencing anger! Zane put a wooden spoon onto the trivet and knelt down onto one knee in order to meet his daughter on her level. “What’s the matter with Elise,” he asked in a jovial manner? Elise stood tall and rigid! Her arms were extended downwards towards the stone tiles of the kitchen floor, and her tiny fingers were balled up into little fists. “Aiden won’t let me play,” she reported with a stern demeanor!  Her steely dark eyes were laser focused upon her father’s gaze because Elise was never one to avoid eye-contact. Elise was a natural leader who was seeking guidance from her father. Dad reacted by saying, “You go tell Aiden it’s time for dinner and then come back right away, because I need you both to help set the table.” The thought of assisting Papa helped to dissipate the pain of being slighted by her brother. Having her marching orders in place, Elise did an about face and headed back into the living area where her brother was playing Donkey Kong. In classic Elise fashion, she walked up to the television and turned towards her brother. Using her body as a shield, Elise placed her back squarely up against the picture tube. “AIDEN,” she hollered!  Once again her arms were extended down towards the scarlet carpeting. Once again her fingers were balled into tiny fists. “AIDEN,” she repeated! Her brother was seated comfortably on the big blue sofa, while Renee sat at her workstation with her back turned. “MOM,” Aiden shouted! “MOM, Elise is blocking my view!” Renee, who was editing her final draft, stopped what she was doing and rotated herself towards the kids while seated in a swiveling office chair. Very sweetly Renee asked, “My goodness…what is all of this ruckus?” With all of the authority of a pint-sized Drill-Instructor, Elise reiterated her father’s wishes. “IT’S TIME TO SET THE TABLE,” she commanded! Renee was absorbed in her writing and had lost track of time. “Oh my God, it’s getting late” she said internally while rising to her feet. “Okay Aiden,” mom said in a firm voice. “It’s time to pause your game now.” Elise knew the routine, and she reminded her older brother that it was time to ‘go wash your hands!’ “Now let’s all go into the bathroom and wash up,” Aiden said with glee as he reached for Renee’s right hand! The trio marched down the hall and into the master bath. As the group was scrubbing, Mom informed them it was indeed time to set the table. Ordinarily Mom or Dad would place a stack of serving plates onto the center of the table. They would do the same thing with the cutlery. It was the children’s job to arrange the silver ware onto the napkins, while arranging the place mats with corresponding plates. Once the task was done Aiden asked, “Is dinner ready now Papa?” Zane knew he still needed to toss together a salad, and he didn’t want to miss an opportunity to engage. “Nope,” said Papa. “First we need a tomato. Could you get me a red tomato out from the frigerator?” Aiden repeated the words red tomato and went about the task of making a salad with his Papa.

…to be continued

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