Summer is diet season. You’ll hear teachers discussing the South Beach Diet, Watermelon Diet, Paleo Diet, and assorted liquid diets in the last few days of school. Everybody weighs in, takes a number, and sets their weight-loss goals. It’s collaboration and not competition or at least that’s what teachers say.

I decided to start biking the trail near my house that follows the old train tracks through the woods into Maple Valley. All the gears on my Cannondale are rusted so pedaling takes twice the effort. I can’t feel the wind the way I used to in high school and my muscles are in agony at mile 15. I stop on the train trestle and look into the river.

Moving to the other side, I follow a rabbit trail underneath an old pine and fertilize its roots. Handlebars are protruding from a blackberry bush and I grab hold of them. An old HUFFY is standing in front of me and the tires are full of air. It’s black frame glints in the sunlight.

I walk it up to the trail and get on. I feel fused to the seat, like we are one and any attachment I had to my old bicycle is gone. I start riding and the wind gushes through my hair for the first time in years. I can see my muscles straining, but I don’t feel the pain.

The bike goes faster as we ride up gravel hills and down forest paths. Being cautious is far from my mind as we jump logs and tear down hillsides. We spinoff to the lake and it releases me to enjoy the beach, but while I’m lying there, I can’t stop thinking about its beautiful black frame. It’s taking me places and doing things to me that I’ve never felt.

When I get home, I get on the scale and I’ve lost 5 pounds. Probably water weight, I think, but the next morning I’m 8 pounds lighter. All I can think about is the bike. It’s like a dog that wants to go on a run. I straddle the seat before breakfast and we’re off again. This time, we’re cruising through the city and we pass the mounted police giving out tickets to double-parked cars.

My HUFFY goes through a puddle and splashes them. They give chase and the race is on. I clamp the breaks, but they won’t work. My heart feels funny and my legs might break, but again, the black frame deadens the pain. I need calories, but it won’t stop at the hamburger joint and keeps going until we reach Seattle. I heave into a trash can next to a homeless man and he admires my bike.

“A guy could get places on that thing,” he says. I nod and wipe my face with my shirt sleeve.

“You mind if I take it for a spin?”

“That’s awfully forward,” I say.

“How about this?” He replies.

And I stare at a switchblade inches from my neck, but even then, I won’t let the bike go.

The whiskey-soaked man lunges, like he is reaching for a million dollars and the bike frame swings out and breaks his arm.

“I have to get rid of this thing,” I say out loud. But the bike controls my mind, like an addiction. There is no separation.

I bike to work every day now. And even when I am doing paperwork, the bicycle is in the back of my mind. I’ve lost 40 pounds and gained enormous muscles.

“How did you do it?” The teachers ask.

“I’m a slave to my bicycle; you got to help me.”

But they just laugh, giving me the weight-loss trophy.

4 thoughts on “Hell on Wheels

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