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Commentary by William Carter: Day dreams provide temporary distractions

The crowd was standing—applauding and cheering—as I stepped up to the podium to begin reading from my just-released, all-time best-selling novel. I was wearing a tweed jacket with leather patches on the elbows and all of my hair had grown back to a shoulder length. In the audience Mark Twain, Stephen King and James Lee Burke waved at me. When I raised my hand to wave back the crowd roared louder. Only after about ten minutes of this did they quiet down enough for me to clear my throat and open my book.

These gestures brought on another round of applause and I just grinned. Later, after signing books for nine straight hours, me and Love-Weasel bought a 42-foot sailboat and proceeded to float around the Bahamas for a few days, drinking margaritas and chasing each other—nekkid—up and down the beach of every deserted island we found.
“Hey!” I hear faintly over the sound of the surf just as I’m a mere arms length away from Love-Weasel allowing me to catch her.

“Hey!” I hear again, and then look up.

The day-dreamed roaring crowd and the podium and the beaches and the nekkid Love-Weasel flee to the back of my brain to be replaced by the reality of two lanes of north-bound, mid-morning traffic whizzing by only inches away from me as I stand on the curb of a median on Royal Oaks Boulevard with foam ear-plugs in my ears and a growling weed-eater in my hands. I’m wearing a fluorescent-yellow vest and my City-issued work shirt is soaked with sweat and my pant-legs and my arms and the humidity-fogged lenses of my bi-focals are flecked with bits of grass.

Across the two lanes of traffic, on the sidewalk beneath the shade of a Bradford pear is a lady who, in my opinion, shouldn’t be wearing form-fitting, Lycra bike shorts but is still wearing form-fitting, Lycra bike shorts. She is waving her arms and yelling “Hey” at me over the engine noises.  At her feet, on its side, is a bicycle.

She puts a hand up to each side of her mouth.

“I need help!” she yells and I turn the weed-eater off and wait for a fifteen second gap in traffic then cross the road.
“Thank God,” she says. “I’m late and this is a brand new bike and the chain fell off. I need for you fix it.”  She’s wearing lots of make-up and her hair is nicely done and she’s not sweating at all.

I tell her I’d see what I could do and I flip the bike upside down and begin to thread the chain back on to the sprocket-thing. But it’s wedged between a bolt and the chain-guard won’t budge. The whole time the lady keeps saying “I’m late, I’m late.” I look up at her and she’s filming me with her iPhone. I pull on the chain-guard; it bends out of shape a little bit and the chain comes free. The lady then cries “You bent the chain-guard!” and I say , as I’m threading the chain back on, “Yes, ma’am, I think I did.” She says twice, “But that’s a brand-new bike” and I take hold of one of the pedals and spin it to see if the chain’s on righ, It is. So I turn the bike right-side up and put the kick-stand down then look at the lady, who’s still filming me with her iPhone.
“That bike costs more than you probably make in a month,” she tells me.

“Excuse me?”

“I said, that bike costs more than you probably make in a month,” she repeats.

I look at the bike and, even though I don’t know anything about bikes, have to agree it looks like it does cost more than I make in a month though that’s not what I’d pay for it because I already have a bike I bought at Target but the tires are flat because I haven’t ridden it in about two years.

“You’re probably right,” I tell her, picking up my weed-eater and plugging the foam ear-plugs back in my ears, muffling the sound of her demanding to know who was going to pay for the bent chain-guard.

I shrug and pretend I can’t hear her and cross the road to finish up the last half-mile of weedeating.

A few steps later, I’m back on the sailboat with Love-Weasel, drinking margaritas and watching a lady on the shore who shouldn’t be wearing form-fitting, Lycra bike shorts but is still wearing form-fitting, Lycra bike shorts screaming for help while fleeing a pack of rabid possums.

Me and Love-Weasel just laugh like hell.
The great equalizer.

William Carter is a longtime Franklin city employee and published author.  He may be contacted at

Posted on: 8/8/2013


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