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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Strange…Very Strange Indeed…

Light and shadow in the Valley

It was about a year ago I last saw my Valley acquaintance Sargent Bob. He and a friend pulled into my driveway in his little white Ford station wagon. Bob had come to retrieve his bicycle which I had locked away for safekeeping in my garage, along with his dented helmet and cracked water bottle. Just a few days before, Bob, my environmentally-sensitive friend Nancy L, and I nearly collided on the Lower Loop Road just off the Qualco digester site. I posted the details of this little run-in—or near “run down”-- in a July 26 post “No Crying on Bob’s Shoulder…Not for A While, Anyway…” Bob was wheeling along flat out, head down, straight at us, his course directed by the fog line. He saw us too late to swerve and fifteen minutes later I was hustling him off to the ER in Monroe where three hours later he had surgery to repair a badly broken collarbone.

I hadn’t seen Bob since the day he came to claim his bicycle. He seemed quite relieved to reconnect with his ride, and after he checked the bike carefully for damage, he collected his helmet and water bottle, and with the help of his friend, loaded it all in the back of the little white Ford, and drove off out of the Valley and for all I knew, out of my life.

Others have seen Bob since then. My environmentally-sensitive friend Nancy L noticed him on the High Bridge Road walking along as he used to do in the Valley. The husband of one of my wife’s clients met Bob a time or two when they were both out for walks. When Bob was asked why he wasn’t riding his bike these days, he replied, “I don’t do that anymore” but didn’t elaborate. I heard rumors that the Sarge still lived in his camper in the Three Rivers’ Mobile Home Park by the river under Highway 522. (Bob told me he had hoped to relocate to a better neighborhood by last September.)

Today, just after noon, I was returning from a walk in the Valley when I heard the tell-tale click and whirr of a bicycle behind me and looked to my right just as a cyclist whizzed by in the opposite lane. It was Bob. No doubt about it: except for the new helmet it was the Sarge clad in the same biking garb he was wearing when he came to rest in a cloud of dust and clatter of gravel on the shoulder of the Loop Road almost a year ago to this day. On up the road he flew, oblivious to the Good Samaritan who hauled him off to the hospital, stayed with him until surgery, returned to give him a ride home, drove to the trailer park the next day to follow up on his condition, and secured his bike and gear safely in the garage until he came for them…. He rounded the corner by Van Hulles and disappeared. “Strange,” I thought and was pondering the weirdness of it all when in the distance back around the same corner came another cyclist. Soon the rider was bearing down on me and by the color of his helmet, the form and attitude of his ride, I knew the returning cyclist was the Sarge: head down, focused, riding the fog line like it was a rail. Quickly I crossed to the opposite shoulder just he as sped by with a whoosh. Bob had given me, his onetime rescuer, the cold shoulder. Not even the courtesy of a nod. But why…? Didn’t recognize me? Hardly. We had always stopped and chatted when we met in the Valley. Once he had even recognized me in a bank parking lot, stopped, and visited a bit. Did my presence represent an unpleasant reminder of Bob’s very, very bad day? Late for an appointment? An important rendezvous, of some sort?  Maybe. Or perhaps Bob just plain didn’t see me. There certainly was precedent for that!

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  1. Did you happen to notice whether or not his eyes were open? 'Tis rather strange, indeed.

  2. If Bob's eyes were open, he only had eyes for that white line. I honestly think he'd have bowled me over if I hadn't crossed to the right hand lane.