Judging the Book by His Cover

A furtive glance toward the house made her wonder if she should take a left turn instead of a right leading past a ramshackle house that always made her flesh crawl. The feeling of someone watching from behind those filmy window panes gave her the creeps, and pedalling by there sent a shiver down her body big enough to give enough the bravest person pause. 

With her right foot unclipped from the cleat, she balanced at the stop sign and looked down at the pavement. Yellow spray-painted numbers with arrows there showed the former routes of a past bike race, with 30 miles continuing east and 50 miles to the west. 

“Dang, I’m not hoping to go either of those distances today,” she pondered. “Oh, well! My shortest route goes east, too.” Taking the right to follow the shorter path traversed past the tiny home resembling more of a portal to Hades than a cozy abode. 

Gaining a sense of the domicile’s resident before actually seeing him, cigarette smoke alerted her of someone’s presence there. It was as if the yard had swallowed him or he existed as a part of it sitting amongst the tall weeds in a broken down lawn chair, its bent metal frame and frayed nylon webbing looked as tired as its occupant. The man’s presence there was almost consumed by the sawhorses and PVC tubing on its way into becoming some kind of unrecognizable contraption. 

“Oh, hey! How’re you this morning?” Her surprise at seeing him registered in the jerky timbre of her voice and swerve of her handlebars. 

A single hand raised in response. The man waved hello instead of speaking, an unfiltered Lucky Strike gripped between his teeth keeping him silent. 

The clouds overhead served a brilliant blue canopy when she regained consciousness on the ground and her eyes fluttered back open. Emergency response workers had carefully placed her on a stretcher and fitted with a neck brace to protect against possible cervical damage. They credit the bike helmet for protecting her skull in the crash. They also credited the watchful man in his lawn chair who acted quickly to call for help. Had she been alone on an empty stretch of road, the results may have been more damaging. 

She looked past an EMT’s shoulder to see the strange man from the yard standing in the background, a lighter held up to his mouth to stoke up another smoke. 

Her heart sank at how paranoiad she’d been about him. Dismissing that alarming suspicion may have prevented the whole mishap. 

“I’m so sorry. You startled me,” she told the man.

He mumbled a reply. “I musta. Ya wouldn’ta crashed if ya were’nt swervin’ all over the place. Dang bike went all wonky before you bit the dust. Glad you’re okay, though.” 

He shrugged before turning away and walked back toward the house shaking his head. 

image via Fated Snowfox via Flickr

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