I always wanted to be a dad who rode a bike. Every morning I would watch with envy as the fathers in my neighborhood tore down the street on their Trek’s and Schwinn’s. They wore skin-tight thermal onesies and aerodynamic helmets. One of them would always have a large boombox equipped to the back of his bike blasting music by the band Wilco. I thought they were so cool.
One night my wife hosted a fondue party for all the families in the neighborhood. A couple of the bike-riding fathers were conversing near the breakfront so I decided to ask them about joining their cycling group.
“You have to understand Jim,” said one of the fathers. His name was Greg. “Being a cyclist is a very important part of who we all are. I always tell my family that I am a cyclist first and a father second.”
There was a pregnant pause. I let out a chuckle. They all gave me a serious look.
“You’re kidding right?”
“Jim, if you want to come cycling with us, you have to be committed,” Greg said. “Why don’t you buy some gear and meet us at the corner of Hawthorne Saturday morning. Say six AM?”
“I’ll be there.”
The next day I went to the bike shop and bought a $1000 bike with all the bells and whistles. I also picked out a green and blue onesie and an aerodynamic helmet.
Saturday morning I rode out to the corner of Hawthorne and met with the bike-dads. There were about a dozen of them waiting for me.
“Nice bike Jim,” Greg told me. It felt good to hear him say that.
“All right men, saddle up!”
One of the fathers flipped on Wilco’s third album, “Hotel Yankee Foxtrot,” and we were off.
I quickly realized that I was not in nearly as good shape as the rest of the fathers. They must have been doing this for years. Here I am, a newbie, just trying to get started.
We were picking up speed as we leaned into the turn at Skillet and Carson street. I was in the back of a pack, behind the boombox dad. I was starting to sweat. The Wilco music blasted in my ears.
Now we were tearing down Carson and approaching the intersection where there was a red light. I figured we would stop and I could catch my breath. But to my surprise, Greg shot right through the intersection. The other dads followed. So I pedaled harder and went across myself. One driver approaching the intersection had to slam on his brakes so as not to hit me.
“Damn cyclists!” the motorist screamed from his car.
His voice disappeared into the wind as we turned onto Xavier Avenue. From the back of the pack I noticed something odd. Greg had pulled out what looked like a meteor hammer. That is a large serrated ball attached to chain, like the weapon used in “Kill Bil Volume 1.”
Wilco’s “You Are My Face” was now playing.
Greg was swinging the meteor hammer wildly over his head while the other fathers hissed and cheered. Then he did a maneuver where the hammer swung down and the chain wrapped around his neck while the ball shot out and obliterated a mailbox.
Was the exhaustion causing me to hallucinate, or was this actually happening? I thought we were just going on a nice early morning bike ride, but now we’re playing mailbox baseball with meteor hammers. The hisses and cheers grew louder.
I started to slow my pedaling and drop out of the pack. But just as I was doing so two bike-dads pulled up beside me. Kevin Jansen was on my left. He worked at Enterprise Rent-A-Car and was wielding a trident. On my right was Harry Tomaski. His wife just gave birth to twin baby girls. He was holding a molotov cocktail.
“Catch up, slowpoke,” Kevin told me.
“Yeah, don’t you want to be part of the group?” Harry said.
I picked up my speed and rejoined the pack. Now everybody was wielding a weapon. Fisher Howerton, a wealthy hedge fund manager, was dangling a chainsaw low to the ground, letting it scrape the asphalt and watching the sparks fly. Dick Feynman is a nuclear physicist. He held a scythe.
I was certain that I had not seen any of them holding these weapons when we met at the corner of Hawthorne.
“Hey Jim.” Greg pulled alongside me. “Isn’t this great?”
“I…,” but before I could speak, Greg thrust something into my hand. It was a samurai sword.
“You are going to need this.”
We accelerated down a steep hill and came upon Main Street. Most of the shopkeepers were just beginning to open up for a busy small business Saturday. When they heard the hisses and cheers they ran for cover.
The boombox played “A Shot In The Arm” off the album “Summerteeth.”
I watched in horror as Harry hurled his molotov cocktail through the window of Tom’s Rhinoplasty. Fisher went about chainsawing the parked automobiles as he blew past them on his bike. Kevin said “watch this” and he uncorked his trident and watched as it sailed through the hazy blue morning sky. It came down upon Mrs. Belinda Korver, the longtime owner of Korver’s Kakes, the oldest bakery in town. The trident impaled poor old Mrs. Korver on the sidewalk. The blood ran like water.
I was aghast. All the times I had seen these men ride past my house, was this what they had been up to? Or have they all just gone crazy at once? Is it the Wilco music?
Before I could think longer Kevin Jansen caught a straight bullet through the temple. His limp body slid from his speeding cycle and scraped along the asphalt for a few feet before coming to a complete stop. He was dead.
“Form up!” said Greg. All the bike-dads stopped pedaling. They walked back and formed an infantry square around Greg and me in the middle of the block. At the end of the block, the police stared us down, guns drawn.
Then, without warning, they shot. The bullets started bouncing off nearby cars and the spokes of our bicycles. Greg pulled out what looked like a homemade bomb.
“Who wants to do the honors?” Greg asked.
“I’ll go,” said Dick. But as he picked his head up, two bullets hit him in the chest.
“I’ll go,” said Fisher.
“God speed,” replied Greg.
“What the fuck is going on!?” I said.
Wilco’s “Locator” was now playing.
Fisher rigged the bomb to blow, strapped on his helmet, and began peddling at full speed towards the roadblock. He caught a bullet in the shoulder but kept on peddling. Another one bounced off his helmet. By the time he was very close they were pumping him with lead, but it was no use. The hedge fund manager was now simply a vessel, and gravity took care of the rest. The bike carried his corpse head on into the roadblock, and moments later there was a violent explosion.
The bike-dads cheered.
“Alright boys,” Greg said. “The coast is clear. Mount up!”
“NO!” I screamed. “You people are insane! You just murdered a bunch of cops. Sweet old Belinda Korver is bleeding to death right over there. You have wives and children and you just pissed it all away! Kevin, Dick and Fisher are dead. And for what? So you all could go cycling around the neighborhood? I mean, it wasn’t so much a bike ride as a masochistic blood ride of terror and death. I can’t believe I asked to be a part of this. Now I’m ruined too.”
“JIM!” Greg yelled. “I told you at the fondue party that we are cyclists FIRST and father’s SECOND.”
“WELL CYCLING IS FUCKING STUPID,” I said, and I plunged the sword into his gut. He gave me a look like I had never seen before. It was at once both angry and sexual. I ripped the sword out of his stomach and then I raised it and sliced his head clean off. It fell to the asphalt with a soft plop. His body collapsed on top of it.
The other cyclists just stood there, unsure of what to do. Finally, Harry Tomaski stepped forward.
“What happens now?”
“Go home,” I said. “Go home to your wives and kids.”
They all picked up their bicycles and mounted them. They slowly rode off.
I stood there with Greg’s blood all over my green and blue thermal onesie. On the far corner Belinda Korver gave out what sounded like a last gasp. Down the road I could see the limbs of the police officers Fisher Howerton had blown up. In the distance I heard sirens.
Somebody would need to answer for this.
The boombox had been left behind.
“Either Way” from Wilco’s fourth album “Sky Blue Sky” played. I mounted the boombox on my bike and began pedaling.