Old blue bicycle

Nick Bibby

It was growing dark as Reg rode the sixty-odd minutes from Charlottesville to home. The wind had dropped early in the afternoon and now the only sound to be heard was the rhythmical creaking of the old man’s bike and the occasional ping as a rounded stone was fired from the skinny tyres into the waiting grass. Reg liked the silence of these trips, it helped him become a part of the scene he now travelled; a transient part but a part none the less. That is why he biked into town and why he biked back. Why he didn’t own a motorcar and why he never whistled while he walked. Silence was deafening, so why not listen? The world that Reg passed listened to him, from the worm-turned soil to the blades of grass and the butterflies beyond. The viewer became the viewed, an old man and his faded blue bicycle making their way home.

Home was a modest timber house placed innocuously in the middle of the plains. No promontory to focus to or focus from, no bubbling brook to heal the burn, no grand tree from which to hang a swing. Just the house, a milk churn mailbox fixed to a post, and a pot-ridden driveway.

The plains that stretched to the horizon were richly fertile, filled with bronzed maize and corn. In the summer heat a breeze usually swept across these vast tracts, causing the crops to ripple like water or silk. The ripple also gave a murmur, a sound to identify this unseen force that bent the stems this way and that. But no such ripples or murmur came from the plains that evening, just the deafening breathing of the earth and the modest breathing of the old man on his bicycle.

Reg took his time – he had plenty – and was mindful to steady his pace lest a hammering heart or the sharp rasp of bronchial lungs should spoil the silence. To most, this vista was monotonous, no feature to break the scene or catch the eye. But to Reg this was the beauty in itself, the paradoxical view of seeing nothing and everything at the same time.

While absorbed by the moment, he could never forget the passing of time which drove him to wish for the everlasting. He wanted to grab it all and have it for eternity but, wherever he looked, time marched on. The crimson-coloured clouds streaked across the dying day, the mature maize, brittle with age, and himself, weary, weathered and worn, like his old blue bicycle.


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