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Encounter with Salt Cod

November 18, 2015
Photo on 4-27-15 at 12.32 PM

Darkroom at our house.  Not dark.

November 18, 2015

Writing.  Obsession with me.  Sentence fragment.  Mundane.  Problem:  it’s all mundane today.

The car had been in the Metric Wrench, a repair shop a bit more than a mile from home across Billings.  Jerry told me it was ready, so I should get it.

The air this morning was cold as hell.  I considered driving to get it, but I always end up imagining driving a block, walking back to get the other car, and so on.  Oh, I could have walked, but what’s the use having a car?

Instead, I rode my theft-proof Hiawatha to the shop.  Theft-proof because I paid $15 for that bike at a thrift store and I don’t need to lock it because nobody else wants it.   I wore shorts because I had been in the basement darkroom.  I was too lazy to change pants.

All I needed was my jacket, helmet, gloves, wallet.  It was breezy and chilly, maybe 40 degrees.  My wallet had requisite credit card and drivers license.  To pay Jerry because car needed a new rack.  A rack, as it turns out, is part of the steering assembly.  The rack was leaking and needed to be replaced.  No picture came into my mind’s eye.  I tried to picture a laundry rack, the wooden kind that you hang clothes on.  No mental image of the kind of rack that helps steer a car.

I pedaled downtown.  Cold as it was, few were out walking.  I crossed against the light and rode on the sidewalk.  Yes, against the law.  Bicycling is relatively uncommon these days and I’d been getting away with ignoring traffic laws.  Oh, I feel an appropriate misgiving, almost guilt.  Well, not quite guilt.  Billings has way too many big trucks, so I like pedaling on the sidewalk on busy streets like Fourth Avenue.

I notice the usual homeless walking about with back packs, pulling along rolling luggage, and carrying sleeping bags.  I wonder if I will seem to fit into their world better when I pedal my old pink girl’s Hiawatha bike?  I think it would be nice to fit in.

I meet a guy walking toward me with a pair of athletic shoes hanging, laces tied together, around his neck.  He looks like an athlete headed for the Y, I think.  An athlete because of the Y, because of the shoes, but also his face.  He had a game face.  I say “hi” and he lifts a hand in a gesture of greeting.  Of the brotherhood of athletes, I thought mentally comforting myself.

A couple of people hurry across Fourth Avenue near the Transwestern Building.  I slowed.  So did they.  I remembered once, years ago, trying to avoid hitting a deer.  I sped up and the deer sped up.  I slowed down and so did the deer.  Ultimately, I hit the deer, though I was going, maybe, 15 miles an hour.  The injured deer then lept over a guard rail and died.  It was still there the next day.

Anyway, I didn’t want to mix it up with the pair of pedestrians, me on my bike, but as I sped up so did the pair.  Experiencing foreboding, I pedaled even harder and managed to get past the place they would have landed at the sidewalk.  Well, landed, but only if they been swimming or flying.  But they weren’t.  One was a Native-looking woman, the other, a man.  I didn’t get much of a look at him.  I pedaled on.

I pedaled past Lincoln Center.  I thought about the public library.  I pedaled past the bank and past the Gazette.  A man was talking on his cell.  Then he waved a card at a box by the “employee only” door and went inside.  I glanced to see if my nephew’s wife was in her office.  I looked in the wrong window and soon I crossed 27th Street.

Writing.  My plan now is to go through what I’ve written and omit needless words.  One time I reduced an entire hunting trip to, like, 8 words.  Ah!  The essence of poetry.  Mundane.

After 27th Street plus a couple more blocks, I took a left.  Yes, at the tire place.  A sign said “Retread Tires.”  As I rode past, a semi started to pull out, but I rode faster and managed to beat him to the street.  I went hmm:  flatbed truck with cubic yards of stuff wrapped in white fabric.  Bright white fabric.  I wondered if the cubic yards were filled with ground up rubber from tires?  This was an unresolved question, like so many of my questions these days.  I got my car keys and I let Jerry swipe my credit card, but for some reason it didn’t take.  He let me drive away in the car anyway.  I had put my bike in the trunk so the front wheel and handlebars hung out so I could mostly close the trunk lid.

I hit Albertson’s on the way home.  I picked up a rare vintage wine, next pausing at a meat display.  New products!  They had lutefisk in white plastic bags with the outline of a happy fish.  Next to that amazing sight was a display of wooden boxes, each smaller than a pack of hotdogs.  Price, $11.95.  “Salt Cod,” read the blue print.  The boxes were high-quality wood.  Instructions on the side said to soak the cod in changes of water until most of the salt was gone.  I took one of the boxes.  I headed toward checkout with the wine and the box of cod.  Less than two minutes later I paused mid-aisle.   I had to admit that of all the impulse buys I’ve made, this was maybe the stupidest.  I headed back to the meat display, careful not to make eye contact with one of my favorite butchers who happened to be walking toward.  I carefully replaced the wooden box.  On the way out I bought some flowers instead.

At home, flowers in vase, Jerry phoned me.  My credit card had been declined.  And so forth.  And so on.  Mundane.

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