excerpt #1 from "Hare Scramble"
chapter: Tiger by the Tail
I have a dream, pretty much the same one all the time. Candor or Odessa, or another race that starts on a hill, and even though I race the big bikes now, which usually start in the afternoon, it’s morning. There’s a view of the countryside and it’s foggy in the valleys. The camping area we woke up in looks like a little village in the distance; the RVs like little longhouses, and smoky bits from morning campfires mixing in with the fog. People are still waking up. Spectators are trudging up the hill. Teenage girls with hangover chills, wrapped in blankets like Indian women, dragging the corners of their blankets through the grass. Ladies who drove all the way to the race this morning from Ithaca or Scranton, with their crisp fresh clothes and little white sneakers, using their folding chairs like walkers to step around the muddy ditches. Late racers on bikes throwing extra drama into their acceleration to tell us that somebody else fucked up—that’s why they’re late, and that’s why they’re going to have a shitty starting spot—when we all know they were up half the night smoking weed. I’m mostly warm from nerves but there’s still a chill in my feet.
My family’s there, of course, all of them. Each one’s got their job. Dad finished walking the course at the crack of dawn, the part we didn’t finish before it got dark last night. His job is to lean into my helmet and talk strategy and use his hand to show curves and pull his loose fist back at the wrist in a sign-language we all learn as pee-wees for GIVE IT GAS! DON'T LET UP! Which is usually the most necessary thing to do at the very moment your body and mind are saying SLOW DOWN! DANGER! But now we know in our bones that the best remedy for danger is usually speed. That gesture means as much YOU GOT THIS! as GO FASTER! Because they’re one in the same.
Dad demands sportsmanship, always, but especially not even joking about being unsportsmanlike in public. I’d have to say that currency is more important to Dad than winning, though he aims to do both. He makes sure we’re one of the race families who is respectful of all other racers and never looks for a questionable advantage. He prescribes, without exception, to being the best by having your shit together and your head on straight. He’ll help another rider as quick as he’ll help me, and the other good families will too. That’s the rule they don’t announce, but gets announced in its own way when families gather anywhere—in camp, waiting at the registration table; telling stories of how they helped so and so, or how another parent did not, and about someone altering their bike so it’s illegal and and then placing, and it’s bullshit. You have to be a race family that the other families trust, or it’s over. //