New ‘Cross Strategy for 2008: Animal Sacrifice
Breaking the bird’s neck seems like a bad omen but I remind myself that I believe neither in omens nor birds.
Still, when I feel the bone snap under me, my heart drops into my gut and my sentence stops inside my mouth, without bothering to find a period.
“What?” Sal asks.
I’d been looking over my shoulder as we rolled through the grass, explaining how I’d set up natural barriers here just last week. I was wondering out loud where the thick branches I’d used had gone when I heard the bird chirping and turned around just in time to watch my front tire roll over the tiny body.
What was a bird doing walking across the ground in the first place? Had it already been injured?
The answers didn’t matter. I stopped and got off my bike and picked up a stick. I’d killed the bird right in the middle of the path.
So newly dead, it was still soft. I might have moved it with my hands but I couldn’t bear the thought of making my murder so tactile. I began to move the body with the stick and Sal came up behind me.
“I killed it.”
“What? What do you mean?”
“Just now. I rolled over it and broke it’s neck. I never even saw it.”
The stick was a clumsy tool and I had to work at pushing the bird across the ground to get it into the bushes. Eleven inches of stick connecting me to this creature that I’d just killed. It was 6:30am and there was just barely enough sun to see properly but I could tell that my tire tread had followed the line of it’s spine and then partially crushed it’s head, which was just barely still connected by a few exposed tendons.
I stood up and looked at Sal, who was frowning.
“That was shitty.” I say. He tells me it’s ok. I know it is, of course, but crushing a small animal with my Hutchinson Bulldog tires was not exactly what I had in mind for a good start to an early morning ‘cross skills workout.
The image of the bird’s nearly severed head is still in my mind as I begin an endless series of mounts and dismounts. The dismount hasn’t been a problem for a long time, it’s the remount that still gets me. People tell me that after enough times, it will just click.
I am thinking about the bird, waiting for the click. I’ve been waiting for this click for a year now and I am sick of it. Not only am I an extremely slow learner, I think to myself, I am also a bird murderer. Fabulous.
And then, all in one moment, my hands are in the drops and my feet are in the air. The inside of my right thigh lands on the saddle perfectly and my feet find and then engage with the pedals.
My jaw drops and I dismount quickly to do it again. Run run run, lift, set down, flick! Once again, the feet find the air, the leg finds the saddle and the cleats find the pedals. The motion is fluid. I look like the pictures. I look like every skills video I have ever watched.
Sal crests a hill in the distance and catches a few repeats – veering off his course to pedal over the bumpy meadow toward me he shouts, “Those look good!!”
In a moment of three-year-old-style self-involved elation I scream, “Watch me again! Watch me again!” and circle back to deliver a string of high-speed remount assaults.
“You got it!” Sal’s face reveals genuine pride. “The bird gave you magical powers!”
Later as we’re rolling home, I consider the broken-neck bird. I still don’t believe in omens, but animal sacrifice is moving up on the list of possible cyclocross tactics for 2008.
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