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  • When your bike wheel loses a spoke halfway down a steep mountain road late on a November afternoon, you weigh your options. No cell coverage up here. No fixing this wheel. Walk ten miles to the nearest town or hitchhike or wait for your husband to ride the twenty miles home and get the car. It'll be dark sooner than you'd like. You've just ridden some 45 miles mostly uphill and though you're hot now, soon you'll be the colder for it.
    But hitchhike?

    Why do you hesitate?

    On this steep winding road through the forest.

    As you mull things over including your own fear, you start walking with your wobbly bike, clicking along in your cycling shoes, wrapped in your warmest bike suit. Ridiculous at your age. Really. Who do you think you are.

    And then almost right away a truck pulls over. A friendly dog in the back and a friendly woman at the wheel. You don't know them. But they drive you all the way to Bristol. Just because.
  • But you still have fifteen miles to go. You could wait for your husband or call a friend, but you want to see if you can get home on your own. Shed your fear.

    You stand outside the bakery thinking about all this, and you realize that you're chilled but you have no money. You look in the window steamy with all that doughy warmth. A young woman steps out in her apron and asks if you need tea.
    You do need tea. She doesn't care that you cannot pay.
    She brings you in just because.

    You see the one local bus go by. You run out after it. You missed it. You come back in. Slip into a chair. Sip your hot mint tea. Wonder how the hell you're going to get home. It's almost dark now.

    A grizzled man in the corner is looking at you. You don't know whether you should look back, and then you see yourself thinking these things. Hesitating.

    He asks if you need help. You must look as though you need help. You do need help. You look at him and know that he is precisely the sort of person your mother warned you about all those years ago when you were crazy and hitchhiked to the beach.

    Where do you need to go? he says.
    You tell him.
    He says, I'll take you.
    You look around the bakery. You look at him. You hesitate but you're relaxing into something this afternoon, so you say, Thank you. That would be amazing.

    At his car-- exactly the last car your mother would have let you get into-- you almost hesitate. But you don't. When you get in you have to use a pair of pliers to close the door. The thing is as jury-rigged as a car can be and yet he manages to get you and your bike in there. Cheerfully. As though he does this every day. And though he probably doesn't have much spare gas, he drives you all the way home

    just because.
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