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The Cable by Rolf Berger

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  • Why they strung it across the bike path I'll never know.

    But last night I hit it, doing 25 Km/hr sprinting for the hill ahead, right in the Adam's apple. Never saw it. Luckily for me it was thick. The kind of cable they string between wood posts for guardrails. Rusty and old. Too thick to knot. They had just stuck it through the chain link fence on one side and thankfully I had enough momentum to pull it free. I'm a big guy. Although in doing so, the cable whipped along my neck as I frantically braked, rough and dirty. My riding buddy Karl was freaking out behind me. He's usually the one in front on this hill.

    We ride every Wednesday, rain, snow or shine. Have for 15 years now. Play Scrabble at the mid-point. We're competitive on these little sprints, juggling for position like greyhounds after the rabbit. Tonight I was stronger. Karl's has had his share of injuries. Had his entire lower jaw rebuilt, teeth and all, after a particularly nasty fall from a stunt. I'm really glad he didn't hit it, possibly undoing those years of surgery.

    I stayed on my bike, remarkably, although at the apogee of my deceleration I was bent back like a limbo dancer. That's the first time I've ever done an upward dog yoga pose sitting on a saddle. Once I collected myself and realized what had happened, my first thought was "Who the hell would do this?". And I got angry.

    I know the Don Valley bike path is busy, especially on an unseasonably warm spring evening like this. I'd been passing dozens of cyclists and roller-bladers, all in thin springtime gear. The cable was strung across at the bottom of "the hump". A small hill just south of Pottery Road. Cyclists regularly fly down this hill, reaping their reward for the slog up the other side. I started pulling the remaining cable out of the fence to clear the path for others, and just as I had done so, a roller-blader streaked down the hill. Had they hit the cable as I had, they would have been violently up-ended, landing on their back or neck and skidding for a good distance. Again, I was glad it was me, going uphill, who took the hit.

    By this time I was in full berzerker mode, violently tearing the cable from the stump they had used to secure it on the other side and tossing it into the river, all the better to hide it from the mischievous hands who concocted this prank. There was 100 feet of it, easily. Mixed with other, thinner wire garbage, probably tossed over the bridge railing above by some ignorant contractor, too lazy to make a trip to the dump. This happens a lot in the Don. The main North-South Parkway from downtown snakes through the Valley, and apart from the bike trail, it's populated only by the homeless and the derelict. It's often used as a dumping ground. Bodies too sometimes.

    By the time I'd rid the area of all the wire I could find, my rage had subsided. The irony of the fact that I had recently written here about Tricksters and their use to society was not lost on me. I understand the concept of Schadenfreude well. ( For those who don't, it's a German word defined as "pleasure derived by someone from another person's misfortune." It's what you experience when you see someone flip on a banana peel. It's horrible, but you can't help but laugh.) Karl was not buying the trickster angle anyway. There was no lesson to be taught here. We were on a bike path, riding bikes, where we should be. To him this was just pure malice. Evil sociopathic malevolence, no more. We're pretty sure the hoodied teenagers we'd just past on the path south of the hump were to blame. If they were not, wouldn't they have warned us? Or removed the cable themselves as they walked South? Part of me wants to blame someone. Understand why they think that the real world is like a video game. Someone could have been seriously injured, perhaps died. It's a horrible place to be hurt, it would take Paramedics a long time to get there. Do they not think through the consequences of their actions? Do they even care?

    Reading the stories of the Cowbird community has re-affirmed my faith in humanity in many ways. It's such a pleasure to be in sensible company. But this random act has given me a warning. Evil is never far away. Although we lead our lives in such ways as to avoid it, it lurks in the shadows like this cable, primed to wreak havoc in our lives. There is no blame. It's just a random act of malice. Wrought by someone, angry at something, lashing out blindly at the innocent. For that reason, I didn't report the incident. I had taken away the threat of it happening again and I didn't want to give the delinquents the satisfaction of seeing it in the paper. Rewarding their sociopathy with bragging rights.

    My throat hurts, and I sound a bit like Leonard Cohen right now, but nothing's permanently damaged. My luck is still with me. And it could have been so much worse.

    When we finally got to the Beaches Coffee shop where we play, the area was cordoned off by the police. Some poor fellow had jay-walked across Queen St., slipped on a streetcar track and been run over by a dump truck. They were hosing his blood off the road as we walked up the sidewalk. The people there talked of how his head was split open and he was taken away in critical condition. Suddenly my neck was not such a big deal. This poor guy had a much worse night than I.

    I looked up to see the reddish full moon hanging low overhead and wondered what other lunacies I would be seeing tonight.
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