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  • Kim Idol

A Fishy Tale


I had finally gotten the nerve to test drive my new scooter. Within 7 miles, the speedometer stopped working. Effing Chinese garbage. The price you pay for going cheap is that the guy who built your scooter is totally out of your reach when it falls apart. I took it to a scooter shop, a friendly Mom and Pop operation in a grubby part of Las Vegas. Spurred by visions of a wheel rolling away or some vital engine part exploding while I was bustling along Sahara Blvd. at 45 miles per hour in the midst of some heartless traffic jam, I asked the woman running the shop to give the bike a thorough once over.


The woman was about my age but was a little fatter and looked a little more careworn than I did. A friendly chatterbox, she remembered me from when I'd come scooter shopping earlier in the month. She also remembered more personal details about me than I remembered sharing. Writing down my requests, she assured me that a complete examination would take twenty minutes, tops.


"Out to the left and in the back. The only open bay," she said, pointing toward the service area and handing me the worksheet.


A beefy colossus emerged into the light as I rolled the bike down the drive; he grunted at me and pointed a wrench at a parking spot just outside the garage door. I handed him the worksheet.


"What do you want done?" he asked, ignoring the paper in his hand.


I repeated what was presumably written down, and then he turned away and slouched back into the dark greasy pit from whence he'd emerged, and I returned to the shop to wait.


The shop was tiny, as small as the 12 x 12 apartments I've lived in most of my life. It had bad lighting, a warped countertop, and six cracked faux-leather chairs crammed up against the filthy front window. About twenty shiny Amigo brand scooters were lined up from wall to wall in the back of the shop, and bike parts dangled from every inch of ceiling space.


A wizened black man took the seat to my left and set a big plastic bag on the chair to his left and settle back in silence. The woman wrote in an account book while a skinny old white dude talked to her. He was interfering with her concentration, but she was polite and split attention between him and a list she was transferring from one sheet of paper to another.


He'd gotten to that point in life where your skin sinks into your skull, but his eyes were bright and focused, and his patter had a plot.


"They want to put me in a halfway house, which makes no sense since I already live in one and don't want to move into another just to be closer to family," he said.


I don't really remember how I got sucked into the conversation, but after a few minutes, he stopped talking to her and faced me as he told me this next extraordinary set of stories.


In the space of the time it took for the mechanic to examine my bike, this old man told me that he'd seen trout as big as great white sharks in Montana, that he'd work mining ore in North Dakota where, in the process, his crew had blasted free a gold nugget that was 300 yards wide and tall.


"They tried to keep us from stealing pieces of it, but they couldn't." He lifted his foot and pointed at the bottom of his shoe. "I hollowed out the heels of my shoes and carried out a bunch between my toes."


I imagined a long line of dirty, dusty fellows mashing gold flecks underfoot as they staggered back to their cars at the end of their workday.


Most of them were cowboys or oilers, on and off," he said. "They knew how to get by on very little. 'Course there were also people from the city who had no business moving to the great outdoors."


I assumed he was talking about forests in Wyoming.


"I have a kind of a sad story to tell about that," he said. "Was a fella who was fishing in the river. His four year old dropped dead at his feet because it turned out the little guy had been collecting baby rattlers for his father, thinking they were fishing worms."


I had no response to that one. I just nodded.


Then he started talking about the Marine Corps.


"Marines have to carry 300 lb. packs," he said.


"Thaat sounds impossible." The woman at the counter chimed in with a reality check.


I had to listen closely because he garbled his words, but I didn't worry about the truth. He seemed happy to have someone listen to him. I loved the idea of a troop of women and men hauling 300 pound packs. I wasn't going to make any big decisions based on the notion of the existence of thousand pound trout. I was sorry if an actual child had actually died, and gold nuggets, as I later discovered, are listed by mass rather than size.


His stories, except for the one, were whimsical rather than dark, and I'd had enough conversations in my life with mean crazy people that I enjoyed his good humored musings. He'd just begun another story when the mechanic rambled in. The old man, sensing a time of change was at hand, made sure he finished his last story before he would let me return to planet earth. Then he suddenly wished me a good day and left.


"He's demented," the woman said by way of an apology. "Thank you for being nice to him."


"It's fine," I said.


I may or may not be reduced to dementia in time, who knows, but all I heard while waiting for my scooter to be fixed was an old man's need for an audience, which made it easy to listen to him. He’d been nicer to me than the mechanic.


Then the mechanic gave my worksheet to the lady at the counter, who told me that my bike had a broken part that I would have to locate on my own.


Back to the little details that make up my life.






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