Fast forward to the year 2050: Briggs Carney was recently named the richest man in the world by Fortune Magazine for the twentieth time in the last twenty-one years. (Madison Avenue’s Kirk Ad Smith outpaced him one year, but lost billions when the porn industry crashed.) Carney’s portfolio exploded when WBL, Inc. opened its first Old Zealot home in Athens, Georgia. The demand for beds was overwhelming. Afterwards, Carney hit upon a brilliant notion: He franchised his Old Zealot Home, went public, and made a fortune. As of Twenty-Fifty, there are 2666 Old Zealot Homes dotting the globe. The monthly dues of $10,000 per person ($20,000 for non-Zealots and $30,000 for fake-Zealots) bring in an estimated 250 million per month. The “first-born-grandchild proviso” is also standard language in most contracts, and has been another lucrative venture for WBL, Inc. And since Carney bought the United States proper from a Chinese auction house fifteen years ago, he declared himself a ruling monarch and pays no taxes. He taxes us, in more ways than one. For example, he reinstated the Middle Ages custom of droit du seigneur, but that’s another story for different day. (Many wives, mine included, are quite satisfied with the arrangement, but many husbands, including Bill Boonen, Tank Crumley, Matt Karzen, Kirk Smith, Bill Harper, and me, remain quite vexed.)The Athens home is presently packed with hundreds of hobbling, hunched-over Zealots who still love to hammer, curse, drink whiskey, shit-talk, and engage in carnal pleasures when the mood strikes. Only an original missing-toothed Zealot may reside here.
Freeze the frame on January 1, New Year’s day: The Zealots have just finished their mandatory WBL New Year’s Day ride, a 80-mile jaunt, Homer the Hard, an old time favorite. The brittle-boned gaggle of old-time mossbacks and are in the cafeteria massaging their aching bodies and reminiscing about the good old days. Carney is not present—at this very moment he’s exercising his feudal right referenced above with poor Hunter Garrison’s wife. Since this is New Year’s Day in the South, naturally the Zealots are feasting on collard greens with fatback, cracklin cornbread, black-eyed peas and chow-chow, stewed tomatoes and rice, and sweet tea. Because these celebrated victuals meld easily into a lumpy liquid, they slide down the esophagus and plop into the stomach with ease. The “good luck” provender also provides the protein, fat, calcium, and other vitamins and minerals these toothless, hairless, curmudgeonly old geezer-Zealots need, and which is so lacking in the voluminous quantities of alcoholic beverages they imbibe so freely on a daily (hourly) basis.
“Hay,” Mikey-Mike Buechel says as he leans back in his chair and taps out a smoke, “yall remember the New Year’s Double Sprint Weekend Day back in Twenty-Ten? You know, the two rides that catapulted me in the Yellow Helmet Cover?” Buechel is now 80 years old and baldheaded, other than seven gossamer threads that sprout from his scalp like some freakish and wayward weed. He tends to his seven wisps daily, lovingly lubing each sixteen-inch strand, and then twirling the string on top of his head in a complex pattern of curlicues and arabesques in an attempt to cover up the bald spot, which, of course, is impossible.
Rob Yo Simpson, one of the one-hundred or so resident Zealots currently having chow in the dining hall, leans over to Matt Whatley and says, “Jayzus, here we go again.” When Whatley doesn’t respond, Yo looks over and notices that he has fallen asleep with his chin on his chest and a plate of half-eaten food balanced precariously in his lap. One end of a thin rope of slobber has fastened to Whatley’s lower lip. The other end is glued to a moist chunk of cracklin cornbread on his plate. Yo loves cornbread with chitlins, so he looks around and confirms that no one is watching. He nonchalantly picks up the piece of cornbread and shoves it into his mouth. He swallows the tasty morsel whole in order to dispose of the evidence quickly. The buttery delectation feels like hot magma as it slides like sludge through his intestinal tract. It will magically transform into a neutron bomb before Yo deposits the little smoking turd into the local sewer system.
“It was New Year’s Day weekend in the year Twenty-Ten. Both rides were scheduled to be a 60-mile affairs—the first sprints of the year—and I was in prime position to take the Overall lead. When Friday morning broke (the 1st), it revealed that the rains from the previous days had blown out of town to the east; but behind, a furious and frigid front rushed in to fill the space—nature abhors a vacuum. It was destined to be an epic two days of WBL adventures.”
“Do we have to listen to this tired tale again?” Jason the Peacock Bewley says under his breath to no one in particular. Bewley shakes his head and takes a big slug of prune juice. While the glass is tilted to his lips, he realizes that he’s pooped in his pants again. He knows that in a matter of minutes his eau de moi will overwhelm the room. His motto: deny, deny, deny. But his roommate, Don Giannini knows his secret and will rat him out, just like he did to Sammy the Bull back in the day. He hopes the Don doesn’t shove his face in the toilet again. Maybe, Bewley hopes, he’ll only kick the crap out of me. Bewley chuckles to himself when he realizes his double entendre. He suspects he’s a genius. Then he frowns when he imagines his face repeatedly plunging into a watery hole filled with the horrific effluvium of the Don’s internal flotsam. Poop seems to be a prominent consideration these days.
Buechel continues unabated by the dire circumstances surrounding him: “There were 60 or 70 diehards in attendance on Friday, but less on Saturday, all powerful pedal-people capable of Herculean feats of pedaling prowess. Even old-time Zealots Steve Carharts, Reggie Pineda, and Gentry Arnette were back from the dead.” The three aforementioned Zealots are presently eating in the dining hall and they all nod at Carney when they hear their names. Like all Zealots both old and new, they remain vainglorious fools. “In fact, looking back now,” Buechel chortles, “I must have been in super-fine form that day.” Buechel looks around the room to see who is listening. Sam Rafal is sleeping in a chair at a table in the back with his face in his plate. Buechel walks over and knocks him out of his chair to make sure he’s not dead. He’s not, but the fall to the floor nearly kills him.
“Both days we plowed north through the frozen brown fields of Jackson and Oglethorpe Counties where many false Zealots have lost their will to live after being pushed to the outer limit of human possibility, and stripped to the bone of all pretense, and whose souls have been bored into with a blinding light of pain. But for me, as for all true Zealots, onward we charged, clamping down on a bullet, and forging ahead into the dark and murky distance, the terra incognito of the future, reveling in the unknown misadventures which lay over the horizon, and sharpening our swords for the upcoming battles. For Zealots live by the Zoroastrian Code: Whatever doesn’t kill a person, only makes him stronger.” Buechel is standing in his chair now and gesticulating wildly with his arms.
“Dear gawd,” Billy Boy Bray mutters after hearing Buechel’s poetic paean to the glory days of his youth, “has he been eating mushrooms again? Just what in the hale is he talking about?” It is true, many (most…all) times, Buechel’s mind is a blooming, buzzing, bombinating welter of confusion, and Billy Boy surmises this must be one of those times. Or either he’s dipped into the psilocybin jam again. Billy Boy Bray tries deflection in order to turn the tide: “Hay Mikey,” Billy Boy bellows above the fray, “your ball sack is hanging out.” Erin Winter, Jamie Dinkin and Ally Stäches stand up in their chairs too to have a better angle.
It is true—Buechel’s enormous scrotum is dangling out from under his boxer shorts and hanging over the side of his chair like big fuzzy dice from a pimp’s rearview mirror. But Buechel isn’t to blame—his cod swelled to the size of a gourd after he accidentally electrocuted his testicles with a device he was using (misusing) to enlarge his penis. Buechel cups his cod with both hands and gently tucks it back into his shorts, but it immediately slides out the other side. It’s hopeless. Anyway, Buechel seems not to notice—he’s lost in his reverie and staring into the void. Bill Harper is also sitting in his chair looking at imaginary fractals floating in the air. However, his blank stare is attributable to the double dose of antipsychotic drugs that are currently coruscating through his veins. The doctors decided to strengthen his mind-numbing cocktail after Harper tried to strangle Carney when he caught the CEO coming out of his bedroom. Harper must not have seen the memo about Carney’s feudal rights as lord and master of the manor (universe). Or maybe, like us, he’s vexed too. Secretly, I wish Harper had killed the bastard.
“Tank Crumley, Nick Housley, Nathan O’Neill, John Murphy, and Brent Bookwalter set tempo at the front both days while I plotted and planned (and of course, talked trash with the ladies at the back). The thin layer of gray eventually burned away and the sky was scrubbed clean for the entire weekend. On both days, the firmament brightened to a crisp cerulean blue. Up and over the hills we flew, but we weren’t going to grandma’s house—we were headed full speed ahead to the Attack Zone. Though the air was freezing at departure time, the mercury eventually rose into the 40’s and kept climbing into the mid-fifties on Friday. On Saturday, however—Ladies Day, the air never warmed past a frosty 38 degrees.”
Buechel continues with his long soliloquy, describing every pedal stroke in detail, every rise in the road, every dip, every turn, every cow in a field, every falling-down barn, every lean-to, and every yapping dog. Near the end of his oration, Russ Foster strolls through the room twirling a purse. He swings his hips and sashays his shoulders and looks out of the corner of his eyes in a sultry way like he’s some sort of dirt road slut. Unfortunately, Russ is wearing a hospital gown and it isn’t tied in the back. Regrettably, he’s not wearing underwear. His ass sags sadly. When Foster finally pivots my way, it’s obvious why he’s making such a spectacle—he’s boasting a full-fledged erection. For an 88 year-old man, it’s an impressive display of sportsmanship. I secretly hate Foster at that moment, but keep my feelings to myself for fear someone will accuse me of penis envy.
The startling sight of Foster parading through the café like a Victoria’s Secret supermodel sends Buechel into a blind rage—he hates it when some jackass upstages his oral fabulation. All the ladies (as well as Bill Boonen) are now standing in their chairs again for a better vantage. Buechel notices that Foster’s sex is tilted into a near vertical position. Buechel suspects some sort of legerdemain, so he rolls the dice and says, “It ain’t real, folks. It’s a strap-on.” Buechel puts his fists on his hips and spreads his feet apart like a gunfighter waiting on the draw.
But Foster isn’t a fool—he’s led Buechel into a small alley between high-slotted canyon walls: an ambush. Foster turns towards Buechel and says matter-of-factly, “I can maintain an erection for up to two hours.” He smiles at Buechel and pauses for dramatic effect before lifting the front of his gown. The shriek of a hundred chairs sliding back on the floor screeches through the cafeteria. “Great Bertha!” Fiona Handsdriden shouts as she claps her hands and jumps up and down like a contestant on The Price is Right. “It’s gorgeous,” young Nick Housley yells. “Where can I get one?” Joe Collins puts the back of his hand on his forehead and passes out cold. Ryan Wolfe falls to his knees and begins to weep. I too become a little teary-eyed, but I’m more sensitive than others. After all, Bill Boonen and I are artists.
Foster exits the room like he’s the freaking sultan of swing. I keep my mouth shut like a drum for all the obvious reasons. Eventually, Buechel gathers his composure and becomes and eddy unto himself once again. His pupils shrink to two black dots.
“On New Year’s Day, the whistle blew and the first Attack Zone of 2010 opened, a 5-mile stretch of hurt. Immediately, Nathan O’Neill, Rob Yo Simpson, P Parker Smith, Nick Housley, and Paul Ozier jumped away and opened up a gap. For a solid mile, the gap hovered at 100 meters.
“But as Seagraves Mill Road approaches the intersection with Nowhere Road, the blacktop tips upward. As the five pounded up the quarter-of-a-mile slope, one-by-one, they dropped off the infernal pace. At the top of the climb, turning right onto Nowhere Road, O’Neil was solo with three miles to go.
“Housley was also alone 10 seconds behind, and the main pack, now rent to shreds, was a further 10 seconds adrift. Though the chasers ripped through the air with Frank Trevesio and Reid Peacock leading the charge and pulling like two hounds from Hale, they could not close the door on the rampaging Aussie. O’Neill crossed the line with not only his first WBL victory, but also the greatest win of his storied and stellar career. Housley soloed in for 2nd, but because he’s a Cat 1, scored no points. (Carney did award Housley the 1 point “True Grit” award.) Behind, I outpunched a decimated field to win the field sprint. The points catapulted me into 1st place in the WBL, a place I’d like to stay. The finishing order went like this.”
- Nathan O'Neill: 10 pts.
- Me: 8 pts.
- Yo Simpson: 6 pts.
- Marek Lipold: 4 pts.
- Matt Tunis: 2 pts.
- All: 3 pts.
- Nick Housley: True Grit Ride Award: 1 pt
- P Parker Smith: Attack Point: 1 pt
- Paul Ozier: Attack Point: 1 pt
“When we hit the final Attack Zone the next day, Ladies Day, Ally Stäches immediately shot up the Mur de Winterville like a thunderbolt. Jamie Dinkin and Winter had to digiity-dig-dig, but they held firm. Ally hit the turbo blasters again. Dinkin barely lost contact, but Winter dug deep and latched on to her rear wheel like a blood-sucking leech. They turned right on Billly Melton Road and opened the throttle. They flew down the last steep drop, both sharing the load, and punched it up the 1 k slope to the line. With 200 meters to go, the two were side-by-side, neck-and-neck, in a flat-out drag-race to the line. With 10 meters to go, Winter finally pulled clear to nab her first ever stage victory. Like O’Neill, it was the greatest day of her life.
“I was in the Yellow Helmet Cover after the glorious weekend, and it was shaping up to be an epic battle for the Overall, but just wait til you here what happened next.” Then Frank Treviso pulled the old tried and true method, the only way to force Buechel to shut-up. Frank stands up, cups his hands over his mouth, and yells, “Food Fight!” All Hale breaks loose
- Erin Winter: 10 pts.
- Ally Stäches: 8 pts.
- Jamie Dinkin: 6 pts.
- All: 3 pts.
- 25 pts.: Buechel
- 19 pts: Nathan O'Neil
- 19: Erin Winter
- 18: Yo Simpson
- 17: Jason Bewley
- 16: Damien Dunn
- 15: Frank Trevesio
- 15: Bill Bray
- 14: Tim Cornett
- 14: Ally Staches
- 13: Little Cappy
- 12: Tank Crumley
- 12: Nick Arroyo
- 12: Jamie Dinkin
- 12: Hunter Garrison
- 12: Matt Karzen
- 12: Brett Magner
- 12: Dustin Mealor
- 12: Sam Rafal
- 12: Parker Smith
- 12: Smola
- 12: Matt Tunis
- 12: Reid Peacock
- 12: L Slote