Pardon the quotations, movie title, and otherwise lack of bold or italicized writing. I'm flummoxed by html and blogger at the moment. That's right, flummoxed.
"Shut up Amber!"
"Shut UP Ambuuuuuuurrrrrrrr!"
(Dog still barking)
"Amber, want something to drink, Sweety?"
Amber was a Cocker Spaniel who was angrily barking her displeasure at the two grown men - of which I was one - in lycra and polyester who had dared ride their bicycles within visual range of the monstrous Buick LeSabre she proudly occupied. Amber's owner was a crusty and leathered middle-aged woman. For those of you familiar with the Tuna plays, she was nearly a dead-ringer for D.D. Snavely, gravely voice and cigarette included. She walked with a cane; the temporary kind one gets from a prescription; the kind devoid of any ornamental consideration; the kind one might be prescribed after a farming accident or a too firm kick to their no-good husband's groin, or regions thereabouts (A drunken kick is hard to aim.).
Amber's owner - I'll call her Barb - shoved the gas station door open with one hand and her cane when Amber's barking reached a Cujoesque crescendo as my buddy and I propped our bikes against the outdoor ice machine and started to make our way past Amber's Buick. There's nothing more obvious than a dog owner who has completely out-punted their coverage with concern to controlling their dog. I'm sure Amber was sweet at one time -like pre-Barb- but as we made our way past her car - and I call it "her car" because Barb was clearly the Beta Dog - Amber's barks turned from curious and designed for attention to vicious and designed to fuck you up.
Seeing a Cocker Spaniel who wants to kill you is disconcerting in an almost cute way. You expect a Pit Bull to want to tear your calves from the bone and floss his teeth with your squirting veins, but watching a Cocker Spaniel go over the top is something from which you cannot look away. It's sort of like a toddler suddenly launching into a profanity-laced tirade and pulling a knife on you. I stared through the windows of the Buick as I made my way into the gas station while Barb banged her cane against the car in an even more ridiculous attempt to calm down Amber.
There's nothing like walking into a rural anything in cycling apparel. One feels a little like Kevin Costner's character in Dances With Wolves the first time he rides into the Sioux village. You are a foreigner and the locals might kill you. Fortunately, the girl behind the counter seems to work at this particular establishment most weekend mornings and many-a-cyclist stops there for water and food. She's jaded and typically just peaks at your crotch as you walk in. This makes me feel a little dirty, but it is definitely preferable to dualie drivers who try to run you off the road while yelling out the window such original insults as, "Hey, Fag!"
Apparently, Barb and the girl behind the counter go way back. Barb came back into the store - briefly flooding the small space with Amber's blood-thirsty warnings as she opened the door - and repositioned herself in what looked to be a familiar stance against the counter.
Barb (Chomping on gum): Hey, Hun. You all aren't goin' past [such-and-such] county line, are ewe?
Me (Not knowing at all because I just moved here and turn left or right when I'm told): Ummm, I'm not really sure. Why?
Barb (With Amber's murderous howls in the background): My dawg'll chase ewe...but she's harmluss. She'll stay in the yard.
Me (Knowing she's totally full of it): Really?
Barb: Other's of ewe all (referring to cyclists) have complained and the sheruff even asked me to git rid of'r, but how'm I
gonna git rid of m'baby? I paid tew hundr'd un fifty doll'rs fer her!
Girl Behind the Counter (Without a hint of irony): Ewe'd git rid of that husbund of yer's before you sent Amber off!
Barb: Shooot, he ain't werth tew hundr'd un fifty doll'rs!
Barb and the Girl Behind the Counter (In unison): Smoker's lung cackles.
I paid for my Snicker's bar and water and made my way back outside where Amber's anger had not diminished in any discernable way. I made a point to look in her eyes as I passed by the car. This did not sit well with Amber and she launched into an even more furious battery of barking. Amber was not the type of dog to stay in any yard.
As my buddy and I remounted our bicycles I asked him if we were going near [such-and-such] county line. He said, "No," and I secretly breathed a sigh of relief. A Cocker Spaniel has short legs and small lungs and probably tops out at 15 mph (Without a lead-out I sprint at close to 40mph), so I should not have been worried, but Amber had the fury of hell in her eyes and that's got to be worth an extra kick in the mph department.