The Pain-ted Desert

“It’s the Painted Desert, right to the horizon,” Hamish panted in the lead of our peloton of five mountain bikes roaring down the empty Arizona road.

“Stop riding so close to me,” I said to Malcolm who was beside me and swerving as usual. But when he biked behind me he constantly scrubbed my back tire with his front tire. I wasn’t sure which was worse.

Malcolm before the incident.

“I can’t believe we’re doing this,” Paul said from just behind.

“It’s awesome!” Nina’s English accent was obvious even though she was working on an American accent. “How far have we gone so far?”

“Over eighty miles since the Grand Canyon and twenty since the trading post in Cameron. Hey, there’s another trading post, want to stop for a drink?” Paul asked and we veered into the parking lot passing an old Indian woman selling melons and hot peppers off a wagon and a Navajo blanket on the ground.

“What do you want?” Malcolm asked, heading into the trading post.

“Gatorade,” Paul called after my husband.

“If they have those pineapple coconut Popsicles here, I want one and some water,” I shouted.

“Me too,” Nina sighed onto the wooden porch beside me.

“Hey scruff,” I said to a funny dusty doggy who made his way past us and over to the melon lady.

“Holy crap! That dog just shit on her melons!” Hamish exclaimed.

The native woman was screaming at the dog now. She chased Scruff across the parking lot. He didn’t run hard. He kept two arm lengths ahead of her which made her run harder and further than she would have run if he’d just fled. He was taunting her. The pair crossed back in front of us like a Benny Hill episode. Hamish, Nina, Paul and I rolled on the deck laughing. Malc nudged my shoulder. He had an armful of drinks and frozen treats.

“Malcolm, did you see that?” I bayed. “That dog wilfully walked over to the melons and had a big poop on them!”

“They’re at war those two, huh, Hamster?” Nina barely could get the words out as she kicked Hamish.

“Yeah, that dog hates that woman, and that woman hates that dog,” Hamish pulled his diary out of his pannier.

“Animals sometimes do, do that.” I was referring to my childhood cat Muzik. I told my friends the story that I’d never told before. image “When I was thirteen my dad ran over my dog Coolit in our driveway as he was leaving for work, by accident of course. He killed her. I’d picked Coolit out of the pound when I was five—my folks wanted me to get this other dog but I wanted the fur ball with bangs. Anyway, Dad backed over Coolit and my Siamese cat never forgave him. Muzik started pooping after that in special places earmarked for Dad. Dad would go for a 6:00 AM shower and while he was showering Muzik would leave a stool camouflaged on the brown shag bath mat. Dad would step out of the shower and would skid in fresh cat shit—more dangerous than stepping on a bar of soap, I reckon. Muzik always did the unexpected. He even shat in one of my dad’s shoes once. Dad couldn’t do anything about it; he’d already killed my dog so he couldn’t get rid of my cat. My parents ended up taking Muzik to a cat shrink.”

“Get out!” Hamish put down his pen. Hamster wasn’t a cat person.

“No, really, they did.”

“Did it work? Did Muzik stop crapping on your dad’s stuff?”

“No, he had a movement on Dad’s dresser right after the appointment, but Mom never told Dad about that. The shrink’s suggestions didn’t work at all. Muz knew what he was doing. He wasn’t being dirty and he didn’t have a physical problem. And cat psychology didn’t work on him either. He was angry.” I sat there watching Scruff. Scruff probably had reasons for crapping on that woman’s watermelons.

“Well, shall we get going?”  Malcolm asked.

“Yup, let’s go.” I hauled myself off the step.

We were all still laughing about the dog and the melons as we pedalled out the driveway and back onto the highway. We were so surprised that the dog hadn’t just cocked his leg and peed.

Malcolm was beside me again, Hamish in front and Nina and Paul just behind. It was excruciatingly hot but we were having a great time. We roared along the smooth pavement making as much wind in our faces as possible.

“Oh, Jesus!” I couldn’t believe what was happening. Malcolm’s bullhorn was caught between my brake lever and handlebar. Our bikes were intertwined. We were going down. As I tried to pull away I felt his bike coming over on top of me. I looked at the pavement whizzing below and had time to think, I hate the feel of pavement on skin. Then it was pavement and the sound of crashing metal. We were sliding down the road. I was underneath two bicycles and Malcolm’s two hundred pounds of muscle, grinding along the pavement. We lay there for a second and then I heard it happen—my silent scream had turned vocal. I pulled myself out from under our bikes and spilt packs. A banshee screech was coming out of my mouth and I wasn’t sure why. Shock, no, my arm. What was wrong with my arm? It hung strangely at my side. My bare skin was on fire. Shards of Kirsten had been left behind on the tarmac. But my shoulder, my arm. I couldn’t move it. I was walking in a circle. I was confused.

“Oh my God, she’s dislocated her arm!” Paul looked at me like I was an extraterrestrial.

It was time for someone to start pooping on Malcolm’s things.

BEHIND THE SCENES: Mountain Equipment Co-op purchased the photo I took of Malcolm at the Grand Canyon for a summer catelogue issue. The money helped, but poop on his stuff would have been better, and I prefer biking without him now.

By Kirsten Koza