“362 days,” Sam said. The secret count had begun.
It was lunchtime, the second or third week of my freshmen year of high school, the Tuesday or Wednesday after Labor Day. I was on the stairs behind the staff entrance of the cafeteria, waiting for my dad to liberate my sandwich.
“To, ah, get ready for the ride,” he said, completing the catechism.
“Well, I don’t know, but yea, maybe someday,” I replied. I was a convert, but I wasn’t yet an apostle.
“Five miles, or sixty, it doesn’t matter. You haven’t really gone until you’ve done the ride,” he said.
That had been the twenty-first annual event, the t-shirt for which memorialized someone who committed suicide, I think. His black and white face was silkscreened over our hearts, a two-tone rendition of the cove across the back.
And so for the next four years, our conversation at those stairs generally followed the same pattern. One or both of us did the calendar math and then he cajoled about the ride and I demurred or capitulated. And then, each Labor Day, my dad and I would drive down on that Friday morning, passing Sam and sometimes others on two wheels along the curving route, pulling over to hand Sam a wine cooler before continuing the rest of the miles down to the campsite.
Today begins the forty-first annual. I’ll be offline, but the posts should, I hope, continue as scheduled.
The count is 366.