Wednesday 3 January 2007

The Bikes of New York, Part Two

The Bikes of New York is a science-fiction novella of twelve chapters, posted serially by me, your overtasked host, Cheeseburger Brown.

It's a thick week at work: I have Pakistani and Indian textile experts coming out the wazoo. My video is finally coming together, but at a great cost of mental energy and cramped fingers from hours upon hours of clickety-clicking. At night I dream of saris.

Never the less, the show must go on. Let's continue with our tale:


On Saturday afternoons Luc Drapeau and his family take a stroll through Mount Royal park, Luc's legs quaking from his morning on the bikes. The road is strewn with blossoms, in places mashed green patties thick enough to advertise the brand names of shoes, logos stamped in the pulp. Birds sing, because nothing can stop the birds. It's spring so they sing extra loud.

"What is it, Celise?" he asks again.

"Nothing," she says again. She's waiting for the right moment.

They carry parasols, just like you and I do. Even though they're poor there are some things that are indisputable necessities these days, like shea butter and almond oil for sunblock; like sunglasses; like multivitamins and condoms. You find money for those things, sometimes even before you find money for food. I do, too.

The hillside watermongers can fuck right off. Luc Drapeau ignores them pointedly. They prey on the thirsty, profiteer rather than ride or work. They sell trick bottles that magnify the content, and the content could be somebody's piss. They look for suckers. They look for people who don't know better -- class tourists. Me, maybe. Maybe you. Luc they leave alone.

At the crest beneath the great crucifix a six piece brass band has adapted Berlioz. The baby squeals and cranes his head, threatening to spill free. A ring of listeners sit in the grass. An old man pretends to conduct. Celise stops the pram and drops her shoulders, grinning.

Luc wanders close and fishes a brown dime from his pocket. His wife catches his eye, questioning.

"Music, Celise," he says quietly but firmly. "Music."

She hesitates before nodding. He closes his eyes and drops the coin in the brass band's hat. The trombone player salutes during a two measure rest, and the tuba player winks behind his mouthpiece.

Luc gives them a tight little smile.

Montreal is spread out beneath them, wavering under a scintillating blanket of ochre haze. A brace of flycycle gliders are out, white dots sailing between the skyscrapers. Probably the cops. The tallest towers pierce the haze in their thirst for the sun, the fans at their pinnacles beating silently. Between the buildings glisten the new canals.

"Luc," says his wife, touching his shoulder. He turns around. She says, "Something wonderful has happened."

He raises his brow. "Celise?"

"Our prayers have been answered," she says. "I have a message from Cousin Philip. He says he has arranged a job."

Luc blinks. "A job?" he echoes dumbly. "...A task?" he adds, letting a note of cynicism enter his voice.

"A job," says his wife, her cheeks colouring. "A salary," she says.

Luc is on top of the world. He picks up his wife and swings her around. He scoops his son out of the pram and kisses him until the boy gasps for breath between giggles. The brass band's number winds to a close and everyone applauds.

"There is only one thing," says his wife, biting the inside of her cheek.

Luc gently lays the baby in the pram, looks up, his lids heavy. "What is this one thing?" he asks quietly.

"The job is not in Montreal," says Celise.

"Where is it?"

"It's in New York City."

"New York City?"




He paces in a small circle, chin in his palm. "I don't see how it's possible, Celise. How could we do this? How would we get there? Even if we did, we would be immigrants. We might as well try to get into Canada."

"Philip will help us. He's arranged everything. He knows how smart you are, Luc. He wants you there."

Luc sighs. He pinches the bridge of his nose, eyes closed. Is this salvation or damnation? At first blush they both smell the same, both starting from a knot of fear deep down in his stomach.

Celise takes his hand. "We can't stay here, Luc. You know it. The Republic is suffocating. Every day there are more turning to the bikes. It can't go on forever."

He nods. He tracks birds as they wheel across the sky, gliding from wind wave to wind wave. "I know," he says hollowly.

A blue and white flag snaps in the breeze, its line jingling against the flagpole. The baby fusses.

"It's time to go home," says Luc. "We should start packing," he adds.

Celise drops her head against the base of his neck, snuggling against a film of rasping stubble. "I love you," she breathes. Luc puts his arms around her, rocks her gently side to side.

"I dream of never having to ride again," he says.

"Your dream is coming true," she tells him tenderly. "Just you wait and see: in New York, everything will be different."


Anonymous said...

The narration of the story threw me off a bit.

But I like it. =)


thanks for the continuing posts
despite the long days at work


Mark said...

So, the advertisements in the green pulp... I'm picturing a lawnmower with an added attachment that collects the grass clippings and molds them into a logo or slogan. I'm probably way off.

I, too, dig this one. Futuristic, yet almost like alternative history at the same time.

Luc could be a heck of a bike courier in New York, I bet.

Cheeseburger Brown said...

Dear Simon,

Quite right: this Montreal is a part of an independant Republique Quebecoise.

The narrative style is slightly experimental, but I'm enjoying it so far. I haven't written very far ahead in this story, so I am also anxious to see how it pans out.

Dear Santa,

It's probably creating the ongoing posts that make the long work days tolerable.

Dear Mark,

I was thinking that the logos on the bottoms of people's shoes were pressing into the mashed leaves. The remaining logos would be inverted, naturally.

I enjoy near-future settings more than anything, I think. Familiar yet canted.

Cheeseburger Brown

Moksha Gren said...

If you're wondering how the narrative voice is working...I'd like to weigh in with enthusiastic support. It's a wonderful way to casually introduce us to the world.

Si - I was worried about the title as well. But I'm going to pretend that his new job will be something like...a bike repair handyman or something. I think it's more fun for CBB if I stay makes the crushing blow he almost always has in store all the more thrilling for him ;)

Anonymous said...

Great so far.

Simon, I thought of that too... but I hope you're wrong. Maybe in NY, everyone just rides *moving* bikes?

Hey Orick, when you come back -- you don't post at Joel On Software, do you?

Cheeseburger Brown said...

Dear Simon,

In Chapters I and II, Luc and Celise are indeed speaking French, but as readers you are all pre-installed with Babelfish which makes the process of translation smooth and effortless.

Cheeseburger Brown

Anonymous said...

Near future is the best, so familiar yet so full of possibilities. I am sure CBB will enjoy surprising us.

Sheik Yerbouti: indeed I am that same Orick. JoS is my other time waster. :) You can email me through JoS forum. Let's not hijack here.

Orick of Toronto

Orick of Toronto said...

forgot to ask you CBB. now that the beta version of blogger is out of beta, is your blog converted now? I am having a lot of trouble with the new blogger, can't even access my own account most of time.

This is making me procrasinate even more about blogging. I really admire your consistant effort now.

Cheeseburger Brown said...

Dear Orick,

I attempted to move to New Blogger last week, but New Blogger said, "No."

It went on to say something along the lines of: one or more of your blogs may be too large to switch over at this time. However, our Cleverist Googlons are hard at work extending New Blogger's amazing new abilities even as we speak. We hope that one day even big blogs can use New Blogger. We won't let you know when, however, so you should probably just try to convert your account again some day and hope it goes better then.

Given little choice, I clicked, "Okay."

Cheeseburger Brown