8 Million Stories in the Naked City: Sophie and A Dude Are One

A late night in an expensive town that knows how to keep a good person down, but one dude is still trying to find the answers to the biking life’s persistent questions… A Dude Abikes.

SCENE: Austin, Texas — A man sits alone at his card table in his unkempt and cold apartment. A framed Tour de Gruene print sits on it, a ride he didn’t do. It’s after midnight on work night, but he’s got nowhere to be. Tony Bennett croons a duet of “Good Morning Heartache” with some dame on the Google assistant speaker.

Critical Dude (thinking aloud): Ten miles, dude? That’s all you could bike tonight? Really? Pretty lame, dude. Pretty lame.

Kinder Dude (responding to himself): Well, 10 miles on a bicycle is better than nine miles on a bicycle.

CD: You’re probably right about that. And it is an early cold snap, 45 degrees, which is a big drop from 90.

KD: Sure is a bit nipply out there.

CD: Good one, dude! Nipply! Ha ha ha ha! Classic Chevy Chase line from Christmas Vacation, amirite?

KD: Love me some Chevy. He’s Chevy Chase, and you’re not! LOL.

CD: Good stuff, Dude. But man, you gotta get out more and talk to some other humans. Maybe even some of the female ones.

KD: Yeah, maybe. You know, it’s a pandemic. People are busy. I stay busy even without a job. But I’m working on that…

Sophie posing for an autumnal photograph

(Someone, or something, clears their throat from the living room.)

Both Dudes (startled, as one): What the hell is that?

Sophie: Hello there, boys!

Dude: Who’s there?

Sophie: It’s me, Sophie, of course! Your sea foam green nine-speed, steel, commuter/light touring Fairdale Weekender Archer bicycle.

Dude: Yes, well, I forgot you can talk sometimes. You kinda surprised me there. Usually we don’t talk unless I’m interviewing you.

Sophie: Sure, Dude, but you seemed down, so I thought I’d speak up.

Dude: OK, well, this is weird, but, uh, how are you?

Sophie: I’m alright. My chromoly steel got pretty chilly out there, but I’m feeling better now I’m inside. Thanks for not locking me outside!

Dude: Not a chance, Soph. Too many freakin’ bike thieves in this town to chance it.

Sophie: I appreciate it, Dude. Hey, as long as we’re talking, what are you thinking about?

Dude: Just the bike life, the universe, everything. The meaning of bike life. Why am I here? Why do I insist on biking 100 miles a week? How come I’m still out of shape. What kind of job to get that I won’t hate. How to finish my book. You know, the usual navel-gazing, mid-life existential crisis.

Sophie: Crisis? What crisis? I get it, Dude. Life is hard. And you’re not getting any younger. But you’re doing your best.

Dude: Am I? What if my best isn’t good enough? You’re right about aging. I’ve never been this old before. It seems like it should all be downhill for you, but it sure feels like uphill to me. You know, like, hard and stuff!

Sophie: What can I say, Dude? I’m just a bike. But to paraphrase Matthew McConaughey, just keep pedalin’! Me, and in life.

Dude: You’re right, Sophie. Speaking of pedaling, did you enjoy my 56-mile birthday ride?

Sophie: Oh yes, that was hot but fun! Especially with guest riders Jenni, Jonathan, Alan, and Rhodney.

Dude: Good times, good times. But always a little sad because no parties recently. Effing coronavirus pandemic!

Sophie: True dat.

Dude: That’s what I told the bike mechanic last time I had you in the shop and your wheel was wobbly.

Sophie: Another zinger, Dude! You’re on fiyah!

Dude: What, you’re talking like a hipster now?

Sophie: Nah, I’m just messin’. I think you have me confused with that stupid Google lady.

Dude: I feel ya’. She doesn’t listen half the time and the other half can’t answer a simple question like “What’s the meaning of life?” with tired late 80’s / early 90’s slogans like “Be excellent to each other” And “Party on”? Come on! We all know the correct answer is 42.

Sophie: You’re not wrong, Dude. I’m going to turn back into an inanimate object now, if that’s okay with you. Or hell, even if it’s not. But Dude, you go ahead and do you. Shake your groove thang. Whatevs. Or maybe try to go to bed so we can go riding when the sun’s still up and it’s not so cold!

Dude: Nighty-night, Sophie! You’re right, I should do that. As soon as I get sleepy. Thanks for the sweet hang. We’ll be riding again today, like we’ve been doing every day for over two years now.

Sophie: I’m down. Or up. Whatever one is these days. Sweet dreams, Dude.

Dude: Hey, one last thing, Soph: Do bicycles dream of going over some sweep jumps?

Sophie doesn’t answer, but snores.

Kinder Dude: Well, that was a nice chat with Sophie, right? She’s always there for me and pretty chipper, too.

Critical Dude: Sure, but you might be going off your rocker, old chap! She’s a bicycle. And you imagined it all. Just like us.

Kinder Dude: I’m going to answer that with something a Bishop I used to know said in his letters to critical dudes like you: “You may very well be right.”

Critical Dude: Hmm, that’s a good one. Imma have to think on that one. Maybe I could chillax a bit more, and not give you such a hard time. I only do it to help make you better, you know, because I’m really just part you. Anyway, say good night, Sophie.

Kinder Dude: Who are you, George Burns? You think I’m Gracie Allen? Alright then: Good night, Dude. And Sophie.

“There are eight million stories in the naked city,” he intoned. “You remember that program? Used to be on television some years back.”
“I remember.”
“They had that line at the end of every show. ‘There are eight million stories in the naked city. This has been one of them.’ “
“I remember it.”
“Eight million stories,” he said. “You know what you got in this city, this fucked-up toilet of a naked fucking city? You know what you got? You got eight million ways to die.”

― Lawrence Block, Eight Million Ways to Die

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