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Divergence by David H. Lynn

JUST AS HE WAS swinging his leg over the bike, Shivani brushed past and whacked him on the rump. “Watch yourself,” she cried.

Jeremy Matthis bobbed up and onto his saddle. He caught his wife in a few strokes, swooshing past her on the street, and already he was marveling at the lightness of the new frame, the smooth response of derailleur and gears. At the first corner they cruised, slowing for a glance each way. Again he pushed ahead, wobbling lightly—the balance was entirely different from his ancient tourer.

<...>

Not until today had there been a real chance to get out on the road. They spun down to Main and sliced along an alley to the back entrance of a coffee shop, where their small group of friends was already gathered. Marty, Gretchen, and Lee were there, standing with their own bikes.

As Jeremy swung onto the sidewalk, Owen Thurlow emerged from the shop with a cup of coffee. “Nice wheels,” he said, saluting the new bike. “I must be paying you too much.”

“Since when are you paying him at all?” Shivani demanded. “I thought he was teaching just for the love of it. Anyway, this baby comes out of my check from the Attorney General.”

The provost saluted her in turn.

Everyone other than Owen was satisfied with water bottles and eager to be away. So, soon they were mounted again and cutting over to the Alum Creek path. The day was gray, an occasional faint drizzle keeping them cool but slicking the pavement. It took less than five miles of occasional weaving and dodging before they’d left the city behind, along with its joggers, baby strollers, and dog walkers. They were flying now across the rolling, open country of central Ohio, the river meandering near and away again from the old rail path.

“Hey, fancy pants, quit showing off,” Owen grunted loudly.

Jeremy swiveled and tossed him a wave. The machine he was riding yielded such a pure joy that, without quite realizing it, he’d been out front and pressing his friends beyond their usual pace. He eased, coasting so that Gretchen could swing into the lead. As he drifted back to her side, Shivani was breathing hard, but wouldn’t grant him the satisfaction of admitting it. She was also smiling broadly.

“So?” she said.

“Yeah,” he said. “Nice.”

He was feeling strong and swift—he’d remember that afterward. The rhythm of the ride, the entire day, was perfect. There was satisfaction even in the way his sweat was wicking efficiently into the breeze, except for this one annoying patch high on his brow, just under the lip of his helmet. He flicked at it with a finger, and in that instant spied the groundhog ambling out of tall grasses along the river. This too he recalled later. How it raised its snout, spotting them in turn.

Maybe Jeremy was caught up in his own momentum, rhythm, surprise—he hesitated. Had he started to call out? The muscles in his throat tightened when he recalled the instant.

For its part, the animal froze as well. Considered. Then with astonishing quickness hurtled its bulk of rolling muscle and fat across the path. Dodging Gretchen, it rammed heavily into Shivani’s spokes.



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