“What you make?” I knew she had me, I had been found out.
“I was just coming around by the Rodenberg when a panther sprang out of the woods and knocked me off my Velo.”
“You are a Luftgucker.”
“That means my head’s in the clouds?”
“Something like that.”
“No, it was a panther, I swear.” I didn’t want to tell her I had fallen in the full dazzle of light, in a fresh rain-washed sky, drinking in the sweet air… when Hans-Ruedi passed and honked; when waving back, regaining my attention too late to adjust, I hit the curb, spilling ass-over-teakettle in a heap up on the sidewalk. Disentangling myself from the bike, I was okay; not even shaken, really, with only a leaking silver-dollar sized strawberry on my elbow to show. The bike seemed fine. I wasn’t going very fast. But Edith would notice; that was for sure.
I found Hans-Ruedi unloading his truck. “Hallo, Sir,” he extended his hand in greeting.
“Hi, what’s up.?”
“I have a little time; do you care for a beer?”
“Sure. Hast du ein Pflaster?”
“I have somewhere… you fall off your Velo?”
“I hit the curb.”
“Let’s go upstairs, I’ll make a search.” I followed him and rinsed off the wound in the kitchen sink while he rummaged around. A collector of tools, appliances, musical instruments—he has ten upright basses—and memorabilia, Hans-Ruedi has a Celtic millwheel found in a load of stone taken from the shore of Lake Constance. Long before the Roman conquest—in 58 B.C. with the defeat of the Gauls by Julius Caesar—there were people here milling grain. The Romans stayed until 260 A.D. with the invasion of the Alemannians; perhaps the stone was ancient then. The kitchen was cluttered with dozens of pots, spoons, and ladles hanging from the walls. The scrape didn’t look too bad. I pulled away a hanging piece of skin. Hans-Ruedi kept up a running commentary from the other room. “Aha, I have found…”
“Great, let me dry this off with a paper towel.” We sat at the table while I put the Band-Aid on. Hans-Ruedi opened two beers. “I have only time for one.”
“Thanks for the first aid.”
“You must be careful on a Velo.”
“That’s what she’s always telling me… she’s going to take one look at this and know.”
Back on my bike I went on in the direction I’d been going, turning left just before the RR tracks, with fields stretching away on my left. The trail crossed under the highway, the bypass road that leads to Stein am Rhine, and along past a block of Schrebergartens, then left again along the base of the Rodenberg, the mountain east of town. Making a loop I was now headed back towards the river, re-crossing the highway, beneath me this time, past recently harvested potato fields, joining up with the old road leading back to town. I pedaled on, past houses on either side, then into the old Stadt, through the arch under the clock tower where the road squeezes to one lane. Pulling into the cobbled drive I could see our car in the garage. I was going to tell her, but waiting for the appropriate moment, it slipped my mind. “What do you say we go check out the garden; we still have plenty of daylight.”
“We have still tomatoes?”
“Lots… and we have celery; and a few jalapeños still.” A cold August notwithstanding, our third year with the garden has been a great one, giving us an abundance of organic green beans, beets, onions, leeks, endive, red cabbage, and broccoli. And yellow squash; we raised a ton of yellow squash. This was our best year yet for tomatoes, since we put up a plastic roof to keep the rain off. The garden looked good; resting under a fresh carpet of mulch we brought in from Hans-Ruedi’s chipping pile. We selected old chips from a partly rotted pile that had been there several years. I had read that chips need to season or they will rob the soil of nitrogen. In gardening, as in house keeping, my habits differ some between me and our neighbors, who keep their rows straight.
I had my pullover sleeve covering the wound, and had actually forgotten it myself, until just before we went to bed. But then I realized too late that the Pflaster had fallen off, and that’s when she saw it and found me out. I didn’t mention I’d had a glass of wine and smoked a joint before I went out, but she probably surmised that. I’ve long been out of the habit of driving a car stoned; but riding my bike was another deal, my thing. A rediscovered pleasure, I haven’t ridden a bike so much since I was fourteen. I don’t recall how often I used to crash back then; I was always getting into scrapes of one kind or another…. But Luftgucker, that was a new one to savor; sky-looker, that was me. I’ve always had my head in the clouds too.