Airborne Transmission

The tailgate reads "CLEMENTINE", as in O My Darlin'. Every detail of the monster is oranger-than-orange, a gradient array of shades, from the carpet to the upholstery to the driver's shades. Really fucking orange.

It roars by. I smell exhaustion and exhaust. Catching up at a stoplight I huff the leather and hear the ghoulish laughter of talk radio. I'm imagining CLEMENTINE slowly turning from a hard, shiny truck into a soft matte piece of fresh fruit, its Orange Driver slowly transforming into the pit, rutted and hard, hot asphalt blistering the skin until everything is a pulpy mess of fruit paste and juice fermenting and souring in the sun. The honking horn of the next truck shocks me out of my fantasy.

CLEMENTINE stands out amongst the rolling death cult of skull and flag emblazoned trucks adorned with baser depictions of brutal destruction here in the Outer Banks of North Carolina where I've been staying with my in-laws on the beach and trying to ride my bike as much as possible. Masculinity defined by lack of regard for humanity. Who you are willing to kill makes you who you are. What you put into the air is how you shape the world.

I laugh at the diamond shaped yellow signs depicting a bicycle that read "SHARE THE ROAD." They should say "DON'T KILL ANYONE." There's no study to cite or reliable science to communicate the blatant disregard most car-driving humans display. Not what they intend, but what they display. With regard to humanity or regard? Nothing.

* * *

The first bad accident my son had on his bike was a direct result of me giving him poorly worded advice on how and when to use his brakes.

It's early Spring, dogwood trees with cream colored flowers are in bloom, and we're riding down our street toward a short stretch of local trail that rolls along Sligo Creek, made famous by the local cosmic traditionalist treasure John Fahey.

Our house is in the middle of a steep hill that requires deft braking to navigate properly, as it empties out onto a busy street before turning into the Sligo trail. "If you're going down a big hill like this and find yourself going too fast, make sure not to use your front brake until after you've used the back brake, because you can flip over your front handlebars if you hit your front brakes too hard" — we're going down the hill fast, at this point, and he doesn't brake properly. Instead of stopping to explain what happened, I get scared and then so does he. We keep rolling and don't address it.

I couldn't have botched the explanation worse. He tuned out after he heard "don't use your front brakes," and what ended up getting into his brain was, basically, "don't use the brakes."

A few weeks later he's out on a bike ride with his sister. The global pandemic is setting in and there is a random paranoid current everywhere. You can smell it along with the dried summer grass. They decide to carry their bikes to the top of a dirt path and think about riding down it. My daughter, typically the risk taker, scoffs and rolls her bike down the hill without actually riding down. My son decides to take a shot and go for it, my very good advice to not use your brakes lodged in his mind.

As he barrels down the once steep path converted to a wooden staircase by a Boy Scout as his Eagle Scout project, he sees the street it empties out onto coming up, but doesn't notice a set of sandbags at the bottom. Going full speed, he slams into the sandbags and launches over the front of his bike, landing primarily on the side and front of his face.

He loosens a few teeth and is probably concussed. He tastes blood and says he can't smell properly. His bicycle is scratched and the aluminum bell on his handlebars is flattened.

A FedEx driver pulls over when she sees my bloodied son and shocked daughter on the sidewalk. My son is crying loudly and my daughter remains cool. She asks the driver for help and the driver throws her phone through the air to my daughter, who catches it, calls my wife, and throws it back through the window.

The driver waits to make sure my daughter gets in touch with my wife before she drives away. My daughter says she looks scared.

* * *

A few months later, after uncountable human lives had been lost, The Center for Disease Control finally updated its COVID-19 guidance to include information regarding airborne transmission on October 5th, 2020.

* * *

My first successful attempt at making a starter for sourdough bread came after many disgusting failures that yielded flat, cracker-like bread that smelled and tasted like the inside of a yogi’s stomach after an all night kombucha bender.

The key was inoculating the starter not with the "native yeast" from the filthy suburban air we all somehow survive on, but with organic raisins from California. These raisins, grown and gently dried in the same sunshine, capture native yeasts on their skins, which aren't destroyed with heat because they aren't denatured in any way.

Adding these raisins to the starter during the initial growth period yields a subtle, balanced mixture of yeasts and bacteria. The starter goes on to make delicious bread for a very long time until, like all things neglected, it dies in the back of some refrigerator somewhere, the acidic and sour bacteria overtaking the prone yeasts until only a brown, vile liquor resembling stomach acid remains.

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