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The Good Life He imagined the filth that must be down there and how just a few feet above was this beautiful and clean place. How the membrane between good and bad seemed razor thin in all things. by BRIAN MIHOK


iding a bicycle served as an in-between for Stuart. Pure exercise with just enough purpose. The biggest obstacle to a virtuously active lifestyle was Stuart’s lack of mechanical know-how. He knew there must always be drag in opposition to a desire. Some sort of test against its strength— for example, to want a sandwich is tested by the will to drive to the store if there is no bread. More appropriately, to pay for a tune up was the drag against having a bicycle in working order. A bike ride it seemed was the perfect patch to the flattening tire of his health. The man at the bicycle shop was young and fit. Stuart suspected he biked for an entirely different reason. For Stuart the rides served two purposes. First, to move as many of his muscles as he could without bringing on the spiritual ennui of workouts. Second, so that he could say, more to himself than to anyone else, that he exercised. That he was not sliding down the Great Hill at a gradually increasing speed with every night in, every extra plate of noodles, every long session of building up the courage to socialize. Most

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nights resulted in excessive comfort of his youngish muscles and joints, and this comfort seemed only to ease him further into a resting place that would end in an acute myocardial infarction in his sixties. A moment when his heart would give out and he might, in his lights-out moment, think of the long ago imaginary bicycle rides that could have thwarted the entire debacle of his life. Most thoughts like this occurred to him in his house, his place of rest, of summoning excess. So much rest that the very sight of it sometimes made him tired. Stuart was a full battery that had sat in a charger for too long. The man at the bicycle shop did not put Stuart’s bike through any mechanical triage. He said tune-ups were $60 and the bike would be ready in three days. Stuart—who had a secret hope that the man might take the bike and tune it up right then, sending Stuart on his way, healthy bicycle and future intact—took the ticket from the man and convinced himself instead that three days was reasonable. Stuart drove home the long way, which allowed him to stop for lunch at a place that served the best tacos in town.

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