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Roadside refill #1

Richard Sleboe Tekst Richard Sleboe Gepubliceerd 08 January 2019

38°N 123°W

“I’m going for a ride. Do you want to come along?”

“I can’t. I have a casting call.”

“What’s the part?”

“An assassin.”

“Go kill them then!”

“I’ll do my best.”

I kiss Lucy goodbye, put the bike in the back of the Tiguan, and drive up to Mill Valley. It’s chilly, so I layer up. But once I’m past San Anselmo, it’s warming up fast. I take off layer after layer, but by the time I get to Nicasio, I’m a sweaty mess. My bottle is already empty, and I haven’t even reached the turning point.
Marin County is beautiful this time 
of year, but I’m too thirsty to enjoy it. When I get to the fork where the Nicasio Valley Road meets the Point Reyes Road, I see something glistening in the air. I slow down. A man is watering the trees in a fenced-in plot by the side of the road with a hose. I get off the bike and walk up to the fence. The man is portly, with graying hair and a neatly trimmed beard. He is in the autumn of his life, but he is obviously aging very well. His skin looks like it’s been polished with a fine cloth. He smiles at me.

“Can I help you?”

“I am out of water, and I have at least another 20 miles to go.”

“Let me top you up.”

I take the cap off my bottle and hand it to him over the fence. He adjusts the nozzle on his hose until the jet turns into a trickle. He fills the bottle and hands it back to me.

“There you go.”

I put the cap back on and take a swig.

“Thanks a lot. I really needed that.”

“Would you also like some apples?”

He points to a little shack at the far end of the plot.

“That’s very kind, but I have no way of carrying anything.”

I point to my rackless bike.

“I see. You could eat one though. They are very good.”

“That sounds great.”

I watch him totter over to the shack. Something about him seems familiar. At the same time, he looks slightly out of place. He is too well-dressed to be working on a farm in the middle of nowhere. The crisp, cream-colored shirt with the sleeves rolled up to the elbows, the padded chestnut vest, the burgundy corduroy slacks. It’s not a flashy look, it’s just very well put together. Like a towner’s idea of what a countryman might wear.

After a minute, he comes back with a bright red apple the size of a cantaloupe.


“It’s been a good year.”

I take a bite of the apple. It’s crunchier and sweeter than anything I have ever tasted.

“What kind is this?”

“Oh, I don’t know. I got the seeds from an old Shasta grower up in Klamath.”

“It’s delicious. Thank you. And thank you for the refill.”

“Don’t mention it.”

The ride back to Mill Valley is glorious. The first leaves have started to turn orange, and the evening sun is bathing everything in amber light. I’m tempted to ride up to Mount Tamalpais to watch the sunset, but I don’t have my lights. Without the lights, the way back down the winding road would be suicide. Another time. When I get to Sausalito, Lucy’s car is already in the driveway. She is still in her all-black assassin’s outfit.

“How did the casting go?”

“I didn’t get the part.”

“Shame on them.”

“It’s a shitty movie anyway.”

“That’s the spirit.”

“How was your ride?”

I tell her about my encounter. She pricks her ears.

“Where was this?”

“Near Nicasio.”

“And he looked rich.”

“Kind of. Why?”

She fishes for her phone and brings up a picture.

“That’s the guy! Do you know him?”

“Yeah. You know him too.”

“Give me a hint.”

“He saved you in your most desperate hour.”

“I know. But who is he?”

“You are playing dumb, right?”

“No. Why?”

“He saved you in your most desperate hour.”

She says it very slowly, like it’s a line from a script.

“You already said that.”

She sighs and hands me her phone. I swipe up to the top of the page.

“George Lucas?”

She nods.

“I had no idea.”

“I think you have face blindness.”

“Is that bad?”

She shrugs.

“As long as you recognize me, I don’t care.”

“And who are you again?”

“I’m a killer.”


Illustration by Raid71 aka Chris Thornley // raid71.com


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