Late September. Perfect riding weather. The piercing cry of a low flying crow, underscored with a chorus of dry leaves rustling in the wind, roused Dennis from his deep slumber. Eyes closed, he smiled, deeply inhaling the crisp early morning air. With fall swiftly approaching, there wouldn’t be many more days like this. Opportunities to get up for an early morning ride would soon come to an end. The smell of coffee brewing and soft footsteps of his wife down in the kitchen, beckoned him out of bed. Sitting up slowly, he stretched his solid body upward. Inhaling deeply, his favorite college t-shirt lifted momentarily revealing a dense fuzzy belly beneath. Slinging his feet over the edge of the bed, he inhaled sharply, preparing for the sting of plantar fasciitis pain. Shortly, it would be followed by stiffness, which would soon dissipate and finally settle into another mild annoyance of middle age.
Next stop, the bathroom. Or, as Dennis like to refer to his morning routine, the TripleS. Shit, shower & shave. Today, he just did a doubleS, saving the shower for after the ride. His stomach grumbled, ready for breakfast. As he headed down the hall, his wife shouted up to him, “Hey hon, coffee’s ready, and I made those pancakes you love with extra syrup.” What a life. The American dream. Breathing in the scent of coffee and maple sweetness, Dennis’s mouth watered in anticipation.
There in the kitchen, at the small breakfast nook, laid a breakfast fit for a king. A pot of fresh brewed coffee sat next to a steaming stack of flapjacks. As he sat in his chair, Kelly placed another plate in front of him. Scrambled eggs, toast, and pile of bacon. He thanked his wife, giving her a kiss on the cheek. “I knew you’d want a hearty breakfast today, hon, “cause you’re gonna be riding all morning.” “Thanks babe.” “I love you.” Dennis blurted out, mouth full as he crunched down a strip of bacon. He munched down the bacon, and ate the rest of the feast with gusto. Leaning back in his chair, he sipped coffee, and smiled. “Yup. yup, it’s the last days of summer. Autumn’s in the air. I’m sure gonna miss riding on Sunday mornings.” His wife, Kelly, smiled. “Aw, don’t worry, babe, once it snows, you’ll be able to get out there again. Remember how much fun you had riding last winter?” He paused, scratched his ear, then, as though recalling a fond memory, he slowly grinned, “Oh, yeah. ”
While Kelly stood over the sink washing and drying dishes, she looked through the small kitchen window across towards the next property. “Looks like Mr. Johnson is about to saddle up too. Get over here hon! Get a load of that oufit!” Dennis got up, and walked over to stand behind his wife. From behind the dingy floral curtains, they watched the distant neighbor as he headed out to the weathered wooden shed on his lot. “God Damn, he must know something I don’t!” Exclaimed Dennis. His wife giggled softly. “I know, I know. He usually wears a tank top at least. No shirt, well that’s practically indecent.” They watched the distant figure, clad in just denim shorts, a red trucker hat, work boots and white knee high socks, as he lumbered across the grassy field towards a weathered barn. “Okay then, I’m gonna go finish getting ready, hon.” Dennis leaned over and kissed his wife on the forehead, thanking her for breakfast as he patted his swollen belly.
Back in the master bedroom, Dennis headed to the large tangle of clothes on the armchair. He dug deep to find a pair of jeans. Not just any jeans, but his well-worn lucky pair. Sure, they were a bit snug around the waist these days, but he, unlike his neighbor, would wear a shirt. It’s only decent, after all, he mused to himself. Over a clean white t-shirt, he pulled on a crinkled button down denim shirt, leaving the front open. Along the wall hung a few cowboy hats. Dennis selected a woven style, with a faded blue bandana wrapped around it. Just like the jeans, he considered it to be a lucky charm. Adjusting the hat in front of the full length mirror, he grinned, tugging his jeans up around his waist. From the top of the dresser, he grabbed a leather belt with a fancy silver buckle depicting a horse head, and slid it through the belt hoops to pull the jeans in even tighter. He didn’t want to have to worry about them sliding down while riding. He, unlike the neighbor, had some pride.
Heading down the stairs, he yelled out “Kelly, I’m ready to ride!, how do I look?” She appeared at the bottom of the steps, beaming up at him with crystal blue eyes sparkling from under pale blond bangs. “You look like my cowboy! Honey, have a great day out there. I’ll have lunch ready at noon.” Dennis gave her another quick kiss, and rushed towards the back door. Kelly proudly watched him as he sauntered across the large expanse toward the brand new shed at the far end.
Peering once more out of the kitchen window, she squinted to watch the shirtless neighbor heading up the vast lawn. She sighed, laughing softly to herself. Just then, the roaring sound of an engine revving broke the morning silence. Kelly swiftly turned around, looking out the large rear window, as the shed doors opened, and Dennis, her suburban cowboy, burst out from the garage, riding his bright red Snapper, ready to shear the lawn.