From the Book:
was born into a Golden Age in America; I celebrated my
65th birthday a month or so ago. These were
the best times this country has ever known for a lot of
reasons. I grew up in an era when America had the finest
education system the world has ever known.
So, I ride old German iron. When Iím not doing that, I
am often afield with a dog and a gun or standing in an
incoming tide with my good fishing pole or riding my
horse. I prefer pale horses and all my good dogs have
been black. I like my women laughing, my occasional
drink of whiskey is taken neat, and I drink my coffee
black. I canít abide a soap opera or a psychodrama. I am
better off outdoors, unless itís cold, and then Iím
better off farther south and outdoors.
next time I talked to her was several days
later. I was in Indiana on my way to
Michigan. She made me tell her about the
miles, about the sights and the scenery.
She wanted to know the routes and about the
roads. So I told her current highway
stories for awhile. I thanked her again for
the little leather satchel, told her it was
real handy and very classy.
Finally, we got around to her. She didn't
sound good, and I told her so.
"I'm just trying to get your sympathy so
you'll come home soon," She coughed over
the phone. I could hear B.B. King in the
laughed and replied, "Aha! A ruse. A
hoax. A clever deception to get me to turn
it around before the turnaround."
laughed and coughed, and I went on,
"Serious, Homegirl, you O.K? If you need me
to, I can ride all night and bring it home
to you in about twenty-some hours."
could hear her laboring for breath on the
phone. I could hear her hurting from a
thousand miles off. Even at this distance,
I could feel her dying. I was by myself at
the time, so I may have let a tear or two
said to me, "No, I'm alright. If it gets
bad, I'll let you know."
managed to say, "Told you I'd hold your hand
while you're dyin'. I'm holdin' you to that
could hear her smile over the phone, across
the miles, "Talk about hoaxes and tricks.
Tiger, you've been holding my hand for the
last forty years or so. You held my hand
while I was living high, and you've held my
hand while I was dying."
somehow controlled my voice when I told her,
"Pacey, do not die without I'm there with
you. O.K? You owe me a Scrabble rematch,
"Alright, Tiger." She tried to laugh, but
she coughed instead. Finally she went on,
"I'm pretty sure I'll last until the
turnaround for you. Call me in a couple
rode on to Michigan, sold some books, and
called Pacey in a few days. I thought she
sounded better. Then I thought about how
bad I wanted her to sound better. As the
conversation went on, I realized that only
the latter was true.
wanted to know if I was selling any books
and offered a couple ideas about marketing
strategies. Mostly she wanted to know about
the things I had seen and places I'd been.
I described the back roads in Alabama, the
little towns in the mountains of Tennessee.
I told her about the short hills through the
hardwood trees in Indiana and old farmhouses
along the way. I went on some about The
Great Lakes shorelines and the northwoods.
There were details about birch trees and
"How's the bike running? She asked. I
could hear her gasp for air. I could feel
her slipping away.
Once again she managed to transcend, to
rise above her own lethal problems in favor
of hearing about my travels and recent
adventures. Here we were discussing
mechanical performance, the nature of which
way the drive wheel rolls. Once again, I
marveled at her courage, at the example she
was being for me. One more time I was in
awe of her humor. And again, one more time,
I was glad I was by myself so no one else
could see me cry.