Before the Time of Giants

by tobias crabtree

On 1st street the road dead ends at the river. I like it there, the Deschutes is cold and stays pretty cold even when the weather is stifling. There’s a rock that Jason showed me, you can dive from it into the swirls below the rapids. When I’m done writing this, I’ll go there and be in the river for a bit. Till I’m cold. Till my teeth chatter.

Yesterday I went there and jumped in while two little boys with mohawks stared at me with curious looks. I took goggles cuz I like swimming down deep with the current and running into the trout that face upstream. Yesterday, I went down and latched onto a rock. A huge crawdad came out to check the commotion, red claws raised and gaping. I snatched him from his world and swam to the surface. The boys were still staring and were talking about being under water for too long. I asked if they wanted to check out the crawdad, the dad seemed to like it all. Eli and Oz. They seemed the same age, about 7.  I held the crawdad’s claws and they touched him and gave me smiles through missing front teeth. They watched me let the critter go and they asked their dad where crawdads come from. He replied, “under water, under rocks…which is good enough I suppose. I dove back in and the boys watched and smiled.

I went for a coffee after that. There was a couple playing ping pong in the square. The game was tight. The dude won but it was after a good many lead changes. Then, they both checked their heartrates on the their heart monitors. I guess it’s good to know how many calories you burn in a heated game of ping pong, that way you know how much protein to put in your muscle milk.

A few homeless rat punks hung out on the outer edges of the coffee shop. These were the type that generally make most folks uncomfortable. Lots of words from the corners of mouths. Lots of slippery movement and eyeballing unlocked bikes. I heard the ring leader talking about how he was doing steroids for his something ‘r other that made no sense.  Lots of calling everyone “brother” with that disingenuous tone that makes me kinda feel like being mean. Out of the ether there was a cop and little steroid dude was suddenly doing his best song and dance for the man. The paper bag in steroid dude’s hand was the subject most talked about. Finally it was opened and the individually wrapped baggies of weed  were being discussed. The kid singing the virtues of medical marijuana and the cop just  listening while being enlightened through many nuggets of wisdom about pharmaceutical companies running the world and one long-suffering young man’s quest to change the world, one baggie at a time. The cop was unbelievably cool and allowed the kid to walk away with his bag of bags and his ringing teeth. I was impressed with the cop, which is a good thing considering the current state of affairs in the good ol’ U S of A.

I rode back toward the forge and followed the path I know well. My bicycle feels like a magic carpet when I get into a rhythm. In the tunnel that leads under the 97 there was a kid with 4 paper bags and 2 cans of spray paint. He was tipped over and his eyes were open and there was a ring of paint around his mouth and nose. Bad route for a young man. I dodged the broken 40 in the tunnel and was rocketing toward 3rd while the sun was going the other direction. I rode past a lady with a bag of laundry and she jumped terribly, I said hello, she gave me her best frown.

At the forge, I remembered that I’d forgotten to buy coffee. I was tired of riding and so I just felt sorry for myself and the morning that would be barren of coffee and so a kind of sorrowful drama that would end in my getting coffee from a coffee shop later than makes me happy. I do believe this falls into the category of 1st world problems. I appeased myself with a scoop or two of vanilla ice cream straight from the carton. The night was hot and the forge a good bit hotter. The majority of the night was spent rolling around. Finally I slept near dawn, then came the day on the world as it spins on it’s perfect tilt and hurtles through another lap around the sun.

As I was drifting off, in those moments around 4 a.m., I thought of the lavender skies over the pines in Colorado. It’s what I think of when I am trying to empty my head of trash. Then I remembered Eli and Oz and the red-clawed crawdad. Then I wondered if the crawdad, in that subaquatic territory of stones and moss, was maybe dreaming of a time when he was pulled from his world and examined and released by giants. His friends gathering around him with small, blue eyes. Antennae flowing with the current and listening to a story beyond belief, spoken across feathery gills in the language of the crayfish, born out of their astacological histories and before the time of giants.