It was a choice between a new bike and a second cerebral cortex. The first cerebral cortex was getting a tad fuzzy, she was definitely in need of an upgrade, but there was no denying that this was one sweet bike. Thirty-two gears! So, Lindsey took it for a spin. Felt like the chain was a little loose. As she coasted back into the bike shop, a cool breeze blew off the bay and dried out her cotton blouse. “So,” she said. “How do I take the new CC for a test drive?”
“Just slip it on,” said Ryan Bendix. It appeared to be a teal windbreaker with almost subliminal bright yellow trim. “And technically it’s not new, it’s ‘previously owned,’ as we like to say.” He winked at his bicycle tech, Omar, who smiled. Lindsey smiled too, and Ryan held the windbreaker open for her.
“Not crazy about this shade of blue,” said she.
“Teal,” said Ryan Bendix. She took one of the little paper cups of wine on the countertop while he adjusted the hem of the windbreaker. “What are your thoughts?”
“This would look good with big eighties hair,” she declared.
“Maybe,” said Ryan. A small cube of cheese found its way into his mouth, then a sip of wine with a somewhat ominous terroir. Hoboken? he mused. The sound of pocket zippers zipping and unzipping. Lindsey shifted her weight from one foot to the other.
“Another thought?” she said, “Perhaps a second cortex and a new bike? If you tighten that chain?”
“Tighten the chain,” murmured Ryan, who was reading Lindsey’s credit report on a screen designed to pass for a water bottle. He was uneasy about the amount of debt she carried but there was no denying she would look incredible with big hair. Three minutes later Omar was greasing the newly-installed, (slightly) shorter chain. Five minutes later, Ryan and Lindsey were having lunch at the Magic Mushroom. Her San Pedro Salad was delicious.
“What about …a third cerebral cortex?” said Lindsey. “As a spare. And most def not teal.”
“That could be a problem.” He was envisioning ridiculously big hair now, but offset with, and justified by, immense golden earrings, the size and shape of the heating coils on his stove top.
Omar was outside, trying to catch Ryan’s eye. But Ryan could not look away from Lindsey’s hair, which was catching the light reflecting off the water and repurposing it spectacularly. Omar gave up and entered the Magic Mushroom.
“We’re at war!” he said. “Rebel forces fired on the garrison at Kenosha.”
“Wisconsin?” said Ryan. Omar tossed something down on the table. “What’s this?”
“Your draft notice, jefe. Report for Basic Training, ASAP.”
“It’s written on a napkin. In crayon.”
Omar shrugged. “I’ve already packed your stuff.”
Ryan’s lips twisted and pursed. His eyebrows arched and angled. As he turned the napkin this way and that way, Omar leaned close to Lindsey and whispered, “Don’t do anything to your hair. It’s perfect.”
“Hey, what the fuck,” said Ryan. “Is this some— ”
“Enough!” screamed Omar.
To Lindsey’s astonishment, the two men were suddenly wrestling on the floor. The kid replenishing the diced hard-boiled eggs at the salad bar stepped aside to give them room. Ryan reached up and grabbed the iceberg lettuce tongs. That brought things to a rapid conclusion.
“She’s the most beautiful girl I’ve ever seen,” said Omar, who’d scooted back into a corner. Fragments of purple cabbage were everywhere, the bus boy noted with dismay.
“You poor dope. Can you even imagine what she would look like with gigantic golden hoop earrings? Of course not,” sneered Ryan. “And they could probably be programmed to glow bright red at intimate moments!”
“You’re insane,” said Omar. They were both exhausted. Ryan extended his hand and helped Omar to his feet.
“Okay, get back to work. Is anybody watching the shop?”
Omar shook his head.
“Fugs sake. I’ll be there in about 15 minutes,” said Ryan, “And we’re going to have a talk about your future at the Bendix Bike-N-Brain Emporium.”
Omar hobbled away.
“He seems very high-strung” asked Lindsey.
“Yup. Thoughts about dessert?”
“The red velvet cake looks amazing. But I can only get away with something like that once a year,” she said. “Are there rebel forces in Kenosha?”
“Well, you’ve got the new teal-with-yellow-trim cerebral cortex. Are there?”
“I doubt it,” said Lindsey.
“Me too,” said Ryan Bendix.
The waiter put before her the slice of red velvet cake, decorated with an unlit purple candle.
“That looks awesome,” said Ryan. “May I post a picture to my social media accounts?”
“Thanks. Um, move your arm a tad left, so we can see the cuff of your new cortex.” A digital *snap,* a digital *whrrrr.* The avatar of the scrumptious red velvet cake suddenly manifested itself on 10,000 tiny screens. They chatted and chewed. Ryan’s phone was alive with dings and buzzes.
“Lotta likes,” he grinned. But when he swiped his screen, he saw a plethora of Direct Messages. He read one at random: ‘That candle in yer cake is not a candle, bro.’ He spun around, scrutinized the dessert plate, and plucked the pale violet cylinder from the icing.
“Waiter!” he barked. He held up a blasting cap. The waiter slipped the blasting cap and the accompanying explosive charge into a reinforced munitions disposal chamber and secured the lid. Less than ten seconds later, there was a muffled explosion. The waiter looked at the read-out and shook his head.
“That would have leveled the whole block,” said he.
“Omar is walking on very thin ice right now,” muttered Ryan. “Bring the young lady another slice of that cake, this time without the garnish.” Lindsey dimpled prettily and bit her lower lip. Ryan had seen the YouTube video “What It Means When She Bites Her Lower Lip,” so he knew the next move. He paid the bill with an app on his wristwatch.