Partial Transcript of Speech by Paul Niquette
Copyright ©2005 by Paul Niquette, all rights reserved.
Stony Creek, Connecticut, a New England village hard by the Long Island Sound, is now a suburb of New Haven. Dave Pooler and I went out one day on our high-wheeled bicycles to explore the back roads. We were garbed in the traditional outfits worn by 19th Century wheelmen, knickers and neckties. For maximum effect, we maintained solemn countenances, gazing always at the horizon, nonchalantly tilting our caps to the people who greet us.
Dave, with his full beard and circular spectacles, is better at the act than I am. He enjoys making comments over his shoulder with the intention of destroying my concentration. I try to do the same, never with success.
"Don't look now, Paul, but you're a couple of spokes short of a full wheel."
"Ha comma ha," I growled.
That day in Stony Creek was no different from any other. The countryside was overgrown with brush; trees formed an arch over our heads. Antique dwellings appeared on either side of the roadway: colonial houses and Cape Cods and well-kept barns -- many as old as the bicycles we rode. Dave Pooler and I pedaled in silence for awhile, sniffing the fragrances of that Summer.
Any Summer. Floating along with my eyes nine feet above the earth, I experienced a curious shift in my perception of time.
Pooler tried to break the spell. "And so, young man, does your mother know what you're doing right now?"
"My mother? My mother hasn't even been born yet."
Dave Pooler lives in Stony Creek. He took the lead and turned down a narrow pathway that plunged into the foliage. We dismounted and shoved our "steel steeds" through the low branches.
"Where does this come out?" I asked.
Dave pushed on without answering. The pathway intercepted an abandoned trolley-line along the stony creek from which the village obtained its name. We thumped our wheels atop the trestles for a hundred yards then stopped to absorb our surroundings.
The two of us, Pooler and I, stood at a point in space unchanged in a century or more, apart from rust on the rails. And for just an instant, looking at Pooler, I felt myself at once firmly fixed but gently tugged back to a point in time -- seemingly recent, yet long before that of my father and my grandfather.
"Look for logic here!" I cautioned myself. But my bicycle betrayed me -- venerable contraption, high-wheel wobbly in its bearings, with tyre harvested from tree-sap, leather from the rump of a cow, cold metal shaped by long-dead hands ignorant of sprocket and chain. The moment was strangely...familiar!
And agreeable enough.
The trolley tracks curved and bushes blocked our path. We beat our way through and burst out of the overgrowth onto a wooden bridge, which spanned an opening to the Long Island Sound. A dozen persons -- in modern clothing -- were strolling along the railing, a dozen more were sprawled on either side, fishing.
Dozens of double-takes.
Dave Pooler brushed off his knickerbockers and mounted up. I did the same. We pedaled slowly across the bridge, nodding to the onlookers, each stunned into silence. I cleared my throat.
"We've been lost for a long time," said I. "Anyone here know how Garfield came out in the election?"
Pooler kept a straight face. And so, for once, did I.
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