Here’s a new version of the Maji story to help get in the holiday spirit. A big thank you to O.Henry for the wonderful original. Enjoy!
photo by Amy Sly @ bikehugger.com
There once was a couple, so madly in love that the light that shone from their eyes for each other was too bright for outsiders to look upon. While they were rich in bliss, they were decidedly poor in funds. They shacked up together in a shabby bachelor flat on the bad side of town. To save money, they cooked modest meals for two and shared them by candlelight. It boosted the ambiance as well as the pocketbook. And they entertained themselves by exploring the city by bike. Their bicycles while simple, strengthened their bodies and minds, but most importantly their bond.
There was not a single day that their humble steeds remained chained to the rusted gate out front of the apartment. No, the bikes carried them to all of their favourite places. The market ten blocks down, the library three streets over, all of the best parks, and of course they often found themselves resting out front of the coffee shop where the young lady fashioned the most flawless foamy coffees in town. The faded paint and rusty chains didn’t bother the pair. In their eyes, the bikes were beautiful.
The young man, who delivered parcels and letters by bicycle, often worked from very early in the morning. Businessmen needed their important documents before the day got rolling. And he often worked until very late in the evening. People all over the city found themselves in various tight situations; needing deliveries long after the postal service had parked their vans for the night. Deep into the month of December, daylight was at a premium. Our young fellow found himself in some close calls. He hadn’t any lights for his bike, and while he knew that he was putting himself in danger, he simply couldn’t afford to remedy the problem. This troubled his girl. If anything happened to her partner, she surely couldn’t live without him.
As the first snowflakes of the season began to fall, the city was divided into two camps, those who greeted the snow with excitement, and those who faced it with dread. Our couple fell into the latter. The flakes brought chills to the young lady for more reasons than the cold reach of their fingers. You see, our girl knew that the tires on her ride were on their last tread. They were closer to slicks than studs and her commute was becoming perilous. This fact hadn’t escaped the young man. He worried that the streetcar tracks were conspiring to swallow his lady whole. When he let his mind go there, he feared that she might slip away. The holiday countdown was on and as the days light grew shorter, so did our couples hope of collecting the means to procure the gifts they knew the other wanted, and in truth desperately needed.
While pedalling through the market one day, our lady found herself in front of the local used bike shop and inspiration struck. The only parts on her bike worth a dime were the rims on her old beater. They were pretty enough for the label “vintage”, while the rest of the bike might at best be designated old. And so with only the slightest hesitation, she stripped the pieces and took them inside. On the helpful advice of the resident tech, she traded them in for a strong and reliable light-set. With her treasure bundled into her coat and a smile on her lips, she set off for the long walk home.
Cozied in bed under the serape blanket that the couple had unearthed at the thrift shop, she carefully wrapped the lights in a kitchen towel. Emotions swayed between the excitement of providing her love with a brilliant gift, the pride of keeping him safe, and the fear that he might be upset with her. How would they ride the streets together now? How would they visit their beloved spots? Would their connection somehow be weakened? With bated breath, she watched the clock and waited for her love to return home and when she heard his footsteps begin their ascent up the four flights, her heartbeat quickened. Before long, the door opened and the young man stepped through.
Our lady greeted him with a shy smile and hesitantly handed the parcel over. As the towel fell to the floor, she hurriedly explained that she’d traded her rims for the lights and that there was no need to worry. “I can walk to work”, she explained. “I don’t mind. And we can go for strolls in the park and you can fetch our groceries any time of day or night with your beautiful new lights!” The puzzled look dropped from the boy’s face and was replaced with a pale blank stare. Her eyes pleaded with him for the assurance that everything was okay and her fear jolted him back. He apologized for scaring her and sheepishly produced a parcel of his own from the hallway. She peeled back the cardboard to expose a thick and strong set of new studded tires. Amazement turned to defeat as she remembered that her rims had a new home. But how had her boy afforded these she wondered, as he wrapped her in his arms. He guided her to the window and all was revealed as she peered down to the street and saw the young man’s ride a few parts shy itself.
Fear not for all ends well. From the ashes of two remains, a single phoenix arose. A hybrid of two loves married into a single more graceful incarnation. This story is one of selflessness, impulsiveness and love. And if you see two happy lovers exploring the side streets of town perched atop a single bicycle of shabby parts and shiny tires, a bright beam lighting their way, know that those who give all of themselves are truly wise and blessed.
photo courtesy of toptownbikes.com