Chapter 4: Escape
I was running out of mojo fast, so I pulled my bike up onto someone’s lawn, then into a dark corner of the yard between a couple of shrubs and sat down on the lawn. The sprinklers must be on a timer, because it was wet from the post-sunset watering. If you’ve never sat bare-assed on a wet lawn, I can testify that it’s a strange feeling.
A lawn isn’t “nature,” exactly. You’re socially pressured into slicing off the tops of the grass blades every week or two with whirling steel knives, then you dump chemical fertilizers on it to avoid brown spots, run a sprinkler network under it, put a mortar-and-block border around it… American lawns descend from a tradition of British country manor lawns, which were actually sheep pasturage, which is where the money for those grand old English manor houses came from. That sort of lawn I could work with easily, but this one was almost as bad as the alley for my purposes. If you think I’m exaggerating, consider how quickly such a lawn dies when you stop watering it; where is your “nature” now? I hoped to have enough time with this faux slice of sheep pasture to recover.
After a few seconds waiting for motion lights to turn on or for a snoopy neighbor to come out with a flashlight, I let the light-bending invisibility bubble go, then I dropped into a light trance and began trickle-charging my magical reserves.
It was a risky move, because I could have been seen there in that corner of the yard if anyone had shined a bright enough light at me, but the parked cars lining this side of the street prevented passing cars from doing that to me. I’m no auto fan, but I’ll grant that they are pretty good concealment. Which is, of course, one reason they’re popular: people wear them like mechs while out doing battle with the world, away from their safe homes. People do all kinds of things in the semi-privacy of their vehicles that they’d never dare do out on a public park bench.
Second verse: people are strange.
Recharged, I dug into the trunk bag and pulled out my work clothes. I rode to work and back most days in a biking outfit to keep my work clothes clean: chain grease and gutter mud are not a good look at work, even at an office with a dress code as casual as at mine. The work clothes go in the bag on the way to and from work, and I change at the shop.
Shimmying into my work clothes while low on the grass was a bit like dressing inside a tent while camping, but I got it done without breaking cover. I’d gotten my clothes fairly wet while doing it, and I didn’t have a second set of shoes in the trunk bag — too bulky — but barefoot was a lot more socially acceptable than bare-assed. I have some pretty aggressive pedals on the bike to keep my shoes from slipping off while pedaling hard in adverse conditions, but my toughened soles wouldn’t be too damaged by them.
I rode back to the alley, picked my soggy and muddy clothes out of the cellar stairwell, put the shoes on without socks, and tossed the soiled clothes into the bike’s trunk bag.
I made my way home with no further incident.
I pulled off the shoes outside my back door, not wanting to track mud into the house.
I wheeled my bike into the utility room off the kitchen. I call this my heated bike garage, and it was one of the things that sold me on this house: it keeps both rust and the bike thieves at bay.
I then carried the muddy outfit to the laundry room, tossed it all in the washer and started the machine running.
It was a bad night, but I’d gotten out of the mess about as well as you could hope for. Imagine if I wasn’t a mage?