A Month of Short Stories 2017, Day 14 – Dog by Joe R Lansdale

Deep Ellum, Dallas, Texas
Cathey MIller, Cathedonia
(click to enlarge)

Over several years, for the month of June, I wrote about a short story that was available online each day of the month…. It seemed like a good idea at the time. My blog readership fell precipitously and nobody seemed to give a damn about what I was doing – which was a surprising amount of work.

Because of this result, I’m going to do it again this year – In September this time… because it is September.

Today’s story, for day 14 – Dog by Joe R Lansdale

Read it online here:

Dog by Joe R Lansdale

The money had made him worthless, and he missed writing the column, wished now he hadn’t quit the job when the money came in. Should have stayed at it, he thought. He considered possibly getting his old job back, or maybe trying to write a humor book. Right now, however, it was all just a daydream from the seat of a bicycle.

—-Joe R Lansdale, Dog

I have become quite a fan of Joe R Lansdale. First of all, he’s a Texan, which is always a good thing.

The first story of his I read was God of the Razor – a scary little tale of ultra-horror. That’s not usually my thing but the story was so stark and well-written – it hooked me. I have been reading his stuff every since.

Now, today’s story, Dog, is not for animal lovers… not at all. It is about a guy on a bicycle, which is usually a good thing.

But in this story… not so much. It is a story of a nightmare fight to the death between pretty good and absolute evil. Shame about poor Cuddles.

Interview with Joe R Lansdale

You recently talked on Facebook about writers who complain about loneliness and other aspects of the craft, and you noted, “If you want to be miserable writing, that’s your choice.” Why do you think some writers describe it as some painful, soul-sapping drudge?

I’m sure there are some people out there who are just miserable . . .

They’d be miserable if they were plumbers.

Right. But I think also it’s a pose for a lot of people, because they think they’re doing something that doesn’t require that they dig a ditch or fix a car. I think because it’s intangible. When you take a job, you get paid when you first start out whether you know what you’re doing or not, but in writing you’re not necessarily getting paid when you’re starting out, so are you a writer or are you not a writer? So I think a lot of it too is insecurity, that feeling that it’s like, “Look, I’m really working, this really is important and it’s really hard.” And it’s not that it isn’t hard sometimes—it is. I’m not saying it isn’t hard work; I beat my head against the wall sometimes thinking, I just can’t get that right. But that’s not the same thing as saying I’m miserable doing it. It may be a hard thing to do, but I enjoy doing it. And I feel lucky, because I’ve never wanted to do anything else. It’s not the same for everybody, but I feel like I just got the best break in the world.

One recent tip you offered was, “Actually start out with Once upon a time and continue.” Have you done that?

Yeah, I’ve done it. I even have one story that begins, “Once upon a time.” I’ve done it several times. I just type “Once upon a time,” and then I’m into it

—-from Nightmare Magazine

Bark Park Central
Deep Ellum
Dallas, Texas

Craigslist Commuter

My commuter bike

My old commuter bike

I never noticed the Yosemite engraved on the seat tube until I removed the old paint.

I never noticed the Yosemite engraved on the seat tube until I removed the old paint.

So, the other day I was riding my commuter bike. This is the ancient Yokota mountain bike I bought in a pawn shop in 1994 for sixty dollars and then converted last year to a commuter. I stripped the bike, repainted it and added racks, lights, and fenders (and more). It was a workable commuter bike, the frame was a little small for my size – but otherwise fine. Well, like I said, I was riding it around the city and I kept feeling something wrong. It felt like the seat was broken – when I pushed on the pedals the seat would shift side to side. I slowed down, rode carefully, and made it back home.

I took the seat apart and looked at it carefully – couldn’t find anything wrong. Then I gave the whole thing a once-over and discovered that I had broken the seat tube. The weld where the tube joined the bottom bracket had cracked – that was what was flopping back and forth. I’m lucky that was the weld that broke – most others would have sent me for a tumble.

The crack in the seat tube at the bottom bracket.

The crack in the seat tube at the bottom bracket.

It’s not a surprise that it broke – I’ve been riding the bike for almost twenty years (and it was used before that). That’s a lot of flexing on that weld.

Now I needed to figure out what to do. I need a commuter bike. Plus I need two bikes anyway – my Technium road bike is even older than this one and one bike is always under repair of one kind or another.

A friend of mine tried to weld the crack – but the tubing is too thin and the weld wouldn’t hold.

A new bike is out of the question – we are so broke right now.

So I looked at new frames. There are some very affordable generic mountain bike frames available. The problem is that I would have to buy a lot of new parts (threadless headset, fork for same, stem, top-pull derailleur, cables….) because so many parts from my old bike are obsolete – even if they are still working.

Another option is a used bike. I spent a day touring pawn shops (I’m wary of this – I don’t want a hot bike – but at least I could look at some options) but their prices were high. I was working on putting together the funds for a new frame and components when I spotted a bike on Craigslist.

My old bike was a little small – so I wanted to get the size right – but this one was spot on. It was an older, well-used mountain bike, a Giant Rincon SE, for a hundred bucks. That seemed like the ticket to me – the thing should convert into a good commuter – I could mix and match parts from it and my old bike to put together something nice.

So I met the seller at a warehouse (she said it belonged to her son who rode it “all over Southern California”) and bought the thing.

I spent most of a day cleaning, adjusting, and lubricating – then adding my racks, bags, and lights. I swapped the lugged mountain tires and wheels with the slicks on my commuter. The bike has twist-grip shifters, which I’ve never used before – but maybe it’s time to try something new.

Another difference is that it has a front shock adsorbing fork. I’ve never used one of these before. It’s a cheap one, but does seem to make the city riding a bit more comfortable. The problem is that I can’t mount fenders on the fork – so the bike won’t be as good commuting in the rain.

I’ve been thinking about this and I think I’ll buy a steel rigid fork and an extra headset. I can mount a spare brake and my front rack and fenders on that – and use it for commuting. Meanwhile, I can keep the shock fork and the lugged wheels – if I want to ride off-road I can swap them out in a few minutes.

Two bikes for one.

It rides nice. The Giant aluminum frame is rock-solid and it does fit me perfectly. The components are cheap – but they are running fine right now. They should be good enough for commuting. I’ll keep my old parts and swap them out if anything wears out.

The timing is good – it looks like I’ll be short a car for a while – and have to ride to work.

My new Giant Rincon SE commuter bike.

My new Giant Rincon SE commuter bike.

Giant Rincon SE with Dallas in the background

Giant Rincon SE with Dallas in the background

Stripped to Bare Steel

I want a new bicycle but I simply can’t afford one. So I’m making do.

I’ve been riding my old Technium and it’s doing well. It’s a road bike and a lot of fun. Still, one of my long-term goals is to integrate biking with my daily life and I want a commuting/shopping/bombing around the neighborhood bike. I want a bike that can go anywhere, anytime – and I don’t really care how long it takes to get there.

So I’m rebuilding my old Yokota Yosemite steel mountain bike. I’ve scrounged up a set of fenders, front and back racks, and a cheap lighting system. I found bargains on new shifters, brake levers, and more modern V-brakes to replace the squealing cantilevers.


My old bike. I bought it for sixty bucks at a pawn shop over fifteen years ago.

Looking at the bike, though, I realized the paint was really messed up. It was white, and showed every scratch and scrape… and twenty years of tough riding left a lot of scratches and scrapes.

I decided to paint the thing. If nothing else, this gave me an excuse to remove every little piece and part. One of the few good things about doing your own maintenance is that it teaches you about your bike and gives you a connection – the inanimate, mechanical object of metal, plastic, and rubber – becomes almost a living thing in your mind, and extension of your own body, so to speak.

The only problem is that stripping all the paint off the old steel frame was a ton of work. Paint stripper, flat bladed scrapers, and sandpaper… combined with helpings of time and elbow grease took the thing down to stripped bare steel. I don’t know what kind of paint they used, but it was tough.

I have become enamored of steel framed bikes. Nowadays, of course, it’s all aluminum and/or carbon fiber. Anything to shave off a few more ounces.

But now that I see the gleaming steel that was under that paint – I’ll take the toughness, versatility, and smooth ride of that steel even if I have to push around a couple more pounds.

I never noticed the Yosemite engraved on the seat tube until I removed the old pain.

I never noticed the Yosemite engraved on the seat tube until I removed the old paint.

A lot of tubes, a lot of paint to scrape off.

A lot of tubes, a lot of paint to scrape off.

The bare steel flash rusts almost immediately without any paint protecting it. I'll have to give it a final sanding right before I prime it.

The bare steel flash rusts almost immediately without any paint protecting it. I’ll have to give it a final sanding right before I prime it.

Now I’m ready. We have this little plastic outbuilding that I need to clean out and convert into a temporary paint booth. I’ll have to slot out the time and I’ll need a final sanding to clean the flash rust off the frame; then it’s primer-color-clear.

I thought about colors – I want something really simple that won’t show dirt. It looks like it’ll be Charleston Green. – which is almost black, but is supposed to show a green tint when the sun hits it right. That’s darker than I was thinking originally (I was looking for a dark British Racing Green) but the more I thought about it, and the more I read about the history of the color, Charleston Green it is.


I have been looking for new places to go for a bike ride – and willing to drive farther from home. With the seats folded down, my bike fits in the back of the Matrix and it gets nice gas mileage – so it’s all good.

Looking over Google Maps with the “Bicycling” option turned on, I spotted a green line going north from Highway 380, just east of Denton. It’s the 380 Greenway/Ray Roberts Greenbelt trail and runs ten miles north through the riperian forest of the Elm Fork of the Trinity River, ending up at the dam of Lake Ray Roberts.

So, after wasting the morning futsing and dutsing around the house, I loaded up my stuff and drove north through the big evil city until I reached the parking lot off of Highway 380. The Greenway trail is a branch of the Texas State Park system, so I had to pay to use it, sealing seven dollars into a little envelope and dropping it in a steel box. I checked all my gear out, saddled up and headed north into the woods.

The trail is flat as a pancake for the whole distance, which makes it easy and fast, though you never stop pedaling. The trail splits in two – with the equestrian trail on one side of the river and the hike/bike on the other. There were a few folks walking near the south end, but after a couple miles I only saw the occasional mountain bike. The southern section is locked in heavy woods – which is really nice, anything to shade the blazing Texas sun. As it goes north, the landscape opens out a little, with the occasional hayfield or open meadow breaking up the scenery.

It was a really nice ride through some bucolic scenery, but I made a tactical error. I didn’t read closely enough before I left and didn’t think about the trail surface. It is an improved hardpack with gravel surface. I left my thin, smooth, street tires on the bike. They are wide enough, so I didn’t have any problem riding – but the stones cut them to pieces.

I was no more than a couple miles up the trail when I stopped to take a photo of the trail through the woods. When I started back up my bike tire was flat. I carried an extra tube and a patch kit, so I sat along the trail and swapped the tube out. I couldn’t find a thorn or anything, but did find a small hole and patched it, keeping that tube as a spare.

Six miles up the trail, it crosses a highway and I stopped there for a protein bar and some water, and my tire went flat again. Out with the tire levers, off with the tire, on with another patch. This time I did find a tiny glass sliver – took it out. Since this was my second flat, I thought about heading back south to my car, but I sat there for twenty minutes and it seemed to be holding, so I went north to ride the whole trail.

I stopped again at the base of the Ray Roberts dam to rest for a bit. A big, expensive SUV drove up and a couple climbed out. They walked up to me and the driver, in a thick New Jersey accent, asked me, “Do you live around here?”

“Umm, I live a long way from here, but maybe I can answer your questions.”

“Well, we’re looking at a house near here and I wanted to see about this park. It says you have to pay to park here.”

“Oh, if you lived close, you could buy an annual pass. It’s about fifty bucks, I think. You could use this trail and the Ray Roberts park has a nice beach and a lot of stuff to do.”

We talked a bit about the trail (he had looked at it on Google Maps) and where it went and how it connected to the park. The two of them walked around and looked at stuff. I wished them good luck on their house hunting and they drove off. I packed up and headed back down the trail.

A few miles down the trail I felt my back wheel hit a rock hard and immediately the tire went flat again.

This time I found three holes in the tube, patched them, and pumped it up. I counted my patches, three left, plus one spare patched tube, so I was pretty sure I could make it back to my car, but I was getting tired of working on those flats, and my arms were sore from pumping up those fat tires with the little portable pump.

I was able to hammer on down the trail without any more trouble though. As I neared the southern end more walkers began to appear – the day was getting long and the temperature was cooling off.

I went past a woman walking along wearing an outrageous frilly bright red dress, thick makeup, and high heeled shoes that were completely useless on the gravel trail. She looked sheepish, stumbling along, and next to her was a man carrying a tall, transparent, lucite chair. I certainly hope the two of them were walking to do a photo shoot in the woods – otherwise… well, I don’t know.

It was nice to see my car in the parking lot while I still had some air in my tires.

The trail runs through thick forest near the south end. While I was taking this photo – my tire was losing air.

A nice rest spot near the north end of the trail.

Ruins of an old bridge near where I took the photo above.

Under the old bridge – the Elm Fork of the Trinity is surprisingly clear and pleasant.

The northern terminus of the trail below the Lake Ray Roberts dam.