Partners in Grime by Neil Anderson ISBN 0-9686740-1-1 "You know, the book had one awful feature ... it ended!"
Partners in Grime excerpt
The Big Inning
thud sounded at the back door. Crossing the carpeted entryway, I yarded open a heavy metal storm door, and peered out into all-encompassing blackness. A blast of January air smacked my T-shirted torso like a Polar Express freight train loaded with ice blocks.
"Hello?" I called out.
The greeting vanished, snatched from my windpipe into a maelstrom of whirling snow pellets. A lump of whiteness, unobtrusively blown against the doorsill, rose, pushed past me, and staggered four steps inside before collapsing.
"What do we have here?" I grimaced, recognizing a scrap of multi-coloured scarf peeking forth from beneath a corner of the white mound. Having struggled three blocks from the nearest bus stop through a paralyzing whiteout, my wife appeared more akin to an abominable snowman than I dared mention.
"Yeti!" I exulted, throwing caution to the wind. "Welcome home!" No response. "Ah, life on the edge of the frozen prairie," I muttered, slamming the door.
"Frosty the Snowman?" I guessed.
"Icicles for sale?"
The slumped figure stared at me through ice-rimmed eyes, casting tiny daggers my way.
"Why did the snowman have a grin on his face?" Cold silence met my question. "He heard the snowblower was coming." Did I detect a faint smile from the snowdrift?
"Hoo boy," I said, surveying the mostly motionless heap of melting snow. "Lucky I have a car." Another unblinking glacial glare from behind frozen lashes telegraphed I was not endearing myself to her.
"Guess what?" I intoned, ignoring the wise adage: When one is in a hole, the first thing to do is stop digging. "We received a wonderful letter from the Sidewalk Police today. They're threatening to fine us severely if the snow's not removed from our sidewalk within 48 hours. I phoned and informed a Gestapo that I had already swept the sidewalk ... should I vacuum it too?"
Sharon rolled her eyes. "You know," she said, finally thawed enough to move her lips, "maybe the rat race isn't all it's cracked up to be ... after all, even if you win, you're still a rat."
I twisted my lips, nodding, and concluded that frozen brains were short on insight. "Maybe," she continued, "we should do something while we're both still young and healthy."
"I don't know ..." Her voice trailed off. She summoned strength and picked herself off the floor. She struggled, removed her sodden woolen overcoat, and draped its dripping bulk on a peg over the boot tray. "How about cycling around the world?" she asked. "Now's our chance. No kids. No mortgage."
"Hmmm," I heard myself reply. "Sounds good." Warm tropical breezes sashaying amongst palm fronds already danced through my mind like pernicious nymphs. "Anything has to be better than this," I murmured, gazing out at a frozen white world and envisioning turquoise as a perfectly delightful colour for water. "Will there be hills?"
"Of course not," came the sweet reply.
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What readers are saying
Partners in Grime
"This careening ride is aptly titled and unpolished in all the right places. It rolls over you like a hippie at the height of summer -- jazzed on chlorophyll and flinging fistfuls of butterflies at the sun. Neil's follow up to Lead Goat may just remind you of when things still felt new, messy, unwieldy and real -- like love, guitar licks and adventures yet taken."
Joe Kurmaskie -- Author of the Bestsellers "Metal Cowboy" and "Riding Outside the Lines"
"I finished the Partners in Grime, and in early spring I will be starting my '06 tour and need a good book for the hold-up days in my tent. I really enjoyed the last book [...] my room mate enjoyed your book also. He stated he would like to take up bike touring. [...] Anyway, if you could get off you duff and get the next book out, I and others would appreciate your effort. I find your books not only entertaining, but also inspirational, something to shoot for. Coy in Al."
"I recently purchased and received a copy of Neil Anderson's "Partners in Grime". Once I started reading this 256 page book I was absolutely hooked and I ended up consuming it in a single day of reading. It's been a long time since any book, including ones about bicycle touring, has had that kind of effect on me."
Jamie Noble -- Bicycle Touring 101
"Dang, Canada has a speedy post office! I loved Lead Goat, and I am loving P in Grime. I spend little time on email lately since I'm either on my bike or on the couch reading your book. Life is good!"
"LOVED IT! It made the many indoor winter miles on my stationary wind trainer fly by. Can't wait for 'goat' to arrive."
"I can very much identify with your daily grind in the book. I really feel like I am there as I read. I also appreciate the puns and bad jokes :) Thanks for keeping that part of me awake and alive."
"After reading Lead Goat (knowing it will be a while yet before the movie is out) I needed another fix of your writing and adventures."
"I've been meaning to tell you that I finished reading your book awhile back, good stuff! Your book left me with a couple of odd notions. I think I didn't have any spikey haired dumpster diving iguanas in my childhood so my imagination didn't develop, it's like a blank page and easily influenced. I watch a movie or read a book and away it goes with other thoughts and ideas based on what i just experienced. I watch a Charlton Heston movie and I suddenly get an inclination to lead people to the promised land, or go out and buy a really big gun. When I read your book I was also reading a Leon Uris Book so now, I can imagine taking my bike and pedaling to Israel or, taking my bike and stuffing it in our pizza oven."
"Your style of writing is fun to read. (I was an English major in college and so may have a bit more appreciation of things literary than some -- but then maybe not.) In any event I've really enjoyed your stories."
"I have also bought and read "The Lead Goat Veered Off" and enjoyed it tremendously. If you have another book please let me know so that I can purchase it."
Virgil H. Aviles
"Is your new book, Partners in Grime, available yet. I loved your first effort. If available, what's the chances of me ordering an autographed copy from you, even if I have to pay a premium because of the special handling. (I realize that you can't sell them as cheaply as Amazon!)"
"Loved your books too!"
"The pecking order is simply a reflection of "arrival in the Thumlert household" rather than any order of merit, intrigue, or picture quality! If Partners in Grime is anywhere near Lead Goat Veered Off the "order of merit" will shift significantly! Cheers!"
"I received your book yesterday and am very excited about diving into it. Thanks for the inspiring inscription - I knew you could pull something off. ;-) I also eagerly await your next books (rumor has it two more are in the works!) BTW - Texas has some awesome areas to cycle through and you'd never get cold! Thanks again."
"I'm enjoying reading your book very much. [...] My all-time favorite spot to read is in bed. I read before I go to sleep at night and this is causing problems with [my husband]. I end up laughing out loud at something that you've written and I wake him up. Oh well, he'll just have to deal with it."
Shelley St. Amand
"Partners in Grime is the most amazing book I've read in a long time ... and I read a lot! You have such a talent with words. And a laugh a page, too. You are too witty ... I feel sorry for Sharon! Well done, young man."
"I have been reading Partners in Grime and I got to tell you I sure have gotten a lot of laughs! What a great book!"
"I wish I had one-tenth of your skill with the English language!"
Frank Ogrinc, Author "English For Idioms"
"I read your latest book -- great! Just the thing to read before the summer's touring season to get the juices flowing."
"Such a good read, in nice, small bites that fit around weekend family activities. I have been wearing a "hoodie" and carrying the book in the big pouch. It has me chomping at the bit to get out and tour."
"Thank you for the many hours of entertainment."
Cynthia & Fritz Feldmann
"We absolutely love Partners in Grime. Annette started reading the book but had to stop every second page to read aloud a particularly funny or interesting paragraph. The kids got so interested, now we're reading the book for family story time before bed. We are all enjoying the book very much."
Loran & Annette Bokenfohr, Janna, Joseph, Anne, Robbie and Mary
"I started your book last night -- love it so far! Your book really is great; I had tears in my eyes when I read the chapter about Cinnamon Buns and Baba."
"Just wanted to tell you I am thoroughly enjoying your book -- Partners In Grime!!! [...] Sharon deserves a medal for all she went thru!!! And I love your sense of humour! I'm about 1/3 thru it!!! Can't put it down!!!"
"Partners in Grime" excerpt
"The male is a domestic animal which, if treated with firmness, can be trained to do most things."
~ Jilly Cooper
We pedalled into Sarnia. Built along the banks of the turgid, turquoise and azure, Saint Clair River, it displayed gardens bursting with flowers. My favourites were dazzling red hot pokers. Heavy industry had spent a load of money disguising chemical plants and smokestacks. Everything looked clean ... as long as one only looked skin-deep. (Like my mother was fond of saying: "Beauty is only skin deep, but ugly goes all the way to the bone.")
Leaving Sarnia to the Bobs of the world, we arrived at a campground in Mooretown. In front of a travel trailer, two large women lay sprawled across lawn chairs. We wheeled over to them and discovered they wanted an exorbitant sum for a tiny plot of ground. We only want to sleep here, I thought, not buy the place. In hopes of wrangling a discount, I tried out my new spiel.
"How much is it for round-the-world cyclists?"
The two women shuffled in their chairs, eyes wide, mouths agape.
"That's more the response I have been looking for," I whispered to Sharon.
"In that case," the smaller of the two large women chirruped, "nothing!" She pointed to a piece of grass. "You can stay right here beside our trailer."
I nodded. Blankly. The woman's free offer hadn't registered in my teeny-tiny brain. Perhaps Sarnia Bob still had me rattled, too? Not one to quit when I'm ahead I added we were on our honeymoon. Which was true. Technically. But when they assumed we had just been married, I dumbly nodded again. (I like to think that what I lack in honesty I make up in charisma.)
"Newlyweds!" the woman exclaimed, her eyes twinkling. "And you're riding around the world on bikes? Honey," she said, giving Sharon a pensive look, "you must really love him." I was about to inform the woman that it had all been Sharon's idea, then, at the last moment, decided to keep quiet. From her ample bulk, I assumed she wouldn't understand how anyone on earth could want to do such a thing. Besides, I had already opened my big mouth wide enough. Was there room for another cycling shoe in there? Sometimes, I thought, it's better to keep your mouth shut and let them think you're stupid, rather than open your mouth, and prove it.
"Oh, yeah," Sharon drawled, giving me a sideways look, "he's good for a laugh now and then."
"Well, it sounds like you'll fit right in," the large woman replied with a shadowy smile. "My name's Pat," she said, thrusting a meaty paw toward us. Half-turning her torso, she jabbed a thick thumb toward a neat fellow two-thirds her size, standing in the travel trailer's doorway, tea-towel in hand. "That's my husband, Klaus," Pat said, a half-smile crinkling her lips. "He's part German and part Ukrainian ... I call him my little geranium."
I chuckled and waved. Already, I could tell we were in for an entertaining evening. "This is my sister, Judy," Pat said, introducing the even larger woman next to her. Pat gazed around, then pointed out a wee wisp of a feller running to another trailer over yonder. "That's Judy's husband," Pat said, giggling. "We call him 'Speedy.'"
The vast size difference between husband and wife struck me as comical. I smiled, pondering. Do the biggest women always marry the smallest men? Was it one of life's little rules? Somewhat similar to those with the biggest butt, invariably always seem to sport the smallest fanny pack? Then again, I thought, perhaps it's all just an unfortunate optical illusion.
"Are you hungry?" Pat asked, jolting me from my daydream.
"No, we're fine, thanks," Sharon answered. My stomach demurred with a reflexive growl.
"We've finished supper," Pat went on, "but it's no trouble for Klaus to fix you a burger."
I glanced toward Klaus. Still framing the trailer's doorway, he grinned, slapped the tea-towel over his shoulder, and about-faced into the trailer.
"Men never do anything unless people are visiting," Pat informed Sharon, beginning what would turn out to be a very long list of newlywed tips. "But if you have guests they will do everything - making it look like you do nothing. So," she said with a sly grin, "the secret is to always have lots of company!"
In short order, Klaus reappeared with two deluxe burgers and two cups of tea. Sharon and I sat at the picnic table. "Train your man early," Pat advised Sharon. "They take time, so don't waste a second!"
"Oh?" Sharon replied. "How long does it take?"
"Thirty-one years," Pat replied. I almost choked on a chunk of cheese. If Roseanne ever needed a stand-in, the woman could fill her shoes (and then some).
"I plan on writing a book on men and marriage," Pat stated.
"Good idea," I said. "What's the title?"
"I'm calling it Pat's Pointers: A Guide for Today's Wild Wahini. My motto: 'Make your man laugh at least once a day, and he'll never leave you.'"
Sounded good to me. Klaus delivered tea to Pat and Judy, then settled himself into a lawn chair. Talk turned to the usual questions of routes and how many kilometres a day we did. Then they shifted gears, asking what our parents thought about our trip.
"They're worried," we confided, "but they're supportive." Looking from a more senior perspective, they had said, "You only live once - so you may as well make the most of it." And, when they realized we were going away for a considerable length of time, they said, "You know, two, three, even four years are going to go by whether you do it or not." That was true. So, we thought, 'What would we rather be doing? Climbing the corporate ladder one shaky rung at a time (possibly sawed off mid-step), or off exploring the big wide world?' Happily, travel won out. After all, who would voluntarily choose being cooped up inside all day breathing artificial air and seeing with artificial light when there are mountains to climb, roads to ride, rivers to swim, and new friends to meet?
Did I mention copious amounts of food to be eaten? Barely finished licking our fingers from our first helping, Klaus hustled over with another humongous burger.
"We decided we'd rather be doing this," Sharon said, "than stuck in some dead-end job."
"Just waiting to die," I added.
Pat lurched upright. "My dad's 80," she said. "And he's just waiting to die." She paused, her eyes moist. "I went to see him the other day," she said. "He greets me with 'Hi, Fat Pat.'" She frowned. Her head bowed. "I asked him, 'Dad, do you want to go to a birthday party next week?'
"'Probably be dead by then,' he says.
"Well, if you're not dead, do you want to go?
"'Okay, but I'll probably be dead. Don't make any plans around me.'
"Okay, Dad," Pat grimaced, enjoying her one-woman two-sided dialog. "He's so stooped over," she rebounded, giggling, "he reminds me of the letter 'n.' It looks like his suspenders are way too tight and they're pulling the poor old guy over. 'Hey, Dad! Your suspenders are too tight!'
"Never mind." Pat paused. A crease furrowed her brow. "Yep. He's just waiting to die."
There was silence as we digested Pat's remarks. I decided then and there that I intended to wear out rather than rust out.
"So!" Pat burst out suddenly, breaking our ruminations. "Enough of my morbidity!" She looked directly at Sharon, ready to dispense more bang-up newlywed tips. "What do you guys do about sex?"
It was Sharon's turn to nearly choke.
"Well, I've got some advice for you," Pat said, "on how to avoid sex." Oh, great. "Can't use the old headache excuse anymore," she griped, pursing her lips into a beguiling pout. "Some dumb doctor loused that one up. 'Sex reduces stress and actually helps your headache go away.' Terrific! I've had to go and change my entire tactic since that sordid piece of research. Now I say to Klaus, 'Rub my back.'" Her voice dropped to a whisper as she demonstrated. "The secret is to keep twitching your shoulder until he falls asleep."
I hoped Sharon wasn't paying too close attention.
"Men are quite ignorant about the female physiology," Pat continued. "Like, I'll wear pads for three weeks straight. 'Sorry, hon, not tonight.'" Her face twisted into a cherubic grin.
Hmmm. I'd watch for that one.
Pat was full of good ideas. "Another thing you can do is tell him to go to bed and you'll be right there. Keep checking every so often. 'Honey, don't fall asleep watching TV. Hon?' When he doesn't answer anymore, it's safe to go to bed." Good thing we sold our TV!
Klaus served mugs of hot chocolate.
"Speaking of 'safes,'" Pat went on, "the other day, our grandson asked Klaus, 'What's a condom, Grandpa?' Klaus tells him: 'An apartment building.' I felt it my duty to correct Klaus," Pat sniffed. "'It's a raincoat for a penis,' I told him. Don't want the kid gettin' no wrong ideas." I nearly spat out my hot chocolate.
After another round of 'helpful' newlywed advice, Sharon and I were ready to hit the showers. I rummaged through my panniers, searching for fresh clothes. "You can shower together if you like," Judy piped up. "The one on the end is for handicapped. It's nice and roomy!" I considered that the most helpful tip of the evening.
Sharon and I traipsed off happily to the showers.
"Hey!" Pat bellowed. "You're holding hands! Newlyweds!" she shouted. Then, in mock disgust, directed at Sharon I presumed, "You haven't learned one thing I've told you, have you?"
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