On the third day we ate Joey. We had started PBP with the usual carefree hopes, giggling like schoolgirls on a brisk spring morning before the sun shined upon our journey. As soon as we cleared the sheepfold where we left our innocence and our clean clothes the sky closed in and we were drenched. Then it hailed for the next 40 kilometers.
Joey never acknowledged the name we gave him. He attached himself to our group without invitation and we had to call him something. Joey tended to boast of his career and his family while speaking to the air. Perhaps he addressed the flock of small birds that scattered at his erratic movements, feeding on the crumbs of food that never quite made it to his mouth. Joey often became strangely indignant without discernable reason.
Being August, most stores were closed, and we did our best with the french gas station food but the empty calories did little for our spirits or our stomachs. We relieved our hunger by singing songs of lost family and lost pets – lost hopes – and continued on the motorways in heavy truck traffic.
Three times we stopped to call the DORC for directions and needed encouragement, but we were left unanswered in the obscuring mists. The locals after hi-fiving us would fade away, equally unwilling to answer our calls. There was nothing for it but to continue, so we did.
Joey’s cry was more a low animal grunt when he crashed into Marshall’s side and did not move again after we picked ourselves up and assessed the damage. No one would admit to the idea or admit to trying the first bite, but someone did, and then we ate him. A small boy came out from the bakery we were in front of, dropped his platter of croissants and ran. The croissants soaked up the savory juices, completing our repast and saved us from cracking his bones for marrow. We shooed the birds away after cleaning the final crumbs of Joey from our team kits. His spare tubes and multi-tools were distributed but no one wanted his shoes even though they fitted us all.
We finished in sated silence. They offered us medals in honor of hors delais but we just kept on riding. Riding to escape what happened, riding to regain what was lost. Riding, ever riding…