The Dutch Guys [Manuscript Monday]
In The Wizard of Oz there is a peculiar scene where Dorothy newly arrives in the very strange and vibrantly colorful “Munchkin Land.” While slowly observing her new surroundings she is in awe and affirms to her tiny dog, “we’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto.” Then, from out of nowhere, little people with gold, brown, and purple face paint begin to pop up out of the bushes. They are dressed in a variety of surreal costumes (clowns, fairy princesses, farmers, Swiss yodelers in lederhosen, etc.) and she is startled.
Most kids are freaked out by this part. But, this scene stands out as a great example of how confusing events in life are some of the best opportunities to embrace. Most things in life can be explained rationally, but not everything. The latter not only remind us that we, in fact, are not infinitely wise, but they make for some of the best stories.
Shortly after Louis and Michael are up and riding, leaving behind an evening of the most star-spangled campground skies they’d ever seen, they notice a mirage upon the horizon. Waves of heat and oil dance along the highway miles ahead. Two forms are being closed in upon, and soon they realize that they aren’t mirages at all.
There have not been gas stations, RV sites, or liquor stores for at least fifteen miles. There are scarcely even passing cars.
As closer gives way to even closer they are soon within a stone’s throw of two men seated upon upright commuter bicycles. They aren’t wearing sunglasses, cycling shorts, and they don’t have water bottles, as Michael and Louis do. Their unbuttoned floral shirts flow with the wind, and they laugh as Louis and Michael slowly roll by. They wave hands and arms pasted with tanning oil, and their khaki shorts are wide with wind drag. The only thing snug to their bodies are their sandals.
And just like that, the men are specks upon the black horizon line behind them.
“Did you,” Michael says. “I mean, did you see…”
“Yeah. It’s like the Wizard of Oz.”
“Something like that. Yeah.”
“But I mean, did that just happen? Are we sleeping enough?”
“Yeah, it did. It totally happened.”
An hour later they are stretching and snacking in the parking lot of a convenience store just outside of Mexican Hat. The air is dry, empty. Red rocks sit in the air, motionless. One car comes in for gas. They fill, and they leave. The convenience store clerk is lost behind an US Weekly.
As they ready to leave the hear voices coming from the south. Michael drops his last piece of granola bar into his mouth and looks back.
Their fellow bike-travelers are rolling down an embankment and scurry into the lot.
Michael looks at Louis.
Louis has his eyes closed and his holding his hand across his face to contain his laughter.
“We passed them ten miles ago.”
“Maybe fifteen,” Louis says.
“Yeah, maybe fifteen even. How the crap are they only ten minutes behind us?”
Louis is laughing out loud now. He is hysterical.
The men exude no sweat. They are laughing with each other, telling jokes and smiling.
“Where you headed?” Louis says.
“We are from Holland,” says the first man, mishearing him. His accent is thick, but he seems to know some English.
“We are on holiday from home,” says the second.
“And you’ve come here. To Utah?” Michael says.
The men laugh, their teeth are pearls.
“Yez, we love coming to America every summer to ride bicycle.”
“Well, welcome to America!” Louis says.
The men walk by, smiling, and disappear into the store. They return moments later with a gallon of water each.
“Yez, friends, ev’ry summer we drive RV through Utah, Arizona, New Mexico. Sometimes, we stop and jus’ ride.”
“We love, Amer-ee-cuh!” The second one says reaching out for Michael’s hand.
The first one takes Louis’ hand and pats his shoulder. “It is beautiful out here,” he says.
“Sure is…” Michael says.
At that the men mount their bicycles again and wave goodbye.
Michael and Louis push out a few minutes later. When it is clear that the Dutch men are nowhere to be found, having apparently vanished, Michael rides up next to Louis.
“Seriously, I need to know if any of that was real.”
Louis smiles again and pretends to think but can’t hold his face sternly for long.
They watch the horizon closely ahead just in case the men might appear again. Minutes roll away with roadway and silence. Only the sound of metal chains cranking cogs and grease flexing joints. Wind passes through their helmet holes.
“Hey,” Michael says. “Remember the time when the Dutch guys we met on the way through Mexican Hat weren’t actually real?”
“Yeah,” Louis says. “And remember how just when we thought they were mirages they sped past us on their e-bikes, which they quickly converted, laughing and saying, ‘stupid Americans’?”
They pretend to dodge the invisible Dutch.
They fill the next hour with scenarios where the men might show up, laughing and waving. Sipping tea and waving at them in Denver. Making sandwiches in a corn field in Kansas. Riding their bikes up riverbeds in Illinois. Riding up and over the Appalachians in Virginia. Riding across the Atlantic back to Holland.