The Riders

I’ve had a fascination with Riders ever since I began noticing them. That was around when I turned 13 or so. Riders are funny looking creatures, bearing a strong resemblance to the imps you see illustrated in those old fairy tale books. They have leathery skin, long faces, big eyes, and pointy ears. They don’t have tails or wings though. That’s where they differ from the drawings. I started calling them Riders because I was young and didn’t have a more creative word. They hang on and ride around. Seemed cool at the time.

I grew up in the country, out in the Mid-West. There, most Riders are small, less than a foot tall. Until I got older, I actually didn’t know they could be larger. Before then, I’d run into someone who had a big Rider and I would just stop and stare, wide eyed. I’m sure they wondered why some kid was gaping at them. They probably thought I was “special.”

Once I moved to the city though—Woah man!—the Riders here are huge! I catch glimpses of the biggest ones as they fly by, passing me in the right lane of the highway. I’ve noticed the largest ones are usually perched on some dude’s shoulder, riding inside a jacked up, noisy truck. Sometimes a really fat one will be on the shoulder of a motorcyclist, whizzing between cars, hanging on for dear life at 120 miles per hour. It would be funny if I wasn’t so worried about what happened to the Rider if their host eats the back of a car. The other day, I even saw a huge Rider on the shoulder of this girl who was stopped by a cop. (In case you were wondering, the Rider on that particular cop was an average size. Some cops have huge Riders though!)

The Riders never really pay attention to me, but I don’t mind that. They always seem busy, whispering or screaming at their hosts. It’s really strange they never talk in a normal volume, but maybe that’s just not possible. Man, Riders can get so worked up sometimes. There was this lady at the post office, and the big Rider on her shoulder started going off, straight in her ear. It was loud, like a jet or something. (As a side note: I can’t understand the language, so I can’t tell you what it said.) Pretty soon, the woman started yelling at the person in front of her for talking on her cell phone in Spanish. “This is America. Speak American!” I feel like the Rider was connected somehow, because after she finished, it just sat back, looking really satisfied. I don’t understand why it was so happy, but it didn’t make another sound the whole time after. The Rider on the Spanish speaking person’s shoulder was whispering furiously in her ear, but she never said anything.

Oh man, I almost forgot! The smallest Rider I’ve ever seen was in a picture of a bunch of monks in Tibet. It might have been the Dalai Lama or whatever his name is. Get this: The Rider on his shoulder looked so starved and emaciated it seemed like a tiny puff of wind might blow him away! I’ve never seen one looking that bad. Sure, some Riders are small, but this one looked like if he turned sideways he would straight up vanish.

Everyone else I’ve ever seen or met has a Rider on their shoulder, and I often wonder if I have one on mine. Sometimes, when I’m driving, my right shoulder feels heavier and I think I see a leathery face at the edge of my vision. It’s probably just my imagination though. How could I see everyone else’s Rider and not my own?

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