I had never seen anything like it. It was shiny, red, and it had ten speeds. I was sure it was the most beautiful bike in the world. I looked at my ugly orange, girl’s, one-speed bike, a hand-me-down from the stone age, and suddenly I felt very envious. It wasn’t that my bike didn’t work well; it did. In fact, it was so sturdy it wouldn’t break down in a head-on collision with a train, because it was built like a Humvee and weighed twice as much. But this new bike was light and fast.
We boys all gathered around to stare at it. It belonged to our new neighbor, “Rod”, who had just moved into the area. “Wow! That’s a beauty!” Lenny said, running his hand along the sleek steel.
“Where did you get it?” Butch asked.
“A K-Mart in Salt Lake City,” Rod answered.
“What’s a K-Mart?” Buster queried.
“It’s bigger than any store you have around here,” Rod replied. “In fact you could probably fit ten stores the size of the grocery store inside of it.”
The grocery store was the biggest store in the area and by the look on some of the other boys’ faces, I could tell they didn’t believe Rod any more than I did. Surely no store could be that big. We hadn’t known Rod long, but we had already become suspicious that he exaggerated, especially when it came to stories about his life in the big city.
We all wanted to ask the big question, but no one dared. We all wanted to ride it, but we felt lucky just to be able to touch it and get close to it.
Rod showed us how it changed gears. He even turned it upside down and we watched as the gears slid onto smaller and smaller sprockets and the wheel turned faster and faster. We shook our heads in disbelief. None of us had ever seen a bike with more than one gear. Heck, none of us had ever seen a bike that wasn’t held together with baling twine, wire, and duct tape. This was truly a marvel of engineering.
Next, Rod had to show us how it worked. He rode it up the road a short distance and then came whizzing by.
“Wow!” Buster said. “It can really fly.”
Flying made us consider one other thing. We had developed a dirt ramp in Lenny’s barnyard that we liked to ride our bikes up and jump, coming down hard on the other side, and immediately sliding to a stop a safe distance from the barn. We rode to Lenny’s house and each of us took our bikes and made the jump. We all watched Rod to see what he would do. He rode away about 50 yards, turned, and flew down the road toward us. He sailed off of the jump, air born for much longer than any of us, and then slid to a stop in a shorter distance. We all whistled our admiration.
The other boys kept nudging me, so finally I asked. “Can I give it a try?”
Rod was new there and he paused, his reluctance apparent, but he didn’t want to give up the chance to make new friends. He hesitantly handed it over. To the other boys’ cheering I went down the road about a hundred yards, turned, and headed at full speed toward the ramp. I had never felt such speed and power. As I launched into the air, I felt as if I truly was flying, and I sailed farther even then Rod had. When I landed, I started pedaling backward to bring myself to a stop, but nothing happened.
The barn was approaching fast and fear choked the scream in my throat. I heard Rod yell “Squeeze the handbrake! Squeeze the handbrake!” just seconds before impact.
Rod came over and grabbed his bike, which was snapped in the middle, and yelled at me. “Haven’t you ever heard of handbrakes before, you Moron! You ruined my bike!”
I thought, “Who cares about your stupid bike. What about my head?”
And that’s the story of how Rod ended up with a bike that looked like the bikes the rest of us had – held together with bailing twine, wire, and duct tape.
Daris Howard, award-winning, syndicated columnist, playwright, and author, can be contacted at da***@da*********.com“; or visit his website.