Dino and Cary closed the screened-in summer porch’s deep freeze. Each boy giggled while sneaking back into the house with several Schwan’s frozen cookie dough patties in their hands. Cary looked around, saw no one, then led Dino through the hall that led straight to the garage.
As soon as Cary opened the door, both boys dropped their cookies.
There, in the middle of the garage, stood Mick’s black and gold Huffy bicycle with the garage door wide open and the family cars parked in the driveway. The bike faced outward, toward the street, eager to rocket through the small town.
The boys froze. They looked around them, behind them, even above them. They didn’t see Mick anywhere. Cary and Mick’s dad always made them park their bikes along the wall so that the cars would have plenty of room. It didn’t make any sense—both of Cary’s parents were home. Why were the cars in the driveway? Furthermore, Mick’s bike had no business sitting there, dead center, primed and ready, begging to be noticed.
It had to be a trick.
Cary didn’t bother to pick up his frozen cookies as he descended three steps into the garage. A slight breeze whistled though the garage’s only window, slightly opened, as he approached Mick’s bike.
It was beautiful. The rims and handlebars were golden and caught every bit of sunlight that shined its way in. The hand grips, frame, and seat were black, the kind of black Old West gunslingers wore. There wasn’t a chip on it; Mick kept the paint pristine. The chain had been freshly oiled and smelled like action. As far as Cary knew, no one else in town had a black and gold Huffy—Mick alone wielded the prestige. Comparably speaking, Cary’s own blue and white BMX could only be described as inadequate.
But why was it sitting out in the open? Mick never left it unguarded. He normally chained it to his dad’s rolling tool cart in the front corner.
Cary lifted a leg in order to straddle the Huffy.
“Don’t,” Dino warned. “It’s a trap—you know it is.”
Looking over his shoulder at Dino, Cary whispered with a grin, “I don’t care.”
And with that, Cary hopped onto Mick’s Huffy, kicked up the stand, stood on the peddles, and then jettisoned down the driveway into the street.
“Follow me!” Cary screamed against the wind.
Dino ran to the yard, lifted his blue and yellow Raleigh up off the grass, then tore after Cary down North Street.
“You’re crazy!” Dino yelled. “Mick will kill you!”
“It’s worth it!” Cary hollered back.
Dino caught up to Cary and they raced side by side. The other neighborhood children stopped what they were doing and stared, dumbfounded. Though Mick was a well-liked, charismatic teenager, it was common knowledge that you were not to provoke him. Cary saw a young girl with a Popsicle in her mouth close her eyes and do the sign of the cross in his direction.
“Isn’t the seat too high for you?” Dino questioned.
“I’ve never felt more alive!” Cary roared in return.
They angled their bikes and swerved right onto Beard street. Both boys knew they would pay for this infraction, but at that moment the thrill proved too intoxicating. Whatever the future held for them, nothing would ever top the day they stole Mick’s Huffy.
“Pop a wheelie!” Dino squawked over the torrent of air flowing through their hair.
Cary had never successfully popped a wheelie before, but he knew he was destined to do so on that July day. A blissful smile spread across his face. In perfect synchronization, he pushed with his legs, thrust back his chest, and yanked upwards with his hands as mightily as he could.
And for a brief instant, the front tire lifted off the pavement.
Cary bellowed, “Yes! Yes! Yes!”
But then the unthinkable occurred.
Cary bawled, “No! No! No!”
For as the tire rebelled against gravity and became airborne, the handlebars ripped loose—completely loose.
Though he still clutched the hand grips, Cary found himself effectively riding with no hands as it wobbled precariously from side to side.
“What happened?” Dino screeched.
“I don’t know!” Cary replied.
Then things grew even more dire for the boys because, seemingly all at once, the bike’s front tire disengaged, both peddles flung away, and the seat spun at a ninety-degree turn.
Somehow, Cary landed on his feet.
He stood among a heap of gears, parts, nuts, and bolts as he still held the handlebars aloft.
Dino skidded to a stop next to Cary. He uttered, “Oh, no …”
“I don’t believe this,” Cary mumbled. “Do you think Mick booby trapped his bike?”
“What?” Dino asked. “Are you crazy? That’s impossible!”
“Then how do you explain this?” Cary wailed.
“I don’t know, but you’re a dead man,” Dino groaned.
“Go get my dad,” Cary said. “I’ll start gathering everything up. Get my dad and tell him I’m in front of Christian Academy. Maybe he can help us take it home and put it back together before Mick finds out.”
“What if I bump into Mick?” Dino demanded with bulging eyes.
“Just do it!” Cary yelled.
“Oh, man, this is so nuts!” Dino shrieked before racing down the rest of Beard and turning right onto Sunset.
Cary sat at the edge of the road and waited five minutes. He noticed a grey cat leering at him from within a bush across the street, then waited another ten. When twenty minutes passed, he realized that his dad wasn’t coming. Either Dino lost his nerve and went home or Mick had gotten to him. Either way, there would be no help.
After staring up at the blue sky for several seconds, Cary took a deep breath, then collected all the small parts that he could find and stuffed them into his front pockets. Each peddle went into a back pocket before he hoisted up the bike frame and slid his right arm through it until it rested on his shoulder. The handlebars were wedged under his left arm and he took a tire in each hand. He searched the pavement one last time with eyes darting erratically. No piece could be left behind—partly because he feared his brother, but also because one didn’t abandon even a bolt of the black and gold Huffy. It was a treasure, a paragon of bicycles, and it had to be treated as such.
Then began the long walk.
It wasn’t that far of a trek back to his house, but it felt interminable. Cary had no idea how he would explain the situation to his parents, and he was even less certain about how he would survive Mick’s guaranteed rage. He only knew he would put the Huffy back together again. No matter how long it took, no matter how hard it proved to be, he would right this awful wrong. The Huffy had asked for none of this—its days would not end as a heap of parts on Beard Street.
When Cary finally reached the opening of the garage, he fell to his knees in exhaustion and carefully allowed each part to rest upon the cold concrete floor. Evening approached and the crickets reproached.
The door then opened, and, while stepping over the thawed cookies, Mick walked out.
The older brother stepped down, and once he reached the bottom Cary saw that Dino trailed. They both stood a few feet from Cary and simply stared at the grease-stained, weary boy.
“Wha—I don’t understand,” Cary stammered.
“I had to be sure,” Mick said.
“Sorry, dude,” Dino added.
“Sure?” Cary repeated. “Sure about what?”
Mick crouched down with clasped hands before his younger brother. He said, “I turn thirteen next week.”
“Yeah? So?” Cary replied. He felt himself devolving into hysteria. It was all too much for him.
“Mom and Dad said I could pick out a new bike. I’m getting too big for the Huffy—I’ve had it since I was your age.”
Cary studied the Huffy’s parts surrounding him. A realization dawned.
“You did this,” Cary seethed. “You didn’t want anyone else to have it …”
“Whoa,” Dino warned, “you’re way off, man. Let Mick explain.”
Mick stood, put his hands behind his back, and paced the garage. He said, “It’s true—I set you up. I rigged the bike to fall apart. I knew you would take it for a joyride—who wouldn’t? I had to know …”
“Know what?” Cary whooped.
“If you’re worthy,” Mick answered.
“Worthy?” Cary repeated.
“If you left the bike, if you came running home like nothing happened, if you never admitted to what you did … then I would know you didn’t deserve it. But if you scooped it up, carried it with you, refused to leave it behind … That was the test.”
“And you passed, dude!” Dino proclaimed.
Narrowing his eyes at Dino, Cary growled, “You were a part of this?”
Mick interjected by saying, “The Huffy is yours, little brother.”
Cary took in the mess encircling him, then looked at Mick with his eyebrows lifted.
“Relax,” Mick said. “We’ll help you put it back together.”
Dino giggled, “This was so awesome.” Then, to Cary, he asked, “You’ll let me ride it, right?”
Copyright © 2020 by Scott William Foley
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
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