Just A Little Bike

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Winner of the 2003 Erma Bombeck Award.

The other day I dropped off my son’s little bike at the church rummage sale.

This is the little bike with special knurled steel pegs sticking out of the front axle, pegs my son could stand on so he could, for reasons obvious only to him, bounce and pirouette the bike on its front wheel.

This is the little bike that had no kickstand, and no fenders, and no trim of any kind, because these things would add weight, and weight is to be avoided at all costs when the whole idea of a little bike is to defy the laws of physics.

This is the little bike with a knobby back tire so my son could get good traction on the dirt path in the woods leading up to the ramp made of mud, gravel, and a school cafeteria tray, a ramp which would launch him in a soaring arc across the four foot wide Creek of Doom.

This is the bike with the really neat graphic of a raptor on the frame; I can still see its reflection in my son’s eyes the first time he saw the bike. Now there are bits of raptor missing, matching up with various "road rash" scars on my son’s body, places where some paint and some skin were lost each time the bike and the boy just missed clearing that creek.

This is the little bike that was my son’s steed every day, until the day he got his driver’s license. On that day he left behind that world where you fly over creeks, and you duck under branches, and you pedal until your skin gets so hot it glows.

This is the little bike that sat in the shed under the deck for four years, transformed overnight from the center of my son’s universe into a mobile hanger for the extension cord. It’s chain got rusty. It’s tires went flat. The raptor gradually disappeared under a coat of dust.

This is the little bike I dragged out of the shed, and wiped off the dust, and pumped up the tires, and oiled the chain, and took to the church. There was nobody around to hear me say good-by to it or to see the tears in my eyes when I dropped it off.

Today at the rummage sale I saw a young father listening patiently as his ten-year-old son explained the knurled pegs on the front axle, and the knobby back tire, and the really neat graphic of a raptor on the frame, and why there was no kickstand, and all the other reasons my son’s little bike should go home with them.

And now it’s his son’s little bike.

Copyright © 2003, Michael Ball