What lies below this paragraph is a piece of flash fiction that’s a part of a much larger story. However, it’s not as much a fiction as it is a remembrance. A remembrance of one of the most steadfast of childhood friends. I hope that these 400-ish words bring back memories of your own childhood adventures. Feel free to share this post directly, but please don’t copy and paste. This work is copyright protected.
By a stump
They stood, stabled in garages next to sedans and station wagons, or in tar paper sheds crammed between lawnmowers and rototillers. Some were propped against walls while others rested on their only leg, a bent metal appendage that was usually falling and dragging and catching on divots in the pavement at the most inopportune times. Lovingly cared for, they were regularly bathed and hosed to remove road dirt and grime. Care was given to keep their saddles polished to a high luster, accentuating metal-flaked vinyl as deep as nebulae and as brilliant as the sun. The bananas of the saddles were followed by rear racks and sometimes red pennants mounted atop long fiberglass rods.
The rubber treads were supple and always firm enough to bounce a quarter. Taut aluminum spokes could ping like harp strings when plucked. Proudly adorned with yellow, orange, red, and white reflectors, the wheels flashed like upended flying saucers when spun on a rack. Oiled chains waited to be silently spun by the piston-legs of boys, pumping in stealth mode to hide their approach to enemy boy forts or to bombard sunbathing sisters with water balloon grenades.
Some of these steeds, however, lay neglected on top of uncut lawns, sprockets rusting overnight and stickers spalling off of frames in late spring and early autumn. But even these steeds could give hints of their glorious potential as the morning dew returned the luster to sun-faded paint and beads of night sweat glistened on the steel teeth of shin gnashing metal pedals.
These steeds were the medieval chargers of fantastical knights and imaginary Mongol hoards. They were the rockets that propelled pre-pubescent astronauts to explore the newly discovered rings of Jupiter or the distant twilight world of then-planet Pluto. When bedecked with playing cards between the spokes, they were motorcycles and formula races. Sometimes, in town, they were giant convertible Cadillacs parading their riders like foreign dignitaries through the main square. Depending on brand, they were status symbols, but even the cheapest bicycle, or an older sister’s pink hand-me-down spray painted black bike was a passport to freedom that was required for every ten year old’s rite of passage. The size and speed of the bikes separated just boys from near-men. They would, eventually, be replaced by cars and dirt bikes and beat up pickup trucks, but for the foreseeable future, they were the silent supporting actors in every summer drama and comedy that would unfold. They were the James Gleasons and the Ernest Borgnines and the Claude Rains of Mike and Ralph and the other leading characters of this summer play. Theirs was a thankless but necessary role to complete the story of summer for each of these boys, but for some, the next ride would change their lives.