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SUMMER

April 3, 2012

I want a bicycle.  Not one of the fragile-looking, skinny-tired, multi-speed

things bristling with cables and chrome — parents give kids bikes like that

to intimidate them.  Who could leave such a bike leaning against a tree

while he collected caterpillars and walking sticks?  Who would lay one down

in the damp grass while marveling at summer clouds?

 

The bike should be a used Schwinn with fat, balding tires and Bendix brakes

to disassemble and fuss over.  At least the front, or preferably, both

fenders should be removed (“for cleaning, Ma”) and not replaced.  The chain

guard would rattle, of course, so it would have to be removed as well.

 

Such a bike should be ridden with the pant leg rolled carefully high on the

calf.  None-the-less, such a bike should occasionally dine on the cuff on

your jeans.  It should be brown and have just enough rust for proper

character, but not enough so that an afternoon with wax pilfered from Dad

would not make it a pride.

 

The bike should receive a gift of fancy plastic grips with streamers in

rainbow colors — the only gesture of immodesty allowed.  It would have to

be tolerant of being, at times, a motorcycle with a chunk of cardboard

affixed to the fork with a clothespin and thrust into the spokes.  At other

times it must variously be a fighter plane or the wind itself.

 

And alongside the bike should always be another with a similarly cultured

character and versatility.  And either on or near it should be a boy near

my age who calls the same man “Dad”, and understands the tactical air strike

uses of stripped Schwinns — and what it is about a brodie that makes it

worth a month’s allowance for a new back tire each summer.  He should have a

shared understanding of the glories and pains of being our age, and be able

to appreciate the finer points of garter snake grabbing and fire fly

catching.  He should be thoroughly conversant in `kid’.

 

He would be able to engage in a mutual facade of bravery and calm on the way

home from Saturday night movies when giant crickets come out and lurk in the

shadows.  We would always share the richness of eternal summers on immortal

Schwinns.

 

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