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