The Flying Bicycle (short story)
True Story by Lowell Lewis
"Whatcha doin'?" Mike asked, pointing at my special project with a messy Popsicle. He rubbed his mouth on his sleeve, leaving a red smear across his shoulder.
"Making a plane," I answered a little smugly.
"Oh," he said, then slurped loudly on his red, white and blue Popsicle.
I tried to ignore him as I tied a slipknot in the end of a long rope. I smirked when his Popsicle slipped off the stick and landed on one of his bare feet. he hopped around looking silly while licking his sticky fingers.
"I didn't want it anyway," he said, noticing my grin.
I laughed at him.
To prove his point, he stepped on the remains and squished them between his toes. I stopped building my airplane to admire his footwork. He rubbed his foot in the grass to clean the purplish goo off, then came over to watch me.
"It won't fly," he declared, eyeing my design.
"Will too," I glared at him.
"How will you turn it?" he asked smartly.
I really hadn't thought much about it, to tell the truth.
"All I have to do is lean over a little and it will turn," I answered.
"What if you lean over too far? he asked skeptically.
"What if you do?"
"I won't!" I pushed him back with my arm.
"Hey!" he yelled.
"Well, get back!" I said.
He glowered at me. "Your dumb plane won't fly."
I went back to work on my plane with him watching and making faces at me.
"I saw some hang gliders the other day when we went to Grandma's house," I told him, trying to smooth things over a little.
"It was cool. They would run down this little hill and the wind would just pick them up."
"Really?" he came closer and squatted down by me.
I nodded. "Yeah. Then they would turn in the wind to go higher and higher. "
We talked about flying some more. I could tell he was getting more interested in trying it out.
"You can be the co-pilot," I said, pointing at my work in progress, "if you'll help me build it."
He puffed out his cheeks, "I won't have to fly it will I?" he asked.
"No, silly, but you can help me get it in the air."
He looked relieved. He held my bicycle while I tied on the wings (a one by twelve about twelve feet long that I salvaged from my dad's lumber behind our house).
It took a while to get the wings centered and then I wrapped the rope around and around the handlebars. I tied my own special knot to hold the final few feet of rope in place.
I heard my mom calling me for supper so I made Mike promise to guard the plane and keep it a secret while I went to eat.
I hurried in and washed my hands, which consisted of running a little water on them and then scrubbing off the dirt on mom's towel. I sat down at the table and glanced around at the rest of my family. Mom was looking at me.
"Did you use soap?" she asked.
I looked at my hands.
"Go wash with soap."
I slid out of my chair.
"...and wash your face while you're in there," she called after me.
I flipped on the light in the bathroom (which I hadn't done the first time) and looked at my reflection. Okay, I was a little dirty. But the day was almost over--what else would you expect? I scrubbed my face until my sunburned cheeks showed through and then I carefully washed my hands and dried them on my pants--the towel was kind of muddy looking. I turned out the light and scurried back to the table. My family had already prayed over the food and they were all eating. I tried not to attract any attention as I slipped back into my chair and reached for a glass of lemonade.
"Mom! He stinks!" My sister wrinkled her nose and looked at me with disdain. So much for not attracting any attention.
"He's been outside all day," mom said. She looked at me, "after you eat, you need to take a bath."
I nodded. "I need to put my bike up."
"Okay," she agreed.
I plopped a big mound of mashed potatoes on my plate and poured a bunch of white gravy over them. Mom put a fried chicken leg on my plate and refilled my lemonade. I put a little too much black pepper on my food so I had to take my fork and mix it all up.
"Quit playing with your food," my sister fussed at me.
Nobody else was looking, so I opened my mouth and showed her a mouthful of potatoes and gravy.
Mom pinched my leg pretty hard. Okay, I forgot to tell you that she has eyes in the back of her head.
I ate most of my food and drank about four glasses of lemonade before asking to be excused.
I went back outside and ran back to my plane. Mike was just coming out from eating. We tried to outdo each other's description of what we'd had for supper. I kinda felt sorry for him because I don't think his mom really could cook very well. Mike seemed to eat a lot of sandwiches and pizza.
We pushed the plane out close to the road.
"What if it gets dark while you are up there?" Mike asked, looking at the position of the sun.
"Do you have a flashlight?" I asked.
"There's one in grandma's cellar," he said. He and his mom lived with his grandma, who was my neighbor.
We opened up the cellar door and went down the creaky wooden steps. I felt a spider web tickle my face and paused.
"You get the flashlight--I'll make sure the door doesn't shut us in," I told him bravely.
Mike looked as scared as I felt, but he continued on into the darkness. A minute later I jumped when he blinded me with the beam of a very bright flashlight. I banged my head on the door frame and rubbed at it sourly as he came closer.
"That wasn't funny," I sulked.
He laughed. "It was to me. You looked like you'd seen a ghost."
I snatched the light from him and stomped back up the steps.
It took a few minutes to figure out how to get the light tied on the top of the wings.
We eased the plane onto the road and I got on. The wings really made it hard to balance--and turning the handlebars was almost impossible.
The plan was for me to pedal real fast and get up a lot of speed going down the road. About a block from my house, the road curved sharply to the left. Straight ahead was a big hill that dropped off from the road. I would simply ride straight off of the hill, the wind would pick me up and I would fly. All day this had been an exciting proposition. I had daydreamed about buzzing over the neighbor's with them watching me in amazement as I loop-d-looped overhead. I might even get a patent on my idea and make some money--who knows? ...if I really cared to share the idea with others, that is.
My first realization that it might not work was about the time I reached top speed--of course, by now it is too late to change anything. I couldn't stop in time to miss the curve anyway, so I just pedaled faster. I prepared for lift off as my front tire left the pavement.
The next few seconds are hard to describe. Everything happened in sort of a blur. I felt a crashing dismay that it wasn't going to work. I felt the bumpy terrain under my tires. I heard the swish of the grass. And then I remembered the chain link fence at the bottom of the hill.
My last tought before I crashed into the fence was that the flashlight probably would get broke and I would be in trouble. Oddly enough, when the bike smashed into the fence, I sailed right over it. For a brief second, I thought the bike had started to fly after all, then I realized it wasn't with me. The wind whistled past my ears and then I landed.
It took a few seconds for me to get my breath back. I gulped back tears as I felt the pain come scorching through me. Mike slid his bike down the hill and ran to the fence.
"Are you okay?" he yelled.
I lay still--partly because I was hurting too bad to move much, and partly because I was horribly embarrassed--but mostly because I wanted him to think I was dead so he wouldn't make fun of me.
He rattled the fence. "Are you okay?" he yelled louder. I could tell he was starting to cry.
I sat up. "BOO!" I yelled though my tears.
I scared him so bad that he fell down!
I tried to get up but couldn't, so I just stayed there and laughed and cried at the same time unti I recovered enough to climb back over the fence. The flashlight survived the tumble...my bike required a little help...and I got in trouble for staying out after dark.
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