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12.17.2011

You Pedal, I'll Steer. Chapter 4 (part 5)

After Alec and John decided to secretly enter a bike race, by first teaching John to ride, they needed to find a bike to teach him on. So after supper, the boys headed across the street to their friend Chris to see if he could help them out...

CHAPTER 4

Chris wanted a quarter per week to borrow his bike. Alec talked him down to fifteen cents which was still a lot but we agreed. The next morning Alec rode it on his route and told me to meet him at the bottom of Fernwood when I was done mine. He must have told me a thousand times not to go off on a Fantam adventure. 
“I promise I won’t,” I said. But I did want to spend a couple of minutes to find out what happened on the desert island after the plane crash with my class. They were still salvaging the wreckage for tools and supplies. Once we got all the seats out, the empty plane made a good shelter. I all my papers done just as John Johnston’s creeps nearly drowned trying to leave the island on a homemade raft. Alec rode up and I left them there.
“I wish I could do my route on a bike all the time,” Alec said. “It sure speeds things up.” He got off and patted the seat. “Hop on. We don’t have a lot of time.”
It was a chilly morning, barely light, and the wooden boardwalk looked hard and splintery. Even the sand looked cold and stony. This was going to hurt. It felt like my guts were going to spill out all over the place. Alec straddled the front wheel to hold the bars and waited for me to climb on. At that moment, I’d rather have gone to summer school or eat liver every night to get out of this but I couldn’t back out. I pinched my lips tight and climbed up on the death rocket. 
“I won’t let go,” he promised.
And he didn’t. All we did that morning was learn how to balance. Alec stayed alongside when I went a bit faster always keeping his hand on the back of the seat or my shoulders the whole time. It was exciting rolling along that high, steering like a shaky old lady, and cranking the pedals. It made me feel like I had super powers.
A couple of hours of school that morning sucked away all that good feeling right and made me mad and lonely. Johnson and his pigs chased me all over the school yard and threatened to break my neck for no reason and my stupid teacher laughed at me. By the time the bell rang, I felt like a squeezed out mop. I followed Debbie and her friends along Pine Street towards home listening to them laugh with each other and tell loud secrets and I wondered if she would bring a pet to the show. I watched them continue down the hill after I stopped in front of my house then I went straight in the side door and down to the cellar.
Alec was already swapping parts from bike to bike. “How’d it go today?” he asked.
“I don’t hate them,” I said. They made me feel dirty inside, like just being me was a bad thing. Kate had the same problem with her lip but we never talked about it with each other. Some days she’d come home crying or so mad she’d yell and scream at everyone. I knew just what she was going through. I watched kids in her grade tease her so bad it made me cringe but I couldn’t help her any more than she could help me. “Am I really a freak?”
The look on my brother’s face said he wished he could make it all go away and that made me feel heaps better right away. “They’re just stupid. Hand me that vice grip and let’s pull this sprocket off.”
Neither of us had a clue about bikes so we made it up as we went along. There were four bikes all together. A big red one, a girl’s blue one, and two smaller broken ones. Lying around the floor were a few extra sprockets, spare wheels, rusty handlebars, and chains. On our first try, we attached two bike frames together by connecting them at the front wheel which was a real stupid idea. The second time we connected the front forks of one bike to the back wheel of another. That looked pretty good, like a long  tandem bike with three wheels.
“That’ll sail like crazy,” Alec said. “Let’s try it out.” 
We lugged it up the stairs and outside, but with me barely able to ride in the first place and it being hinged two places, it kept folding up like a lawn chair and we gave up. Kate and one of her friends sat on the steps and laughed at us when we fell off. By the time Mom called us upstairs for supper we were pretty discouraged.
“What are you boys building down there?” she asked.
“We’re just horsing around with the bikes,” Alec said. “Nothing serious.”
“They’re wrecking all the bikes,” Kate said.
“No we’re not. We’re just fixing them,” I said. “They were broken anyway.”
“You better leave mine alone,” she warned. “Otherwise, I’ll slug you one.”