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You Pedal, I'll Steer (part 12)

Just when things were tight while Alec and John were trying to talk Dad into letting them go to the bike race, a firecracker went off on the 3rd floor. It was one of Alec's, planted in Eric's cigarette! There was no time to waste...

There was barely time to snatch a breath before Eric was pounding down the stairs headed our way. Alec panicked. Instead of going for the tunnels like we practiced, he tried to make the stairs. Eric was right there. So he ran straight down the hall to the back of the house. The floors shook with tromping feet, yelling voices, and Gulliver snapping at their heels. I ducked into Kate’s room and we watched them run the circuit from our parent’s bedroom, down the hall, through Mom’s sewing room, and back through the bedroom. Alec better do something. Eric was catching up!
“The tunnels!” I yelled out.
 Dad’s voice boomed up the stairs. “What in blazes is going on up there!”
 Eric paused. It gave Alec the split second he needed.
“The tunnel!” I yelled again.
In a wild panic he skated past us and dived face first like a ferret down a hole. Eric followed him in and barely missed grabbing Alec’s foot. The plan was working beautifully.
Eric’s eyes darted around the room figuring his next move. Come on, I thought, go after him.
But instead of crawling in, he jerked the mattress and bed springs right off the frame. They flew across the room. There was Alec pressed against the wall, crawling along on all fours like a soldier in a shallow trench trying to avoid enemy fire. He was concentrating so hard it took him a second to notice that his roof got blown off.
The bed hit the dresser and the whole place exploded in a crash of smashing furniture. Eric lifted Alec into the air by his shirt. A look of amazement flash across Alec’s face like he couldn’t believe he didn’t think of this.
He tried to laugh. “Hey! Let go! It was only a joke!”
POW! Eric’s fist bopped him on the nose and it started to bleed. Alec screamed while Eric asked how funny it was now.
I couldn’t look. I retreated back into Kate’s room and sat on the bed with her. We both felt sick. Jeff watched the action from the doorway.
“I wish they wouldn’t fight all the time,” she grumbled. “Why can’t they just be nice to each other?”
“At least this time it isn’t me,” Jeff said. He and Eric got rough, too. One time they tumbled down the stairs and broke the banisters.
Finally, Dad was on the scene. Eric and Alec yelled and screamed and complained. Dad said for both of them to shut up. He sent Eric away and told Alec to clean up the mess.
Eric stomped off and slammed the front door on his way out. All was quiet. I took a peek. Alec was sitting on the floor with his head back and his eyes closed. The room was a disaster zone. It looked like a bomb went off under the bed and blew the mattress right off. The bedsprings were teetering against the frame with the mattress underneath.
“How did it go?” I asked in a whisper.
He gave me a dirty look. “Next time, I’ll wire the springs onto the bed,” he said.
Dad came back in with a wet washcloth and started to wipe the running blood from Alec’s face. Without the blood, it didn’t look too bad.
“What is it with you two?” Dad asked. He sounded much calmer. “As far as I can see, there’s no reason for you and Eric to fight.”
“He didn’t have to hit me,” Alec whined. “All I did was--”
“I heard what you did and it sounds like you deserved it.” Dad wiped hard enough to make Alec wince. “Firecrackers in cigarettes are dangerous. You should know better. Now clean up this mess and the two of you get into bed. No more nonsense tonight.”
The springs were really heavy and hard to get back in place. Eric was super strong. I put the sheets and blankets back on while I wondered if Alec would admit that there were other firecrackers or take a beating for every one that exploded in Eric’s face. When we were all done I asked him if it hurt much. He flashed a mouthful of braces smile under a bright purple nose with Kleenex sticking out of it and said, “I wish I could have seen it go off.”
That answered my question.
“It’s not fair,” he said. “We can’t go to the race this weekend, and Eric gets away with smashing my face. Nobody cares. It would serve everyone right if we just ran away.”
“Wouldn’t it be great to just get on the bike and ride off for keeps? That would teach them all right. They’d miss us but it would be too late.” He sounded half serious.
“Where would we go?”
“William’s, of course,” he replied like I should have known. “We could ride out the County and live with him.”
I lay in the dark thinking about that. I didn’t want to run away. William’s parents made me nervous. I was thinking maybe we should forget the whole thing. Maybe it would be better if we just did what Dad wanted.
Out of the dark, I heard Alec mutter through his stuffed up nose, “I wonder if Eric will still talk to Dad for us?”