August 9, 2022

By Peter Berry

Frankie wiped the grease off an open end wrench before dropping it in the toolbox. He'd catch the dickens if his father found any of his tools dirty. With the tool box back in its proper place in the basement, he was ready to give his hodge-podge of a bicycle another try. Scrawny Ronnie was off on his mountain bike with the new kid from up the block. Both of them got new bikes and were now off on some big adventure. Frankie couldn't trust the old tires on his hunk of junk. Besides, the chain wouldn't stay on for more than a few blocks. Hopefully, with this latest adjustment, that problem was solved. Paulette waved as she pulled out of her driveway, and then headed down the hill. He couldn't even keep up with her! The sound of gears changing tormented him as she peddled away on her pink Barbie Doll bike. He was so embarrassed that he wanted to run back in the house and hide.  But he didn't. Instead, he grabbed the handlebars, tipped it on its wheels, threw a leg over the back of the banana seat covered with camouflage duct tape and headed up the hill. Huffing and puffing, Frankie tipped the rickety old bike to the left as that peddle went down, then to the right as that one went around, anything to get up some speed.

He stopped at the new kid's house on the corner. Not to throw stones or anything like that. No, Frankie didn't hate the kid. Okay, so he was a little jealous of him. After all, he did take his best friend away - at least for the afternoon. To be honest, it was that brand new bicycle with all those gears that Frankie was totally green over. If he had one too then he'd be with them right now!

That's when he got the idea to show them just how cool he was. The new kid had a skateboard jump in the side yard. He was going to do something with his bike they couldn't do. Jump over a trash can! And that's exactly what he did.

Later that afternoon, when Scrawny and the new kid finally got home, Frankie was setting up the fourth can. He had already cleared three without anyone watching. Now with an audience he was ready to try for four. He even fixed a pair of playing cards, one on either side of the back tire, with clothespins swiped from his mom's laundry basket, to make it sound like a motorcycle.

With the cans laying side by side, tucked right up to the edge of the ramp and Frankie straddling his cooler than cool bike, he waited for Ronnie to yell the all clear signal from the bottom of the hill. Frankie hopped into the air, both feet landing on the peddles at the same time. Rocking left and right, faster and faster, he picked up more and more speed with every mailbox that whizzed by. Scrawny and the new kid went silent when the front tire hit the ramp. Paulette raced up the hill, skidded to a stop, and screamed, but Frankie didn't hear any of that. By the time his rear tire left the ramp she had dropped her pretty pink bike and darted in his direction. The boys' mouths dropped open when they realized that Frankie's back wheel wasn't going to clear the fourth plastic trash can. The front tire crashed to the ground as the rear shot into the air. Thankfully, his feet were firmly planted on the peddles; the force from his legs having brought the back of the bike down to earth. The front tire popped into the air for a split second. Hitting the ground again it jammed into the side of the fork, sending Frankie over the handlebars. All three kids came sliding up to him in the grass.

Pretty sure that he was alright, Frankie smiled and said, "Now that was totally wicked!"

The new kid glanced at the mangled front tire then tried at a joke, "Betcha can't do that again?"

Paulette walked her bike home as Frankie lugged the front end of his. At least the back wheel was still turning, but the playing cards were silent, stuffed in his pocket along with the broken clothespins.

Wham! She slugged him in the arm, "Don't you ever scare me like that again!"

That night at the dinner table Frankie's father got him to confess why he pulled such as stupid stunt, showing off in front of his friends.

He was feeling a little better until his mom pointed out that he didn't have a bike at all now, much less a fancy mountain bike. That's when super dad came to the rescue. A deal was struck; if Frankie could come up with half the money for a new bike then his parents agreed to spring for the rest, but he was going to have to pay to fix the front tire on his old bike with his own mone. He headed into the kitchen with a smile on his face to do the dishes.

"HEY FRANCIS," his dad bellowed from the dining room, "At least you finally got that chain to stay on!"

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