Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Banana Seat and Skinned Knees

It's snowing like crazy outside and I feel antsy...so, I thought I'd post an excerpt from something I started and haven't had the gumption to continue. The setting is 1969. A grown man's recollection of a pivotal summer...a coming of age story...

I skid out of our driveway, carefully calculating the lean of my stingray bike with its brand new banana seat. It was truly impressive. Back in the ticky-tacky development where we lived, it was the coolest bike on the block. And the best feature was the caliper brakes. I installed them myself. Everyone knew me as the go-to bike man—okay, boy, but the fact was, I could take any piece-of-crap bike and give it a complete makeover. Paint job, included. Since there weren’t any real hills in our neighborhood, only a square grid of asphalt, I couldn’t wait to give it a spin on the inclines and declines of the dirt roads around the lake.
Taking a left turn onto the road, I peddled the easy slope downward. I think I’d probably grown too big for the bike which made the whole contraption top-heavy and sent me reeling side to side with each pedal thrust. Before the steep drop-off, I locked up the back brake, shooting a gravel fishtail behind as I ‘J’ skidded to a halt. To my best calculation, I had a quarter mile of gradual ascent until the road peaked-out in front of our camp. If I gained enough speed, I could get a little air as I headed into the hairpin curve beyond our driveway, and then down toward Whispering Narrows. Sure it was risky, but I had been imagining that moment of triumph for months, envisioning myself as Evel Knievel.
I’m sure it would have been just as I imagined, except as I breached the curve, (and I did indeed gain some air) then landed and righted myself, Doc’s Land Rover came out of nowhere. I hit both brakes, skidding into his front tire. It was more of a scrape than a collision, but it disabled my chain as I careened off to the side of the road. We both came to a halt.
His head lunged from the window as his voice thundered, “Jeeze, kid, you all right?”
I brushed gravel from my leg with one skinned hand, and gripped the handle bar with the other. I panted, “Yeah, I’m fine—no biggy.”
“You ought to take it easy on that curve, you know.” His bushy white brows furrowed as his fingers raked a shock of silver hair.
Awaiting his rebuke, I quickly replied, “Yes, sir, I’ll be more careful. I didn’t hurt your car, did I?”
He cocked his head and exhaled a chuckle. “I’d be more concerned with your bike, if I were you.”
I glanced at it and nudged the slack chain with my sneaker. “I think that’s the worst of it—I can fix it easy.”
“You sure?”
I didn’t know if I should read his squint as disbelief or approval.
“Oh yeah—” my voice pitched a curve. “I fix all sorts of stuff.”
“Is that right?”
“Yeah, bikes and all kinds of other mechanical crap—I mean, stuff, sir.”
“Mechanical, eh? Like what?”
“Lawn mowers,” I said, and then thought of something even more impressive. “And I fixed a clock that I bought at a yard sale—with gears, and everything.”
“A clock, did you?”
This time I detected a distinct glint of approval. “Yes sir.”
“You’re the lad from the camp on the crest, aren’t you.”
“Yes sir.”
“You have a name, don’t you?”
“Yes sir.” I tried to keep my face from cracking a too-eager smile. “I’m Benjamin Hughes.”
He extended his meaty hand from inside his truck and enveloped mine like a baseball mitt. I squeezed back with all I had; a tiny mouse in a steel trap.
One corner of his mouth curled. “That’s quite a grip you’ve got.”
My ears flashed hot, and I nodded my modest best.
“I’m Doc Burns.”
“Yes, sir,” I said, suddenly aware of how often I had uttered the word ‘sir’ in the past two minutes. “I know.”
He winked. “You come on by my house tomorrow morning. I’ve got an old clock that my brother-in-law gave me, years ago—never liked the thing. Piece of junk as far as I’m concerned. But if you can fix it, you can have it.”
I could feel my jaw drop, but nothing came out. I needed to reply with something clever—something memorable, something that didn’t include the word sir, but all I could come up with was, “Gosh, sir, I don’t know what to say, sir.”
“Don’t say a thing, just come by before noon, ‘cause I’ve got an appointment after that.”
Again, my ears flamed. “Yes sir.”
“Will that be okay with your parents?”
“Oh, yes, sir,” I lied.
“Okay, then. You sure you’re okay?”
Gravel still clung to my bloody knee. “Yeah—I get these all the time. Thank you sir.”
As he drove away, I knew that I had just met the most formidable man alive.


  1. Gosh, what a tease! I like what you have written. Please do continue! :)

  2. Craig, This is actually the 5th scene out of eight that I've written for this would-be novel, but it does set the tone. Not sure if I'm pulling off adolescent-boy-from-a-grown-man's-perspective, but I'm having fun trying...

    Thanks for the encouragement (as usual) :)

  3. The clock,,,I like this beginning,,,

  4. Glenn, don't tell anyone, but the clock part is true--based on my Todd's own experience. In fact, there are a lot of Todd bits interspersed throughout the story. Even Doc was a real person (though I do take literary liberties)...

  5. Wow, I really like this! A great start :)

  6. Thanks WritingNut! Now if I can muster up some unlike-me-for-the-month-of-February gumption, I'll get beyond 7694 words...

  7. Nice! You write "boy" very well. And we're burried in the snow here too.

  8. Thanks Susan. People who know me well say I'm much like an 11 year old boy in a zip-up-the-back, grown-up lady suit. I doubt it, though, 'cause if I were I'd be out playing in this snow, and I want NO part in that! :)