There’s this kid. I don’t know how old he is—old enough to be out when the rest of the world is just waking up. I saw him from my car, which I am now living in—long story for another time. Suffice it to say life is a shit sandwich and I took a big bite. Anyway, there’s this kid. He’s maybe twelve, pudgy, hasn’t hit that growth spurt when boys suddenly shoot up taller and hairier. He’s got a bike. It’s an OK bike. What am I saying? It’s a great bike—red, not a mark on it, thick off-road tires. It’s better than any bike I ever had. When my dad came around, which wasn’t often, he’d say, “Sonny, I got you a new bike.” He’d make a big production out of it. “Ta da!”
I’d look the bike over. “Dad, this bike isn’t new.”
He’d laugh and say, “It’s new to you, kid.”
That worked about twice. Those bikes he brought, piece of shit bikes—scuffed up, broken chain, flat tires. They weren’t new from the store. They were hand-me-downs from some drinking buddy. I couldn’t tell if Dad won the bet or lost the bet. But that wasn’t the worst of it. At least I had a bike for a little while, but if I didn’t keep it locked up, Dad was just as apt to sell it for money for booze.
So anyway, there’s this kid on a bike out early one morning. I see him and I think, what’s he up to? Maybe he’s got a job, not some sissy paper route, but something that a man might get to bring in a little cash—enough cash to put food in his belly a couple times a week or pay for milk at school. Lots of kids help out their moms like that. Even if I didn’t make enough to keep the lights on always, I made enough to pay on the grocery bill at Widmer’s Market so they didn’t cut off Mom’s credit all together.
So, maybe this kid is doing the same you know, working for somebody. But then I see him and he’s looking down the block and there’s this girl coming towards him. She’s all pretending like she isn’t watching him watching her, but she is. She’s got her hands in her jean pockets and her flat, brown belly shows under the hem of her short top. Her hair is combed and clean and I bet it smells like some kind of flower. When she gets close to him, they like kiss quick and then they kiss long.
And I’m thinking, holy shit. This kid is a player. He already has a beautiful girl who kisses him. His first time will be with this beautiful young thing not some twenty dollar whore who’s doing his drunk father a favor. This kid’s dad didn’t make him drink too much and then insist he go upstairs with Lila who was as old as the boy’s grandmother. Lila was nice and kind even when the boy came in his underwear in like two seconds and then vomited on the bedcovers.
So, this kid and this girl kiss for a while and then she says, “See you later.” She walks away and I’m thinking, sure he’ll see her later for a while and then he’ll get her pregnant and he’ll panic and she’ll threaten to get an abortion because he didn’t act all excited like she was birthing the Christ child or something. Or, maybe, they’ll pretend they are both happy about it, move in together. Maybe, they’ll even get married. Maybe he’ll ask his mom if they can move in with her for a while until he saves some money for a place, but his mom says, “no.” She says she already raised one mistake and she wasn’t about to give the next part of her life raising another.
His dad, maybe he’s excited at first thinking about being a grandfather and his son being a man who could father children, but the thrill wears off. His pop predicts tragedy and he’ll be right. The boy who is born is some idiot child who smiles all the time, but can’t learn anything beyond toileting and even that isn’t a consistent accomplishment for him. So now this kid and the girl hate each other and he drinks too much, loses his job, ends up on the street and she won’t let him see his son and he doesn’t know that he wants to see his son on account of how bad he feels that the kid’s not normal. He hopes that one day he can buy the kid a new bike.
So, I’m looking at this young kid on the bike. His girlfriend is gone. He’s going off to work or something and I’m thinking, what a schmuck, this kid ain’t got a chance.
Nancy Hedin has an MFA from Hamline University. She writes poetry, fiction and nonfiction in St. Paul, MN. She has four completed novels being rejected by some of the finest presses in America. She is thankful her agent deals with that rejection with her.