The Red Bike

by Dennis Nurkse

Dennis Nurkse

A dusty Schwinn exactly my size was leaning against a tall scraggly pine. ‘That’s no one’s, left for anyone. Can I have it?’ I said. What a mistake to ask. ‘It belongs to another child,’ my father said.

All that summer we walked hand in hand down that road that smells of moss, dead sunlight, cinnamon, mucilage, and old man’s sweat. Always the bike was still there. Always my father’s grip was too tight and I had to hop to keep from being dragged upward.

Once I just dug in my heels and pointed. ‘The pedals have shifted,’ my father suggested. He was lying. A father has the powers of observation of an acorn.

Then it was fall. He was gone. The bike was still there. I ride it now. Just as I imagined, it’s rusty. Even the bell makes a rusty sound in the bare woods. It takes my full weight to turn the wheel. Only the reflector truly works, shining with its own red light, but it’s behind me, so I can’t admire it. I’m stuck in low gear. If I try to back-pedal, the chain will slip, and no one will come running out of the pines, no one with his pliers, his wrench and can of WD 40, and kneel on the cold earth to fix it.

Last updated December 21, 2022