The new and as yet unopened interstate was an broad, empty band of fresh pavement that reared up from around a gentle bend and disappeared around another, heading north and south. We followed the freshly-painted lane lines on the family Schwinns, with me buckled into in my child seat on the back of my mother’s bike and my sister marking an invisible wavy line in a continuous slalom through the dashed lines.
“He’s at it again, Cleve,” my mother said, and my father turned back, slowing down just enough to sidle up and reach over to make sure I was still properly strapped in. Their bikes were a matched pair of metallic blue Deluxe Varsity Tourist models with chromed fenders and bulbous headlamps powered by bottle-shaped generators that tipped into the tires a little electricity, and they gleamed in the sun, aromatic with the scent of metal polish and oil.
“I don’t think he can reach, hon,” he said.
“He’s sure trying, though,” she said, and they chuckled at the sight of me hanging off the back of my Mom’s bike, struggling to do myself an injury. I just looked up, furrowing my brow and glaring at my dad, then went back to that irresistible task of self-mutilation.
We breezed southward in close formation, crossing over where the abandoned track of the old Scaggsville Road was cut off by the new pavement, and went as far as the dam before heading for home with the setting sun warm on our backs. The road was raw and perfect, still almost untouched, an empty place that would soon be roaring with traffic.
In the golden light, I grunted and writhed, struggling furiously against the straps on my seat, trying as hard as I could to jam my feet into the spokes.
One day I’ll do it.
I’ll do it.
©2006 Joe Belknap Wall