On Our Bikes

We only had two bikes between the five of us.
Mine was a very grand drop handle barred affair
given by our next door neighbours’ daughter
when she finally left home.
Roger’s was an old ‘sit up and beg’ with a bit of rust
and brakes that (unknown to his mother) did not work.
Our parents supported us on our faltering two wheels,
first in our back yards, then in the street,
where we taught the rest.

Then we were off! 
On the road!
Brakes or no brakes,
it wasn’t a problem!
Just made the hills
more or less exciting
and there was little traffic.

All the roads on our estate were allowed,
only the bottom road,
the main road bordering the countryside, 
was forbidden and we obeyed.
We didn’t ride there.

Then a catastrophe struck.
It was a perfect storm.

The combination of the steep hill, 
the junction with the bottom road,
the bike with no brakes, 
traveling unavoidably, at full speed, 
and a car passing along the bottom road
at that precise moment,
all came together.

It was a catastrophe that took Roger straight 
into the side of the car and over the top.
The bike was almost undamaged,
but Roger was tearful.
He wasn’t hurt,
just fearful 
of his mother,
as the driver insisted on 
taking him home and would 
listen to no argument against this.

After shouting a lot,
his mother took an axe
and chopped up the bike
until bent and broken enough
to satisfy her, then
she put the pieces 
into the big dustbin.
She saw us watching.
“Don’t you amalgamate round here”, 
she shouted, shooing with her arms.
It was her favourite expression 
and usually made us laugh, 
behind her back, 
but not now,
with this tragedy.

We had only one bike
between the five of us.

First published in Silver Birch Press, May 2016



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