Nine-year-old Kirby Nichols takes on a bike ramp against his father's better judgment in Max Detrano's flash fiction piece.
My wife, Margie, wrapped his arm in a towel full of ice, put frozen peas on his right eye; all the while Nikki, in shorts and a skimpy shirt, skipped around the island in the middle of our kitchen. After a while, Nikki tired of this drama and ran out our back door.
Once Nikki was gone, Kirby said he was fine and insisted on going back outside. Margie wanted him to take the pack of ice, but Kirby would have no part of it. The screen door slammed behind him.
The two kids got on their bicycles and rode in figure eights inside that cul-de-sac. Daley Scuggins, Nikki's Dad, dragged a piece of plywood and two cinderblocks out of his garage to set up a ramp.
Scuggins yelled at Nikki to "put the pedal to the metal." Nikki began riding wide laps, faster and faster, around that plywood.
I was hoping Nikki's mother would come out and put a stop to this, but she did not appear.
Scuggins cupped his hands around his lips and shouted, "Go around one more time."
Nikki sped around that cul-de-sac like it was a raceway.
"Once more and then take the leap. Evil Knievel Scuggins."
Nikki peddled faster and faster. The spokes of her pink Huffy became a blur. The yellow knobby tires crunched on the asphalt. Her handlebar streamers beat in the wind. She was a nine-year-old girl about to fly.
I saw Nikki's eyes narrow as she leaned her bike toward the ramp. She straightened the front wheel. The tire thumped onto the plywood. The weight of the bike strained the board into a u-shape. It looked like it might snap. Then, her front wheel left the ramp. The plywood sprung back and lifted her into the air. She stood up on the pedals. For a moment she seemed to hang there - airborne.
The yellow knobby-tires came down hard on the pavement and bounced. Nikki sped away and made a circle around the cul-de-sac.
"Your turn, Kirby," Scuggins yelled.
I waved for Kirby to ride his bike over to me.
"What's your problem, Nichols? My little girl done it."
"She got lucky."
"He'll grow up a wuss," said Scuggins. I heard him whisper, "Like you."
" Look at him. He's all bit up. He can barely see out of that eye."
"Oh, a baby could do it."
I pulled Kirby to my side and held him there. His arm was swollen between his elbow and his wrist. His right eye was closed.
Nikki rode away like it didn't matter.
"Dad, I want to do it."
"You don't have to prove anything, Kirby."
"I want to do it, Dad."
Kirby got on his bike, an old Schwinn with balding tires, and circled the cul-de-sac.
"Go around again, faster," yelled Scuggins.
Nikki, on her pink Huffy, rode in the opposite direction waving at Kirby. Kirby waved back.
"Take her on the next round," said Scuggins.
Kirby sped one more time around the cul-de-sac. Nikki rode past him, waving. Kirby turned too soon. His front wheel pointed to the corner of the ramp.
He tried to correct his error. He tugged his handlebar left, still hoping to fly straight. I saw he was going to land sideways on that turned wheel and maybe go head over heels.
I ran toward the center of the cul-de-sac, screaming his name.
The bicycle became airborne. Kirby stood up on the pedals. He turned the handlebar right, then left, then right again, trying to get control. The Schwinn wobbled violently as it hit the pavement and bounced. Kirby's knees buckled. The front wheel twisted back toward him. Kirby straightened his legs. He wrestled with the handlebars but they seemed determined to jackknife. Kirby hit both brakes and spun the rear end of the bike out in a wide arc. Somehow he managed to get his foot out from under the Schwinn before it was crushed. The foot pedal scraped the pavement as the bike slid sideways and came to a halt. Kirby stood up and walked away leaving the Schwinn on its side in the middle of the street.
Nikki rode her Huffy around and around laughing. Scuggins had disappeared inside his garage.