Like Riding a Bike
Ready?” John asked.
“Are you ready?” Lara countered. “The house was bad enough.”
“Oh, good grief,” Darrin said, bending over to grab the rope handle on the garage door. “I’ll do it.”
He gave a big yank, and the rickety door surged up…to shoulder height. It stuck there, knocking down a rain of dust that obscured the garage contents for a moment longer.
Without speaking, the three siblings all stepped forward and put a hand under the door. Together they pushed it up, revealing…
“It was full when I left for college,” John said.
“No, we got more stuff in after that,” Lara said. “We stored a bunch of my stuff here when I enlisted.”
“We still used it after that,” Darrin said. “And they always kept a path clear back to the freezer.”
Their three heads craned in various directions, trying to see past the mounds of clutter. They knew the freezer was there: they could hear it humming, as it had throughout their entire childhoods. But reach it…
Lara shifted focus first, giving her hands a little clap. “Okay. The will named us all co-executors and asked us to sort out all possessions not specifically named and determine ‘an equitable distribution.'” She made air quotes.
“Like with Grandma’s stuff,” John answered.
“Oh yeah,” Darrin said. “I had half-forgotten about that…”
“You were pretty young,” John said.
Lara pushed them back to the task. “So, we need to go through this stuff and decide what’s fair.”
John’s brow furrowed. “I say we just hire a dumpster—hey!”
Darrin picked up their father’s baseball glove, which was easily 70 years old. “Are you sure?” He smirked.
John sighed and started pulling things out into the driveway. Darrin and Lara followed suit. As they did, piles emerged: trash, sell, Darrin, Lara, John, ‘?’.
“My bike!” Lara eventually said, after moving a pair of oars that fit nothing in the garage. “I wonder if it still works.”
She rolled it out. As she did, John’s bike fell sideways and lodged against a taxidermied badger none of them recognized. He pulled it out, his face displaying a look of nostalgic awe nearly identical to the one on his sister’s face.
By the time John got his bike loose from the piles, Lara had hers farther out on the driveway, near where it met with the alley. She was trying the hand brakes, turning the handles side-to-side, and pulling the front wheel up in a mock wheelie.
John focused on the tires, rolling them back and forth and squatting to squint at them. “These are completely flat,” he mused, “but I think they’re just old. I don’t see a hole.”
Lara stopped her testing and smiled at her brother. “Do you remember The Talk we got when we got these?”
John laughed. “Sure do. I don’t know about you, but my bike talk was longer than my sex talk.”
Lara nodded. “Mine too. Though the drawings were better.”
“Would this help?” Darrin asked. They both turned. He was holding a battered bike pump.
“I doubt it,” Lara said, but she was already walking toward their younger brother.
“What was The Talk?” he asked.
“You know,” John said. “The ‘money is tight, so you have to be responsible’ talk.”
“I got the ‘choose wisely, this is the only bike you’re ever going to get’ talk,” Lara said, from her ungainly squat on the driveway.
“That’s why,” she said, words coming between pumps, “the bike. I was riding. In high school. Still has these.”
She stopped pumping long enough to flip the plastic tassels dangling from her handles.
“And why I was still rocking this bitchin’ banana seat while applying to colleges,” John said. “Pump?”
Lara gave her rear tire one more blast, then handed it over. While John pumped, she asked Darrin if he had found his bike.
“Um…let me look again,” he said.
“Tires holding the air?” John asked. When Lara nodded, he awkwardly scissored one leg over the seat and said, “Race you to the end of the parking lot.”
“That’s cheating!” Lara wasn’t any smoother getting on her bike than her brother. She glanced back as she pulled out of the driveway and saw Darrin had rolled a streamlined blue bike out of the garage. “Darrin’s coming.”
Then, they all circled the church parking lot where they’d spent so much time riding when they were young, swooping and arcing in an impromptu bike rodeo.
“You know, it’s funny what you remember and what you don’t when you come back,” John said, making a tight-ish turn around the lamp post.
“Like what?” Lara asked, riding over the drain to make sure it still made that metal clicking sound.
“Well,” John said, “I completely forgot Darrin’s bike was blue. Or looked so cool. I remember something smaller. And…red?”
“Hey,” Darrin said. “Do you remember what it was like to learn to ride here?”
Not waiting for their response—he never did—he launched into a series of stories about how cool it had been to have this big church parking lot so close to the house. None of the stories quite connected with each other, but Darrin yarned on, as he often did.
Now puffing a little from the years that had passed since they’d ridden much, his older brother and sister rolled their eyes at one another when they were close enough, and otherwise tried to recreate the looping tire patterns they’d first left years ago.
After John discovered that the brake pads weren’t in nearly as good a shape as the rest of the bike and hit the curb, they all headed back down the alley to their parents’ house to finish sorting their belongings.
Lara was in front, but Darrin sprinted past, pumping his legs fiercely. He barely stopped in front of the ‘?’ pile and dismounted.
“I’ll grab drinks,” he said as he headed into the house before his rear tire had completely stopped spinning.
John just laughed. At Lara’s look, he said, “I was just thinking that some things really don’t change. As cool as the parking lot is in itself, we used it today the same way we did when we were growing up. When things got too tough in the house, I’d escape riding my bike.” He shook his head. “Those fights.”
“Yeah,” Lara said. “I couldn’t stop them, and I got tired of crying. Well, the fights and feeling like Darrin and you were their favorites.”
“What?” John said.
“You got to do all that stuff I never did.”
“That was kind of true,” John said. “But I was five years older. When we moved here, I was 10, almost 11. You were five and small for your age.”
“What about Darrin?”
Rather than answer, John walked toward the garage, saying, “We really should get back to sorting this stuff.”
Lara didn’t answer. They both started pulling things loose from the piles. John pulled out his childhood Captain America shield. Lara dragged a rusty sledgehammer across the pavement. Both turned back to the piles. And stopped.
A tug, a twist, and John had pulled another bike free. It was red and a boy’s bike. He turned, saying, “Now, this looks more like what I remember…”
Lara also had another bike, a boy’s bike, and the newest of the five found. They stood there, leaning on handlebars, not speaking.
The back door of the house popped open. “I had to make some lemonade,” Darrin said. Then, he launched into what sounded like it would be another string of stories about the out-of-date soda and the sour juice in the fridge, but Lara interrupted him for once.
“Darrin. You didn’t ever get the bike talk, did you?”
“How many did you get?”
“They had more money after you guys left!”
“Holy shit,” Lara said. “I was right.”
She put her lemonade down next to the trash pile and let the newest bike fall to the pavement with a metallic clunk. Then, she got back on her bike and rode away.
John looked at the driveway and turned the handlebars back and forth. Eventually, he asked, “Are there more?”
“So, the juice was completely spoiled, and I…”