Cycling Stories

Mr. Johnson and a Stolen Briefcase

April 28, 2020

Mr. Johnson and a Stolen Briefcase

“I’d ride up and down the street with the wind blowing on my face. Everything seemed to fade away; I was unstoppable and on top of the world.”

Atere Salimat Bukola 

Every kid wants a bicycle and cherishes the day they get one. Mine was extra special because I never in my wildest dreams expected it.

I lived in a family where having a roof over our heads and three square meals a day was something to be grateful for. We weren’t poor, but a bicycle wasn’t a luxury my family could afford. So, for a long time, I just sat on the sidelines and watched other kids ride theirs. 

There was a bicycle-for-hire shop near our home, and anytime I had a little extra cash (which was mostly money I’d squirreled away instead of eating lunch), I would rent one for 20 nairas per hour. During this time, I’d ride up and down the street with the wind blowing on my face. Everything seemed to fade away; I was unstoppable and on top of the world.

As a kid, cycling meant freedom, so when I didn’t have enough money to rent a bike, I always pleaded with Mr. Johnson, the owner of the store, to give me odd jobs. Sometimes I’d work around the store. Others, he sent me on errands. Either way, my reward was getting to ride a bike for a few hours. 

One day, Mr. Johnson sent me on a few deliveries to the Victoria Garden estate, which is in a nicer part of town. I was so delighted because it allowed me to ride on their excellent roads, which stretched wide and smooth, without a single bump. It was going to be like cycling in the Olympics.

After I finished my deliveries, I headed back to the store and saw a man who was carrying a briefcase, walking away from his car. He was almost to his gate when, out of nowhere, a boy rode past and snatched his briefcase from his hands. After recovering from the shock of what happened, he shouted “Thief!” as loudly as possible.

I acted quickly, riding as fast as the wind in pursuit of the thief, and soon caught up to him. I purposely crashed my bike into his, and we fell to the ground as the briefcase flew out of his hands.  

Before the thief could gather his wits, I grabbed the briefcase and held it tightly to my chest. He got up slowly and moved toward me with menace in his eyes. But after he noticed several people running in our direction, he hopped on his bike and fled the scene.

The owner of the briefcase ran up and thanked me for helping him recover his briefcase. He offered me a ride back home, but I told him I had to return the bike to Mr. Johnson, who owned it. After doing so, he drove me to my house and told my parents about my bravery, and how happy he was that I had been there at the right time.

When I returned home from school the next day, a brand-new bicycle waited for me inside, sitting next to the man who I’d helped the previous day. He told me it was my reward for helping him.

I was over the moon with excitement. I couldn’t believe I now owned a bicycle! I loved it so much and even insisted on keeping it inside because I knew someone could steal it if I left it outside.

Many years have passed since, and I’ve bought my own bicycle. But, nothing beats the memory of how I got my first one.

Atere Salimat Bukola is a freelance writer from Lagos, Nigeria.
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