That Old Schwinn
This was originally slated for Friday Fictioneers, but for some reason I couldn’t stop writing. Enjoy!
Cloaca and Confabulate are the Words of the Day
Harry decided to take the old Schwinn out for a final ride into town. He had every reason to believe, at least so he thought, that he wouldn’t survive the surgery or it would leave him as a babbling idiot and unable to remember the simple joys the bike brought him.
He rode past the Parker’s farm and remembered how he, his brother, and their friends used to play hide and seek. Once they couldn’t find his brother, George, and he started to panic; but George in all his infinite wisdom hid in the outhouse or as Jake, Harry’s son, said, “Cloaca.”
“Cloa-whata?” Harry said.
“Cloaca. It’s what outhouses are called.”
“Humph. You can call it cloa-whatever, but I’ll keep calling it an outhouse.” Harry often wondered when his son became so much smarter than he. Harry thought maybe it’s from that fancy college education he’s getting or maybe it’s from the semester he spent travelling abroad. But then he thought, “No. I’ve got a high fulltent education too. Harvard Law and business degrees and I’ve travelled to all the countries people want to see and even some people don’t want to see or even know existed. So, how did Jake get so smart?
As he peddled his way into town he passed the tree where they jerry-rigged a tire swing. They would use that swing to get good lift off to dive into the water below. Wow, how stupid they were back then. They could have hurt themselves, broken their necks, or worse died. “But we had so much fun,” Harry said out loud. “Those were the days.”
Harry is barely 50 and doesn’t look a day over 45. Up until last year he had more energy than his 22-year-old son and was still very active. Training for a triathlon, when out of nowhere his body betrayed him. Now he can’t even ride his bike the two and half miles into town without getting so winded it feels as though he’s suffocating.
He pulled off to the side of the road, put the kickstand down and sat on the curb panting. As he desperately tried to catch his breath, he noticed he was parked in front Jenny Larson’s old house. She was his first kiss. He tried to put the pieces of what led up to his — their first kiss, but his memory was failing him. It was during summer break, that he remembered and it was underneath the tire swing tree. And that’s all he remembered with any degree of certainty. For some reason he wanted to know all the details leading up to that kiss. As he sat on the curb catching his breath he began reconstructing the events of the day and began to confabulate those memories that were blurry. He convinced himself that she was the one that initiated the kiss and he was just waiting for his turn on the tire swing. He smiled at this reconstruction.
Finally catching his breath he hopped back on his old Schwinn and continued on to town. As he rode he passed old man Johnson’s hardware, tackle, and bait store. His kids run the business now. Harry remembers it was old man Johnson that gave him his first fishing lesson. How he skirmed when old man Johnson put the snail on the hook and how he laughed at Harry and told him, “If you’re going to fish you’re going to have to get over it.”
He rode on to Mrs. Dekker’s book shop. Every Tuesday Harry would run from school to Mrs. Dekker’s and she would have the latest comic or the latest book waiting for Harry. He parked his bike outside the book shop and went in. “Hi Harry,” a voice from behind the counter boomed. “What’s on your reading list this week.”
“What?” he said inquisitively.
“What do you plan on reading this week? ”
Harry cocked his head to the right and gave the young lady behind the counter a bewildered look. “You’re not Mrs. Dekker,” Harry said confused. “Where’s Mrs. Dekker. She knows what I like to read and she always puts it aside for me.”
“Harry, Mrs. Dekker . . .”
“Where is Mrs. Dekker?” Harry boomed at the girl behind the counter.
The girl comes from behind the counter and gently steers Harry to a chair. “Harry, Mrs. Dekker passed away a couple of years ago. Don’t you remember?
“Dead?” Harry asked.
The young girl nodded. “Yes Harry.”
“Humph,” Harry said getting up from the chair. “I’ll be dead tomorrow,” he told the girl as he walked out of the book shop. Harry got his bike, put the kickstand up, and rode off. As he rode off he remembered helping his mother pick out flowers at McKay’s flower shop, Friday night family dinners at Gheptto’s, meeting and marrying his wife, when Jake was born, and much more.
For some reason he knew that this surgery was going to leave him dead, but he didn’t know what kind of dead.
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