(EXSLURPT SATURDAY) “The Death-Skirter” from The Brocken Spectres

I sat on the handlebars, and we flew on air. Following the hill downward. At such speed! Dad told me to hold on, and so I held on. We soared over Beachmont, and we cut through the sky, and we sliced along the highways and side streets. To Somerville! To Everett! Most importantly: to Cambridge!

We pulled onto a street free of potholes, flat and straight. My dad encouraged me, he said, “Fly,” and he peddled as fast as he could. I closed my eyes, held out my arms, raised my head. I opened my eyes, looking skyward. I really flew. I told myself that I was more than human. That I was special. I flew, while others did not. Because I was important and I was the exception. And I always would be. I had seen it in the mist.

My dad, he felt just fine riding that red bike. That thin-wheeled, crimson bike was our simple ship, our colossal flyer, our light-speed cruiser. Except we could not reach past the hazy blue of the atmosphere. And that was perfectly acceptable. I was quite okay remaining terrestrial.
Ask us what that bike was. Just ask us. We’ll tell ya. That bike, that bad bike, it was our death-skirter. And not just any, but the Death-Skirter. Understand that. And believe it.

Because we zipped, zoomed, and cheered ourselves on. There was not a single person on those streets like us. We defied the laws. The laws of the road and land, the laws of nature, each and every law of physics – Hell! – the unbreakable laws of life and death. That’s right, people. We defied Him. We defied Her. We defied the Reaper. We blew our noses on his ragged cloak. We wiped the spittle from our mouths with his fraying hood. We tore past him, and he could never take us. Never, never. The Reaper, Death Incarnate, that bastard courier could never take us back. Back to the Before. On our bike, there was no Before.

The Death-Skirter blazed through the pavement, ripped up the gravel on its way. On its way, and my dad and I, we could do nothing, but take the ride. Forward, forward, always forward. Always progressing, never turning around. Never taking the same route back. It was a bike that could not travel in reverse. No, there simply was not any other way for it to proceed. For the simple ship, the crimson light-cruiser, could do nothing other than propel my dad and myself forward. Forward, forward – again and until I die – always forward.

To aunts! To uncles! Cousins: firsts! seconds! and thirds! To old friends! To new people! People unmet! To over-excited dogs! And lazy, half-asleep felines! To everyone kind! They were always kind. If there is one thing I can truly take away from that bike – something I can hold onto inside of my tired brain as fact – it is that it never failed to bring us to people who cared.

But, now, it’s gone.
Been gone for a long, long time, the Death-Skirter. I’m inching towards thirty, and I haven’t laid my eyes on the colossal flyer since I was seven or eight.
On a fragile, wooden chair, I sit in my mother’s kitchen, talking to her about the internet and its many uses. I am waiting for my father to come home. He will come to the kitchen first, drawn in by the two cats, mewing and cooing for food. I am wearing a blonde-bob wig, formerly belonging to my grandmother, when my father finally does arrive home. As I assumed, he makes his way into the kitchen first. He smirks slyly at the wig I am donning.

“You gonna wear that to Meesha’s father’s Christmas party?” he asks, placing a bag of canned cat food on the table between us.

“I was thinkin’ about it,” I answer. And I am thinking about it.

My father opens a can of the cats’ food and the felines leap onto the table.
I must ask him.
“Hey – um…” It should not be hard to ask my question, but for a reason unknown to me, it is. “Do… do you remember your bike?” And before he can answer: “Our bike. Do you remember our bike? The one – um – the one we rode around on for a summer? Two summers?”

My father smiles, scooping the malodorous, wet food onto the cats’ dishes. “Oh, ya, we used to ride that everywhere. You were small.” He pauses, then asks, “What made you think of that?”

I shrug. “I was just wondering what ever happened to it.”

“I think I gave it to someone.”

No. He didn’t.

And now, my father is thinking, trying to remember. “I think I gave it to one of your brothers. Jerry or Peter… I can’t remember which one…”

He cannot remember to which of my brothers he gave the Death-Skirter. And my dad cannot remember because he did not give it to either of them.

“Or maybe,” my father continues, “I gave it to your uncle. Richie.”

Nope. That’s not right either.

He looks at me, acutely, strangely. “Or maybe somebody stole it… from under the stairs in Ma’s backyard.”

There he goes. Now my dad is getting closer.

I nod to him. “I think that’s it,” I agree. “I think I remember it getting stolen.”

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