I Can’t Help Myself
As a result of my regular self-disfigurements, Mom and Dad began keeping a closer watch on me. But then I was set free by the most reckless device known to boy: A Bike!
We lived in a hilly suburb that facilitated lots of bike-flying. First it was No Hands, then Steering with the Feet, and finally Standing on the Seat! Yet, despite my reckless two-wheeled exploits, I got nothing worse than bruised limbs and bloody toes (my toes had so many mouth-like little splits I could have staged a muppet show). Until one day…
Dad was a newspaper dealer, so I acquired a paper route at the ripe young age of 9. To commemorate the gig, I was given a black Schwinn Wasp with heavy duty shock absorbers. I rubber-banded my transistor radio to the butterfly handlebars, and away I flew!
My glide down those suburban slopes was made even more rapturous by riding close to the curb at one particular corner so I could raft my bare foot through the lush, damp ivy. It was weird and refreshing all at the same time!
Unbeknownst to me, however, the uber-gardener who resided there had upgraded from old-fashioned hose watering to that marvel of 60s lawn care, the automated RainBird system. How it works: heavy duty steel sprinkler heads pop up from nowhere, saying, “Chicka-chicka-chicka-chicka–pppptttttthhhhhtttttt!” as they spray arcs of aqua pura across the yard. Mavelous. And lethal.
It was a torrid July day. I got as close as I could to the corner and slid my foot into the cool thicket when an alien object suddenly popped up like a u-boat conning tower! “Chicka-chicka-chicka-chicka—CRACK!” My blue-jeaned shin struck the evil vessel with full torpedo force!
“Ow! Ow! Ow! Ow!” I shouted as I rounded the corner. The devious device had completely ripped open the bottom ten inches of my new blues.
I figured I’d have a black-and-blue shin for a week. But the news waits for no boy, so I pushed up the volume on my radio to drown out the pain and pedaled on. My favorite song came on, “I Can’t Help Myself” by the Four Tops. My shin was smarting, so I sang at the top of my lungs: “Sugar fried honey buns…”
A moment later, a man at another corner yelled, “Stop, kid!” As I braked, he ran up and pulled back my torn pantleg. My shin was a miniature Rio Grande, gouged open all the way to the bone, flowing red from the Colorado of my knee the Mexico of my foot.
“Tell me your phone number!” the man commanded.
Mom picked me up fifteen minutes later. As we were leaving, the man said, “And it’s ‘Sugar Pie Honeybunch,’ not ‘Sugar Fried Honeybuns’”!
Really? All I could think about on the way to the E.R. was how embarrassed I was…
About getting those lyrics wrong.