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!
Our hilly little suburb facilitated lots of daredevil bikery. First it was No Hands, then Steering with the Feet, and finally Standing on the Seat! And yet, despite my reckless two-wheeled exploits, I got nothing worse than bruised limbs and stubbed toes (my toes had so many mouth-like little splits I could have staged a muppet show). Yet, ironically, my biggest injury came when I wasn’t taking any risks. Or so I thought.
Dad was a newspaper dealer. And as a result, I’d acquired a new bike and a paper route for my ninth birthday. The bike was a black Schwinn Wasp with heavy duty shock absorbers. I rubber-banded my transistor radio to the butterfly handlebars, and away I flew! Sort of. Actually, Mom had to drive me on my first day, after I came home drenched, crying and ashamed, with all the addresses on my route list wiped clean by the rain.
But soon I knew the route by heart, and was gliding daredevilishly down those suburban slopes! One particular corner was my refreshment break. It was a hot summer, so I’d hug the curb and raft my bare foot through the lush, damp ivy.
Unbeknownst to me, however, the 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 out of nowhere, saying, “Chicka-chicka-chicka-chicka–pppptttttthhhhhtttttt!” as they spray arcs of aqua-pura across the yard. Marvelous!
As I rounded the corner, I slid my foot into the cool undergrowth, 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 pulled away from the corner. The devious device had ripped open the bottom ten inches of my new jeans!
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.
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, and flowing red from the Colorado of my knee to the Mexico of my foot. “What’s your phone number?” the man demanded.
Mom to the rescue again. She picked me up fifteen minutes later, and took me straight to the E.R. Only this time I didn’t cry…