Getting a 10-speed bike for Christmas and being twelve years old meant (in my mind) that there were no longer any limits to how far I could go!
I’d made it to Coyote Creek before. But it was almost an hour on foot. Plus, a very venomous viper (sidewinder, actually, but I like alliteration) had squiggled blithely across my path. So being on my slick Italian racing bike seemed quicker and safer.
I got far as the Coyote Hills in nearby Buena Park and Fullerton, home of the five-year-old girl I would meet and marry (when she was twenty-seven). There, I explored an abandoned oil refinery, bringing home oxidized bolts and faucets. Unfortunately, the coolest rusted-out-old-truck-ever was a smidge too big to fit on my handle bars.
One Saturday, Rory and I decided to explore Coyote Creek (sadly, our co-BFF Jeff had a hip issue that resulted in major surgery later that year). Coyote Creek was a dry rock collection most of the time, and it was surrounded by nearly thirty-foot-high cliffs. But that was why we were there: it practically screamed, “Climb me!”
I may have been a pre-teen, but I had a lot of kid left in me (still do), so I decided to climb down to the creek bottom. How hard could it be? Rory took one look and prophesied, “You’re not gonna make it.”
So naturally I had to prove him wrong.
I’d barely gotten over the edge when I realized I was not gonna make it (where had I heard that before?). So I grabbed a really big weed to hoist myself back up. Who knew really big weeds had really small roots? The weed (genus “weenius rootus”) pulled away instantly, as if to say, “He told you so.”
The last thing I saw was Rory’s terrified face and his hand starting to reach for me. The weed and I tumbled backward, head-over-heels, not in the “falling in love” sense, but in the “falling-to-your-death” sense. Half way down I did an unplanned handstand on an outcropping. Which probably saved my brain (what little there was of it) from being splattered all over the creek bottom.
I hit the ground with my heels and butt, rolled backward several times, involuntarily assumed a spread-eagled position, and began laughing hysterically. I couldn’t believe I was still alive! All the way down, I’d been certain I would die, which had caused me to review my entire life several times over and realize with profound regret that I would never have sex. But here I was—still alive! I might yet write the great American novel. Find the cure for cancer. Take long walks on beautiful beaches. Have sex.
I walked my bike home, leaning on it for support, while Rory rode circles around me saying I told you so with his face. My sacroiliac still remembers the incident, and says, “He told you so” in back language. Several years later, I recounted the incident to my drama teacher. He laughed till he cried, and said, “Well, I’m sorry you almost died, but listen, if you can’t do anything else, you can always…
Tell stories for a living.”