I tell the kids in my Sunday School classes stories from my childhood to make them see that I wasn't always the very together, oh so grown up person I am today. (Yes, Todd, I can hear you laughing...) This is one of their favorites and, I might add, the very first story I ever sold to a magazine. Enjoy!
I crashed my bike into the back of big silver car while I watched a one armed man build a house.
Let me elaborate.
It was one of those sticky hot summer days when I was twelve. It was the kind of day kids today would spend in each other's basements playing video games or drinking canned beverages and instant messaging each other. But, since this was 1980, there were no video games, canned beverages came in bottles mostly, and instant messaging meant you ran over to the other kid's house and yelled at their window until they came outside.
For fun on this hot sticky day, I was baking my chocolate chip cookies for my county fair 4-H baking project. Because that's what you want to do in a house with no air conditioning. You want to bake cookies.
It was a Thursday, and the reason I remember that is because my mother only did laundry on Mondays and Thursdays and everyone knows that fairs run Thursday through Sunday. So it was a Thursday morning and we were, predictably, out of chocolate chips. (When I say "out" I mean either we never had any or my father ate them in the in the middle of the night and then put the empty bag back in the freezer.) So I hopped on my Schwinn three speed "Sundowner" model bike and got pedalling to the grocery store a mile away.
About halfway to the store, I noticed some workmen fixing a house. What really caught my eye was a one armed man climbing down the ladder. I couldn't take my eyes off of him. See, this was the guy who'd been electrocuted months earlier. We'd prayed for him in church every week. I could have SWORN he was dead. I was so certain of it, that I stared and stared and stared at him...
That's about the the time my bike smacked into the back of a big silver sedan outside the Methodist church. I rolled up onto the trunk of the car and then onto the street. The workmen stopped and yelled across the street, asking me if I was okay.
Humiliated, I popped back on my bike and waved at them, ignoring both the gash in my knee and the fact that the front end of my bike was so bashed in I could barely get the front wheel moving.
I got to the grocery store, picked up my chocolate chips and went to the counter. The lady at the counter knew my parents. (Everyone knew my parents. My dad was the Lutheran school principal and my mom was the local piano teacher. In a town of 1200, they were movers and shakers.) She said, "Dear, do you know your leg is bleeding?"
I said, "Yes," waved at her, and got back on my bike. This time I pedaled as hard as I could, but the front tire was smashed against the central frame of the bike and wouldn't budge. So I had to walk the bike home, holding the front end up. The good news was that the workmen were on a break someone in the back yard of the house.
When I got home, I immediately went to my mother to tell her what happened. I mean, I couldn't hide this one. First of all, there was something really wrong with my bike. Second, I was pretty sure who ever owned that care was going to call her anyway and third, my leg really hurt.
Mom was in the basement pumping away on the wringer washer. She loved her wringer washers. She didn't get an automatic one until I was almost 30. She loved wringer washers so much, in the 80's she bought one just for parts so she could keep hers going. Anyway, she was down there, pounding away on the little foot pump that kept the wringer rolling.
"Mom," I said in my most pathetic voice, "I hit a car with my bike because I saw that dead guy with the one arm building a house."
I know...it sounds nuts to me now, too.
All my mom heard was, "I hit someones car with my bike and we're going to have to pay to repair it."
She asked me for the coordinates of my accident. Sure enough, when I told her, she rolled her eyes upward and said, "Oh Lord, that's the Thompson's. Did you stop and tell anyone?"
By now the blood on my leg was a really more a river soaking into my sock.
"No. I had to get the chocolate chips."
So, in her ratty jean shorts and tank top, her laundry outfit that she'd worn to do laundry in since her high school days, my mother walked me the six blocks to the Thompson's house. Mrs. Thompson's husband owned the only funeral parlor in town. She came to the door looking calm and cool. They had two air conditioning window units in their downstairs.
Mother explained my story, minus the one armed guy building the house who I thought was dead. We looked at the car, which had sustained a scratch about an inch long and one, Mrs. Thompson said, "would buff out." Her brother worked at a body shop, so she knew this sort of thing.
Then Mrs. Thompson looked at me and said, "Do you know your leg is bleeding?"
I said yes and then Mom thanked her and we walked back home. All the way home M
By the time we got home, my sock was wet with blood and my leg was sticky. I was afraid to say anything because, well, I still wasn't sure if Mrs. Thompson's brother would be able to buff out the scratch and if he could, what would it cost?
"Mom," I said as she started going back to the basement to continue doing laundry, "I'll pay for the damage to the car, but can I have a band aid for my leg?"
It was then that my mother realized I was hurt. She took me into the bathroom, washed my cut, bandaged it up, and stuck my sock in the bleach bucket until next laundry day. Later, like twenty years later, she told me she was so wrapped in the fact that she was a mess, that she never even realized I'd cut my leg.
Oh, but I made the chocolate chip cookies before noon that day. And I got a second place ribbon. The judge liked the cookies, but said that using all butter on such a hot day made the cookies too thin and chewy.
I'll bet the one armed guy would have loved them.
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