My First Bicycle Ride

Contributor: Philip Lautore

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The first time I rode a bicycle was the day I visited my neighbor, Jeze Cantu. Prior to that, I had always used my own two feet for gettin' around.

As I recall, Jeze parked her double wide on the last row of the trailer park. Her model was an Energizer made in Baton Rouge. It came with an extra big bathtub.

Right off, I saw the bicycle parked against a tree near her rig. Naturally I headed straight to it, pausing only to bend over and speak to her dog Mildred.

About then, I heard Jeze shout, “Shut-up Mildred. You’re makin’ too much noise!”

Looking around, I spotted Jeze sprawled on a recliner under a tree.

About that time, I heard her say, “Why Justin Wilson, I thought you napped in the afternoons.”

“Can’t's too hot.”

Looking away, I turned my attention to the bicycle.

“Fancy bicycle,” she voiced from the recliner.

“Sure is,” I replied. “I’ve always wanted to ride a bicycle. I sat on one as a child, but fell off and cracked my head when a pig charged me. After that, my daddy wouldn’t allow it.”

Eventually, Jeze came over and stood to my side, fluttering her eyelashes like she always did when she needed to be friendly.

“I hope you’re here for more than just – bicycle talk.”

Fumbling a bit, I said, “What I really wanted was a splash in your bathtub.”

“Some fellow beat you too it.”

“Then, I’ll settle for a glass of lemonade while I wait.”

She laughed, her jowls wiggling in pleasure. “He drank all of the lemonade… said he was thirsty after peddlin’ that thing from the Landing.

I looked her straight on. “Riding a bicycle across ten miles of swamp roads teaming with gators takes plenty of courage. Not many men care to do that.”

“Fellows will do most anything when the mood strikes ‘em.”

She did have a point, so I asked, “How long am I gonna have to wait?”

Jeze cleared her throat. “Well… let me think. He’s been splashing with my youngest for over an hour. I don’t know if he’s interested in my other girl, but right off, I’d figure another hour or two.”

I took a deep breath and returned my attention to the bicycle, realizing that I was admiring a world renowned – Mississippi Rambler.

I pulled it away from the tree. “Did you know this is one of the finest bicycles ever built? I heard about it on the radio.”

Jeze stepped closer, her eyes going wide. “Wow-e… Look at those petals. They have cute, little streamers hanging from the back.”

“Get on top,” I said, swinging a leg over the seat. “I’ll take you for a ride.”

I was already bouncing up and down, getting situated, by the time Jeze got her dress worked over her hips. Finally, she settled on the handlebars, and we were rolling toward the road, feeling a breeze blow in our faces.

She glanced over her shoulder. “Where’re we going, honey?”

“I was thinkin’ of peddlin’ in the direction of the cypress grove down by the water.”

I rumbled across some tire ruts, feeling the bicycle jostle about, but once I got the hang of things, my speed started to increase.

“Don’t go too fast,” she said, tugging the dress higher. “I don’t want a cracked head for having fun.”

“You needn’t worry. Bicycle riding is easier than I figured.”

Soon, my feet were pumping furiously, sending us flying from one side of the road to the other. At the bottom of a grade, we turned into the grove, bouncing along a footpath.

She looked over her shoulder – her eyes wide. “You’re going too fast.”

“Just keep lookin’ straight ahead and tell me what you see. I know what I’m doing.”

I pushed her hair from my face and continued on, my hands gripping the handlebars like I was wrestling a gator.

She pointed to the side, her arm moving wildly. “Follow that path to the right. It goes away from the swamp.”

“I’m trying, but this thing won’t turn. Your butt’s too heavy.”

“Then, you need to stop.”

“Stop... how do I stop?”

Moments later, I was spitting out a mouthful of swamp water. That’s when I saw Jeze glaring in my direction, her eyes ablaze.

“One thing for sure,” she snapped. “You’ve ruined my dress.” She took a step and slipped, her head plunging below water. Struggling, she tried to stand. “And, you certainly don’t know how to entertain a lady. My hair’s soaked, and my shoes are gone – sucked away in the mud.”

Feeling responsible, I helped her wade to dry ground, feeling my feet slog through the muck.

I tried a smile, hoping to calm her tirade. “Accidents happen, but we did get a splash together.”

She ignored it and said, “For your information, falling into a swamp is not the same as splashing in a bathtub.”

I settled on the ground at the water’s edge and listened to her rant, feeling guilty for my actions.

Finally, I turned to her. ”I do know one thing.”

“What’s that?” she asked in a huff.

“I know you, and that’s plenty important.”

She looked at me funny-eyed then she snorted and plopped down beside me, saying, “Sometimes you say such pretty things.”

We sat side by side for many minutes admiring the sunlight filtering through the trees. Finally, she reached for my hand and said sweetly, “If you’ll peddle me home, I'll give you a freebie.”

And that’s what I did. I peddled her home and learned how to ride a bicycle at the same time.

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