When John was four years old he fell off his tricycle
and scraped the shit out of his knee. Oh my god how he cried, he roared with such a pained and ecstatic abandon that birds scattered from nearby branches, neighbors' faces filled the cul-de-sac's
windows, invisible dogs on other streets barked in response, and his mother dropped the phone and dashed out of the house, making a blurred beeline
towards the small injured child that was curled up on his side, clutching his knee, screams still tearing out his throat.
Mrs. Pearson pried little John’s filthy nose picking hands away from the wound and when she saw the blood and all the fresh wet pink flesh she knew that this was no false alarm, all the screaming had been justified. She scooped him up in her arms and whispered, "OK," over and over again, "ok, ok, ok, ok , ok, ok, ok, ok, ok, ok, ok, ok, ok, ok, ok, ok, ok, ok, ok, ok, ok, ok," into his soft little ear while she made her way back across the lawn and through the still open front door, closing it with her butt and hip once she was in the house, totally forgetting the tricycle which my eyes had stayed focused on for much of the charade.
After the Pearson's door shut, I stopped ignoring my mother calling me to dinner and left the sitting room window for the kitchen. She had made her terrible hamburgers again. Corpse grey and uniform throughout, they were more like a undead hotdog paddy then a burger. I had long suspected Mama had an industrial meat processor secreted away somewhere under the kitchen counter from which she excreted these homogenous grey turds. She served them between two plain pieces of generic white bread, breads with names like Calcium and Wow Bread, which became soggy right after coming into contact with the blended yellow oil that coated the turd's surface. Having both a weak stomach and weak throat sphincters, I often headed to the bathroom after being excused and, with swallowed burps, vomited up my dinner into the toilet.
After this particular horror show however, I suppressed the reflex to vomit, kissed the chalky cake of foundation on my Mama’s cheek, and went to the front window to check on the tricycle, which was thankfully still lying there in the middle of the cul-de-sac, waiting.
I don't normally watch John ride his tricycle, nor do I covet it. On this particularly boring schooless summer afternoon however, I had been drawn to the sitting room, with its nice furniture and funeral home air, and had sat by the window with a book, reading one moment, the next allowing my eyes and mind to wander over the subdued activity of the cul-de-sac’s little community. After a particular long spell away from the book I realized that I had been watching little John on his tricycle for quite a while. He was persistently completing the same tight clockwise circle over and again in the middle of the street, his eyes enthralled by the animated asphalt, his little tongue, bright red from candy, hanging from his mouth like Michael Jordan’s.
Then thoughts, perverse but not unfamiliar, started bouncing around in my head: I hope he falls, I could run out at him and put a stick in his spokes, I could hide behind the shrubs on my front lawn and pelt him with gooseberries, I could set my Daisy on him from the second story window if I pop out the screen, I hope he goes over a rock and flips over (which is exactly what he ended up doing), I hope he cracks his head on the curb, I could go and save him and be a hero, call the ambulance and then cradle his head on my lap while I held his skull together with the gentle force of my palms, his mom would be crying with worry but be so appreciative of my quick response that she would find time to give me a warm smile even while this terrible event unfolded, I hope he just tips over and knocks himself out without so much as a yelp.
Of course he did scream, he let out that primal caterwauling the universe sets aside for infants and the recently maimed, but this screaming had an advantageous twist. It was the screaming, more then even all the blood, which caused Mrs. Pearson to leave the tricycle there when she could have easily carried it back with her along with John. And now one of the Pearson's cars was out of the driveway. They were probably in a hospital waiting room right now, looking down the long barrel of boring hours with old magazines, crusty from the fingers of the anonymous ill. In half an hour it would be dark enough to skulk about the bushes undetected, and then it would take only a few seconds under the hard fluorescent street light to snatch the tricycle and haul it back with me into the shadows of my front lawn.
I went up to my room and put on black pants and a black sweater and then crept back down the stairs on the balls of my feet. I looked in on mother. She was sprawled across the couch watching television, her pants’ zipper was undone and her distended belly and panties pushed out the open front, as though she was carrying a child in her bladder. Her bloating, and the way she was stuffing her face with chocolate and knocking back Diet Pepsi, meant she would be too busy with her menstruation to be concerned about my evening activities.
The problem was our house's alarm system, which beeped whenever a door or window was opened. If she heard that she would undoubtedly call out, "Dirky, is that you?" and if I didn't give her at least a grunt, she would pull her mass up off the couch and come and check the doors and then become worried when she couldn't find me. So after some time past, I opened the sitting room window, and when the alarm beeped, I called out that it was just me and I was reading and wanted fresh air. She did not respond, after a minute of hearing only the high pitched whine and chatter of the television, I slid out under the window and onto our dark front lawn.
The first thing I did was run to our hedge, and away from my home's outdoor lights. Once concealed, I took a deep breath and tried to calm down by focusing on the tricycle, which was overturned on the street, its three wheels hovering still over John's big pavement blood stain.
I was well prepared for this mission. These types of discreet actions had always been of interest to me, as early as grade four I formed my first tactical group, the Paratroopers, with some of the more military minded boys in my class. We spent recess on training missions, each of which began with us jumping into the air and crashing to the ground to simulate a rough parachute landing, and then I, as commander, would lead us up the soccer field, calling out tactical maneuvers with spitfire audibles whenever imaginary adversaries appeared. But tonight, out here on the lawn, I was alone and the consequences of getting caught were much more real.
I got onto my belly and made my way along the hedge's base, towards the front of my lawn, where short shrubs lined the sidewalk and acted as a fence. I hid behind these shrubs and peered through at the cul-de-sac, which was completely quiet, nearly deserted if not for the street lights and all the driveways stuffed with cars.
I stood up into a crouch and jumped over the shrubs, landed on my feet, and walked resolutely, with long straight strides, towards the tricycle, and without bothering to see if anyone was watching I grabbed it by the neck then ran back and leapt over the shrubs, cradling the tricycle against my chest and rolling on my shoulder as I landed, coming to a rest on my back, the trike still on my chest, rising and falling while I gasped for air. The night, except for my labored breaths, was quiet and undisturbed by my bad deed. But my heart was gushing with emotion and excitement, naughty thrills raced through my body and widened my eyes. I felt unified with all that surrounded me, with the cool black grass, the shadowy trees, the purple suburban sky empty of all but a few bright stars, the adrenaline brought me into a oneness with all of it.
Gradually, my breathing returned to normal and I began to consider my next move. I would take it down into the ravine and bury it beneath a tree, like a pirate treasure. This is how I could spend the summer, raiding garages and burying the more peculiar items I found in the ravine, giving each item a tree tombstone. But first I had to get the shovel. As I stood up, the neck of the trike in my hand, the Pearson's minivan rolled down the street and illuminated my front yard, pausing a moment, instead of smoothly making the sharp right turn into the driveway as it normally would. When the engine engaged again, Mrs. and Mr. Pearson, and little John, a big white bandage tapped to his knee, came ambling slowly over towards me. It was Mr. Pearson that got out of the minivan. He walked up to the edge of our property, only the shrubs separated us.
"Dirk, what are you doing with that tricycle?"
"Why are you holding my son's bike?"
"I believe, Peter, I should be asking you why you left this hazard in the road for so long, do you think this street is a dump for your family's property? That the whole cul-de-sac is your hillbilly front lawn?"
"Don't talk to me like that Dirk, where is your mother?"
"I hardly think we have to bother her with this."
"Well where were you going to with my tricycle?"
"I was taking it into my house, it is late and didn't think it was appropriate to disturb you."
"I was going to return it tomorrow at a more appropriate hour."
And with that, I handed him the cursed thing, walked back across my front lawn, and slid back through the sitting room window, which I closed behind me, giving a farewell wave
to Mr. Pearson before turning off the room's light and joining my mother in the television room.