The Red Racer
By Jeff Mahoney
Charles arrived in town and was excited that he could finally afford his new bike. He had saved all summer long and he grew tired of cutting lawns and trimming hedges. With this bike, he would be the king of his neighborhood, leaving all of his rivals in the dust. What started as an idea, grew as an obsession, resulting in victory. This bike had been in the window all summer long and Charles visited the storefront everyday, to verify that the enemy had not succeeded and that his prize was still available. This was the only bike of it’s kind in the shop and the shop owner was not going to order another, as he had stated that it was just too expensive for the local buyers.
Charles and his Family were new to this town and this bike would position him nicely, within the local ranks. Charles had met and played with several of the kids his own age and never really hit it off with any of them. These were country kids and as Charles hailed from the city, he was looked at as being soft and stupid. This was a nice town and just beyond the ridge near their home, was a beautiful lake. Most of the kids hung out at the lake, swimming and fishing in the early morning with their Dads. The locals believed that this was their lake and that newcomers needed to respect it and earn the right to sit at the best fishing spots. Charles and his Dad once tried to set up at one such spot and as they began to fish, a man with two young boys told them to vacate the spot, as it was “taken.” Charles resented this and after several similar experiences with the local boys, he decided to take matters into his own hands. This bike would make all of them envious and they would be forced to look up to him and respect him. It wasn’t just a bike. It was a dream.
Charles approached the storefront and there, sitting in the window, was his bike waiting for him. Charles pulled his hard-earned money out of his pocket and began to count it once more. It was all there and his plan was now complete. Smiling from ear to ear, he pulled the door open and as it opened, the bell above the door jingled, announcing his triumphant return. His heart was racing as he approached the counter with his money gripped tightly in the palm of his sweaty hand. “Hello sir. I am here to finally buy that bike in the window. I have all of the money. Here, see?” Charles slapped the money on the counter, imagining that he was entering a high stakes poker game with four gritty cowboys that recently appeared on wanted posters. The man behind the counter looked at Charles with a frown and began to speak. “I am sorry son, but that bike was sold last night to the Mathison boy. They are coming to pick it up today sometime. Sorry, I forgot to put the sold sign on it.”
A dark tunnel appeared and Charles felt trapped within. The room began to spin, as the words resounded in his ears. Sold? His bike? His secret weapon? How could this be? Was there no justice in this crazy world? “How can that be? I was here yesterday and you told me that it would be sitting here waiting for me! I told you that I would be here today with the money for it. How could you do this to me?” The man behind the counter seemed annoyed by this response. “Look kid. Money talks. You have been coming here all summer sayin’ that you were going to buy that bike. All I know is that the Mathison Family came in here last night 5 minutes before close, with money in their hand. I have a business to run and this ain’t no charity. Now, if you want a bike, I have several others in the back that you could take a look at.” Charles stood frozen to the floorboards, mortified at the arrogance and contempt that this man was showing him.
“Well, do you want to see the bikes or not? Hurry up, I haven’t got all day.” Charles kept his mouth shut, as this man was now considered the enemy and he would not fraternize with him under any circumstances. Turning his back on the man, Charles marched out of the shop with his head held high. “This will not be the last that he has seen of me,” he thought, as he stepped out onto the sidewalk. Charles surveyed the street and it was a busy morning, with many people arriving to do their shopping. He could not allow them to see that he had failed in his mission, so he crossed the street and entered a shop that had a sign that read, “Jim’s Second-Hand.” As Charles entered the shop, he was slightly overcome by an old musty smell. The smell of old and used.
“How can I help you, young man?” stated a gruff looking old man, that wore tattered coveralls and looked as if he were over one hundred years old. He had a long beard that reached his waist-line and he had a very strange look in his eye. There was a kindness about this man, that allowed Charles to drop his guard, if only for a moment. “Well, I was saving up all summer long for that red bike in the window across the street, but it was sold last night.” The old man stroked his beard thoughtfully. “A red bike you say? Come with me, I may have just the thing for you my lad.” Charles followed the man apprehensively, but if nothing else, this would keep him out of sight of the enemy that lurked in the streets outside. He knew the Mathison boy and in the first weeks after their arrival to this town, Charles and this boy, Henry, got into a fight. It seems that Henry must have caught wind that Charles was going to buy this bike and convinced his Parents to buy it for him. This was a disaster that Charles believed that he could never recover from.
As they passed through a doorway, they entered a store room of sorts, that was packed to the rafters with all sorts of stuff. “I know it is in here somewhere. Bear with me young man, this will be worth your weight in gold!” The man was moving some boxes and rather than just stand there, Charles decided to help. As they continued to move boxes and junk out of the way, Charles looked upon an old red bike, leaning against the wall. This was a bike from an era that was long gone, yet it looked to be brand new. There was something about the bike that instantly drew Charles to it. “Yup, here it is. I knew that I still had this old thing back here. I am glad that you came in. I had totally forgotten about it.” The old man, Jim, pulled the bike out from behind the stacks of boxes and wheeled it into the open. “Come on. Let’s take it out the back here, so that you can give it a spin.” Jim wheeled the bike to the back door and the bike shimmered in the sunlight.
“I can’t believe it. The tires are full of air and the chain is oiled. I have not touched this bike in years. Now, isn’t that something?” Jim scratched his head, seemingly temporarily baffled by the outstanding condition of this old bike. “Here you go lad. Take your time with it. I am going to go back inside in case someone comes in. When you are done, just bring it to the front. If you don’t buy it, I am going to have a red bike of my own in the shop window!” Charles climbed up onto the saddle and pushed off. In an instant, it seemed as if he were flying, as he sped down the alley behind the old shop. The more he peddled, the more he picked up speed. The bike was old and heavy yet seemed light and powerful. In an instant, Charles fell in love with the bike and thought that this was the answer to all of his problems.
Charles was at full speed by the time he reached the end of the small alley. Pulling out onto the main street of the town, Charles was really flying, with the wind rushing through his hair. “Yeeeeeaaaaaah!!!!!” Charles shouted, as he flew down the center of main street. Never in his wildest imagination did he think that it was possible to travel this quickly upon a bike. “This was not just any bike,” he thought, as he set his sights upon Jim’s shop. Oblivious to his surroundings, he flew down the street, fearless and determined. As he neared the shop, a large truck pulled out on to the road ahead of him without warning. It was a lifted four by four truck and a collision would be unavoidable. Charles gripped the handle-bars and close his eyes as he braced for impact. If this was going to be his last moment on earth, he did not want to witness the gory details. Charles felt his body fall to the earth and heard the tires of the bike squeal upon the dry pavement. Charles opened his eyes and to his astonishment, was gliding underneath the truck. Looking up with his eyes wide open, he observed the moving parts of the truck, just above his head. As he glided underneath the truck, his mind was clear and focused. “I am not doing this,” he thought, as he cleared the truck and came to a full stop, just outside Jim’s shop. Jim stood on the sidewalk, smiling at the boy in the most peculiar way. Charles took a moment to regain his breath and spoke. “I will take it.”
The Red Racer – Part 2
Charles pulled into the driveway of his house, with his newly obtained secret weapon. This was a beautiful bike and one that had just proved to him, that anything is possible. On the handle bar sat an old bell. As Charles came to a full stop outside of his house, he giggled as he rang it twice. Upon ringing the bell, his father emerged onto the porch, gazing at his son with his newly acquired vehicle. “Hey son. That doesn’t look like the bike that you had your eye on. What happened? Where did you get that one? It sure looks old.” Charles dismounted and dropped the kickstand. As the bike sat basking in the sunlight, Charles boasted. “This is not just any bike. It has powers. I bought it from the store across the street from the bike store and it cost less than half of the other one! Now, I can buy that fishing pole that I wanted too.” Charles spoke with pride, as this was no bike. It was the aircraft carrier that would escort him into battle.
His Father was a kind and loving man, who would do anything for his son. He had long since abandoned trying to baby him, as he had learned that his son Charles, was a very stubborn little guy. “This looks like a bike that was made in the fifties. I remember your Grandad had a bike very similar to this and it was very heavy and slow. Are you sure that this thing is the right bike for you?” Charles scoffed, as he adjusted the seat and admired his prized possession. “This bike is very fast. I don’t think that there is a bike out there that can beat me on my red racer. I would dare anyone to come and try.” Charles stood with his hands on his hips, imagining that he was an ace fighter pilot standing for a photograph next to his warplane. “Ok Charlie, I believe you. Just be careful on that thing and don’t let your Mom know how fast that thing is.” Charles nodded and began to inspect the various components upon his machine. Maintenance is an important part of being a pilot and a duty that should not be overlooked.
After dinner, Charles stayed up and planned his route for the next day. This was going to be his moment to demonstrate to the world what kind of pilot he really was. He took great care in crafting his map and in the morning, he would devise a scheme so that it would remain hidden from prying eyes. “Time for you to go to bed now son,” his Mother proclaimed from the other side of his closed bedroom door. This was no bedroom. This was no bedroom. It was a fortress. “Ok Mom, goodnight.” Charles had learned that it was always in his best interest to listen to his Mother, or the results could vary. Charles fell asleep quickly and the thought that his red racer was locked up tight in the garage brought him great comfort and satisfaction. “Tomorrow, they will see. I will not yield and they will come to respect me and my Dad. This will be my day,” he whispered into the night, as his eyes grew heavier and heavier...
The Red Racer Part 3 – More Than Meets the Eye.
Charles was sitting at the breakfast table, waiting impatiently for the adults to cook him his morning meal. A soldier needed “some good chow” in the mornings and he would not leave home until this mission had been fulfilled. This was an important day and Charles had planned to ride past the lake, then the schoolyard and then finally, main street. The ice-cream shop was the place to be in the summer and he would drift by slowly, gain the attention of onlookers and then throttle it. It was a plan crafted carefully and methodically and hence, could not fail. The weatherman had called for a sunny day, with warm temperatures. He would need to stock up on water and other supplies, if he wished to survive.
With his backpack filled with the essentials, he waved to his Family, as this may be the last time that the see each other. This was an incredibly dangerous mission and only the most brave, hand-picked soldiers would return. Sitting upon the saddle, he went over his pre-flight checklist and then hit the ignition. He started off down the road towards the lake, where he knew that many of the boys would be fishing with their Fathers. His plan involved a series of “fly-bys’” at high speeds, designed to rattle their cages just a bit. This would certainly start the day off right, with the advantage clearly in his court. As he approached the enemy territory, he surveyed the enemy convoy that was parked along the road. “Stupid. They did not even take the time to hide their vehicles,” he thought to himself as he picked up speed. Charles leaned into the pedals and the bike responded in such a way, that no other bike that he had ridden had. The front wheel lifted off of the ground slightly and soon, it felt as if he was flying. The wind whistled through his hair and feeling energized, he announced his arrival with his battle cry. “Yeeeeaaaaaaahhhhhh!!” he shouted, as he screamed down the small path alongside the lake. The path beneath the tires was made of thick dirt, but this did not slow him. As he completed his first pass, he could hear the shouts of the people at the lake, complaining that he was scaring off the fish. “Stage one complete,” he thought as he turned around for his final pass and back towards the main road.
The main road was void of traffic and as he pedaled towards the school grounds, he laughed out loud at the reaction he received from the first stage of his attack. A good pilot would always keep moving, thwarting any unwanted encounters. Pedaling faster and faster, Charles began to feel a slight tingling in his forearms and his feet. It felt as if there was electricity running through him and the faster that he pedaled, the greater the feeling. The broken line in the center of the road look to be one solid line and as he looked out onto the road ahead of him, the front of the bike began to lift off of the pavement. Laughing triumphantly, Charles increased his pedal speed and to his astonishment, the rear wheel lifted up from the pavement. Exhilarated, he screamed, “I am flying! Wooooooooooo!!!!” Looking down, the bike was hovering two feet in the air. Just ahead of Charles, was a slow-moving car, taking in a nice Sunday drive. Charles pedaled with all of his might and the bike continued to lift higher in the air, until he flew right over and past the car. Charles felt the energy surging through him and finally, he was the pilot that he always dreamt that he could be...
Charles slowed his pace and within moments, the bike touched down on the pavement once again. “A perfect landing,” he thought to himself. The sun was now high in the sky and thirst began to take its’ toll. Pulling over, Charles removed the bottle of water from his back-pack and removed the water bottle. His Mother never allowed him to drink soda and as he drank, oh how he wished that this was an ice cold orange soda. Charles felt the cool liquid on his tongue and was suddenly filled with surprise and amazement. The water that was once inside the container had been transformed into what he had wished for. The electrical pulse that he felt surged through his harms once again and standing there on the side of the road, the boy felt a deep connection with his newly acquired freedom. “This is a magic bike,” he whispered, with a sense of pride. He knew that nobody would believe him, except for Jim, back at the shop. There was something very strange about that man and Charles decided that he would gather some intel from him later on in the day.
Feeling refreshed and ready to accomplish his mission, Charles set off once again, into the breach. Picking up speed, the bike lifted off from the pavement and Charles was really starting to get the hang of this. He was a pilot, so that just came with the territory. At the edge of town, he decided to slow down, in order to hide the special abilities of his secret weapon. Charles took the center of the lane and drove right past the ice-cream shop, where the local boys had gathered for their usual Sunday ritual. Upon his first in a series of passes, the boys all scoffed and snickered at Charles on his old bike. His enemy, Henry, sat on the bench outside of the shop with ice-cream in hand and his new red bike of his own leaning against the wall. Charles glared at him as he passed, with the knowledge that he had come to own the finest bike in the world. This would be his weapon. His secret weapon. Henry sat eating his ice-cream and laughing out loud at Charles as he made his second pass. The boys all rallied around Henry and soon, all of the boys were standing, laughing and shouting. “Hey, where did you get that old junker? Your Grandma?” Henry shouted, as he stood next to his new bike, gloating with pride.
Charles’ frustration grew, as his plan was not working. Reaching the end of the street, Charles began to pedal as fast as his legs would push and within moments, his arms began to feel a surge of electricity once more. Anger began to consume his thoughts, as he raced vigorously towards the boys on the street. The boys watched, as Charles was racing down the center of the street and they all began to yell and scream at him, laughing and taunting him. Gripping the handle bars with all of his strength, he shouted at the top of his lungs. “Yeaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhh, watch this!!!” Pedaling faster and faster, the boys all ran out into the middle of the street to seemingly try and block the pilots path. Filled with rage, Charles exerted even more effort and with a surge of power, the bike lifted off and flew over the heads of the boys, narrowly missing their heads. The boys all gasped and shrieked in fear, as they watched Charles fly higher into the sky and off into the distance horizon...