Sometime in the late 1960’s, my father bought me a used red bike, not unlike this blue beauty, that I found at a yard sale. It was my birthday, and I recall that it was close to Easter, warm enough to be able to play outside without the weight of heavy winter clothing. I was so happy to leave my roller skates and skateboard by the door and to get a bike. I had begged and nagged about having a bike of my very own, and my dad had listened. It was too large for my small, slight frame, but I stood on the pedals and rode it up and down the street. No one paid much attention to where I was, as I often wandered around the town, stopping to help older ladies hang their laundry, or talk to Mrs. Thomas, the librarian, at my second home, the library. I decided to stray a bit further from home, and test my standing balance. I took to the street, riding close to the curb, with the intention to ride around the block.
My new red bike was great! I made it down the first quarter, turned right and headed west. I was just about to take another right, when a large, angry, dog with a big thick chain attached to his neck, ran directly at me. I was startled, but didn’t fall – that is until the dog sunk his teeth into my calf. The dog’s chain was too long, and it had easily ran into the street. I am not at all sure why the dog released his bite. Perhaps my skinny little legs were not as tasty as they looked? Regardless, I picked up the bike, and myself, in what must have been a swift movement, because the dog looked surprised that I no longer was on the ground. He lunged at me again, foam dripping from the corners of his snarl, but this time, I was too far away, and his chain caught, and pulled his neck back.
I was scared. I was hurt. Most importantly, I had done something that was now going to bring attention to myself, which in my family, was never a good thing. I didn’t cry. I tried to think of what I could do. My friend lived about five houses up from the corner. I pushed my bike to their yard, went around back, (kids didn’t use the front door) and rang their doorbell. They were just finishing dinner. I wasn’t sure what I was going to ask my friend, Chris, to do, but I felt like if I could just calm down, maybe patch up the leg, or put some tape over it, no one would find out. Chris came to the door, looked at my face, then her eyes traveled down to the porch, where blood was pooling around my shoe. She yelled for her dad without even asking me what had happened. He rushed down the stairs and then knelt down to my level. I don’t remember my words, or his response, only that I told him the truth. He wrapped a towel around my leg, picked me up, and placed me in their car – an awesome, huge station wagon with windows near the top, (they had a houseful of kids). We soon were in front of my house -he was out of the car, and he and my father, came running out of the house. I don’t remember much after that – it was kind of a slow motion haze. We were at the doctor’s office, whatever they did stung, there was a really painful shot, the local policeman came, both fathers left, there were stitches, and worried faces. I didn’t really understand any of it.
Days passed, maybe even weeks. There were more worried adults, more painful shots, and at some point a policeman came to the door and told my mother that they had shot the dog.
I cried then – somewhere behind a door – where no one would see or hear me. It had been an ugly, mean, foaming at the mouth, dog, but I couldn’t imagine a grown man shooting it. It was my fault it had to be shot. I shouldn’t have taken the bike around the block. It was my fault that grown ups had to take time, do work, and make a fuss. It had cost money for the stitches, and all those shots. Money that needed to be used for my handicapped sister. No one talked to me about it. Ever.
I don’t actually recall ever riding the bike again, though I must have done so. I saw it, decades later, after my parents had both died. It was in the back of a shed, leaned against a wall. I could have saved it, taken it for a ride, hung it on a building, made some funky sculpture from it. I didn’t. I gave it to a scrap man, along with a lot of other stuff, reminders of a past time, when I didn’t cry, and I tried my very best not to bring attention to myself.