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Taken for a Ride
by
David Alpaugh


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At the top of Killers Hill in Green Brook
Park, Billy Flynn motioned me to pull up
for a pow-wow. I did so on my wobbly,

banged-up, twelve-year-old Rollfast bicycle
Id inherited from my big brother, Lew

paint flaking off; tires utterly bald

still, it was (as adults said) transportation;

and, barring a flat or broken chain,

got me everywhere I needed to go.

 

How like a demigod Billy Flynn appeared

on his brand new J. C. Higgins Flyer

with its shiny red frame & whitewall tires.

He dazzled every lad he overtook that day,

sounding his imperial Sears-Roebuck horn;

shouting out of my way! as he zoomed by

in a sudden rush of glory. Now this lord

of locomotion was slowing down to a stop.

What could he possibly have to say to me?

 

Howd you like to swap bikes? Billy Flynn

began. Your Rollfast for my J.C. Higgins?

(Id yet to hear the word incredulousbut

thats exactly what I was.) Are you kidding?

Billy glowered. My bikes red. I hate red!

Yours is green. Greens my favorite color.

It was my first encounter with a deranged

mind; but I knew (from watching Mr. Ed)

that everyone always humored the insane.

 

For two thrilling weeks I did just that,

racing Billys chariot all over town,

showing it off to friend and foe alike.

Instinct told me not to let my father know

Id become the neighborhood barter king.

So I hid my triumph behind our pigeon

coop until a Mrs. Iris Braxton phoned my

mom to ask: Is it true your son is riding

around on my son Cecils stolen bicycle?

 

Brakes locked. Kickstand came down.

(I knew at once my wild ride was over.)

The police stopped by to sort things out

and, after clearing me of criminal intent,

rolled Cecils J.C. Higgins out of our yard;

put it in the trunk of their squad car; and

drove it back to the Braxton family castle.

(They returned my Rollfast six days later

with two flat tires and a broken chain.)

 

The points not that wed been taken for

a ride but that we all learned something

useful. Cecil learned not to leave his bike

(or, later, his Jag!) in the driveway overnight.

Billy that, despite what the judge claimed,

bicycle theft did paybut only for two weeks

and only on a jalopy. I learned to avoid the

Billy Flynns of this world; shun its Madoffs

and ignore emails from Nigerian princes.

 

The cops learned nothing they didnt already

know, best expressed by muttering, Kids!

Minutes later they were in a high speed chase

with some jerk committing Grand Theft Auto.

 

 

This poem first appeared in Exit 13.
Used here with the author
s permission.

 

 

 

 

Purchase a framed print of this poem.


David Alpaugh has been a featured poet at bookstores, colleges, cafes, and poetry organizations in the San Francisco Bay Area more than 100 times. His first full collection, Counterpoint, won the Nicholas Roerich Poetry Prize from Story Line Press, and his poetry and essays have appeared in numerous literary journals. David holds degrees in English from Rutgers University and the University of California, Berkeley, where he was a Woodrow Wilson and Ford Foundation Fellow. He was also a finalist for Poet Laureate of California. Learn more about David at www.davidalpaugh.com.

 

 


New comments are closed for now.
Mary Lou Taylor:
What a lesson! Actually, lessons. I was waiting for another ending where Billy Flynn knew how valuable that old bike was and planned to restore it to its former glory. This ending was more satisfying, Thanks, David Alpaugh. Most enjoyable poem.
Posted 08/06/2015 01:44 PM
Lori Levy:
Vivid images. I can see it all clearly!
Posted 08/06/2015 12:56 PM


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