DISOBEDIENCE! Genre – Memoir – Word Count – 791
‘I’m going to die!’ A tremulous voice somewhere inside my head, accompanied by an ear-piercing scream, as my struggling seven-year-old body and the bicycle upon which it sat parted company.
My mother had an innate hatred of bicycles and as a consequence I was never permitted to ride one, own one, or borrow one – it was quite simply out of the question. No amount of pleading would change this woman’s intractable mind and so it was that I found myself walking when my friends were riding, enviously watching while they were racing each other around the block, but most of all obsessively coveting that wonderful two wheeled wonder. Occasionally they would let me ride one of theirs, but it wasn’t the same as having your own. I knew exactly what I wanted – it would be stupendous! My bike would be painted a gorgeous pale blue, it would have streamers flying from the handle bars, it would boast the prettiest white wicker basket and it would have back pedal brakes – because everyone knew back pedal brakes were so much better than handlebar brakes – and in pride of place would be the shiniest, loudest, most wonderful bell, warning everyone of my impending arrival. I knew it was a dream, but I continued to dream it.
I can remember my mother’s words as if she said them only yesterday
‘How would you like to help me bake a cake for your Birthday?’ Stupefied I just looked at her. Did she really say what I thought she said? Her words then hit home. ‘Really? You mean it? Honestly? A real birthday cake?’ Dancing around the room like a child possessed. ‘Can it be chocolate? Will it have candles? Oh Mummy – thank you!’
Money was short in our house. I recall being reminded every day not to waste food. Stews and casseroles, and the loathsome tripe in white sauce were the order of the day and what wasn’t eaten at that evening meal, was served up again the next night. As for desserts, well, they were up there with my bike – often dreamt of, but always and forever it seemed, out of reach. You can only begin to imagine my unbridled joy at the prospect of a real birthday cake!
‘Now, I want you to be very careful with this money’. Tying the coins into a handkerchief, my mother pressed the precious bundle into my small hand. ‘I want you to go down to the shop and get 3 eggs, we need them for your cake. Don’t stop and talk to anyone on the way and whatever you do – DON’T LOSE IT!’
Having duly reached the shop without incident and dutifully passing over my hanky-wrapped coins in exchange for three eggs, I walked out of the shop and straight into one of my school friends – also shopping for her Mum. However…..she was on her bike! One thing led to another and there I was, sitting astride my friend’s bike.
‘You can ride it part of the way home if you like.’
‘Yeah – I’ll walk behind you.’
Now…a seven-year-old has no real concept of cause and effect and an even lesser grasp on common sense. So, with one hand on the handlebar and one hand still clutching the brown paper bag with the three precious eggs I set off. Initially all went well, granted a bit wobbly with only one hand to steer, but generally okay. Oh….and I forgot to mention – this bike had handlebar brakes. Inevitably, and on a slight downhill run, the bike picked up speed, but with only one hand to steer and the other holding the eggs aloft, there was no way to brake and sadly only one outcome. The bike and I both became airborne!
I clearly didn’t die, but probably wished I had! My friend’s bike was resting tragically beside the tree that had somehow managed to jump out in front of me, front wheel twisted into something of a figure eight, back wheel still spinning happily. I sat in the gutter. What had just happened? My friend came running up, took one look at her bike and burst into tears. I looked down at my bleeding knees covered in dirt and gravel and one hand that was almost stripped of skin. My other hand I realised was still holding the brown paper bag and what’s more – not one of those precious eggs was broken! I must have held them high when I came off the bike – somewhere in my subconscious, they had to be saved at all costs. I’m sure this mishap wrought dire consequences. I don’t remember what they were, but my birthday cake was delicious!
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