The Last Bike Ride
My dad and I rode our bikes to the creek as we usually did on Sundays
the only day he was ever home. He would always ride
just a little bit faster than me
sometimes a little bit too fast, trying to get me to
catch up with him, keep up with him, out on the lonesome country roads
that ran between the farmlands and the little town I grew up in.
I was always mad at him by the time we got to the creek because
I never could catch up with him, and was always terrified
that he would leave me behind
I would be lost
even though we’d made the trip a hundred times before
and the road was so straight and flat there was no real way to lose him.
We got to the creek and I gathered up the open clam shells
picked clean by raccoons until their insides shone silver against the mud.
My mom would let me keep them in the house for a day or two,
then break them up with a hammer to put out in the garden
because they smelled up whatever area of the house they were in
because they still had little bits of rotten clam flesh stuck to their insides.
I shoved the shells into my pockets
filled them with as many as I could, spent a little while looking for frogs
while my dad pointed out the tracks in the mud to me:
coons, deer, someone’s stray dog
other people’s footprints.
We stayed until the sun was low, then got back on our bikes to head home.
It was maybe a fifteen minute bike ride back home, although it always seemed
so much longer to me. I wobbled a bit as I struggled to get my bicycle to go, my dad already far ahead of me, coaxing me on
because we had to get back before it was dark
he didn’t want me on the road without a bike light. Suddenly, a truck roared past
almost knocked me off my bike, veered as though aiming for my dad. My dad shouted and waved his arms
probably flipped them off
and the truck stopped, backed up real slow, someone inside leaned out
and shouted something at my dad, stopped. A door opened. I kept going, I raced past
the truck and my dad and the two men getting out
and headed straight for my house. I kept going
until I was almost home, then stopped, turned around, saw my dad
right behind me. “Go!” he shouted, waving me on. He grinned at me,
but his knuckles
were clenched and white on his handlebars
and his lips were tight. We got home at almost the same time
and my mom was outside, pulling the laundry off the line for the night.
“She can ride pretty fast now,” said my dad as I went and put my bike in the garage
I saw my dad with my arm around my mom, she was shaking her head
and saying something about how our town was changing, how dangerous
things were getting, he said she was overreacting, things weren’t that bad, really.
They stopped talking when I came back
my dad said we were just going to have a quiet night at home
instead of going to movies or the park
like we usually did on Sundays, there were a lot of things
we weren’t going to do on Sundays anymore,
but I didn’t know that until later.
Holly Day has taught writing classes at the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota, since 2000. Her poetry has recently appeared in Oyez Review, SLAB, and Gargoyle, while her recently published books include Music Theory for Dummies (3rd edition), Piano All-in-One for Dummies, The Book Of, and Nordeast Minneapolis: A History.