May 03, 2005

A Short but True Story

Dr G had an awful lot of exercise machines, it seemed to me. There were machines for skiing and machines for running, machines for rowing and even a machine like a bicycle for biking without going anywhere.

The G's lived next door to us and Gareth, their son, was my age, give or take the nine, ten months head start he had on me. We used to play in his cellar, but were forbidden, ever, to use his father's exercise equipment, though we were dying to. It all looked like so much fun, running in place, rowing without water, skiing without snow? It was so silly it HAD to be fun. We always wondered why Dr G never seemed to want to use the many machines he had collected, and why he had forbidden us to use them when we did want to.

One morning when we were six or so, we gave in to temptation, and tried every machine. They were much harder to operate than we expected. We could barely budge the running machine and the rower took the two of us to work just one oar. I tried the bicycle last, the best and easiest. And it was. I managed to make it work and soon got both pedals flying, even though I had to stand up to do so. Then, disaster: I tried to stop, realized the pedals had a life of their own, and I had to jump off while they whirled on.

I landed in a heap, glad to be in one piece, no broken bones, but when I looked at my left knee I saw a small but deep gash, one that I knew I was going to need help with, at least a butterfly bandage if not a stitch or two. I couldn't just sneak a bandaid out of the medcine cabinet and hide it.

Glumly, I trudged home, knowing I was in trouble. My mother was in the kitchen. She saw me come in and sensed something was wrong. "Honey, what's up?" she said, crouching to my height and taking my hands.

"I cut my knee!" I wailed, hoping my distress would keep her from asking how I did it.

It worked. She took my hand and led me to the bathroom where she soothingly washed the cut and applied a butterfly bandage she cut out of adhesive tape. "Feel better, sweetheart?" she asked. I nodded. "How about a cup of pea soup?"

Yum, my favorite! Things were looking brighter and brighter. I was almost out of the woods and began breathing again. Then:

"But, Honey, how did you get such a bad cut?" Mommy asked, tender concern in her voice.

Oh, I couldn't lie, I never could. I tried to fudge the truth sometimes, yes, but only with a vague version of the real truth. and so that's what I did now. "I fell off a bike," I offered warily.

"I see," she said. She was silent a while, and I hoped she'd leave it there. but no, not my mom. "But not your bike? Whose bike was it then?"

"It was at Gareth's" I was still fudging, but not quite lying.

"At Gareth's. But it wasn't Gareth's bike?"

I bit my lips, trying not to cry. What could I say? How could I explain? Dr G had expressly forbidden us to use those machines, and now look what happened!

"I hurt myself on Dr G's bicycle that goes nowhere!" I finally blurted out. "I don't know why he doesn't ride it, or why it doesn't go anywhere, or why he keeps it in the cellar instead of outside where he could feel the air even if it stays in one place and it seems to silly to ski without snow and row without water and to bike without going anywhere..."

"Honey, honey, honey, you're all right. You don't understand these things yet, but one day you will. Now I fixed your knee. Will you promise me to stay away from Dr G's machines from now on? If you do I promise I won't tell. Bargain?"

I nodded eagerly. And from then on, all my riding was outside and took me somewhere. I never went near that dreaded exercycle again.

Posted by pamwagg at May 3, 2005 04:46 PM


This is absolutely enchanting. Everything about this little anecdote rings true. We were very similar six year olds. I well remember the lure of the forbidden, as well as the inability to lie, even if giving in to temptation resulted in what might possibly bring punishment. Your mother won my heart in your very convincing portrayal of a wise and loving parent.
Of equal importance is the abrupt change of subject matter and your use of narration rather than exposition. I hope it gives your readers a chance to see yet another aspect of your seemingly endless talent. Three cheers for this one(and an A+ from a former ET).
Your Pesky Pal Paula

Posted by: Paula Kirkpatrick at May 5, 2005 09:56 AM

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