Chapter 5

Copyright© 2013 by JOHNNY SACHU

Terry was still peddling up Fat Man's Misery, the steepest paved hill in Scottsbluff. It had an official name, a city name, but that's what the two had come to called it. Though who the fat man was, they couldn't say, if asked. They were both pretty thin people.

It was harder for Terry the gamer. The air from his lungs puffed out wildly from his pale gaping lips. It was hard enough for Shannon, too, but she was simply much stronger. She always made it to the top first and waited while Terry struggled to reach the apex of their flying retreat, usually from walking that last fifty yards or so.

Shannon stood there, straddling her newly rebuilt orange and white Schwinn cruiser from the nineteen-thirty's, an old Excelcior model she found in a ditch and rebuilt, in a manner of speaking. She used her special, supernatural, abilities to clean up the frame and repair the aged metal, as well as it's paint and chrome. Then had that bicycle shop in Cheyenne bedazzle the plain, but beautiful looking, old-school frame with a lot of high technology parts and wheels to turn it into something like a full sized, twenty-six inch wheeled, BMX, street dream machine; stripped of anything unnecessary and with light weight wheels, it was a riot to ride.

Waiting for him to catch up, she was breathing hard too, catching her breath in the mid day cold of early October. The view from there, on the hill overlooking Scottsbluff Nebraska, was inspiring. She really did like it here and hoped she could stay. It wasn't easy, climbing this hill to gain this view, though, for it was so steep coming up but she and Terry enjoyed the wild downhill of it immensely, getting up to speeds, Shannon thought, exceeded thirty miles per hour, or more.

Shannon was really happy for Terry, gazing at him still struggling up the hill, with his cool find of an almost perfectly preserved old school Cook Brothers bike, from the nineteen eighties. Both their bikes were of similar styles of construction, they being almost copies of each other, and were equally efficient at getting around town like any bicycle, into alley ways, tight corners, narrow places between buildings, and generally just bombing around the city like kids on little BMX bikes do.

Terry was doing much better, physically, too. For a wimpy game-boy-nerd, he was getting more and more fit. When he was thirty yards away, she smiled, seeing the determination in his face to make it all the way up on his bike this time. Their gearing was only two teeth off, his being a thirty-six upfront, Shannon's a thirty-eight tooth front sprocket. They both ran a 17 tooth sprocket off the rear wheel. When he was twenty yards away, she clapped, when he was ten feet away, Shannon smiled and gave a cheer of, "WooHoo!", raising her hands above her head, showing all them pearly whites of hers. The cold air felt quite cool on her teeth. She knew it was still hard for him, looking concerned at Terry's colorless lips but his face was slowly beginning to return with color from their former clammy gray look, now that he had stopped beside her, though pointed in the opposite direction.

She leaned, grabbed his wrist and squeezed it, as he gasped beside her, looking for more air. "I made it," he said, a huge smile across his face and gulped again for more oxygen.

"I know," she said. "That was great."

But a moment later, Terry repeated himself, "I made it -- Wow!"

Shannon patted his shoulder. "Yes you did. Good for you Terry."

"Its-my-first-time," he gasped, still grinning.

"I know. You're definitely getting better at this."

Terry peddled forward, rolling his custom framed bike clean around in a tight u-turn, stopping beside Shannon, once more. They were both pointed down hill, now.

His and her bikes were so similar, she noticed, for the umpteenth time, waiting for Terry to recover. Hers was like an old paper route bike frame with the fenders and tanks removed. It had been the classic design that had been the basis for his bike, way down the line. Though apparently his never had been subjected to the abuse or indignity of carrying newspapers. The Cook Brothers bike was made from the ground up by a custom maker/designer genius from chromoly steel tubing and was very light but very strong and made for adult BMX or cruising, or whatever the owner wanted to do with them, like the two of them were doing today, just riding and goofing off. But while Shannon's was a production bike for kids, or slow moving adults, from the 1930's, from before either of them were born, his was a rocket. But now modernized, it was just as fun to ride as Terry's. Her tubing alone was so thick and made from such heavy carbon steel, two bike frames could have been made from it, these days. Her whole bike was five pounds, 3 ounces heavier than his. They had weighed them to find out, on her hanging shop scale.

She was currently the stronger rider yet that could change. You never knew. But it wasn't a competition between Shannon and Terry, it was simply how it was, this fun and riding, their odd togetherness, the friendship that had developed from the start out of Shannon's need to learn how to drive a stick shift on her old truck. Terry had taught her how. But the insuring forty years of refined differences between their bikes, she noticed, listening to Terry still breathing deeply, made very little difference in their overall appearance. Color was the main issue. Hers was painted red/orange, his was chromed, and the chrome on his bike was perfect. It was like it had just come off the factory floor, that day, after Terry had cleaned it up following his score at the garage sale. They just wanted to ride and have fun for themselves in these crazy ways, running around blocks, going shopping on them, taking them to each others favorite places all over their little town.

And thus, this hill today.

Throughout the year, Shannon was certain, it was always a blast to bomb down after the struggle of coming up.

She handed Terry half a Snickers she broke in two and they wolfed it down.

"Well, I'm ready," Terry finally said. "What are we going to do today, besides this."

"Eat of course. I thought we'd go out to the Chuck Wagon, there, east of town. They always have those big buffets for the truckers. I'm getting kind of cold and need something to eat. You up to it?"

"Can you pay?" Terry asked. "I'm afraid I don't have enough to even pay for the tip."

"Sure. My treat. You want to go first?"

"Lets go at the same time and see which of our bikes has the least rolling resistance."

"Okay, but only down to the red car on the right, 'kay? I want to pick up some real speed. I'm not going down this baby without freezing my face off. I worked too hard to get up here."

"Ah!" Terry rebutted. "You'll run out of gear before you can even begin to peddle."

"Yeah. You're right."

"Okay. Ready."

"No. Let me get my peddles even." Shannon reached for her one peddle and drew it up level, lifting the rear tire off the ground. She noticed Terry doing the same. "Okay. Ready. Set. Go."

They began coasting. Terry's bike seemed to be inches ahead when they reached the car, but Shannon peddled anyway, seeing if she could. She was out of gears as Terry had said. They were flying now. They weren't through accelerating, though, as the hill steepened and then had a long run out. The cold wind whistled past their ears, cutting right through their watch caps, sweaters, jackets, and jeans.

"I can't feel my face," Terry yelled.

Shannon "Woohooed," again, and when the hill ran out and they began to slow in their coast, they peddled quickly to help stay warm, zigzagging the blocks over towards the streets nearer the main drag. They hopped curbs. Did wheelies. Skidded tires in the dirt alleys. And generally did everything little kids on BMX bikes did. The only difference was, she was seventeen, and Terry was two years older. It was like growing up all over again with the fun times of doing whatever the heck you wanted to do.

At the restaurant, they cabled and locked their bikes together, putting the cable around one of the steel pipes that held up the restaurant sign. They'd be able to see the bikes from where they would sit, hopefully, in the diner.

"Woooo, I'm freezing," Terry complained.

"So am I. Let's go get something hot," she said, leaving her hat there on the table top, along with the receipt so the waitress would know they paid for the buffet.

They loaded their plates and sat down and didn't speak for a while, both shoveling warm food inside them. They finished about the same time and went back for another plateful.

Taking a few bites, Terry said, "My dad's given me an ultimatum, to either get a job, or go to college. I don't want to do either."

Shannon stopped her fork halfway to her mouth, looked up at Terry, and sat back, chewing. She didn't like this. Terry was her only friend and she didn't know what it would be like around here without him, if he moved away. She had grown up a loner, but it seemed different now, with a real friend in her life.

"Yeah. We had a big fight last night. He called me all kinds of names and told me he wasn't going to support me anymore unless I did something to show him I was looking towards the future."

Shannon didn't say anything. She could see how upset he was, but she was lousy at comforting and showing sympathy, never having gotten any of her own growing up. Instead she put her fork down and listened.

"I don't want to go to college, like I said before, and for the reason's I told you about. People are cruel all over and getting crueler. Any job I'd like to do doesn't exist in Scottsbluff. It's a farmer's town and who knows what's going to happen in the future around here. I don't want to move away from my friends and you, Shannon, but I hate it that I might have to."

"I'm sorry, Terry. I wish there was something I could say to make you feel better. Have you decided anything, yet?"

"No. I've got till my birthday in February, to make up my mind, and then I'm out the door, supposedly. My mom's still fighting my dad on that part of it, but I don't know what's going to happen."

They ate in silence now.

"Sorry," Terry said. "I didn't mean to ruin the mood."

"You haven't," Shannon said, sipping some hot chocolate from a cup. She put the ceramic cup on the table top and patted his hand. That was about the best she could do, she figured, to comfort him.

From the restaurant, they went their own ways. Shannon thought hard on what she could do, if anything and ended up at home, thinking about it. She drew a bubble bath and kept adding hotter and hotter water to it as she lay in it.

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