Birthday Bike Ride (Ginger Man 8B)

“It was the day after my sixteenth birthday.” Maggie opened their boxed pasta dinner as she continued. “Was riding my bike home, and alla sudden Mike whizzes past me, dares me to race him. So I follow him, ’til I sees we’re comin’ up to his house.” She turned away from the stove, leaned against it, folding her arms. “Didn’ see his mom’s car in the driveway, an’ I knew his father was the only one who parked in that small garage they had, an’ he’d be at work.” She smiled triumphantly. “So I’d pretty much figgered out what he was up to, even ‘for he asked iffin I wanted to come in. I was like ‘what the hell,’ so’s I go in.”

Charlie had sat down again at the makeshift table. “Diddinow Mike liked you.”

“Ha!” Maggie shook her head. “Caught me by surprise too. Anyway we go in, he asks iffin I want sumpin’ to drink, and I’m like No, what I really want to see is your room.” She closed her eyes, smiled. “Poor Mike, I could tell he was pretty new to this, he looks like he’s gonna wet himself right there and then!” She looked at Charlie, mock terror on her face. “Oh. Ohhh — O.K. So I ask him where his room is, and he says it’s upstairs –”

“First door on the left.” Charlie tilted his chin up.

“Right. So I’m following him and talking about, I dunno, school stuff or whatever, trying to get him to relax, but he’s not sayin’ nuthin’, like we’re goin’ to the dentist or sumpin’. We get to his room — ”

“Was the door closed?”

Maggie opened her eyes wide, looked up at the ceiling. “Yes.” She pointed at Charlie. “I’d forgotten that. I was gonna ask him ’bout that too, but he looked so nervous at the time. He opens the door a little bit, looks in right and left, then opens it wide, walks in, looks at me.

“I step in, look around. It’s a mess, like my brothers’ rooms, ‘cept he’s got more comic books than they does. Models — I remember the models, airplanes and spaceships and monsters, all over the place. Had all these posters on the wall, superheroes and science fiction movies — there was this really cool picture of some guy with a sword, fighting a dragon.”

“Yeah.” Charlie pointed at Maggie. “I ‘member, it really wuz cool. Tried to ask him one time where he got it — ”

“Comic book shop.” Maggie looked at Charlie, surprised she was conveying new information to him. “In the city.” She pointed in the general direction of the city.

“Huh.” Charlie scratched his wiry beard. “How’d you know that?”

“Mike told me. I pointed to that picture, said it was cool, and he was like Yeah, I got it at a comic book shop, in the city. He seemed to relax a little, started talking about where he got his other stuff.” She suppressed a laugh. “Right after he explained about painting and putting together the models by himself, I touched his shoulder. He turns to me, his eyes are really wide, looks scared. So I reached down at touched his hand — said it was OK.”



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