Couldn’t Be Just Like Before (30 Stories — 12)

The wheel on her bike, the front one, was busted.  Her father had backed into it the night before backing into a parking space and overshooting the curb just a little, just enough.

Ruined.  Still the same pretty pink that had made her heart swell when she’d unwrapped it at Christmas.  Still perfect and beautiful.  Except for some invisible crimp in the frame that kept the front wheel from turning more than a quarter of its revolution.

He’d brought the bike into the kitchen, her father.  Carried it up from the street and set it on the floor in front of the stove.

“If I can’t fix it, we’ll get you a new one,” was all he’d said at first.

She and her mother, side by side snapping beans over the sink, had turned to stare at him.  She hadn’t wanted it to be true, but had felt her face shift — first crumpling in pain then hardening in anger.

“What happened?” Not really a question, but the clipped, disdainful tone of the woman at the checkout who would announce the grocery total and then look at her mother as if she assumed there wouldn’t be money enough to cover it.

She had cried and refused her dinner, refused to be consoled, had taken herself to bed, still in tears.

But by morning, she had softened.  She knew her father, knew it was likely he could fix whatever was wrong with the frame, knew that if he couldn’t, he would be true to his promise and find a way to buy her a new one.  And she would be happy either way.

That was all true, but she also felt the change.  The bike would never be the same, a new bike would never be the same.  Everything had changed: the magic of her glorious pink flying machine, the certainty that her father could never hurt her,  the safety of surrounding herself with objects.


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