Summer Soap part 4: Another memory, and another near-tragedy

Summer Soap is a daily fictional serial run over 12 parts, which began on Monday. Called Moving Along, it was written by Nejla Gaylen of the MA in Creative Writing Programme at UCC. See previous episodes at
Summer Soap part 4: Another memory, and another near-tragedy

“Dennis had good focus and balance transitioning off the cement drive onto the lawn. He gathered sufficient speed to hit the first ramp, ride over it and tilt down...”

Episode Four – BMX Superstar

KATE sat on the sofa with her feet pulled up against her body.

“Maybe the whole bus versus bicycle thing is karma paying me a visit from when we lived on Ardmore Drive, in the house that was way back in last cul-de-sac of the neighbourhood.

“Of the three houses we lived in growing up, that was my favourite. It took forever to get from the entrance of the neighbourhood to our house, and there were times that was so annoying, but it also made it seem like our house was in this special place apart from everybody else and that made us special and gave us special powers.”

Kate chuckled into the phone.

“The special powers did not extend to Dennis Hartley, even though his house was right next door to ours and would seemingly be covered by the same veil of ‘special’ as our house.

“And we really couldn’t be faulted that our driveways and the strip of lawn between them were just begging to be made into a BMX obstacle course with a long slope to the back.

“Also, dad had all those 4x4 pieces of wood, various wood pallets from who knows where, plywood, bricks and other assorted ‘project materials’ that had been lying under the deck untouched, also begging to be turned into something useful. Oh, and that old kiddie pool that had never made it to the kerb on trash collection day.

“The adults should have done a better job of anticipating the devious minds of a fool seven, eight and nine-year-old bent on hell and destruction. I remember thinking at the time that the worst thing that could possibly happen was that we’d end up in the creek at the far back of the property, almost like making a dive into the water from your bike.

“Since that sounded cool, there wasn’t any reason to be concerned and we continued planning away.

“Of course, the creek was only seven inches deep, so that maybe should have been a cause for concern, but we were too busy contemplating BMX superstardom.

“We all stood at the top looking down with idiot grins plastered across our faces once we’d finished. And then Dennis started crowing about being the first to go down since he was technically the oldest, which was a reason I could accept, and a boy, which was a reason I could not accept.

“We argued until he just strapped on his helmet, grabbed his bike, and walked it back up to the top of the driveway.

“The course, if you remember, technically started in the street and then onto our driveway. Then, the rider would hit the top of the grass patch between our two driveways and go down a little before the first ramp, which was a piece of plywood over some bricks.

“This was a tilting ramp so you would just kind of rock down onto the other side, but then the next ramp was with the 4 x 4s and we set up two side by side so you could choose whether to go left or right.

“But they were both propped up, with the far end on top of folding chairs, so you would get launched into the air and over the stacks of pallets and the pool — which we’d filled with water — then come down and steer the bike between two orange traffic cones before hopping onto a pallet that we had put on top of two skateboards, so it would go a little ways across a flatter part of the course, before another downhill part where you would go as fast as you could, and then stop just in time to keep yourself from catapulting headfirst into the seven inch deep creek.

“It’s almost 30 years later and it still sounds amazing.

“Dennis had good focus and balance transitioning off the cement drive onto the lawn. He gathered sufficient speed to hit the first ramp, ride over it and tilt down on the other side back onto the grass.

“There was enough room from there to regather some speed before he took the left 4x4 of the next ramp and leapt into the air.

“The bike came down short of the closing ramp, and his rear tyre clipped the wood pallet, causing Dennis to bounce awkwardly off his bike and onto the lawn, where he lay crumpled and moaning like one of your broken and discarded dolls.

“No adults came running outside until we properly notified them that Dennis had crashed on the BMX course and we had tried to carry him back up the hill but couldn’t.

“His mom was smoking hot mad at him all the way walking down until she saw him lying there and realised he was more than just a little bit hurt.

“I ran into Dennis years later during college and he looked great. You would never have known he had emergency surgery to remove his spleen and was in the ICU for almost a week.

“His family moved not that long after he’d gotten out of the hospital, which was a shame since the new neighbours weren’t nearly as fun.”

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