Dead Man's Hill

When you're 10 years-old riding your sister's (too big for you) bike, taking Dead Man's Hill strikes an Al Qiada terror in your soul. Raking up at a sheer 85 degrees, with bumps, turns, and patch of gravel at the end challenged even the toughest hot dog bikers on the block. The show-offs would ride it like a roller coaster, standing on their pedals, with no hands, and shirts filled with air like the Michelin Man.

My sister was a sissy, what you'd call a major wuss in this era. She'd walk her beloved bike, which she gloated about, down it's almost double distance of a regular city block. It was the fastest way to get to the park entrance where the popcorn wagon parked during the summer. She gloated because she had a bike, and I walked. It was rare to ever see anyone make it back to the top without walking. So it didn't matter, up or down, there was always somebody facing the challenge of Dead Man's Hill, especially if you wanted a snow cone.

Now, I was no wuss. In fact, I rode shotgun (literally) on the back of one the biggest show-offs bike one time. He had a pump action bee-bee gun we loaded with dirt clods, which I shot at the wanna-be bullies of the neighborhood. A sport I wouldn't recommend if you don't want to be jumped and pummeled with water balloons. My charade as Calamity Jane was more to win the attentions of my Wild Bill. It worked for some 10 year-old kissing in the bushes and a few snow cones. But, back to the hill.

My sister, of all people, had taken the hill that summer. We couldn't believe it. She wouldn't ride on a sled, never put on a pair of roller skates, or even attempt the little kids merry-go-round at the park. Her having a bike instead of me was a waste. However, we're not really sure what happened. The story goes that some big kids were chasing her and a friend. The only escape was down Dead Man's Hill. Maybe they thought they wouldn't be followed when they took the curve to Hell. Some people tried a fast start and breaking half way down, but it was never a good plan.

So, there I was- hand grips slippery with sweat, unnaturally clammy for the middle of August, and Dead Man's between me, a cherry snow cone, and Wild Bill. I was going to take it. "Go slow, coast with intermittent braking at least half way, then take it easy until the curve, keep from skidding on the gravel, avoid the dip, and ride across the finish line in glory."

The big green Schwin rattled as I hoisted myself up on the seat. Once perched I couldn't reach the ground so it was all or nothing. The fenders and my heart pounded over each crack in the sidewalk. The speed picked up. Coasting got faster. I pictured myself standing on the pedals. "No- that would be suicide, don't even think of letting go of the handlebars!" Breaking, "don't skid, don't skid. Look ahead." I see my sister's face, white with panic. She was standing at the curve. She raised her arms. The sling on her cast looked like a flag at the finish line.

"No, she shouted, slow down. You're going to kill yourself." The gap between her chipped teeth appeared as she said the word "kill." The basket on the old green Schwin bounced so hard it flew right off. I dipped to one side to avoid running over it with my back tire. I began wobbling. The gravel only 10 yards away. There was the phone pole that gave my sister the gap in her grin and I was heading straight for it.

"All or nothing, what's next?" The end was just past the gravel and around the bend. I got up on the pedals. It probably looked like typical show-off stuff, but it was a power break move on my part. My blouse filled with air. I let up, skiddless through the gravel and then felt my hands slide off the wet grips and catch the wind. The big green Schwin rolled me past the phone pole and my sister's dumb struck face in slow motion. The sling went down on my finish line.

Dead Man's hill was mine!

1 comment:

Melissavina said...

You're such a hot ass, mom!