On a hot summer day in 1969, twelve-year-old Reese Summers sped down a dirt road on his bicycle along the edge of the woods. The wind whipped his wavy brown hair back and the cool air provided a pleasant relief from the heat. Reese turned to look over his shoulder and caught a glimpse of his friend Charlie Buford off in the distance struggling to keep up. A grin crossed Reese's face as he shifted gears and started peddling up Indian Hill, a steep incline about three hundred yards long. He knew poor Charlie wound not have chance to catch him up the hill because he did not have just any bike, he had a Schwinn Sting-Ray Orange Krate.
The Bike was a brilliant orange color that matched its name and stood out from a mile away. It had a bucket seat and a five-speed stick shift that made Reese the envy of the neighborhood kids. His father had given it to him as a present before being deployed to Vietnam the year before. The bike was Reese's most prized possession and he felt like he could soar like a bird when he rode it. At times, he would even stretch his arms out to his sides when riding and pretend he was eagle hovering through the blue skies. When Reese reached the top of the hill, he clamped down on the brakes and skidded to a stop kicking up a cloud of dust. He looked back again to see Charlie walking his bike up the hill in dismay.
"Come on slow poke, hurry it up!" shouted Reese. Charlie wiped the sweat from his chubby cheeks red from exhaustion and looked at Reese with resentful eyes. His grey t-shirt was soaked in sweat and his calves ached from peddling his cheap one speed bike after Reese. He muttered to himself under his breath and pressed forward up the hill.
Reese peddled off the road to the edge of the south slope of Indian Hill and hopped of his bike. He gazed down the hill and felt a few butterflies fill his stomach as he realized how steep the south slope of the hill really was. This was the best spot for sledding in the winter, but without the snow cover it seemed twice as steep. Charlie finally, came lumbering up to Reese breathing heavily and laid his bike onto the ground.
"So you gonna do it?" asked Charlie.
"Yeah of course… I'm not scared this bike can handle anything"
Reese was lying, but he knew if he backed out now he would never hear the end of it. He had been bragging about how he was going to ride down the hill at three o' clock today on his Sting-Ray all last week, and be the first kid in the neighborhood to do it.
"I think you are crazy. I mean look how steep that is you'll break your neck or something." Charlie said shaking his head.
"Nahhh… It aint nothing I haven't done before. I will be fine trust me."
"Yeah right. Even my dumbass knows that's not true."
"Alright maybe not" Reese admitted. "But the other guys are gonna be here soon and I can't wuss out in front of them. Especially, not that dickhead Bobby, he will see who the bravest is around here."
"Okay, I will give it to you that Bobby is a dick, but there has got to be a better way to prove you're braver than getting yourself killed or even worse wrecking that bike. I mean that thing must have cost a fortune your parents will kill you if something happens to it!"
Charlie was right the bike was not cheap and Reese was never sure how his dad afforded it. His family was poor and always struggled to make ends meet. Reese's mother was never happy about him receiving the bike and Reese knew it from the bitter look in her eyes every time she saw it. If she did not know how much the bike meant to him he was sure she would sell it to help pay the bills.
"Don't worry Charlie, with the shocks and drum brakes I got me and the bike will be fine" Reese replied as confidently as he could. He always tried to keep his cool around Charlie in tough situations, but he could tell his best friend was genuinely worried about him.
Charlie just shook his head and said nothing. Didn't matter how well Reese acted, Charlie knew he was scared. He could tell by the way Reese always vigorously tapped his right index finger when he was nervous. Last year, just before they stole candy from the gas station on Oak Street Reese had the same nervous twitch. Despite this, Charlie knew there was no talking Reese out of something he had already fixed his mind on doing, even if it meant getting hurt in the process.
Reese stepped off his bike and flipped the kickstand down with his foot. He looked over his shoulder and saw a group of five boys approaching on their bikes. Bobby Greene was leading the pack and just the sight of him made Reese grit his teeth. The boys screeched to a stop in front of Reese and Charlie and stepped of their bikes. Bobby had his red hair buzzed short making his freckles pop out even more than usual and was wearing a sleeve less t-shirt stained with grease that showed off his pale arms. He glared at Reese with his razor sharp green eyes and gave a smirk showing his yellow teeth.
"Surprised you ain't pissed yourself yet" hissed Bobby. He cocked his head back let loose a ball of spit that winged right between Reese's legs. It was all Reese could do not to just clock Bobby in the head right then and there in front of his friends, but he kept his cool.
"I'm surprised you and your goons didn't show up in skirts," replied Reese.
"Who you calling goons?" one of the boys croaked.
"He is talking to you dimwit," answered Charlie.
"Best shut your mouth you tub of lard before I shut it for ya!" the boy shouted.
Charlie was a fat kid, but he was also a strong one and had a short temper when it came to his weight. Quick as a lightning strike and before Reese could stop him Charlie picked the boy up and threw him to the ground. Several other kids had shown up around this time to watch Reese go down the hill and got even more excitement then they bargained for with the fight. A circle quickly formed around the two boys tumbling on the ground with kids shouting and antagonizing the fight. Charlie quickly overpowered the boy and smothered him on the ground.
"Get this sweaty pig off of me!" the boy squeaked.
Two of his friends tried to pull Charlie off, but he slugged one in the jaw and tossed the other like a ragdoll. Charlie pressed his knee into the back of the boy's neck and wrenched his arm behind his back so hard Reese thought it was going to break. The boy screamed in pain and begged for mercy as tears streamed down his cheeks. Charlie finally, let him go, stood up and kicked dirt at the boy sprawled out on the ground as he walked away to the cheers of the other kids.
"Showed that sonofabitch" Charlie managed to say to Reese as he walked up to him out breath panting like a dog on a hot summer day. Reese just smiled and gave Charlie a pat on the back.
"Hey, Reese you gonna ride down the hill or ya to chicken!" Bobby shouted. Reese turned around and saw Bobby standing by his bike. Other kids started chiming in asking him if he was going to do it and Reese knew there was no turning back now. He walked up to Bobby pushed him out of the way jumped on his bike, took a deep breath and started down the hill. Bobby's face lit up with a greasy smile as he watched him begin his decent down Indian Hill.
Reese's adrenaline flowed through his body as his speed quickly augmented as he peddled down the steep hill. His calf muscles tensed as his bike began to rattle and jump from the rough uneven surface of the hill. He was moving too fast and began applying pressure to his brakes squeezing tighter and tighter, but his bike only went faster and faster. He clamped down on his brakes so hard his hands began throb in pain. Panic swelled his insides until he felt as though he burst like a bloated tick when he noticed his brake cables flaying in all directions. Oh shit someone cut my brake cables! His bike picked up more speed going faster, faster, violently vibrating and his muscles strained to keep it under control. There was nothing that he could do to stop himself. He dared not make any sudden movements, as he feared he would flip the bike sending him head over heels. He just kept his eyes fixed on the tree looming in his path.
Charlie watched in horror as Reese sped down the hill like a rocket. "Christ! He needs to slow down he is heading right for that tree!" He shouted. At that speed, he knew Reese could not avoid the tree. Everyone was shouting and jumping up and down as they watched Reese get bumped around by the hill's rough surface.
"I can't believe he hasn't crashed yet!" someone yelled.
"I guess he forgot how to use the brakes on that fancy bike of his!" Bobby smirked.
Charlie looked at Bobby and saw a guilty smile slither across his face. That was when he noticed a pair of cable cutters sticking out of his back pocket. You dirty rotten sonofabitch. His fists balled up in anger.
"Look he's about to hit the tree!" Someone called out excitingly.
Reese tensed up as the tree came upon him, he was about to play a dangerous game of chicken that would make him the talk of the neighborhood. He wanted to make it as close as possible; he figured he was going to crash as soon as he tried to turn the bike anyway. The tree got bigger and bigger as his bike approached wobbling from the speed. He felt his front tire pop and he panicked jerking his body to the right sending his bike into a skid around the tree. Whisssh! An overhanging tree branch snapped as he narrowly avoided smacking his head against it. He twisted his body back to the left to correct himself and somehow managed to gain control of the bike again. He turned his head to look back at the tree in bewilderment. I cannot believe I miss… His front tire crashed into a boulder.
The world flipped by like a slideshow as rocks, dirt, and grass passed through his vision. He was flying through the air and time slowed down to a crawl. Suddenly, the ground turned into a bright blue sky with clouds dotting the horizon. Reese felt strangely calm, almost surreal, and then he hit the ground with a thudding crack of bone.
His body flipped and rolled helplessly down the hill for another twenty meters before coming to a stop on his back. He wanted to scream in pain, but the air escaped his lungs and all he could do was groan. He slowly pushed his head up with his elbows and saw his left leg twisted unnaturally looking limp and dead. He had broken his leg and could not get up on his own.
He could feel warm blood start trickling down his face. Voices were shouting behind him and getting closer; he became very dizzy, weak, and plopped back down to the ground. He could see the blue sky with its white clouds again, and calmness washed over him, then all was black.