GLORY WHEELS: Based on a True Story

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Memoir  |  House: Booksie Classic

A cute five-year old towheaded boy lies his way into glory . . . .and myth, and eventually, legend.

GLORY WHEELS

Based on a True Story

Nicholas Cochran 

 

I hailed a cab in Brockville and advised the driver of my plan: retrace every inch of my tricycle odyssey of sixty-five years ago.

I was only five years old and solo on the day when I launched out on my ten-mile adventure. I pedaled five miles from Lyn to Brockville, before making a U turn at the bridge by the Regent theatre.

Today, from that turnaround point, I would inspect every detail along my triumphant route, climaxed by my rhapsodic entry into Lyn, into glory, into myth, and now, solidly camped in legend. A special niche in the village museum honors my tricycle with a safety pin attaching a hand-printed note penned by the curator, Orville Ladd himself .

Copies of the village weekly spread my tour de force over every page. The Brockville Recorder and Times devoted page one of the second section, weekend edition, to my exploit. Copies of both papers rest on a special perch above the handle bars.

And yet, were it not for one man, my storied ride into fame and kiddy stardom, would have been abruptly aborted.

*

Shimmering layers of heat waves danced along the shoulderless road to its peak. With white knuckles, the Reverend Bertrand ‘Bertie’ Mainwaring, Presbyterian, clutched his tortured steering wheel in a semi-death grip while willing his old rubber-tired mount to the crest. Upon completing his harrowing ascent, the Reverend immediately relaxed and let the steadfast Pontiac’s weight slowly draw him down a short incline to the curve by the railroad bridge. There, turning slightly to look over his left shoulder at the Minister of the opposing Church in Lyn, sat a flaxen-haired five year old, Christopher William Edward Steel. On his tricycle; his young brow creased by curiosity and caution.

The Presbyterian Minister correctly identified the object (as Anglican Church) and its rider, and quickly moved his foot to the brake. The Pontiac slushed through the shifting gravel, stopping a foot from CWES.

Bertie bounced out. “You’re Christopher Steel, aren’t you, son?” quietly, reverentially; and before the boy could answer, “What on earth are you doing out here?” The heat was solid and silent.

“I’m riding my tricycle.” the boy stated conclusively, and left it at that.

“Well I can surely see that, my boy, I can . . . but what are you doing away out here; you’re miles from home, miles from Lyn. Where have you been . . . where are you going?”  The man removed his Panama, in the same motion, drawing his white jacket sleeve across his dripping brows. His black-rimmed glasses were steaming him blind.

“Well,” began Christopher, “I’m riding to Brockville; I’m almost there . . . and then I’ll come back.” Considering the conversation—as well as the meeting—over, he turned to his vehicle, placed his left foot on the pedal, and pushed off.

“Here . . . here now, you listen here young man,” stammered the Minister as he rushed toward the boy, “you’re miles from home… and Brockville is not even close; and it’s’ very, very hot. Now you get in here and I’ll take you home.” Exhibiting the advanced development that had all his teachers buzzing, Christopher coolly replied. “But you’re going the other way.”

The good—and kind—Reverend Mainwaring could not allow himself—and especially Christopher’s mother—to accept rejection with such an abrupt brush-off.

“Now Christopher,” firmly, “son . . . be reasonable. Did you tell your mother where you were going; what time are you supposed to be back? You’re mother’s probably frantic by now. Does she even know where you are?”

Christopher paused at the edge of the asphalt while he considered this flood of questions. His hesitation provided the Minister with just enough space to catch the lad by the collar. The boy’s lemon and white striped short-sleeved jersey stretched, and for a moment, the intrepid adventurer was dangling between gravel and asphalt. “I’m not kidding Christopher, I want you inside; I’m taking you back right now.” At this same moment, Rev. Bertie was trying to conjure an excuse for arriving an hour late for the Ferris Wedding Rehearsal. The valiant trailbreaker immediately offered a solution.

“No”, cried Christopher, wrenching himself out of the Minister’s grasp, “I won’t go….but I’ll ride back.”

“Now?” asked the Minister quickly, as he released the jersey.

"Yes. Right now.” Christopher immediately turned his front wheel and pointed it back toward Lyn. He mounted the asphalt and began pedaling slowly back up the incline heading west.

This answer, as well as the boy’s decisive action, surprised Reverend Mainwaring such that he merely twisted around to watch him pedal away. “Oh . . . well, all right . . . and you be very, very careful!” Bertie hurled his yell toward the retreating boy in a rather wet and deflated tone. By the time the Pontiac was fired up and curving off the turnout, Christopher disappeared from the Minister’s rear view mirror.

*

But I never went home. Although I was an adorable tow-headed kid and looked angelic, I was also a strong-willed little liar. I waited behind the hill for five minutes, turned around, and continued my challenge.

*

Today, that wonderful Reverend Mainwaring was celebrating his one hundred and fifteenth birthday; he was the oldest man in Ontario. Here I was, off to visit him on the exact date of my gallant excursion of yesteryear.

The view through the passenger window of the cab revealed every turn of my storied expedition; every rise and fall in elevation; each copse; every forest; the lush rolling farmland. Here was the Y where a wrong turn would have added hours to my expedition; the old swimming hole where we celebrated with a picnic. Tears were welling; my throat tightened. The magical five miles ebbed away. There was the Presbyterian Church across from the cemetery, marking the final half mile down the hill into the center of Lyn, and immortality.

Here I was, on the same day, August 5th; at exactly the same hour, only sixty-five years later. It was all too difficult to believe—and was rapidly becoming surreal.

But what was this? My eyes locked onto a picture of defeat. From the front of the church, a funeral procession slowly trudged toward the road and a waiting hearse.  I was too late! My high spirits tumbled; then crashed. Some providence! I thought.

My cab rolled on. As we were about to pass the side road into the Church grounds, I decided to have the driver make a U and return to Brockville. An instant after my request, I thought I should at least take a moment to pay my respects to the great man who enabled my years of storytelling (with inflated embellishments) to entertain, amuse, and impress wide audiences of rapt listeners. After all, he was the purpose of my visit. Even in death, he remained a hero of my life experience, the wellspring of my adult adventures.

I quickly found the rear of the procession and looked about for help.

“May I help you sir?” She was short and fortyish with very thick glasses and a faint moustache.

“Well . . . yes, thank you—you see I‘d hoped to speak to Reverend Mainwaring and congratulate him on his marvelous achievement, but I see that I’m too late,” I nodded toward the front of the procession. Somewhere a crow cawed. Heat stood thick and still.

“Oh, heavens no,” throwing her hand to her mouth, “it’s not the Reverend, it’s the Mayor; last Thursday, bad clams. Bertie’s just fine—there—in the back,” pointing with a colletted lace-cuffed sleeve and a bony index finger toward a squarish squat brick cottage with a slate roof, “he’s in there, he is; and he’s a hundred and fifteen. Praise the Lord!”

My spirits soared. Ah, ‘Providence,’ I thought. Indeed, indeed!  A quick thanks, and I fairly sprinted to the narrow front door, framed by white shuttered windows bearing flower boxes of pansies and asters.

The door was open.

“Hello?” blackness beyond the sunshine blinded me, “hello? . . . Reverend Mainwaring?”

“Yes?” a thin breathy piping sound.

“It’s me.” I dove in. Before my eyes could shed the gloom, I announced who I was and why I was there, concluding with: “And, sir: heartiest congratulations!

*

Only afterward did I learn he was in perfectly sound health, except for suffering a rare type of mental Tourette syndrome.

“You miserable little bastard! . . . you unmitigated son of a whore! . . . you devious little shit head! All my life—sixty-five years—you’ve been a plaque upon me; a curse; a pox! Noooo, you wouldn’t come home with me in the car . . . you arrogant little piss pot! “Noooo, you had to keep going . . .  and back! And all these years I’ve been laughed at! insulted! called a pervert! They thought I’d taken you, and all the time I was at the Purvis Wedding Party Rehearsal!  Get out! Get out! You damned little piece of Anglican crap!”

I fled; from Lyn, from Brockville, but not from my magical memories.

 

THE END


Submitted: January 21, 2016

© Copyright 2021 Nicholas Cochran. All rights reserved.

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