Flying down the sidewalk. That’s how it felt. Caley and I were riding our bikes but it felt like flying. We were returning home for supper. Caley is 6 years old, I’m 9.
Everything is about to go wrong.
We are returning home from a day at the local park with friends. We’ve been playing our favourite game, “the ground is lava”. This game of tag is played 10 to 15 feet off of the ground on the large logs that make up the core structure of the park. All of the pillars are connected with horizontal members, with some diagonal pieces for the slide. All of the green, pressure treated logs being half the size of railway ties. This was not a small structure. It was easy to move around, scrambling, climbing, jumping, Tarzan swinging through and high-wire walking between the four smaller substructures.
Maybe that’s why Caley couldn’t control his bike. Maybe that’s why I couldn’t react fast enough. Tired, and hungry, racing home to fix both. Careless.
Caley is about 6 feet in front of me. I have maybe half a bike length between my front tire and his rear tire.
The first thing I notice is Caley slowing and veer off to the right. I intuitively know something is wrong, trying to avoid him I pull to the left onto the grass of a neighbour; they’ll never know.
But Caley is trying to save himself as well, and overcorrects. He teeters left, his front tire turns almost ninety degrees to the direction of travel. That’s not a stable position for a bike, and down he goes. Momentum carrying him to a nice soft landing square onto his back, into grass.
The grass of the lawn of our neighbour, the one I’m current occupying.
I don’t have any more time to react. All I can do is ride it out, directly over his face, as his eyes, already wide from the spill, widen even more.
Thunk, thunk. Both tires, all the weight of me and my bike ride over my brothers nose. It couldn’t have been a better hit if I had planned it for a week.
My next motion is the standard kids dismount for a moving vehicle. A quick side slide and I’m turning 180 back to Caley as my bike continues it’s run into a hedge.
Caley balls up, hand clutching his face, feet tangled up with the frame and handle bars of his bike. This is going to bad, I think to myself. Dad is never going to believe I didn’t punch him. I can see the blood beginning to seep out between his fingers, tears welling up, look of disbelief and pain set into his eyes.
What can I do? I have to get him home. Pulling him free from the bike I grab at his shoulder, lifting him to his feet, I grab at his nose as well, tilting his head back in the style of the time. I guide him back to the house half a block away, it’s not like he can see anything with two hands grasping at his nose like they are trying to keep his brain in his head.
Bikes forgotten, we rush up the walk, Mom is in the back yard, Dad is not visible, most likely in the basement trying to escape the summer heat. The front door is open and I whisk Caley through the living room, turn right, down the hall, first door on the left, bathroom. Clutching at the toilet paper hanging on the wall to my right, Caley leans over the sink and lets go of his nose.
Oh my God, what a mess. You’d think that we were slaughtering animals. Blood dripping down. The first part of a blood clot forming drops from his nose, clinging a little before it lets go and drops to the sink with a slick, “thwiping” sound.
I lean over his right shoulder and shove the toilet paper into his face. Intent on stopping the carnage.
That’s when Mom comes around the corner. How do Mom’s know the exact instant something has gone horribly wrong? It must be a skill they install at the hospital.
Mom is not happy, she has that stern look in her eye, ready to give us heck for whatever nonsense we are currently engaged in. The disciplinarian. Then she sees Caley. Everything changes in that instant. It’s suddenly the care-giver. She takes over and starts cleaning Caley up. I’m a babbling stream of barely understandable statements about bikes, noses, and fault. She doesn’t care she just sees a bloody six year old boy and his visibly distraught 9 year old brother.
I can’t remember much more beyond that. Caley was fine. Talking with him years on around he doesn’t even remember. Mom doesn’t either. I do, but it’s not traumatic, just vivid. Clear. Emotionally anchored memory.