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Entry 14 -- Twilight Ride

"I'm putting more stuffing in your seat, Stasch, so it doesn't bruise your balls," I told my little brother as I gutted his bicycle seat at the work bench. Stasch who had had his medication today and his snack sat reading to me from his reader, a story about two kids going to the swimming pool, one of whom was afraid to go off the high diver. Stasch is a good reader. Stasch is also good with math. I could see Stasch going to Harvard one day. I think he has a better chance of this if I can get in to MIT. One brother can follow another, and it is always harder to go first.

I watched Stasch make a face. "Well you complained that your bike hurt you last summer."

"Yeah, but the seat was wobbly," he said.

"The seat was hard as a rock," I answered. "It sucks when your balls hurt. I don't want Aunt Aliza to have to take you to school because your balls hurt when you ride your bike."

Stasch glanced back in to the shop to see if any one was going to yell at me for cursing. It wasn't really cursing. It was just complaining and besides balls are a part of the anatomy. I'm not sure Stasch knows what the word, testes, means.

Oh well my dad and stepmother curse much worse than I do. They left us alone. I got done with Stasch' seat. Stasch got done with his reading. I put the seat back on the bike and bolted it in real tight. "It's going to be lower than last time," I told him. "It's safer that way anyway." I checked over the rest of Stasch' bike to make sure the frame and handlebars were tight. He hadn't complained about the brakes, but it is hard to mess up coaster breaks. Hand breaks and dereilleurs, now those are tricky. Stasch' bike is simple. Of course it looks like a junk heep.

"Kids say our bikes are shit," Stasch began the litany.

"Some day I'll get the bikes painted so all the parts match," I replied. Some day wasn't coming any time soon.

"OK, Stasch," I said. "You're getting a break from your reading. We're going for a ride."

"It's late," my little brother protested.

"I don't care. I want to make sure your bike's OK, and everything is comfy. You got to ride. I'm going with you. We're burning in your bike, got that."

"But mom won't let me," Stasch wailed.

"Oh yes she will," answered Aunt Aliza. "If you don't go riding, all you'll do is stand around and complain about how hungry you are then you'll complain about what I'm making for dinner."

"We're having turkey," said Stasch.

"We're having curried turkey and macaroni salad," answered Aunt Aliza.

Stasch scrunched up his pink face in disgust. "I'll put some plain turkey and bread and butter aside for you, if you go riding with Oisin. Just stay together and you'll be safe."

With that we were out of the shop, down the alley and in the street. Stasch trailed along behind me. We went at a moderate clip. "Seat feel good?" I asked Stasch.

"Yeah," he answered. That felt good. "Hey Oisin, where're we going?" he asked. He knows I always go somewhere.

"To the mall."

"Can we go there?"

"Why not? It's a public place."

"I thought they kicked kids out."

"We'll tell Aunt Aliza and dad if they do and they'll boycott the place which means they won't shop there."

"How can they do that?"

"Buy their shit over the net."

We crossed the big highway. We didn't walk our bikes but rode them when it said "Walk" and then headed through the parking lot towards the South End Mall. Greenup has three malls and South End is closest. We rode around the outside of the mall. I kept half an eye out for mall security. I mean it's ridiculous, but sometimes they are prejudiced against bike riders. I got run out of the mall three times last summer and one pig of a secuity guard even threatened to call the cops. Another one called the parents. That was humorous because Aunt Aliza reminded the guard that her sons were permitted to ride their bikes. Bike riding is legal, and besides that she knew where we were and had her permission to be there.

This time we made it three quarters of the way around the mall when we saw the crowd. There's a corral of sorts in the mall parking lot and it is a transportation center for the buses to the hollows. YGTA provides public transportation everywhere in Greenup but the best places to have the corrals are in the mall parking lots.

I slowed down. I wanted to see if Koli from school was waiting for a bus this late in the afternoon. Sometimes Koli's mother sends her on errands because Koli has a sick grandmother at home and Koli gets to go to the library after school that way.

I didn't see Koli. Instead I saw Steve from my metal shop class. He smiled. I had no idea what he was doing spending the afternoon in Greenup instead of heading back home. It looked like he had been shopping. He stared blankly at me with tired eyes. He had a bag from Auto Zone. I waved. He waved back. I decided to introduce Stasch to Steven.

Steven complimented Stasch on his bike. Stasch blinked. "My brother fixes bikes," said Stasch.

"That's a sweet thing to do," Steven replied. "Your brother is real good in math and science."

I'll be good in economics too if I can ever find an econ book with algebra in it. Just then mall security came prowling around. "Oh shit," I thought.

They stopped by the coral and the man walked right up to us. He was a man I had never seen before. He had on the uniform all right, but he also had a brown mustache and beard, hungry green eyes, and strings from a frayed undershirt sticking out of his black security guard shirt. On his head nestled among the full copper brown hair and bangs was a little round hat like a miniature braided rug. The hat was carefully held in place with bobby pins. They must be scraping the bottom of the barrel for security guards, I thought. Oh well being a security guard is a thankless proposition. Who wants to chase kids out of the mall all the time.

"Good afternoon young men," the security guard began.

"Cut the sinking sarcasm," I thought.

"May I ask what you are doing here?" the new security guard asked.

"What does it look like we're doing?" I thought.

"We're riding our bikes around the mall," I replied. "I just fixed my brother's bike today and we want to make sure it works. We came over here to see if any of the kids from my school were here. Steve from my metal shop class is here, so I thought we'd say 'hi.'"

OK, I thought. Now the guard can kick us out.

"All right," said the guard. "As long as your parents know you're here, and watch the crossing out by the highway."

"Thankyou sir," said Stasch, and I thanked the guard too.

Maybe they were paying the guards to be nicer. Maybe the guard was just all they could hire, I mean woud you hire a guy with strings sticking out of his shirt? I thought about this as we finished our loop and headed up to the highway to cross it on the way back home.

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