There it sat, in a garage smelling of oil, car exhaust and the decay of forgotten boxes filled with lost memories. Fin stood to my left and Fish to my right, the bike frame sat on the concrete between the two of them. We looked down at it through the dim light that had managed to make its way to where we stood. The paint was chipped and worn in some spots, there was rust and dust covering it and, apparently, some spiders had decided to build a retirement community in the joints of the down tubes and front forks.
“It aint so bad, we just need a set of tires, handlebars, some pedals and a seat…” Fish started ticking off a supply list.
“Man, this thing is a piece of crap. C’mon, where we gonna find all that shit? Skip, just ride your sisters bike until you get a new one.” Fin interrupted.
“Fin, shut the hell up.” Fish and I yelled in tandem.
But deep inside me, I felt Fin’s doubt growing. Just where were we going to get all the parts for this thing? Hell there wasn’t even a builder’s plate on the frame. I couldn’t tell if it was a Huffy, Schwinn or Mongoose. It definitely was a BMX style frame but none of us had a clue what kind. “Fish, how long has this thing been sitting here?” I asked.
“Don’t know, does it matter?” He said with a shrug. “Let’s get it outside so we can see it better.”
I grabbed the front forks and Fish grabbed the rear tire brackets while Fin opened up the garage door. Once we had it sitting in the middle of the driveway we all stepped back and stared at it. It looked worse in the sunlight than it did in the gloom of the garage. I could tell by the look on Fin’s face that his opinion had not changed. Fish’s smile was slowly fading and I was starting to feel a bit defeated myself.
“So, we need to start getting this thing cleaned up.” Fish said as he walked into the garage. I stood there looking at the frame and then at Fin. We caught each other’s eyes and we both shrugged in defeat.
“I don’t know Skip. Two weeks aint a lot of time to get this thing together.”
“Yeah, well, I really don’t want to ride one of my sister’s bikes. Besides, we aren’t really doing anything this weekend or next weekend. Let’s just play it by ear and see what happens.”
“Hey! Guys! You gonna stand there and wish for the bike to fix itself or are we gonna get working?” Called Fish from the garage and both Fin and I headed in to see what Fish had on his mind for cleaning up our new project.
We found him at the near the back of the garage standing in front of his father’s work bench. A couple of the drawers were open and he was frantically pulling out some pliers, screwdrivers, rags, wrenches and sheets of sandpaper. “Hey, one of you guys grab some paint thinner from off that shelf over there.” Fish ordered and nodded his head toward a shelf filled with cans of paint, mineral spirits, stain and paint thinner. Fin headed over to the shelf and started rooting through the cans.
“What’s up Fish?” I asked.
“Ok, first we gotta get that rust off the frame and sand down some of the old paint. Then we need to clean it with the mineral spirits so the new paint will stick to it. While you and Fin do that, I’m gonna make a list of parts to look for at the junk yard. Oh, and all of us are going to carry a flathead screwdriver, crescent wrench and a pair of pliers until the bike is finished.”
“Why do we need to carry the tools?” Fin asked with his hands filled with paint cans.
“Cause man, don’t you know that every bike in America only requires you to have a flathead screwdriver, crescent wrench and a pair of pliers to either put it together or tear it apart?”
“Seriously?” I asked.
“Yeah man, my dad told me about that. He also taught me how to fix up a bike and painting and all sorts of stuff.”
Fin and I both stopped and just stared at Fish, I can’t speak for Fin but I know I was a little more than jealous that Fish’s old man was around to show him all that stuff.
“C’mon guys stop goofing off and let’s get to work. Fin, you find that can of mineral spirits yet?”
“Yeah, I got it.” He said and walked past me, only to stop briefly and pick up a handful of rags and follow Fish out into the sunlight.
I scooped up a handful of sandpaper and caught up with them just as they were sitting down; Fin and I immediately started to sand and wipe all the dirt, rust and cobwebs off. Fish pulled a pencil out of his pocket and a started to write down a parts list and mumble to himself occasionally. I couldn’t understand what he was saying over the sound of the sanding that Fin and I were doing but once he finished writing he began to help us sand the bike frame.
It didn’t take long, maybe 45 minutes of grubby, nasty hard work. Once we finished there was a respectable pile of worn out sheets of sandpaper and dirty rags. Fish handed out some smokes, I passed around the book of matches and we all laid back to admire the result of our efforts.
“Not too shabby.” I said. “The frame looks ready for some paint. Fish, you got some we can use?”
“We’ve got primer paint but no spray paint and that’s what we need for this job.” And with that he got up and went into the garage. He came back a few minutes later holding a can of primer paint and some masking tape.
“You guys tape off the holes and any joints that need grease or oil. I’ll start priming the back of the bike. Oh, don’t forget the hole where the seat goes.” He ordered as tossed the tape to me and set the can of primer on the driveway and started to pry open the can.
I caught the roll of tape and Fin and I got to work. I taped off the handle bar hole and Fin went to work on the front sprocket. I looked up and saw Fish stirring the paint with a stick he had picked up from the grass; I glanced over to Fin, who was concentrating on the taping tasks. “Fish, you got any pop in the house? I’m getting thirsty?” I asked.
“Yeah, there should be something in the fridge.”
I got up and headed toward the garage, “Get me one Skip.” Fin called
“Me too.” Fish added.
“Alright.” I called out as I head for the garage, leaving them to their tasks.
When I got back from the kitchen with the drinks Fish had most of the frame primed and Fin was picking up all the trash. I helped Fin with getting all the scraps of papers in the garbage then we sat down and watched as Fish finished the forks. When he finished, he sat down next to us and popped the top of his soda.
“Not bad.” Fish said “Tomorrow morning I’ll sand down some of the primer and then put on another coat. Then, we can go out and try and find all the parts on the list.” He then handed us a piece of paper with a list of parts. “These are what we need to find. So, keep an eye out. If you see a bike that has some of the parts on the list use the tools I gave you to get them. But, don’t take all the parts from one bike. Spread it out.”
I stared at him, trying to understand what he was saying. “I thought we were going to head to the dump tomorrow?”
“We are, but just in case we don’t find everything we need there we have to have a backup plan. That is, unless you have a bunch of money lying around?”
“Skip, he has a point.” Fin commented.
“Ok, well, can we talk about this tomorrow? It’s getting late and I need to get home.”
“Alright, can you be here at 10 tomorrow?” Fish asked.
“Yup, shouldn’t be a problem. Fin, you coming with me?”
“Yeah. My mom will be home soon and she doesn’t like me out late. Fish? Can we get a couple smokes for the walk home?”
“Not a problem.” He said as he pulled out his pack of smoke and pulled a couple of the sticks out and handed me one and the other to Fin.
We all stood up, carried the bike frame back into the garage. Then we went in, picked up our school books, and went back into the garage where Fish handed us each a flathead screwdriver, crescent wrench and pliers. Fish walked us to the end of his driveway where we lit up our smokes, said our goodbyes and left Fish home alone.
Fin and I walked home mostly in silence. We smoked our cigarettes and tried to act tough but we were both pretty beat with everything that had happened since school let out. “You wanna come by tonight and watch some TV?” Fin asked.
“Sure man. If it’s cool with my mom or my sisters. I don’t know who’s gonna be home when I get there.”
“If you can’t come by, I’ll come over. My mom is working tonight but she doesn’t go in until 8.”
We were approaching our houses, and as we walked down Memory Avenue we saw several some of our neighbors out playing pickup football games, street ball, riding bikes and skateboards. Everyone was laughing, screaming and having a good time. Some of our buddies were calling to us to stop by their houses but Fin and I just pressed on, ignoring the promises of fun and excitement.
I went into my house; Fin went next door to his. I washed up, made a couple sandwiches and realized I was home alone. No note from my sisters as to their whereabouts no note from my mother telling me when she would be home. I glanced at the clock in the kitchen and realized it was 7:30 and I was most likely going to have to fend for myself this night.
I made the decision to head next door to Fin’s. I packed my PJ’s a change of clothes, scribbled a quick note to my family and grabbed my BB gun. When I got to Fin’s his mother was just walking out to the car. “You gonna spend the night tonight? I made a bunch of popcorn and left out some sandwiches. Oh and there’s some ice cream in the freezer.”
“Thanks Mrs. Finnegan. I’ll probably spend the night. We have a lot of things to do this weekend.”
“Ok, have fun and don’t get into too much trouble.” She said, got in her car and drove away.
When I went inside Fin was sprawled on the couch sipping a soda and munching his way through a bag of chips. I dropped my bag on the floor, flopped down in the recliner and just stared into space until Fin asked “You spending the night?”
“Yeah, no one was home and I don’t feel like being there all by myself.”
“Cool. Hey, there’s a new kung-fu movie on tonight, wanna watch it?”
“Yeah, sounds good.”
And that was the extent of our conversation for the rest of the night, well, outside the cordial debate over what to eat, who was the better martial artist, Bruce Lee or Sonny Chiba and which one of us was going to have a girlfriend. Just basic, non-sensical bullshit. To tell the truth the biggest thing on my mind was the bike and I could tell Fin I’m sure had the same on his mind. We just didn’t know how to vocalize our concerns.
Around midnight we fell asleep only to be awakened by a ringing phone. It was Fish.