training wheels bolted onto either side, like the out-sized ears into which my own head had not
yet grown. I rattled happily around the neighborhood for most of the summer, leaning lazily into
those training wheels. But come September, I’d not made enough progress with the two-wheel concept
to suit my 10-year-old brother. He’d had enough. Determined, by way of immersion training, to free
me from the offensive vestiges, he removed the training wheels. He then made me pedal slowly,
wobbily, two-wheeledly down the street, while he ran along side, ready to catch me if I fell.
Which I did. More than once. Into him.
Finally, in a burst of exasperation as much as inspiration, he ran behind the bike, pushing it
forward as hard and fast as he could, and with a final mighty shove sent me sailing down Penrose
Avenue at a velocity heretofore beyond my velocipedic experience. And like magic, the blessed
stability of sheer speed, the kind that descends upon a serenely spinning top, entered the bike,
entered my sinews, my bloodstream, my bones, forevermore. From that moment, my body knew... and
bike and body were one.
My parents, by then, had come out of the house and were standing on the lawn, applauding as I rode
by, as I looped back at the end of the block, and looped back again, master now of a universe that
could be traversed in huge breezy gulps. A universe in which the alignment of two thin wheels
lifted me beyond pedestrian life.
It came as only a passing, although somehow hopeful, surprise that bringing the bicycle to a
successful stop would require another new, although related, set of skills. As would attaining
orbit velocity from a standstill. My first couple of tries landed me in the ditch. But by hour’s
end, and Jack’s by then somewhat high-handed tutelage, I had mastered those too, as my bicycling
stem cells and synapses began to rapidly branch and multiply.
Eventually we were called in to dinner. I don’t remember if I thanked my brother that day. I
suspect my mother told me to. I don’t imagine he cared one way or the other. Such grown-up
niceties, though tolerated, are irrelevant to boys, who are interested in, and gratified almost
exclusively by, results. We did learn, over the ensuing years, to thank one another, and
appreciate its value. I’ve rarely been without a bicycle since.