A cold rain was falling and the sloping driveway was a waterfall toward the house. Jayne had whined all morning about things, pleaded and argued about her hair and her clothes; she refused to brush her teeth. When she was ready for the day and wanted to go outside to ride her new bike she asked nicely, almost curtseyed her way into it. John obliged. He wrapped her up and packaged her in her over-sized raincoat and her green rain boots; he put her mother’s old scarf around her neck. They pulled the pink bike from the garage; she gazed at it with wide eyes and bit her lip. John wiped the seat before she crawled up, the drizzle from the gutter thumping onto the thinning cowlick on the back of his head.
Ten minutes. Nothing more. Then we go inside, okay?
That’s the deal?
That’s the deal.
Okay, Dada. Push! Push!
John started her on the far end of the driveway reservoir and pushed her toward the sidewalk leading to the front door. The water split under the front tire, pushed small waves to the side. Half way, Jayne’s feet slipped from the pedals and she put them up in front of her and let the pedals twirl underneath by themselves. They reached the end and John carefully turned her around.
Alright, here we go again. This time, keep your feet on the pedals, got it?
Got it, Dada. Push! Push!
They went again, in the other direction. Jayne let her feet slip again and again held them high above the pedals. John shook his head and smiled. They reached the end.
Alright, this time you try. I know you can do it. I’ve seen you.
He rubbed his nose into hers. She smiled brightly and giggled from under her vinyl hood. Rain soaked John’s shirt.
Only if you promise to hold on.
I promise to hold on.
Okay, I will try. Don’t let go, Dad.
I wouldn’t dare.
She pushed down on the pedals, lumbering one at a time, and the handlebars turned with each push so that the front wheel was wobbling back and forth the whole way. John held the back of the seat to steady the bike. She got stuck between pedals before the end and couldn’t push through it. She looked back at her father, her face red with anger. John raised his eyebrows, pushed a deep breath from his pursed lips, reminding her to keep calm and keep trying. She grunted and tried again. John gave her an unnoticeable push and she slid forward a foot and pushed the other pedal and got out of her spot, pressed forward further until she reached the end of the entry sidewalk.
I did it!
Great job, kiddo. Try it one more time?
Just one more?
Just one more. You might get too wet.
I promise I won’t. I am waterproof.
I wish you were.
Fine. One more time. Let’s go!
She pushed on the pedal but her foot slipped off the teeth and down to the ground. The bike tipped sideways and she began to fall. John grabbed her arm and pulled up before she hit the pavement. The bike clinked to the cement. She began to cry, her eyes closed and her mouth wide, devastated. John pulled her close and reassured her, laughed a little at her dramatics.
It’s not funny, Dad.
It’s a little funny. Everything is fine. You and your bike were lucky.
I don’t think it’s funny.
She wiped her face hard, her nose and eyes.
Let’s just go inside, she said.
You don’t want to –
He looked at her face. It was stern and disappointed – an exact replica of her mother. The rain tapped on her coat.
Alright, kiddo. Let’s go inside.
Andrew Gordon Rogers graduated from the University of Kansas with a BA in Creative Writing and currently works in Marketing. He resides in the Kansas City metro area, with his wife and two children, and spends his free time working on short stories and his first collection of poems, entitled Stations. His poems have appeared in Kiosk, Houston Literary Review, and Counterexample Poetics. Excerpts from his work are often posted here: http://backgroundnoiseblog.tumblr.com.