Published on June 11th, 2009 | by TLV News0
“What the Faulkner Presents: Adventures with Pinecone” by Charles Hale (From TLV #82)
I saw the bike before I saw the kid. It was lying in the middle of the bike path like it had just been thrown down. I thought about trying to bunny hop over it, but then I saw a scrawny kid standing off in the grass with his arms crossed in front of him and a scowl on his face. I slowed down as I reached the kid and continued to survey the scene. I wasn’t sure if he was trying to block the entire bike path but he was doing it.
“What’s going on?” I asked as I came to a stop with my foot down and pulling the water bottle out of the rack.
“Goddamn flat tire,” the kid said and I tried not to laugh. He looked like he was ten, maybe eleven years old and said it like he was trying to sound like a grandfather, but then I reminded myself that in situations like this I should try to be the adult.
“Does your father hear you talk like that?” I asked. The kid hadn’t moved since I pulled up and thus the bike was still in my way.
“My daddy don’t come home until after dark and when he’s home he don’t care what I do as long as I stay away from him,” the kid said. “Now this stupid bike don’t work and I don’t want to push it all the way home.”
I guess it was the beautiful weather or the bike riding that made me ask the kid if he wanted me to patch the tube over at my buddy’s house, but I didn’t know at the time that I was essentially adopting a little brother for the summer. Especially one that when I offered to fix his flat he said, “you’re probably trying to get me over there so you can touch my no-no parts.”
“You’re too funny, kid,” I said hoping that by taking it as a joke it would mean that he meant it as a joke. “What’s your name?” I asked as he walked over to his bike and picked it up. I got off mine took a sip of water from my bottle.
“Pinecone,” he said and started pushing his bike. The back tire made a flapping sound and I couldn’t figure out if he was kidding about his name but I was glad he had let all that child molester stuff go. As we walked toward my buddy’s house on MLK I learned that Pinecone was nine and had just finished the third grade. He was a pretty funny kid who paid attention to stuff around him. He made a joke about car’s paint job and pointed out a dog owner trying to not watch his dog taking a poop on the grass in front of the middle school. I wanted to tell Pinecone how I was also fascinated with watching a pooping puppy but I didn’t think the kid would believe me and I wanted him to keep talking about himself.
“The McRib is back,” he said and I looked up from what I was doing. “The McRib is back,” he said again probably because I had a dumbfounded look on my face. “You know, the barbequed nectar of the gods.” I stopped working on his bike just to look at this kid. I didn’t know if I’d ever see him again after today but I couldn’t wait to get to the bar to tell people about him. “My sister said she’d take me to get one when she gets home from college. I pushed the front wheel of Pinecone’s bike while he talked. The tick tick tick of the wheel going round sounded like the only thing that made any sense that afternoon but Pinecone talked with such authority for a ten year-old that it was hard not to believe him. “I buy you a two dollar sandwich if you give me a ride up there.”
“Sorry dude,” I said. “I’ve got stuff to do and I don’t think your mom would like me taking you through the drivethru.” I finished plugging up Pinecone’s bike tire and reattached it to his bike. Then Pinecone rode off down the street. I’d never met a little kid like him. Summer was all around, traffic moved slower and people were generally in a better mood.
Later that evening I drove to the Square and parked in front of the bar. I didn’t know who would be inside, but I was sure I would know a few of them and I had a story to tell. I wondered if I would see Pinecone later in the summer hanging outside of the candy store or throwing rocks at a church window but I was keeping my fingers crossed.
This article was originally printed in The Local Voice #82 (published June 11, 2009).