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Tandem Wheels
by Anita van der Elst
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This week my mom, my siblings and I are spending a week at the beach. The farm keeps my dad too busy to join us. We’ve rented a cabin and every day relatives and friends come out to spend the day with us. Today Aunt Hannah is here with her kids; my uncle has his own farm to tend. Katrina and I are the same age; we are friends as well as cousins.

“What would you most like to do today?” I ask Katrina as we meander down the main street beside the mud flats.

Katrina spies the bicycle rental shop. “Annika, do you think we could…” she hesitates.

“Rent a tandem bike and go for a ride?” I finish her question. “Well, I’ve never ridden one before but we could sure try. We need money. Lets go ask our moms!”

Back at the cabin, my mom and Aunt Hannah think it’s a great idea. They give us enough money to cover two hours of rental time. Aunt Hannah reminds Katrina that she hasn’t had her lunch yet. I will get the bike while she eats and come back for her.

“What color bike do you want?” I ask Katrina.

“Oh, I feel dangerous today. See if they have one that’s fire engine red!”

I rush back to the bike rental. What luck, they have one fire engine red bike left.

Katrina is brushing crumbs off her lap when I return.

“Are you ready to go exploring?” I ask.

“Yep! Let’s hit the road.”

Aunt Hannah says, “Be careful, watch out for cars on the main street out there. Sometimes they go too fast. Stay on the side.” She and my mom wave as we weave out of the cabin compound. I’m laughing as I get used to the weight of two people on the bike. It feels different than a regular bike.

“How you doing back there?” I ask Katrina.

“Super!” she shouts. “Let’s go as fast as we can, okay?”

“You got it, cousin! Just remember to lean to the right when we turn left and to the left when we turn right otherwise we’ll lose our balance.”

We point the bike south on the beach path, its cobblestones worn smooth by several generations of bike riders. Seagulls race above us laughing scornfully as they easily leave us behind. We could care less. Our own laughter joins with the excited screams of children splashing in the gentle waves of the bay to our right. Legs pumping hard I feel energized and strong. Katrina leans forward into the wind, long blond hair streaming out behind her.

“You hungry?” I pant as we reach the far end of the resort road.

Katrina, not breathless at all, says, “You bet!”

We glide to a stop at the drive-through dairy and buy ice-cream cones. Sitting on the seats of our bicycle-built-for-two, we lick the melting sweetness as the summer heat competes with us.

We have about a half an hour left before we need to return the bike. The traffic on the main road has been light so we head back on it. We chat about boys and our families, sharing our mild irritations regarding our siblings. Cars motor slowly by.

A roar of a car engine coming from the opposite direction interrupts our conversation. A souped-up convertible, top down, occupied by half a dozen teen-aged boys swoops past. They hoot at us. I grin and Katrina waves. The car is making a u-turn behind us. They’re coming back. Neither of us have any expertise in the art of flirting but this is a fine opportunity to practice.

“Hey, ladies!” the driver, black shaggy hair ruffled by the wind, slaps his hand on the outside of his door. “You’re lookin’ fine.”

I can’t think of anything clever to say but Katrina’s got a quick retort.

“Of course we’re lookin’ fine,” she says. “We’re dairy princesses.”

I giggle, thinking Yeah, we’re the farmer kings’ daughters!

Then the red-haired guy in the middle of the back seat lets out a snorting laugh. “Wouldja look at that,” he points at Katrina. “She’s not pedalin’! The girl in front is doin’ all the work.” He shifts his attention to me, “Hey, didja know she ain’t pedalin’? You gonna let her get away with that?”

The other guys join in with derisive comments and guffaws.

“How come you ain’t pedalin’, girl? Why’re you makin’ your friend do all the work? You’re gettin’ a free ride, aintcha? You got stick legs or somethin’? Maybe you need to join a health club, lift weights, build up your muscles.”

I hear Katrina’s intake of breath, the tell-tale sign of impending tears. “Never mind them,” I tell her. “They’re just a bunch of jerks!”

I turn my head forward. Don’t look at the carload of idiots, keep pedaling. They pace us spewing mindless drivel not fit for human ears.

I glance behind me, “You okay, Katrina?”

Her head’s up, eyes straight ahead. “Yep, like you said, they’re just a bunch of jerks.”

We turn onto the path to our cabin—the idiots can’t follow us here but they stop the car and watch.

We coast to a stop in front of the cabin. I turn to Katrina and we exchange a look of agreement; we want to be able to do this again. My aunt comes out of the cabin. “Did you have fun?”

My cousin grins. “It was great, Mom! I love riding fast and letting my hair fly straight back.”

“I can see that, honey,” Aunt Hannah says, as she and I together boost Katrina off the bike seat and into her wheelchair. Aunt Hannah smoothes her daughter’s hair, smiles at me. “Thank you, Annika. Katrina, tell your cousin thank you.”

Katrina grabs my hand. I sit on the picnic bench beside her. “Thanks, Annika. You’re the best cousin in the world.”

“Hey, it wouldn’t have been near as much fun without you,” I protest with a grin.

Off in the distance we hear car tires squealing and the loud roar of an engine as the convertible speeds away.

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Member Comments
Member Date
Robyn Burke 26 Sep 2008
Yep, the ending surprised me too and you think I would have guessed it! Very descriptive words and phrases. I like that part about how they exchange looks before the mom comes out; no words needed. Good job!
Celeste Ammirata 26 Sep 2008
I enjoyed this! I wondered why she wasn't helping with the peddling. I like how you just let the story go, and let the readers wonder and then find out in the end. And also, the exchange of looks before talking to mom. I'd like to read more about the cousins' adventures. Great job.
Lisa Keck 24 Sep 2008
I really loved this story, especially how Katrina's condition isn't revealed until the end. Good job.


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