Saturday 24 June 2023

'Siren' by Bill Merklee

We all took our bikes seriously, washing and polishing them like they were muscle cars. Bonnie had a pretty good bike, a gold Schwinn Sting-Ray with a sparkling silver banana seat. It helped her blend in the summer she and her mom moved to our neighborhood.

Bonnie only came outside after lunch. We didn’t think much of it until that day we got her to ride in the morning. Five of us pedaled six blocks to the patch of woods outside the P.A.L. field. Tore around the paths, through the shallow stream, popped over tree roots like we were doing motocross. We were having a blast until Bonnie checked her watch. She shot out of the woods like she’d just hit a hornets nest. We raced after her. A block from home, the fire horn atop the town hall sounded, letting everyone know it was noon. Bonnie skidded to a stop, stood astride her bike, chest heaving, tears streaming, howling like a dog that had been hit by a car. Her mom came and got her, walked her and the bike home.

Dad said maybe her ears were sensitive. Mom said it can be hard without a father.

Freakin’ Larry thought it was funny to make Bonnie cry by riding next to her and imitating the fire horn. We put a stop to that. All of us had something we had to deal with. Dad said she’d grow out of it. And she did.

Months later we were in my basement playing Risk when Bonnie started to shake and howl. We didn’t know what to do. We couldn’t hear any siren, couldn’t yet feel the heat on the other side of the basement door.

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