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Taken for a Ride
David Alpaugh


At the top of Killers Hill in Green Brook
Park, Billy Flynn motioned me to pull up
for a pow-wow. I did so on my wobbly,

banged-up, twelve-year-old Rollfast bicycle
Id inherited from my big brother, Lew

paint flaking off; tires utterly bald

still, it was (as adults said) transportation;

and, barring a flat or broken chain,

got me everywhere I needed to go.

How like a demigod Billy Flynn appeared

on his brand new J. C. Higgins Flyer

with its shiny red frame & whitewall tires.

He dazzled every lad he overtook that day,

sounding his imperial Sears-Roebuck horn;

shouting out of my way! as he zoomed by

in a sudden rush of glory. Now this lord

of locomotion was slowing down to a stop.

What could he possibly have to say to me?

Howd you like to swap bikes? Billy Flynn

began. Your Rollfast for my J.C. Higgins?

(Id yet to hear the word incredulousbut

thats exactly what I was.) Are you kidding?

Billy glowered. My bikes red. I hate red!

Yours is green. Greens my favorite color.

It was my first encounter with a deranged

mind; but I knew (from watching Mr. Ed)

that everyone always humored the insane.

For two thrilling weeks I did just that,

racing Billys chariot all over town,

showing it off to friend and foe alike.

Instinct told me not to let my father know

Id become the neighborhood barter king.

So I hid my triumph behind our pigeon

coop until a Mrs. Iris Braxton phoned my

mom to ask: Is it true your son is riding

around on my son Cecils stolen bicycle?

Brakes locked. Kickstand came down.

(I knew at once my wild ride was over.)

The police stopped by to sort things out

and, after clearing me of criminal intent,

rolled Cecils J.C. Higgins out of our yard;

put it in the trunk of their squad car; and

drove it back to the Braxton family castle.

(They returned my Rollfast six days later

with two flat tires and a broken chain.)

The points not that wed been taken for

a ride but that we all learned something

useful. Cecil learned not to leave his bike

(or, later, his Jag!) in the driveway overnight.

Billy that, despite what the judge claimed,

bicycle theft did paybut only for two weeks

and only on a jalopy. I learned to avoid the

Billy Flynns of this world; shun its Madoffs

and ignore emails from Nigerian princes.

The cops learned nothing they didnt already

know, best expressed by muttering, Kids!

Minutes later they were in a high speed chase

with some jerk committing Grand Theft Auto.

This poem first appeared in Exit 13.
Used here with the author
s permission.

David Alpaugh was born in New Jersey, but now lives in the San Francisco, California Bay area. His poems and essays have been widely published  in journals and anthologies, including the Dana Gioia-edited California Poetry from the Gold Rush to the Present.  David’s most recent book, Seeing the There There, is a collection of 89 poems and images full of humor and surprises. A finalist for Poet Laureate of California, David teaches poetry for the University of California Berkeley Extension and the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. Learn more about him at





Post New Comment:
Mary Lou Taylor:
What a lesson! Actually, lessons. I was waiting for another ending where Billy Flynn knew how valuable that old bike was and planned to restore it to its former glory. This ending was more satisfying, Thanks, David Alpaugh. Most enjoyable poem.
Posted 08/06/2015 01:44 PM
Lori Levy:
Vivid images. I can see it all clearly!
Posted 08/06/2015 12:56 PM

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