The tires of my bike kicked up the red dust as I rode home along the clay road. I had stayed a little longer than I should have at Traci’s; that, and the fact that Jock, the Rand’s Labrador retriever, was nipping at my heels meant that I was pumping as fast as I could. The dust clung to me in the late evening heat. The birds were singing their good night songs; the cicadas, frogs and crickets were chiming in with their calls, and the elderly Mrs. Rand stood on her porch, an out-of-place voice in the evensong, as she anemically called “Jock, Jock” in an half-hearted attempt to call him off. Occasionally a car would pass, creating a cloud of dry red dust that filled my mouth and stung my eyes. Such was a summer in rural Georgia.
I heard a grind and felt a sudden jerk as my bell-bottom jeans caught in my bicycle chain and ground my progress to a halt. Jock stood at the edge of the Rand’s yard lunging toward me, licking his chops while I half dismounted from the bike and tugged at my pants. I tried pushing the pedal forward and back with one hand while tugging on my pants with the other, but this snarl wasn’t giving at all. So I started limping my bike along as fast as I could with Jock snapping behind me and thoughts of what my mother was going to say when I got home, late, before me.
I heard a car coming over the hill so I moved toward the side of the road as best I could, trying to avoid the ditch that ran along side the road. As the vehicle approached, I realized it was my Dad’s blue Ford pickup truck. Dad was on his way to the Atlanta Newspapers where he worked the graveyard shift. He waved at me, passed me, then stopped and backed up.
As soon as I realized he was going to help me, the hot tears started pouring down my face.
Dad got out and untangled my jeans by pushing on the pedals with all his strength. The appearance of the truck and my Dad had silenced Jock and Mrs. Rand, an immediate improvement on the evening. The cuff of my jeans leg was pretty much ruined, but I didn’t care. I had been rescued by my daddy.
Dad could have stopped at helping me get untangled but he didn’t. He put my bike in the bed of the truck and then drove me home.
Momma fussed when we got home, but not at me. “Tony, you’re going to be late for work!”
I’m in my mid forties now, and I had forgotten all about that experience until the other day. I was listening to the new Jimmy Buffet album, Buffet Hotel, when suddenly this experience came back to mind. A song on the album entitled “Summerzcool” (sung “summer school”) contains a line that goes like this: “You make a habit of overtime. When the big report card comes, your priorities are way out of line.”
I first time heard that line, I remembered the incident with the bicycle chain. The sudden memory jerked me just like the snarl and jerk of my pants cuff getting caught in the chain when I was a kid on that hot summer evening.
Being a Father to his daughter was my dad’s priority on that evening.
I stopped and asked myself, “What are my priorities? What will my report card say?”
© 2010 Michele Arduengo. All rights reserved.