World Domination from a Banana Seat
… From last year’s Christmas column in the Oregonian.
I tear into a shiny metallic package from Santa Claus to reveal a long-coveted toy: a motorcycle noise-maker for my bicycle. I beg my father to install it immediately and then sit on my hot pink banana seat in the garage revving my new engine with a wild, reckless look in my seven-year-old eyes.
The harder you pull back on the toy throttle, the louder it roars. In its deafening and aggressive crescendos, I can hear the sounds of my future. There on that bike, in the murky dampness of our garage, I realize that I am going to take over the world.
There’s only one problem – these blasted training wheels.
My friends have long-since learned to balance their bikes and my inability to reach this important milestone is a stinging source of shame. Not since flunking shoe-tying three times in kindergarten have I experienced such failure.
How can I possibly begin my ascension to world-dominance if I can’t keep a bike upright?
Bolstered by the angry cry of my new motorcycle throttle, I resolve to lose the trainers once and for all.
Two weeks later, I make good.
It’s a perfect winter day – cold and clear. My older sister lets go of my seat and for the first time ever, I don’t wobble and tip over sideways. Delusions of my infinite greatness consume me.
I am all-powerful!
I hit the pedals harder and speed away as my sister calls out: “Where are you going!?” She is running after me, but I’ve already opened a gap. She’ll never catch me.
I rev my engine as loud as it will go (I have been practicing) and shout back over my shoulder, “To the school! To the school!”
And then I’m gone. I am not supposed to be riding to the school by myself. But now that I’ve finally got this thing moving, you better believe I don’t intend to get off any time soon.
I execute a perfect right-hand turn and get a tickly feeling in my belly-button. The speed is addictive. I rev my engine twice for effect.
I am owning this bicycle.
But then, something goes terribly awry. Coming into a sharp left hand turn, the bike slides out from under me in slow motion and I skid along the pavement before slamming unceremoniously into a handrail.
Just like that, my reign is over.
And as my sob turns into a wail, I clasp my palms over gravel-crusted bloody knees, and entertain the idea of my imminent death.
I am two whole blocks from home, alone and bleeding. No one will ever find me. This is it.
I reach for higher decibels worthy of my final hour. The blood runs in rivulets down my skinny legs and begins to soak into the top of my ankle socks. As my voice finally cracks and I dissolve into hyperventilated sobs, my sister appears from nowhere.
Back at the house, I prepare to be punished for my escape attempt but instead my sister covers for me and shouts, “Mom! Heidi rode without the training wheels!”
The blood is caked into the creases of my palms as I reach up to receive the high-five that Mom delivers. Half a bottle of hydrogen peroxide and one ice cream bar later I have come to terms with this hiccup in my quest for global domination.
Certainly kingdoms are not won without some bloodshed, I reason.
The motorcycle toy is badly chipped but still functional and in the morning, knees and elbows bandaged, I ride again. I grip the throttle and pull back hard as it roars out my dominating comeback cry.