Cinnamon didn’t like the look of the bicycle one bit. First, it wasn’t pink. It didn’t have any princesses on it, or a sparkling seat like Trisha’s bicycle had. It didn’t even have a unicorn. Dented and scratched, leaning on a bent kickstand, the bicycle was decidedly brown. Even the chrome, once shiny, had spots of rust here and there. And there stood Aunt Rissa, smiling as if she’d brought a treasure beyond compare.
“It’s ugly,” scowled Cinnamon.
“Cinnamon!” scolded Gran. “That’s not what you say when someone gives you a gift.”
“Sorry,” mumbled Cinnamon, and she was sorry. Sorry that she had to get an old, used brown bicycle with dents when girls like Trisha got pink new bicycles with sparkles and princesses, and purple streamers.
“Don’t be deceived by its looks,” said Aunt Rissa. She leaned close to Cinnamon’s ear to whisper a secret. “It used to be a bull, before it was a bicycle.” Cinnamon eyed her skeptically but Aunt Rissa nodded. “He tossed around the bravest matadors in the world like they were ragdolls. Didn’t you know that’s what happens to old bulls? They become bicycles. And only the bravest and boldest children are able to ride them.”
“Oh,” breathed Cinnamon. Aunt Rissa knew such wonderful things. How had she managed to get hold of something so unique? Cinnamon eyed the old bull with new respect. She thought she saw a swirl of bull breath blow leaves away from the front tire.
“Where are the training wheels?” asked Gran.
“Have you ever seen a bull with training wheels?” snorted Aunt Rissa while she helped Cinnamon onto the bicycle.
“What do bulls have to do with anything?” asked Gran.
Cinnamon shook her head. It was lucky she had Aunt Rissa around. Gran just didn’t know the things Rissa did. Cinnamon pushed the pedals as boldly as she could as Aunt Rissa pushed her down the sidewalk. It was glorious! She and the bull charged down the pavement together.
“I’m going to let go now,” called Aunt Rissa.
“Yes!” cried Cinnamon. But the moment Aunt Rissa released her hold the bicycle began to wobble and sway. “No!” Cinnamon cried and she hit the sidewalk hard.
“And where’s her helmet?” she heard Gran calling.
“The bull tossed you something fierce,” chuckled Aunt Rissa, helping Cinnamon to her feet and inspecting the red scuff on her elbow. “He must have sensed fear. You must be even bolder, to ride this bull. Haven’t you ever seen a bull charge? Full ahead!”
Cinnamon nodded and climbed aboard with a look of determination. She’d show this old bull. With Rissa’s help she got going again, pedaling faster and faster until Rissa couldn’t keep up anymore and had to let go. She wobbled once or twice, but Cinnamon and the bull were charging together now, and she wasn’t going to show fear. That is, until Mrs. Hayward stepped in front of them carrying two filled bags of groceries.
“Oh!” cried Mrs. Hayward.
“Uh oh!” cried Cinnamon.
“Helmet!” cried Gran.
Cinnamon managed to swerve at the last minute, narrowly missing an avalanche of Mrs. Hayward’s fruit and vegetables. The curb nearly sent her sprawling but Cinnamon held on. She was a bull rider now. She pedaled harder. She glanced over her shoulder at Aunt Rissa helping Mrs. Hayward to collect her spilled groceries.
“Cinnamon!” shouted Gran.
A car horn and screeching tires announced a blue car to her left. Cinnamon zigged to the right, only to find a white van making similar screeching sounds and turning sideways. She zagged left, narrowly missing the bumpers of Mr. Cosel and Miss Amy’s parked cars. The curb caught the bull’s front wheel, stopping the bicycle abruptly. Cinnamon landed headlong in Mr. Cosel’s thorny rosebushes.
She heard a boom, and then another sound that was harder to identify. It felt like it was raining. Grownups were shouting and children were squealing… in delight. Cinnamon wrestled free from the thorny rosebushes and saw that the blue car was parked at an awkward angle in front of Gran’s apartment building, where the fire hydrant normally sat. A delightful spray of water shot out from behind the car’s front wheel, and children from the whole block were dancing in its spray.
Mrs. Hayward was having a terrible time collecting her groceries. She was soaked head to toe, and her paper grocery bags were springing naughty holes to let the food escape. Aunt Rissa stood in the street talking with the two drivers, and Cinnamon wondered what language they were speaking that required so many arm movements.
“Marissa Mae and Cinnamon Simone, you get over here this instant!” Gran’s voice cut through the noise of children laughing and grownups shouting. When Gran used that voice, you were in trouble whether you’d done anything wrong or not.
Cinnamon collected the old bull and walked through the spray, pushing her bicycle past the children dancing and laughing, past the grownups arguing and a nervous-looking Aunt Rissa who fell into step beside her. They went past Mrs. Hayward, who had taken a seat on the bottom step, her groceries stacked in pyramids beside her, and stopped before Gran. Gran’s arms were crossed ominously and her eyes were dangerously narrow.
“You get rid of this thing,” Gran said to Aunt Rissa. “It’s far too dangerous.”
“No!” shouted Cinnamon, clutching old bull’s handlebars as if by hanging onto him tightly enough she could change Gran’s mind. “I just wasn’t brave enough,” Cinnamon explained. It wasn’t old bull’s fault. How could she make Gran see that? “I’ll do better next time.”
“Next time?” Gran boomed. Her eyebrows receded into her hairline.
“Next time,” injected Aunt Rissa, “why don’t we ride in the park? I just remembered, there are some training wheels that go with this old guy. We’ll put them on. How does that sound?”
“But bulls don’t…”
“I remember now that this one did,” said Rissa. “I also realized that we forgot the most important part. You can’t ride an old bull without a thinking cap. How is the bull going to know where you want to go unless you’re wearing your helmet? It was foolish of me.”
Cinnamon checked Gran’s face and saw that her anger was cooling.
“Training wheels, park and helmet,” Gran repeated sternly.
“The only way to go,” promised Rissa.
Reluctantly, Gran nodded. “There’s some cleaning up to do,” she said, looking around at the lively neighborhood. “I suggest you two get to work.”
“Right away,” declared Rissa.
“Right away,” echoed Cinnamon. She waited for Gran to go back inside before asking, “does that mean I get to keep Old Bull?”
“Yes,” said Aunt Rissa, “but we have to be smarter about riding him next time. Old bulls can be tricky.”
“You can say that again,” said Cinnamon as she stooped to pick up an armload of groceries for Mrs. Hayward.
“I have to say, Cinnamon,” added Aunt Rissa, picking up the rest, “you were braver than any matador I’ve ever seen. I think you’re a natural.”
Cinnamon climbed the steps behind Mrs. Hayward, her arms full of groceries and her heart full of pride.
“Matador,” she said quietly as she stepped inside.
Written by W. C. McClure www.wcmcclure.com. This short story may be shared (and please do); just please be sure to share it in its entirety, unaltered (and including this fine print), with credit given to W. C. McClure. Comments are welcome at www.farsideofdreams.com. Oh, and if you want to show your support, tell your friends about this short story blog – and pick up a copy of “The Statues of Azminan” by W. C. McClure. Thanks!