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 have a unicorn, either.
Dented and scratched, leaning on a bent kickstand, the bicycle was old, tired and 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 unicorns, and purple streamers.
“Don’t be fooled 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,” she said.
Cinnamon eyed her with doubt, but Aunt Rissa nodded.
“He tossed around the bravest matadors in the world like they were rag dolls,” she said. “Didn’t you know that’s what happens to old bulls? They become bicycles. And only the bravest and boldest matadors are able to ride them.”
“What’s a matador?” asked Cinnamon.
“A matador is a master bull tamer,” said Rissa. “Crowds of people cheer when a matador dances with a bull.”
“Oh,” breathed Cinnamon.
Aunt Rissa knew such wonderful things. 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 Aunt Rissa pushed her down the sidewalk. It was great! She and the bull charged down the pavement together.
“I’m going to let go now,” called Aunt Rissa.
“Yes!” said Cinnamon.
But the moment Aunt Rissa let go 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 pretty fierce,” said Aunt Rissa, helping Cinnamon to her feet and looking over the red scuff on her elbow. “He must have sensed fear. You must be even bolder, to ride this bull. Have you ever seen a bull charge? Full ahead!”
Cinnamon nodded and climbed on again. She’d show this old bull. With Rissa’s help she got going again, working the pedals 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 full ahead now, and she wasn’t going to show fear. That is, until Mrs. Hayward stepped in front of them with two bags of groceries.
“Oh!” cried Mrs. Hayward.
“Uh oh!” cried Cinnamon.
“Helmet!” cried Gran.
Cinnamon swerved at the last minute, just missing Mrs. Hayward’s falling fruit and vegetables. The curb nearly sent her flying 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 loud tires came from a blue car to her left. Cinnamon zigged to the right, only to find a white van also making sounds and turning sideways. She zagged left, just missing the bumpers of Mr. Cosell and Miss Amy’s parked cars. The curb caught the bull’s front wheel, stopping the bicycle cold. Cinnamon landed in Mr. Cosell’s thorny rose bushes.
She heard a boom, and then another sound. It felt like it was raining. Grownups were shouting and children were yelling… with joy.
Cinnamon wiggled free from the rose bushes and saw that the blue car was parked at an angle in front of Gran’s apartment building, where the fire hydrant used to sit. A great arc 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 hard time collecting her groceries. She was soaked head to toe, and her paper grocery bags were springing 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 used 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 yelling and Aunt Rissa fell into step beside her. They went past Mrs. Hayward, who had taken a seat on the bottom step, her groceries stacked in piles beside her, and stopped before Gran.
Gran’s arms were crossed and her eyes were narrow.
“You get rid of this thing!” said Gran.
“No!” cried Cinnamon, holding old bull’s handlebars tightly, as if by hanging onto him, she could change Gran’s mind. “I just wasn’t brave enough,” Cinnamon said. It wasn’t old bull’s fault. How could she make Gran see that? “I’ll do better next time,” she promised.
“Next time?” Gran said loudly. Her eyebrows shot up sharply.
“Next time,” said Aunt Rissa, “why don’t we ride in the park? I think there are some training wheels that go with this old guy, now that I think of it. We’ll put them on. How does that sound?”
“But bulls don’t…”
“This one may have,” said Rissa. “Plus, Cinnamon, I forgot to tell you that 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,” said Rissa.
Finally, Gran nodded. “There’s some cleaning up to do,” she said, looking around. “I suggest you two get to work.”
“Right away,” said Rissa.
“Right away,” said 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 bent 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 and Aunt Rissa, her arms full of groceries and her heart full of pride.
“Matador,” she said quietly as she stepped inside.
Written by W. C. McClure. This is a work of fiction. None of the characters or events depicted are meant to represent anyone or anything this side of dreams. Comments are welcome! Please help support this indie author by telling your friends about this short story blog at http://www.farsideofdreams.com and buying W. C. McClure’s books at http://www.wcmcclure.com. Thanks for reading
Cinnamon is a city girl whose adventures in the care of careful Gran and imaginative Aunt Rissa stir up plenty of spice.