When I was a little girl, no one locked their bicycles. We rode, either in packs, or alone, to the school playground or a friend's house, where we'd leave them lying in the grass or propped against the side of a building.
On summer days I often rode downtown, which was just over a half mile from our house, bouncing over the uneven squares of concrete on the sidewalk, taking the occasional shortcut across someone's lawn. I challenged myself to keep pedaling until I'd travelled the entire distance, timing my approach to a sprinkler before pedalling madly to pass while it was aimed away.
I'd park my bicycle in front of my dad's office, go inside to exchange a hug and a kiss for my weekly allowance, before walking the remaining two blocks to Front Street. I'd look at the toys in Ben Franklin's window before going to Lena's Candy Kitchen, emerging with a bag containing an assortment of penny candies I'd selected from the cardboard boxes in the glass display case.
One Saturday, when I returned to Dad's office for my bike, it was gone. Dad walked outside and together we walked around the building, looking down the alley and up and down the street. He suggested I stay with him until he'd finished working, offering to drive me home if it hadn't reappeared before we left.
A few days later, after I'd walked home from school, Dad called. Mom smiled as she hung up, before crouching down a little in her shirtwaist dress to whisper in my ear, "Your bike's back at Daddy's office."
I ran towards downtown until my side ached, then walked the rest of the way. When I arrived, the span of concrete where I'd left my bicycle parked was vacant. I walked inside, where I was greeted by Dad's secretary and asked if I could go in. "Mom said you found my bike," I said dubiously. "Where is it?"
"It's in front of the office, where you always park it." he said. I went back outside, wondering how I'd walked past it without seeing it. When I went back in, I was wiping tears from my face.
"Why did you play such a mean trick on me?" I sobbed. I was accustomed to the older neighbor boys teasing me, but not my dad.
"I didn't play a trick on you . . ." Dad protested. He opened the door, looked outside, and pointed to the sidewalk. ". . .it was right there when I called."
* * *
The following Saturday, Dad called again from his office. Mom handed me the receiver. "I have your bike," he said. "I wheeled it inside. I'm looking right at it. Come right now and you can ride it home."
I ran downtown, where I saw my bicycle through the front window. I went in, hugged my Dad, who held the door as I wheeled it out, climbed on the seat and waved goodbye before I rode gleefully home, singing all the way.
That night after supper, Dad asked Mom to come with him to the garage. I waited a few minutes before following them. Dad was kneeling before his old English racer, inspecting the chain and sprocket. They were talking softly. "Go back in the house, Janie," Dad said.
The next night after we'd finished eating, Dad excused himself and went outside. After I'd finished helping Mom with the dishes, I went to the garage, where I found him installing new hand-brakes on his bicycle. "Are you going bike-riding?" I asked.
"No," he said, as he continued working. "I'm fixing this up to give to the little boy who returned your bike. He told me he'd borrowed it, but his Mom made him bring it back and apologize." Dad looked sad and serious as he continued to tighten the cables and turn the screws.
"He doesn't have a bike of his own. I told him I would give him one as a reward for his honesty."