By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
On the way to school it rained, and Lime Barty‘s bell-bottom pants leg stuck fast in his bicycle chain, suspending Lime in a brief, frenzied balancing act before spilling him like a big wet bag of bolts onto the road’s soft shoulder.
During that anti-gravity moment, Lime‘s eyes felt like they’d been popped like champagne corks and re-socketed, three times -- optical gymnastics rarely experienced outside a Tex Avery cartoon. Now the ah-OOO-gah! was over, and Lime lay in the moist, quiet wreckage of his Schwinn 2-speed kickback with his bell-bottom still stuck between chain and crank, watching the small rainrivers form and flow around his handlebars. He expected, for dramatic effect, if not his life to pass before his eyes, then at least some of his blood. Blood to slowly mix with the rain, for the rain to thicken with it, then for Lime to pass out in and awaken in a nice warm dry hospital bed, with visitors.
No such luck. He remained cold and wet, grateful to be alive but not to be awake. Cars ground past the intersection of Grandview and Buena Vista, across from the park, a few slowing down to check him out, then driving off, scattering gravel, dotting his face with fine, fresh mud and soot. Thank you for your concern.
Lime began to cry -- or to notice that he‘d already started crying -- and then stopped. Took a deep breath, opened his mouth and eyes to the rain, thought vaguely heroic thoughts about horses and saddles -- about getting back on the bike and continuing on to school, to be greeted with great fanfare the likes of which no South Side School fourth-grade class had ever before seen. (Wounded in Bicycle Tragedy, Lime Barty Survives!) But his head, both elbows and his wrists -- plus at least one ankle and three ribs -- shared none of his imagination’s fever dream of glory, of one small white boy‘s triumph over big gray rain, big blue bell-bottoms and big black bicycles.
Besides, he was sort of stuck.
One of the slowing cars continued to slow and to pull over and stop about 30 feet up the road. Station wagon. Someone got out and said, ”Lime? Lime Barty?“ Then someone else got out, and both figures approached him in a low, stiff shuffle, mother and daughter in matching navy raincoats.
”Are you okay?“
Lime recognized his neighbor and classmate Margaret Pearl, and her mother, whom he knew only as Mrs. Pearl.
”Can you move?“
”I’m not sure.“
Mrs. Pearl inspected suspect body parts. Her husband was a physician. Sometimes they hired Lime to do odd jobs -- rake the leaves, mow the lawn, polish the silver.
No bones seemed broken; nothing notably twisted or sprained. Mrs. Pearl unsnagged the chain-pinched bell-bottom and, with Margaret‘s assistance, lifted Lime to his original, upright position. Lime inspected himself and was disappointed to find that, apart from a few cuts and abrasions along his right arm, he’d been spared the honor of bleeding.
”It feels like it‘s bleeding more than that,“ said Lime Barty. An apology, as if when someone pulls over to help someone else who’s fallen in the rain, the least the helpee can do is to bleed. Lime Barty wanted more out of his childhood than mere survival.
At school, Lime‘s classmates were already working quietly at their desks, typing away on what appeared to be brand-new 1988 Epson Equity 1+ computers -- IBM XT clones -- with 20MB Seagate hard drives and 12-inch monochrome monitors, amber. Unfazed, Margaret settled in at her desk while Lime, still damp and battered, remained in the doorway, feeling a bit confused by the spectacle, since he was pretty sure it was still just 1972.
But a leap year’s a leap year, he reminded himself, and after he‘d sat down at his desk and Mrs. Davis had brought him a cup of hot cocoa -- she’d made a big batch for the whole class, as she often did on blustery days -- everything seemed to make sense. With Mrs. Davis‘ guidance, Lime soon found himself comfortably writing an essay in WordPerfect called ”Why I Like Edgar Allan Poe Better Than Encyclopedia Brown.“
In a series of whispers, word of Lime’s bicycle accident slowly worked its way around the room. Lime showed his shallow wounds and said, ”But it really hurt like it was bleeding a lot . . .“ when prompted.
After school, Lime lay in bed reading The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet by Eleanor Cameron (Little, Brown, 1954), the story of two white boys whose green neighbor helps them build a rocket ship so they can save the dying population of an invisible planet by bringing them a chicken. Lime‘s mild abrasions had impressed the hell out of his classmates, and by the time 3 o’clock rolled around, the rain had stopped, and Lime gladly accepted a ride home from Mrs. Birnbaum. Despite the bicycle accident, it had been a good day. Lime had learned to use a fancy microprocessor-computer, an operating system and a word-processing program, none of which had even been invented yet. Mom and Dad would have to be impressed by that.