My father was always doing something nuts. He rammed his car into the house after getting into a fistfight with another waiter. He came home drunk and cooked everything in the fridge. It was 2 o’clock in the morning. He cooked steaks, hamburgers, chickens. He had the stove on and every burner going. My mother went downstairs to see if he was burning down the house when he pulled a gun from his belt and waved it in her face. I don’t remember how old I was. All these memories are scrambled up in my brain. What I can’t forget is the sour-stink of whiskey and cigarettes. It was in everything he owned. His clothes. His car. His pillow. It wafted up from deep inside him, trailed him. I smelled it that day he walked into the bike shop from the bar next door. I got a deep blast of the stink as he sped past, across the showroom and out onto the sidewalk. My father wasn’t much of a bike thief. The bike was too small for him. He wobbled when he rode. He was wearing his waiter’s uniform of white shirt and black polyester dress pants. His biggest problem was pedaling in his dress shoes. He reminded me of a bear at the circus riding one of those tiny bikes. My mother and I watched from the curb. We expected him to fall off any second. My father rode down the block, then back into oncoming traffic, then back again. He shouted that he would meet us at home. We drove alongside him in our ’67 Malibu with cracked front grill. My mother blew the horn. Then blew it again. We waved to get his attention. My father paid no attention. He kept riding, with a big smile on his face. I watched him weaving in and out of traffic, almost getting hit by a bus until he passed us at a traffic light. The first thing I did when I got home was look through the kitchen window. The bike was in the yard, propped up by a shiny kickstand, under the clothesline in the exact spot where I parked my old bike. It was a Schwinn Stingray Fastback—electric blue, 5-speed, with MAG sprocket and a glitter-ribbed banana seat. I had been dreaming about this bike for months. I wondered if my father’s stink had wiped off on it. I asked my mother if I could go for a ride, but she told me I’d have to wait until after dinner.
William Lessard has writing that has appeared or is forthcoming in McSweeney’s, NPR, Prelude, Wired, Thought Catalog, and Voicemail Poems. He won the first-annual “Bureaucratic Writing Contest” hosted by tNY.Press (formerly theNewerYork). He was recently accepted into the Ashbery Home School.