Ghost Ride

by Max Lasky


Across the street I hear brakes screech

and think of the bike shop

I worked not ten years back,

the scent of rubber in the store,

think of the boys who popped wheelies

and dodged cars in the parking lot,

swerving in and out

as they cursed, taunting each other

like stray dogs, barking when one lands

a new trick, looking as if

they haven’t bathed, mangy, beads of sweat

streaking skin, might never bathe again. 

Bloodthirsty, they’re bleeding

at the elbows, palms and knees,

cranking to go faster, harder,

shifting weight from pedal

to pedal, looking for a fight or some light

inside themselves that might save

their friends, knowing only the street.

This one’s mother’s a glass pipe,

his father a flame, there’s fire

painted on his bike frame,

likely stolen, they call him Dirt Gremlin.

Steve C.’s working in the back

making miracles happen,

working for cheap, his touch

magic with a spoke wrench in hand

spinning a wheel at the truing stand. 

Kenny Mad Dog Lombard

waits restlessly for five p.m.

to throw bottles back until closing.

Stickered and graffitied, the noon heat pours in

through the backdoor, 

rich girls in bikinis walk by

and the boys whistle, hoot,

taking the opportunity to impress

because the opportunity presented itself,

at least in their heads. Like pain,

like a challenge, they stay out

all day and all night, skipping dinner,

skipping class, not knowing

none of this can ever last.

Which means it could easily be me

riding the rims of minimum wage,

my hands stained black, laying 

tracks on each tool, each dollar bill

I touched, all those hours 

lined in broken spokes, rusted chains. 

After all, I’m only visiting

again, now that a decade has passed

since I last worked this shop with two other men.

I want to tell the Dirt Gremlin

one friend will OD, another

will get clean, I want to tell him 

some will move away and some will stay.

Everything changes. And the change

seems strange, and not at all that different.

I can almost hear him say

my life’s a vacation. It’s enough

to make a boy want to ghost ride

his bike into the stunted pines

at the dead end, and leave the future behind. 

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