A New Bike for Little Mike
“Are you gonna fix Little Mike’s bike?”
Little Mike’s father heard his mama speaking to him, but he remained sitting
on the weathered front porch drinking coffee, smoking a cigarette, and staring blankly into the summer sky.
“You’ve had time to fix it,” his mama continued from inside the house.
Mike hadn’t worked at the sawmill since some lumber fell on his right hand, crushing it, a month ago.
Mike’s accident placed his job and his passion in jeopardy. The sawmill was his job, but Mike was an accordion player in a Cajun quintet—The Church Point Playboys—and since his accident he hadn’t been able to play.
“Are you listening to me?” His mama was on the porch; the old wooden planks creaked under her feet.
“I heard you.”
“Well are you?”
“Oui. Where is he?”
“He’s out back cleaning the dog house.”
Mike stamped out his cigarette on the porch and headed around the house to get his son so he could help fix the bike. Mike was supposed to have fixed his son’s bike three months ago, but he put it off because he was setting aside a little of the money he made every week playing at different bars with his band, and he was going to use the money to get Little Mike a new bike for his birthday next month. But since his accident…
When Linda filed for the divorce a year ago, Mike took his son and lived in the Bon Temps Motor Lodge. He knew from his own parents' divorce, that judges gave custody to the mothers, so Mike figured their time at the Bon Temps would be his last chance to have his son live with him. Mike was going to stay at the motel till he could find a place, but after the accident, his money ran out and he went to his mama’s. She lived off of her retirement from the school cafeteria and her Social Security. Mike needed to get his hand looked at again, but he didn’t have medical insurance and wouldn’t feel right asking his Mom to pay for that too.
In the divorce, Linda got their apartment in town and Mike received custody of Little Mike because Linda, to all of Church Point’s surprise, asked the court not to give her custody. Linda had been by to see Little Mike twice since the divorce. She picked him up on Friday both times and spent the entire weekend with him. Those visits were before Mike’s accident.
When Mike was twelve, five years older than Little Mike is now, his father filed for divorce, and Mike’s father had visitation rights every weekend, although his father usually only showed up one or two weekends a month. That was for the first year after the divorce. Then his father came around about one weekend every few months. A little later his father moved out of Church Point, and Mike hadn’t seen his father since.
Little Mike was inside the dog house throwing hay out. “Get out of there, cher ti garçon. You’re gonna be full of fleas. Use the rake to pull the hay out.” Mike reached for the rake with his right hand, tried to grip it, but couldn’t. He used his left hand and picked up the rake lying next to the dog house. “Do it like this. You see?” he said, pulling out a pile of hay.
“Here, you do it. That’s the way.” Mike awkwardly lit a cigarette with his left hand and let out a cloud of smoke with a slow exhale. “When you finish this we’ll start on your bike.”
“All right!” Little Mike raked the hay out quicker.
Mike walked over to the shed where there was some hay stacked in bails for the milk cow, and broke off some with his good hand and carried it back to the dog house. “Take this and spread it around inside, garcon.” Mike stuffed the hay that had been in the dog house into a garbage bag. “Take this garbage bag and set it by the road.” Little Mike threw the bag over his shoulder and marched proudly to the road.
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