Malcolm BMX in “Trial by Axle”
[[image:18th_mini.jpg::inline:1]]After a finger foods party at Columbia Avenue and 18th, Malcolm BMX casually pedalled back toward 13th Street, beginning that very gentle little climb just before hitting his turn and rolling, blissfully rolling, all the way downhill to the downtown and adventures his Merry Men had prepared there.
Published January 15, 2007 by C.I.C.L.E.
Contributed by Brady Russell :: for BikeNow.org
[[image:18thst.jpg::inline:1]]After a finger foods party at Columbia Avenue and 18th, Malcolm BMX casually pedalled back toward 13th Street, beginning that very gentle little climb just before hitting his turn and rolling, blissfully rolling, all the way downhill to the downtown and adventures his Merry Men had prepared there. He thought how funny it was that a guy like him got to go to parties at Columbia and 18th sometimes. Finger food parties no less. It's a funny world judging by those very funny looks they gave him back at that soiree.
Then, out of nowhere, he heard a squeal from the back of his bike. He looked down and between his legs but he couldn't see anything wrong. He'd noticed the wheel had been a little askew before leaving, but he figured he could set it right when he got back to the office and worry about it later.
Now, this squealing, though. A nasty sound. Definitely a mechanical screech, not a deflating tire.
Oh well, he thought, whatever it is can wait until I get back. He didn't really have much choice, anyway. He didn't have the tools with him and there would not be enough light to see by outside if he had. So he pedalled on. Two or three strokes more and then he heard a snap or pop. It was the sound of metal giving way. His seatpost had made that sound once before his seat sank all the way down to frame level after hitting a pothole.
His backwheel stopped moving. He hopped off the bike. He checked, the backwheel was shoved up tight against the chain-stay. He could not get it straight by wiggling it and, hearing that sound, he thought he knew what it was. The axle had snapped. That hadn't happened to him much.
Well, hell's half-acre, he thought, good thing I keep bus fare on me. So he drug his bike to the corner and waited for a bus to take him downtown and he called his lads on the way. He told Goliath to bring a spare in the basket-bike and they'd take his baby home.
That night, BMX and his cronies did their thing out in the wild streets of Washington. Then, the next morning, he went to see about getting his favorite fixed. He liked the shops because the bike mechanics always had good bike-scene intelligence (others called it 'gossip') for him. When he had time, that's how he did it.
A new one had opened on Capitol Hill, so he threw his machine back into the basket-bike and set off over Pennsylvania Avenue. He liked to ride the basket-bike past the White House and Capitol. He liked to think about the Homeland Security guys looking at it through binoculars and trying to decide if the big weird monstrosity violated some anti-terrorism regulation one of their bosses had made up.
Word on the street had already given him the names of the wrenches in this new shop. It was a man and woman team, new to town, named Gearhead and Trollope. He rolled the bike in the front door and walked it back to the mechanics' table. It was only a little before 11, so no one was out front in the store. They were probably all messing around in the inventory closets.
The mechanics were at their stands, though. They each had three jobs going all around them. BMX introduced himself. They told him their names and he pretended he didn't already know. Gearhead asked him what was up.
"I think I broke my back axle."
Gearhead looked at Trollope and Trollope looked at Gearhead. Gearhead nodded at Trollope, and she continued, "And how do you think you broke it?""Coming up on a downhill," BMX answered. He was looking up at a Lance poster he hadn't seen and not really thinking about the question.
"Yes, yes, and how long have you been riding, Mister?"
BMX looked at them straightfaced, "Not long enough."
Gearhead looked at Trollope and Trollope looked at Gearhead. They asked him to come with him. BMX always liked to see the backs of bikeshops, so he did. But they didn't take him to the main back door. They took him to a door that he honestly would have never noticed and opened it and he didn't see any light coming out of it.
They took him through a short hallway with nothing but those little movie lights on the floor that they use to show you where to walk without tripping over seat edges and then into a room that didn't have much more light and this big, round, antique wooden table with all these wagon wheels carved into it.
"Woah, woah," BMX said, "I just want to get my wheels fixed, family."
Gearhead looked at Trollope and Trollope looked at Gearhead behind Malcolm BMX's blonde-dreadlock adorned back, then Trollope came around front of him and said,
"But those were all the passwords?"
More Malcolm BMX:
Brady Russell works in politics. He has been a national organizer, a local organizer, a campus organizer and is currently an Organizer with the Philadelphia Unemployment Project. He started writing in elementary school and never stopped. In fact, he remembers his second grade teacher scolding his class for not trying any of the writing exercises she had put out for them, which she finished by saying, "except for Brady and he's done all of them."
Sometime in high school he decided he would not pursue studies in writing and just try to do it himself. Brady had a few opinion pieces published in some small magazines around the country, but so far he's largely been writing in a closet and keeping his work there.