Just like that, his bike was gone, stolen before his eyes. Nine-year old Justin McGregor stared out the window of the convenience store, unable to believe his eyes. Right in front of him, his bike had been swiped. The events played over again in his mind: the dark red car screeching around the corner and stopping; the punk hopping out, snatching the bike, and tossing it in the trunk.
Idiot! Justin cursed the thief silently. Jerk! That no good… He halted the thought, trying not to let it bother him. But it did. The punk was all of those bad words – and more. Unable to control his emotions, he cursed the thief again, this time out loud, "Idiot!" He almost called him the 'A' word.
Justin tried not to cry. A lump grew in his throat, rising, choking. He tried to swallow but couldn't, his mind still hostage to the thief. How could that jerk steal his bike like that? And the two in the car, how could they help him? The more he thought about it, the more he wished those guys in the car would die or get in an accident. All three of them, that's right! They're such…
Again he halted the harsh thoughts, then reverted to the ultimate – God would get them for their sin!
Walking all the way home when he should've been riding, Justin tried to forget it. But he couldn't. He had worked so hard for that bike – mowing lawns in the summer, shoveling driveways in the winter. With his own money, he bought it. It was his, no one else's. Now it was stolen, as if a piece of him gone, forever. Stupid red car! He hoped it would crash. Maybe it already had.
When he got home, he was afraid to tell his mom what had happened, but he finally did. She called the police. While waiting for them to come, he broke down and cried for the first time. He didn't feel any better, thinking only of his bike. Sure, it was beat up, scratched, and the chain popped off now and then, but it was his.
"Son," the police officer said when he arrived, "just be thankful you weren't on the bike when they stole it. Thieves won't stop at anything."
Then Mom attempted to hug him. With a sour face, he pushed away. "Honey," she tried to console him, "there's nothing you can do about it. It's not your fault. Like the officer said, just thank God you weren't hurt."
Justin thought about this for awhile. He saw again in his mind the red car screeching to a stop, the punk hopping out, snatching his bike... Suddenly the scene stopped, his mind stuck on a still frame of the thief. With a scar along the jaw-line, the thief wore a grimy shirt and had holes in his jeans. He looked angry, yet sad, as if nobody cared about him or what he did. He probably couldn't afford a bike, Justin guessed, so he took his.
After awhile, Justin actually felt bad. Pangs of guilt wretched his stomach for calling him names, for wishing him dead, and for hoping the get-away car had crashed. Before bedtime, he decided, he'd say a prayer and ask God's forgiveness.
Then an idea came to him.
Spreading colored markers and a large sheet of poster-board on the floor, he began to draw and scribble on the board. When he was done, he looked it over to make sure he spelled every word correctly.
Justin rolled up the poster and grabbed one of Dad's hammers and some nails. He told Mom he'd be back in a half-hour and carried these things to the site where his bike had been stolen. Standing in front of the tree at the scene of the crime, he nailed up the poster. Something was wrong. He tilted it more toward the road, stepped back, and eyed it. There, he thought, perfect! He collected his belongings and, for a final time, admired his sign.
To the guy who stole my bike,
At first I was angry with you. But God forgives me for my sins. So I can forgive you. I'm not mad at you anymore.
Later that night, Justin went to bed feeling better. He'd forgotten about the day's events, even that his bike had been stolen.
But the next day he didn't forget. How could he? Almost every day that summer he had ridden his bike to the convenience store to meet Robby, and if he had money, he'd buy a bottle of soda and maybe play an arcade game or two. But now he didn't have a bike, and he didn't feel like walking there, but since he told Robby he'd meet him, what choice did he have?
As Justin neared the store, he saw Robby's bike leaning against the tree. He checked his watch and began to jog. When he reached the tree, he stopped cold. The sign! It was gone. His eyes fell to the bike, which looked nothing like Robby's.
"Hey, Jus." A voice called from behind. It was Robby, on his bike. "Sorry I'm late."
Justin turned again to the tree and stared at the bike. The frame, he thought, looked like his. And the rims: the same he had. But the handlebars were yellow and new, not black and old. And the seat: yellow, too. Instinctively his eyes dropped to where the frame met the crankshaft, and he saw a familiar Trailboss sticker with an unmistakable scratch across it.
This was his bike, with new handlebars and seat.
The crook had to be near. He looked in the parking lot: Nobody! Up and down the street: No kids! Inside the convenience store: just an old lady buying milk.
"Got some new equipment?" Robby asked, pointing to the bike. "Looks cool."
Justin scratched his head and blinked at Robby. Suddenly from down the street, a dark red, beat up Cadillac pulled from the curb spinning its tires. It turned the corner, but before disappearing from sight, Justin thought he saw someone in the passenger seat holding his sign.
Copyright January 6, 1999 by Thor Kirleis