hat did she know of love! What did she know of anything!
I gathered from the initials 'V.O.' scrawled within a crudely drawn heart on her note book that she had somewhat of a crush on Vance Oberdiek.
The particular girl, Julie, is far from my intellectual equal. Her book reports, at best, receive a check '+'. My own, on the other hand, always encourage lengthy debate with our teacher.
And Vance Oberdiek is, simply, a buffoon. He is the buffoon's buffoon! He languishes in the 'Bronze' math group, while I thrive in the 'Gold'. As a matter of routine, my test papers receive stickers and stars while his, as a matter of routine, have only 'please see me' written on them.
So why should I care if they sit next to each other during library time? If they talk on the phone, go out for sodas or get married?
Aye, there's the rub. The inherent problem with being in fifth grade and possessing a high school level intelligence is that while I have the mental capacity to recognize the faults of my own juvenile emotions, I lack the developmental maturity to deal with them.
So despite the obvious discrepancies in our IQs, I find myself absolutely captivated by Julie. Sometimes, instead of focusing on the blackboard, I will focus on the little pink ribbons that hold back her long tresses of honey colored curls.
I'd like to think I'm above petty jealousy, but I get these self inflicted scratches when I see Vance lazily pedaling his ostentatious 10 speed alongside her after school. Pedaling and recounting the punch lines from various situation comedies. Surely she has watched the same programs, and yet she giggles just the same.
And while he appears so smug perched atop his shiny blue Schwinn, basking in the radiant glow of Julie's affection, he's always fumbling through the gears. Missing them, making horrible noise, spinning wildly. But the more asinine his displays upon the bicycle, the more Julie seems to like him.
I often daydream of his bicycle exploding. Of it exploding with him on it. Of his buffoonish head sailing through air with a last buffoonish look affixed to it for all eternity. And as his head sails over the horizon, I put my arms around Julie and dazzle her with a display of true wit and intelligent conversation. (I had tried in the past to show her true wit by verbally skewering Vance's oral science report, but their afternoon rendezvous continued.)
And recently I have noticed something quite troubling. It appears that Vance had mastered gears 1-5 and is no longer content to clumsily pedal alongside Julie. Now Vance is propping her up on his handle bars and riding so fast that I can no longer keep up!
Surely these antics will kill her! And if she were to die the fault would not be his, for he is far too stupid to grasp the concept of consequence. No! The fault would be mine for not having had the courage to act! Her bloodied pink ribbons would be on my hands!
I had to destroy Vance Oberdiek's bicycle! The mission was less about my love for Julie as it was about her very life.
My plan was simple. Instead of helping out in the library during recess, I would slink over to the bicycle rack. Then, using one of my father's large screwdrivers, I would disarm the bicycle by snapping the chain.
If I was caught, there would definitely be a phone call to my parents, which would surely result in punishment. However, the punishment would be temporary while the fruits of my sacrifice would be everlasting.
With the recess of reckoning upon me, I thought only of Julie. Eluding the playground monitor, I made my way to the bicycle rack. I inserted the screwdriver into a joint on the chain, and twisted. The deed was done. The chain was broken.
Still, the bicycle looked menacing. I could picture Vance wheeling about, chainless, with Julie on the handle bars. I pictured him wheeling right into the path of an oncoming train. I began bending the spokes with the screwdriver, but that proved to be highly inefficient. So I started banging the rims with a rock to make the prospect of wheeling about impossible.
It felt good to be ridding the world of the 10 speeds of evil. It felt so good that I began to bang the frame. I swung the rock as if it were a battle ax. I ripped and pulled at the cables. I mangled the levers and disfigured the brakes.
I was so focused on my mission I didn't even realize that I had drawn a crowd. They were coming, no doubt, to cheer me on! I must have looked like a Bolshevik storming the palace of the Czar! But sadly, no one would see the parallel since I was the only one in 5th grade with an understanding of Russian history.
Looking up, I saw Julie. I could sense from her wide eyes that her image of me was transformed. She saw me not as the smartest student in the 5th grade, but as her champion! She understood that I was destroying the bike so that she could live.
Next to her, tears welling up in his eyes, was Vance. As the recess monitor was dragging me away, I relished the thought of him weeping. Weeping over the realization that without his bicycle, Julie would finally see that he had nothing to offer.
Later, as I sat in the principal's office waiting for my mother to pick me up, I thought about my eventual exchange with Julie. As I would run my fingers through her honey colored curls, she would say, 'Thank you for saving me. Thank you for seeing what I could not. And most of all, thank you for having the patience to love me.' Then we would hold hands and I would walk her home.
Copyright © 2000 by Brian Murray.