On the other side of that fence was freedom. Freedom from oppression. Freedom to live life on my own terms, without interference from a shadowy government with its own rules and convention.
A flash of lightning lit up the heavens and I could see Scott riding toward me, his hulking frame a dark silhouette against a gloomy sky. It was time to go.
Scott parked his Big Wheel next to mine, and we examined our options. The fence was about six feet high and of solid construction. A huge mound of dirt and gravel was piled against it. Using complex mathematical calculations, I deduced I could jump the Big Wheel over this fence and land safely on the other side. Scott would then quickly follow.
We found a large piece of plywood and dragged it to the dirt pile. We cleared away all the big rocks and debris, fashioning a crude runway to our newly created ramp. We scanned the yard for teachers but saw nothing but windswept grounds and a tumbleweed lumbering by.
I hopped on my Big Wheel, looked left and right for obstructions, and slowly pedaled backward. I came to a stop about a hundred feet from the ramp. It was silent. The multicolored streamers on my handlebars danced lightly in the breeze. My heart pounded. My mouth was dry and my eyes focused, as I watched for a signal from Scott.
A flash of lightning lit up the blacktop, followed by a low snarl of thunder. I glanced up at the menacing clouds and suddenly felt queasy.
Could I make this jump?
I nervously darted my gaze back toward Scott. He quickly stopped picking his nose and gave me a thumbs-up. He waved the Cookie Monster flag frantically.
I floored it. The plastic front wheel spun before gripping the pavement. The massive thrust threw me against the back of the seat. I tore off though the school yard toward the ramp. I yelled at the top of my lungs, only to be drowned out by a huge crack of thunder. The wind whisked through my hair and I could barely breathe.
I pedaled furiously. In just a matter of seconds I would be airborne, blasting over the fence like a rocket ship.
Seconds later, I hit the ramp at high-speed, probably two miles an hour. I went up one side of the ramp and immediately down the other.
Forward momentum threw me hard against the handlebars as I crashed head-on into the fence.
Scott dropped the flag and quickly ran over to me. He looked down at my twisted and mangled body and began laughing hysterically.
“That was great! You almost made it!”
“Oh, my balls!” I listed to one side.
He grabbed my arm and helped me up. “We need to try it again before it starts raining!”
I stood up as Scott helped to balance me. The pain below my waist was fading. For the next several minutes we discussed the problem of acceleration. I reasoned that we could not increase the takeoff speed without a rocket strapped to my back, so we focused instead on trajectory.
I eventually deduced that the Big Wheel did not have the proper take-off angle, so we re positioned the ramp, placing it at roughly a seventy-degree angle.
There was no reason not to clear that fence now.
I stood up straight like a Phoenix rising from the ashes, and surveyed the crash scene. Scott released his grip on me. The Big Wheel looked OK. I picked it up, spun it around, and rode it back to the staging area.
Scott was busy opening up a Twinkie, but managed to give me the green light. I glanced at the fence as I sat down on the Big Wheel. I immediately felt the pain in my groin. I quickly stood up.
“Hold on!” I yelled.
I jumped off the Big Wheel and hightailed it over to the school’s toy box where I grabbed the latest in safety equipment; a football helmet and a big stuffed turtle. I returned to the Big Wheel, strapped on the Green Bay helmet, and stuck the turtle down the front of my pants. I seated myself carefully, took a few deep breaths and tried to relax my racing heart.
The playground was silent again. A light mist began to fall. Scott shoved the Twinkie into his mouth, raised the flag high above his head, and looked around one final time. Satisfied, he nodded and waved the flag.
I tightened the chin strap, adjusted the turtle, and peeled out. The ground was slick from the mist and traction was poor, but I began picking up speed. I seemed to be going even faster this time around, the wind whistling through the ear holes in the helmet and the spray from the blacktop hitting me in the face.
I needed to hit my mark. I needed to clear that fence.
The ramp was just seconds away. I gripped the handlebars tightly and held on for dear life. I hit the ramp perfectly – which promptly bent into a U-shape, slipped off the fence, flexed back to its original shape, jumped two feet in the air, and landed on top of me as I crashed into the fence again.
Scott fell to his knees laughing so hard he couldn’t catch his breath. After what seemed like an eternity, he pulled the ramp off my body.
“Are you OK?” he giggled hysterically. He shook my head like a bobble-head for effect.
That was it. I’d had enough. I yanked the helmet off my head and threw it over the fence. I took the turtle out of my pants and threw him over the fence. I summoned up all my strength, lifted the Big Wheel over my head, and clumsily threw it over the fence.
Scott’s face brightened. He lifted his Big Wheel up in the air, and tossed it over the fence with ease.
A girl named Julie had witnessed this debacle and asked us if she could escape too. We nodded and tossed her tricycle over the fence which landed on the other side with a large clang. The three of us clambered over the fence, ignoring the shouts emanating from the school yard. We quickly saddled up and sped down the street, having successfully escaped from the Kiddie Kollege.
We zoomed down Ventura Boulevard, whizzing past storefronts and bewildered shoppers. The liquor store was just a few doors away and thoughts of candy cigarettes and baseball cards danced through my brain.
We were just moments away from candy and gum when the owner of the Trophy Shoppe darted out of his store. Scott and I swerved into the gutter, but Julie wasn’t fast enough. She was apprehended and taken prisoner. We glanced back at our captured comrade, but continued pedaling into the alley. We would mount a rescue attempt later.
By my calculations we had made it almost a block before the big blue station wagon rounded the corner and ground to a halt in front of us. The doors flew open and an army of teachers descended upon us.
Scott and I looked at each other, somehow realizing our dream was about to be shattered, our plans foiled. We screamed at the top of our lungs as we split off in opposite directions.
Citing God and country, Scott attempted to crash through their blockade. A 200-pound teacher with a donut in her hand grabbed him by the arm and yanked him right off the Big Wheel.
That’s gonna hurt.
Within seconds, he was subdued and sequestered in the backseat of the station wagon, his Big Wheel impounded.
Poor Scott. He too, taken prisoner by the enemy.
I hit the emergency brake, turned hard, and fish-tailed quickly down a narrow pathway into a well-kept backyard. One of the teachers was hot on my tail, yelling for me to stop. I soon realized I had turned into fenced-in yard. I yanked the emergency brake again, cranked the handlebars and spun out doing a complete 180. I came to rest just a few yards from my pursuer.
We faced each other like the good guy and bad guy at the end of a spaghetti western. The heavens let loose and the rain began pouring down. We waited, coldly, quietly, for the other to make his move.
“OK Steven. You need to come back to school with us. Now get off the Big Wheel.”
I squinted and tried to look as much like Clint Eastwood as possible.
Was this how it would end for me?
“You’ll never take me alive you wiener!” I slammed the pedals and roared toward the teacher as fast as I could. The teacher stood motionless, his eyes locked on my movement.
I expected to knock him to his knees.
Just as I was upon him, he stepped to the side, reached down, lifted me off the Big Wheel, and threw me over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes. He grabbed the Big Wheel with his free hand and carried me back to the car.
How humiliating. This was a direct violation of the Geneva Conventions and I would be filing a formal complaint with the Kollege upon my return.