Bike Ride

By Susan E. Wagner

When you live in a small town and it feels like everyone

knows your business because they usually do and it feels

like Judgment Day on Main Street


and in the school’s library, which stays open all summer,

you get recognized and criticized by other kids’ mothers

who think age appropriate is more


important than the good stuff your mother lets you read,

and then they follow you out and offer a car ride because

the five miles you need to bike


to get home is too dangerous, they think, and you have to

smile and say, no, thanks, which annoys them and they

start to insist and follow you


the first mile so you stop and get in the car with your bike

in their trunk because you know there will be less gossip

this way or maybe beating your


head’s just not worth it anymore –

You sit in the front with her kids in the back and you show

her where to turn to get to the farm but you make her park


across the road because you tell her it’s easier to turn

around this way – she finally gets your bike out and you

can say thank you and walk


the bike across the road and then you stop to wave, turn

and walk the sand driveway to the back of your house,

put the bike in the garage and


hope Mom didn’t see the car. Mom would be hurt to

know others think she’s neglectful because she thinks

it’s safe to bike to town


and besides, when all it is one less kid in the house. Yes,

Mom would be hurt so you don’t tell her ever because

you want no chance that she


might stop your one-way ticket out.

Susan Wagner is the author of Unmuted: Voices on the Edge, a collection of hybrid poetry on mental illness and families. A former therapist, Susan facilitated creative and poetry writing group therapies. She has published poetry, short stories and feature articles and taught both creative and business writing. Susan is an editor with The Pearl S. Buck Writing Center and currently finishing her second novel. Her next book of poetry, another in the Unmuted series, will soon be available on Amazon.