Do you remember the first time you rode a bike?

“Pedal,” he says, and I pedal.

A few minutes before, he stood beside me. His strong hands grasp the handlebars of my bike. He steadies me as I get comfortable with my balance.

Even stronger, his forearms, made this way by chopping firewood. Almost cartoonish in size, I used to think. Like Popeye the Sailor Man. As a small boy I would try to wrap my tiny hands around them, never succeeding.

The morning he died I touched his forearms. My hands swallowed the circumference as the machines beeped in the background.

They were thin. Barely any muscle lay atop the bone.

You always had such strong forearms, I thought to myself as I stood there.

He runs alongside me now. My knees come into view, launching up and down, up and down. My hands grip tighter the handlebars. The municipal building draws closer. I pass the Methodist church to my right.

He’s still running next to me.

Then he stops, and I’m still going.

“Keep pedaling,” he shouts. “Don’t look back.”

Currently listening to:Howling at the Moon (Sha-La-La)” by Ramones. Album: Too Tough to Die. Released: 1984

By Jeffrey Pillow

Jeffrey Pillow is an American short story writer, memoirist, and poet. He is the author of The Lady Next Door. His writing has been published in Urge Magazine, The Nervous Breakdown, 16 Blocks, USA Today, Sports Illustrated,, New York Times, Washington Post, and Richmond Times-Dispatch.

He grew up in the small town of Phenix, Virginia, population: 200, and now lives in Charlottesville with his wife, two kids, and a dog named Mozzarella Cheese. He is a graduate of the University of Virginia where he was a Rainey Scholar. This is his blog.

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