Charles Hale

Like Camp But Not Better Than

Hazel peddled as fast as she could, gravel kicking up, even though she knew Randy wasn’t home. It was Saturday and his dad took him hunting or fishing or somewhere every Saturday while her daddy worked most Saturdays and still didn’t have money to buy her a bike. She was only on the blacktop road for a minute. The single and a half lane curved past the dirt driveway of her trailer as she pushed back on the pedals to slow down.

Randy was leaving for camp on Monday and as she swerved onto the dirt she said a little prayer that no one had seen her. The kids used the dirt trail to get to the lake but no one had ever ridden a bike on it. The trail was too bumpy and narrow and steep but Hazel was too afraid of someone spotting her to hop off and walk. The hill seemed steeper on two wheels, her back wheel slide around and bounced over roots while she tried to slow down. And her hands were getting moist and sliding on the red handgrips. The adults around her home would say the line between people was house or trailer but to Hazel it was fishing on Saturdays with your dad and camp. She had only heard about camp, from kids on the bus, but it seemed like school expect it was always recess and you could swim.

Eventually the hill got so steep Hazel let the bike ride down it without her. It wobbled and flipped and flipped again and she hoped that the handlebars didn’t bend or a tire go flat but she could see the lake and the flat bank all around it and so once she had scooted down on her feet and butt she was back on Randy’s bike and pedaling on the grassy bank. Hazel felt free now, no one would be around to see her, and she swerved back and forth as she headed for the dock.

She had broken a sweat while still on Randy’s driveway but now she drenched. The dock was around a cove from where the trail had dropped her out and once she reached it walked out on it without the bike. It seemed sturdy enough and when she looked at the water it looked deep enough. Hazel counted the steps back to the bike, like paces, even though it didn’t matter. Then she sat on the bike, her right foot on the pedal and counted down from 10. At seven she revved the handgrips, at three she began to count silently, and at zero she pedaled as hard as she could toward the water. Hazel closed her eyes at the edge and held on, she heard the bike splash and then she was underwater. She opened her eyes and realized her feet were still on the pedals. And she sank. She watched the bottom of lake come closer and when the tires touched down she let go and floated to the surface.

Sitting on the dock the wood around her grew darker with every drip. The sun was out and she’d be dry enough to walk before too long. And she’d be back in a day or two to pull the bike out. As she sat she told herself she may never go to camp but that didn’t mean she shouldn’t have a bike for a week. Randy couldn’t use it while at camp and she could ride in the woods and around the lake. She could stay away from the road and drop the bike off at his house before he got home.


Charles Hale works as window cleaner his work has appeared in Noo Journal, Dead Mule School, and Fried Chicken & Coffee, and others. He does not live in Brooklyn nor will he ever