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The perfect plan

Rick Ryckeley's picture

A more perfect plan had never been conceived. It had taken almost a week to assemble, with every aspect of it thought out to the last detail. Absolutely nothing could’ve gone wrong. Yet somehow — horribly and painfully — it had.

At the bottom of Flamingo Street, a young boy lay in a crumpled mass, his right hand sporting a two-inch bloody gash. The new bike, broken beyond repair, had finally ended its tumble at the feet of the meanest kid on Flamingo Street — Down the Street Bully Brad. That’s how this story ends; here’s how it begins.

With three speeds, a Red Rocket was the fastest bike on the planet, and it was finally mine. Christmas morning, good old Santa had come through. That, and the countless hints dropped to Mom and Dad, had done the trick. Even way back in the day, the power of constantly pestering parents for something you really wanted was quite effective.
Why three speeds, you might ask? That’s what it would take to jump over Cripple Creek, a feat not achieved by any kid on Flamingo Street. But that was about to change. Unfortunately my date with destiny would have to wait. It rained for the next week so I used that time to plan.

Our house sat at the highest point on Flamingo Street. One direction took you back to town and the 7-11 store with the best frozen Slurpee in town. To the right the street belled out to a cul-de-sac at the bottom of a long steep hill. The only house in the cul-de-sac was Old Mrs. Crabtree’s house, but that wasn’t our destination. A pathway through the vacant lot just to the left was.

At the end of the path were Cripple Creek and a newly constructed ramp by Bubba Hanks. Bubba’s dad was a construction foreman so Bubba knew how to build things. Neighbor Thomas helped him with the ramp, building it to specifications provide by Flamingo Street’s very own math whiz, Goofy Steve.

Goof was a certified math genius. After all, he was the only one that got a perfect score on the last test in Old Mrs. Crabtree’s third-grade class. He assured us, with enough speed, jumping the 15-foot watery span could be accomplished.

With his math skills, Bubba and Thomas’s construction abilities, confidence flowed through my veins. I sat atop Red Rocket, in front of 110 Flamingo Street and started to peddle downhill.

In the time before bike helmets, wind whistled through my hair as I gathered speed. Cheered on by my brothers, I shifted into third gear and entered the cul-de-sac. That’s when it happened. Something no one had planned.

Bully Brad jumped out from behind bushes, threw a stick in my path, and then laughed as he watched the ensuing carnage.

Red Rocket tumbled out of control. Over the handlebars I flew, headfirst towards the not so soft dirt pathway and the jagged end of a fence post.

Three weeks earlier, with Bubba aboard, the Disk of Death had slid down the snow-covered Flamingo Street. Out of control, they’d broken off the fence post even with the ground and gone airborne. The disk smashed through Old Mrs. Crabtree’s front window and into her Christmas tree; Bubba crashed into her front bushes unhurt and laughing.
After my bloodbath, Bubba, Thomas, and Goof helped me back to my feet and bandaged my hand. My three brothers chased after Bully Brad, madder than I’d ever seen them. After all, if I was gonna get hurt and bloody, they wanted to be the ones to do it.

During this new year, remember this: even the best thought-out plans can go awry. You can find yourself dodging sticks and crashing at the bottom of a long steep hill.

Life has a funny way of doing that. It’s what family and friends are for. They’ll help pick you up, dust you off, and get you back on your bike.

Over 47 years later, the scar on my right hand is still a visible reminder of how family and friends came to my aid that day.

Once you’re back up on your bike, helping you pedal through this year will be all the kids from Flamingo Street. We’re right here each week to add a smile to your day and no bullies allowed!

Have a happy and healthy New Year from The Wife, The Boy, and me.

[Rick Ryckeley, who lives in Senoia, is in his third decade as a firefighter and has been a weekly columnist since 2001. His email is His books are available at]

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