None of us kids living on Flamingo or Duke of Gloucester knew for sure where it had come from. It was a true mystery, one that would last beyond our childhood years.
Early one Saturday morning after a night of thunderstorms, we discovered the white bike. A white bike with a red lightning bolt etched down its frame was lying there, on its side, in the middle of the vacant lot across from Neighbor Thomas’s house. But the lot hadn’t always been vacant.
The Flamingo Street legend was that years ago, a mom, dad, and a little boy lived in a small farmhouse that stood on that very lot. One night, during a powerful storm, lightning struck and burnt the house to the ground. The parents got out, but their little boy perished. In their sorrow, they chose not to rebuild and moved away. The little boy’s eighth birthday had been three weeks before the fire, and he had received only one present – a white bike with a red lightning bolt down its frame.
None of us ever figured out where the bike had come from or why, three weeks later, it just disappeared from the vacant lot. It was a true Flamingo Street mystery. Still, we all thought the same – it was the little boy’s bike. That’s why we never went over and touched it. I’d forgotten about the strange incident from my childhood — until about a month ago.
We, too, have an abandoned lot near our downtown. Rumor has it that a long time ago, a small farmhouse stood there. One night, a dreadful storm toppled all the trees on the heavily wooded land, and lightning burnt the house to the ground. Now sandwiched between railroad tracks and the new Main Street Bridge, the land had been cut in two. No longer large enough for a house, and too small for a park, the small triangular lot just sat empty … that is until it arrived.
While driving to our downtown early one Saturday morning, I noticed something out in the center of the overgrown lot. Driving past, a distant childhood memory came into focus, troubling me. Was that a bike? Why would a kid leave his bike in the middle of a vacant lot? Maybe he was off with his friends setting pennies on the nearby tracks, I thought, remembering what we did back on Flamingo. That afternoon, taking the same route back home, I was sure the owner had retrieved the bike. I was wrong.
Nearing the bridge, I slowed down to look over the three-foot-tall weeds and couldn’t believe what I saw. There it was. In the middle of that lot. All white with a red lightning bolt etched down the frame. Passing by, my hands gripped the steering wheel tightly, as I remembered the same bike from a long, long time ago.
In the days to come, with every pass over the bridge, I’d gaze out over expecting it to be gone, but right in the center of the lot, it still lay on its side. And, just like all of us back on Flamingo, I was too scared to investigate closer.
Early last Saturday morning, I took a golf cart ride into town with The Wife and our two granddaughters. On the way I told the story about the strange bike from my childhood and how that the very same bike was now, somehow, lying in the center of the vacant lot just over the upcoming bridge.
With both the girls and The Wife giving me dubious looks, I pressed the golf cart accelerator pedal to the floor. Soon I’ll face my fear, walk through the knee-high weeds, retrieve the bike and perhaps finally solve the Flamingo Street Mystery. Or so I thought.
From the top of the bridge, we all looked out over the vacant lot only to see that it was indeed … well … vacant. The need high weeds had been cut down and there was no white bike with a red lightning bolt down its frame anywhere in sight. Just like the bike from my childhood, it had disappeared after three weeks. During our hour-long ride around town, there was only one person on our golf cart who believed my story. And it wasn’t The Wife or our granddaughters.
Two weeks have passed, and there’s been no sign of the bike. Was the bike I saw discarded because the chain broke, or had it fallen off the back of a pickup truck during a move? Could a kid just have forgotten where he left it as he went off climbing trees and playing with his friends? Had a bully, like Down the Street Bully Brad, stolen some helpless kid’s bike and dumped it in the middle of the lot just to be mean? Could it be as simple as city workers moving it to cut the lot? Or was it actually, somehow, the mysterious bike from Flamingo Street?
With no picture for proof, I must admit even I have difficulty believing it was actually there. But if asked, I’ll tell you where I think it went.
Look closely as you pass the vacant lots in your hometown. Somewhere out there, in the middle of one, I believe there’s a white bike lying on its side with a red lightning bolt etched down the frame.
Please take a picture and send it this way, but hurry. If you believe in the mystery of Flamingo Street, it will only be there for three weeks.
[Rick Ryckeley has been writing stories since 2001. To read more of Rick’s stories, visit his blog: storiesbyrick.wordpress.com.]