Hill climb and a new Bikini next door

Pretty much everywhere we kids went it was on a bicycle.  I had one which, I think, was called a Schwinn Roadmaster.  This thing weighed somewhere in the range of two or three hundred pounds because it was covered with sheet metal and chrome.  The tires had inner tubes and the braking system consisted of simply attempting to back-pedal.  This would set the brakes.

One test of our manhood was to take out bicycles UP “Dead Man’s Hill”.  This feat was not really about how strong you were, or how athletic you were, but, simply, how much you weighed.  When you started at the bottom (no running starts allowed) you stood on the pedals to pump your way up.  If you didn’t weigh enough to make the pedals go down, you simply didn’t get to the top.

I had been assaulting this hill off and on for two or three years and finally, one day, I decided that I was going to do it.  I flipped my bike over in the yard and oiled everything. I checked the chain for bad links and tightness.  I made sure the pedals themselves rotated freely.  I added a little extra air to the tires to make them a little harder (even as a kid we all knew that soft tires made your pedaling difficult).

Finally, the big day arrived.  I came home from school, saddled up, and went over to the base of the hill.  A couple of younger kids were trying to climb also so I stood there astride my bike and waited for them to give up.  After several passes back and forth at the base of the hill (the hill ended as a ‘tee’) I suddenly cut over and began climbing.  As I said before, the ascent was something like eighty nine degrees so this took a lot of stamina.  I pulled on opposite handle bars mightily as I pressed down with my full weight on the pedals.  I crept up the hill.  Weaving was permissible, but you weren’t allowed to go parallel.  I angled to one side, then to the other, while still frantically chugging up the hill.  I was looking down so I didn’t see that the hill was cresting.  I did notice that I didn’t have to put more effort into the climb.

I was On Top!  On shaky legs, I dismounted and pumped my fist into the air.  Yahoo!  I had finally conquered the hill.  I coolly drifted back down to receive the adulation of the younger kids and the hearty backslaps by my friends.  It was months before my closest friend was able to do it.  I was secretly pleased.

In 1947, over in France, a beachwear designer named Louis Réard created a new suit called the ‘Bikini’.  This was in honor of the US exploding a nuclear device (read: bomb) over the quiet Bikini Atoll down in the Marshall Islands of the South Pacific (I’ll bet they didn’t think it was an honor).  His reasoning, apparently, was that it would hit you like a nuclear device when you saw it (or, in the case of the French version – the Monokini) didn’t see it.  The bikini rattled around Europe for a while and finally landed in the States, specifically purchased by her mom for the budding body of Kathleen.

Her mom proceeded to pull a supreme gaffe by hauling it out of a shopping bag directly into the open air and held it in front of her daughter, a bunch of other kids, and I.  She was so mortified that I didn’t see her for the rest of the day.  Her parting shot as she motored her way out of the room was “Oh, MUUUUUUTHERRRRRRR!”

Visions of Kathleen wearing those bits of cloth danced through my head.  It took three tries before my buddy finally jabbed me in the ribs to get my attention.  The next day, I was out in the back yard doing something manly (I have no idea what it was, but everything I did by then was ‘manly’); probably running ‘the swinger’ over our yard to lop off the weed stalks showing up.  I heard Kathleen’s back door slam so I turned and watched, enchanted, as she tiptoed out to the small backyard pool they filled up every spring.  I was sitting in the shade under the back porch so she probably didn’t see me.  To be honest, I tried very hard to make sure she wouldn’t see me.

As she climbed up the stairs, I noticed that the middle region between her top strap and her shapely bottom was a lot paler.  Suddenly I realized that she was actually wearing the bikini.  I started my motor, fired up my radar, put the legs into gear, and ambled coolly over to the gate between our two houses.  It wasn’t until I clicked the gate latch after passing through it, that she glanced up, saw me, and shrieked “Go AWAY!”

‘Go away?’ Is this a way to talk to a friendly neighbor?  I assured her that my intentions were honorable and that I had worked hard in the yard and would like a dip in her pool.  She told me that she ‘wasn’t properly dressed’ and that I should again ‘go away’.  The phrase ‘properly dressed’ bounced around my head and a very short, but vivid, fantasy blew through my brain’s movie theatre at the speed of light.  Some amount of whining and begging on my part ensued and her defenses began to wear down.  Finally, she pressed herself to the near side of the pool and allowed me to climb the ladder.  In my usual ‘just kidding around’ style, I cannonballed over her head and splashed down.  She smacked me with a blow-up toy several times and told me not to look.  That is approximately the same thing as telling a fox not to eat chickens that it finds in the henhouse.  Of course I looked; wouldn’t you?

She was still facing towards, and glued to, the wall of the pool but I finally convinced her to turn around.  When she did I strove mightily to not gawk but I’m sure she noted that my eyes had rolled down to the tip of my nose and my tongue hung out.  Just where did THOSE come from – and how did I miss them before?  Stifling my immediate response to howl like Wolfie in the cartoons, I said something inane like “that’s a cool suit”.  While I was mentally cutting my tongue off for making such a stupid remark, she smiled shyly and said “do you like it?”  I told her that it really made her look great.  She then stood up fully and spun in a circle.  I again asked myself how on earth I had missed all these delightfully curvy surfaces on her.

In under ten minutes we were splashing around in the pool like nothing had happened.  I also learned how to project full-color and stereo sound mental fantasies onto my brain screen while carrying on normal conversations.  Very difficult at times and I was definitely thankful for the cold water.



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