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  • I’m about 8 years old. There is a legless, armless, naked torso strapped to the back of my banana seat bike.

    Her name is Annie.

    I like to think that kids today missed out on what kids decades ago did for fun. We didn’t have anything electronic besides some walkie talkies and PONG. If you know what PONG is, then not only are you as old as me, you recall the delicious noise of a single blip sound created when two pixelated sticks hit a “square” ball on a screen.

    But the real freedom was outdoors. No one wore helmets, you’re parents didn’t have a tracking app on you, there were no cellphones. Okay, my father had one in his car but it was the size of a skateboard and he worked for the “government” in an unmarked car he filled up at an unmarked gas station where oil refineries were located, I am not even going to touch that except to say he looks nothing like James Bond and has no super secret Q toys. Dreams die hard people..they really do.

    It was Southern California, it was the 70s, there were only so many hills you could ride your bike down and back up. You knew houses by the kids who came out of them. I rode a borrowed bike at my father’s house on the weekends. There was that feeling of being a grown up the second your bike wheels crossed the driveway, you were on your own. And I remember passing "Safe Houses" which was a house with a marker outside, a place where kids could run to in case they were being chased or followed. It always made me think of Russia. Who were these safe people? I liked to imagine they were Boris and Natasha.

    When we rode bikes, my step brother had to show us up by riding a unicycle, I always coveted that unicycle. He was older, he hid marijuana in his stuffed monkey toy, he had a wooden log piece he polished in Shop class that says something in another language about staying the fuck out of his room. He’s a teenager, he wore puka shells and OP shorts. Like most other adolescent boys named Scott, he looks like a surfer kid. It’s the same way most Jennifers I meet are annoying. Deal with my stereotype.

    I was the youngest sister, but not the youngest child in this house. At home I was used to tipping a bottle of Visine in my eyes and creating tears, the tears of the youngest child are a valuable commodity and they always worked on my aunts and grandmother to get my sister and cousin in trouble. Here at my fathers, I am just another kid who has no one to play with in my age range. So I did the only thing I could think of.

    I put Annie in a wagon and tied it to the back of my bike.

    My stepmother was a nurse, much in the way Nurse Rached was a nurse. Kids can be so dramatic and after coming from a house with few rules I am sure I thought she ruled with an iron hand. She had a large candle that smelled like French Vanilla on her dining table. That candle mocked me in only the way something sweet smells in a house where sugar was forbidden. I always wanted to bite it and see if it tasted what it smelled like.

    I finally got so nostalgic for sugar one day while sitting at the table sniffing that candle the way a drug addict sniffs glue that one day I bit it. I bit into the waxy goodness dreaming of cookies.

    The French Vanilla candle was a lie. It was as fake as honey being sugar and this feeling like a real family. That candle was a representation of everything going on in an eight year olds mind. Fake voice, fake hugs, Nurse Rached coming with your vitamins every damn morning. When you were in trouble she called you “Missy.” She had the voice of a woman who would have driven your schoolbus and taken no lip from any of you. She in fact did not.

    She didn’t believe in sugar, she believed in honey. …hey she was ahead of her time. And that honey sat right next to that fake candle with one of those wooden drizzly things shaped like a beehive. I hated honey from that moment on, it was personal and so I didn't care for bees that much either after that since they were now part of the problem.

    Being raised by a Danish grandfather who had a house overflowing with sugar and candy and sweet tea, I could be guaranteed a sugar crash by Saturday night of my visit. I was an 8 year old with a migraine.

    My stepmother worked on the weekends. My father slept in a big chair. I really don’t even understand why he picked us up at all, he never spoke to us, we never went anywhere, there was a school across the street where you could play on monkey bars. I never saw another child there all the years I played there. I used to imagine the end of the world had come and it was an abandoned school. It was for all I knew.

    Some weekends my stepmother, being a nurse, taught CPR classes. So in her possession she had a dummy they trained on. She showed it to us one day, her name was Resuscitation Annie she said. I remember her name because I loved words and liked to roll them over in my mouth and since this was abandoned communist Russia and there was no candy, words were all I had. She had no arms and no legs. Man, Annie had been dealt some deck of cards. Her mouth was open like some cheap sex doll, her hair was all wrong…she had a jacket on that zipped up, like poor Annie had just been out jogging when tragedy struck and she had been hit by a truck and lost her arms and legs.

    I knew what would cheer her up. A ride around the neighbourhood.

    So I pulled Annie, she was heavy trust me, out of her padded box. For reasons beyond my comprehension of treating inanimate objects like they were alive, Annie lived in a padded box, much like Boxing Helena. This is no life I thought. And I dragged her outside, her head going bump bump bump down the front steps but still better than being locked in a padded jail and put her on a bed of towels in the back of my stepbrothers old Little Red Wagon which I had tied to the back of my bike.

    I can’t even imagine the horror of the poor people of Palos Verdes as I rode up and down the hills, one little girl and her armless legless torso in a wagon.

    I like to think now if David Lynch would have saw me he would have scooped me up., taken me to his house, adopted me and fed me candy.

    But all I remember now is a blur. But the moment burned into my memory is the moment I was toodling along getting a good downhill speed and coming up that hill in the opposite direction is my stepmother driving in her little Datsun with her nurse hat making an O with her mouth.

    It was then I realized she looked exactly like Annie, from the mouth frozen into the O to the hair that was all wrong. I didn't even realize how much they had look alike until I wrote this today and found a picture of Annie and my stepmother.

    Life is funny that way. The moment you realize you are dragging around a armless, legless torso as a way to develop a closeness to a woman who wouldn't give you sugar. Freud at his best.

    I never saw Annie again. And at best, there were only a handful of sugarfree weekends in my life here and there. My poor stepmother, who I am sure felt I was the kid who was harshing her honey fad, that weird kid who put Annie in a wagon and drug her all , you know, all the way to "heckandgone" which was also a word they enjoyed using. Somewhere poor Annie is probably being sold on Ebay with dreams in her empty head about that kid who took her on a joyride.
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