Couldn't Lift It

Ben Trefry

March 11, 2022

“What are you doing?” she said.

“Looking for my keys,” I said, panting. Never mind the heavy bolt cutters gripped in my sweaty hands.

“Huh,” she said, and unlocked her own bike. For a second I thought that would be the end of it. It wasn’t. “No, seriously. What are you doing? What are you holding?”

“I lost my keys, like I said. I gotta get my bike.”

“I’m not sure I believe you. Seems more like I’m witnessing a bike theft,” she said.

No shit, I thought. You are 100% witnessing a bike theft, now just stand back and let me get on with it. But I didn’t say that. “How could I steal my own bike? I need it so I can get back to Oakland, get my car, pick up my kid from school,” I said instead. “You’ll know that feeling when you’re a parent, you get me?” Ouch, that was bad. I should not have said that.

Back in my own college days my greatest kicks came from pranking, scamming, and generally screwing with my hilariously naive classmates. But I’d gotten rusty, and my lines showed it. 21-year-old me would’ve had this bike in the bag long ago. Now, I legitimately had no idea if I’d even make it past this girl. See, I had the suit and the business skills, but I was out of practice. I was never the one out on the street actually nabbing any of the thousands of bikes that made their way to my warehouse. Damn shame—I built this business, rose to the top, hired lackeys, made a fortune, but in the process lost my own touch for skulduggery.

“I don’t get you,” she said. “I’m gonna call the cops.” Typical for members of her generation, she already had that damn phone in hand.

“Really?” I tried to pull my best disheveled-and-offended-dad face. “Jesus, that’s harsh.”

“Yes. If you don’t leave right now. I have no idea who you are but… pretty sure that’s not your bike.”

I made a calculation, a course correction, if you will. “OK. Call them, maybe they can help me bust my own bike loose.”

She called the cops, explained a bit of the situation. She might’ve even been on hold for a minute before they connected her to some badge-less office drone.

I saw my chance—she’d stopped me from stealing that nice road bike I really wanted, but she should’ve never unlocked her own bike in my presence. That’ll do just fine, I thought. I waited for her to look away. When she did, I surprised even myself with my lightning-fast grab-and-go job. While she told the UCPD office all about my thievery, I made her bike mine, and was off before she could even put down the phone.

I was riding away, and it was even downhill—how’s that for luck?

“Hey! Stop—thief!” she said. It wasn’t enough to get anyone’s attention.

What did get my attention was the heavy object that slammed into me from behind. Hurt like a bitch!

“Take that!” she said.

I fell off and tumbled. I got up quickly enough, but the bike was a mess, so I ditched it and ran. The old legs didn’t fail me, but man, what an embarrassment. Back to school for this old crook.