White Bicycle

Christopher McCarthy

Christopher McCarthy is a member of the League of Canadian Poets. His work has appeared in Anti-Heroin Chic, Red River Review, The Cadaverine and Fresh Voices. In 2015, Flat Singles Press published his chapbook, Vancal. He lives in Iqaluit, Nunavut with his wife Stefanie.


THE SCARIEST THING is not the violence but the silence. Stop sound. Put a plug in a tub. Life swirls round and round. No more. No, less. Less is more.

Climb to the very top of a wave. Stand on top of it. Like that, yes. Look round. Wave.

The passengers sitting in the back of the boat jump. Startle. Crowd the stern. Wave. Hand up. Then another hand, and the snowmobile drives past.

Three men glide along in the back. The feet fitted to the bottom of the boat wobble on, a makeshift sledge. Glide.

Trompe-l’œil.

Point skis forward. Tilt. Go down. Cross the frozen bay. Make your way back from the ice wall, from land to island, coffee thermos, and home again. A gaggle of cast down eyes gaze at white snow. Go on. Heigh-ho!

A cross-country trip—a family of adventurers skiing x-country—Blythe Jacobson’s brother is standing on top of the Arctic Ocean with his parents.

He got the skis for Christmas. Got them from his auntie, the millionaire, she won the lottery.

Auntie K— gave all her money away. The church got some; but she bought presents for everyone. She bought trips too. Blythe’s brother got a new bike. Thank auntie.


WATCH HIS HAND SHAKE over equations. Buck’s at the board.

He needs help with his homework. Write out answers alone. It’s after-hours during a blizzard. Mc watches.

Draw on the wall. Draw the outline of his shadow. Follow the outline from the top of Christ’s forehead, up to the ceiling, to the lights, to the picture of Fr. Davies, to the glint off the frame and the glare on Buck’s glasses.

Buck looks weird. Buck’s legally blind. No friends. No matter. God made everyone in His image, modeller in clay.

Kids call him Medicine because he has diabetes. The teacher says it Dibutades, obscure Greek no one understands.

Buck’s no scholar. He just needs to pass. His father’s a businessman, a millionaire, with great expectations.

Make him memorize Latin…benedictam, adscriptam, ratam, rationabilem, acceptabilemque facere digneris. Buck, it stops with him.

Don’t call him Medicine. Call him Pal. Don’t pick on him. It won’t cure his disease.

Face the board. Face youth modelled in clay, baked over fifty years. Fire the memory.

Mr Medicine Sr. is dead. He left Buck millions. He’s set for life. The rest went to charity. Jesu XPI passio.

Buck’s a deacon now, married, Mary, no children, thank god, godfather, thank Mc, who helped him with his sums on the board that day.

Make a speech about it at the alumni ceremony at the school. Buck’s a power on the board now.

Lumber past, Buck. Slink down the aisle, slowly. Make your way. The ball gutters along the rails and rolls into the hole. Go Buck. Go back through those years.

See nothing. The blind boy wanders in the corridor. Past midlife, Buck’s no Melmoth but each day is borrowed time.

In the hall, hear all the old voices Medicine, Medicine, Medicine. Matured Maturins, most moved on, some died, but none apologized. Here comes Mc.

Smile that smile, yes, that smile, the very one.

Help him to his cab.


SNIFF THE BUMP off the back of the book. Make a decision. Meet Liina. Meet Carly. Hi. Hug. Glow. Go.

Feel the best. Feel golden. Feel ponytail. Feel soft, wet lips. Feel throbbing rough peace. White on white, white on snow, ride fresh powder, do chauch, chairlift.

The beat hits the back of the head. The drip hits the back of the throat. You hit the ground running. Meet the boys.

Another group of girls from uptown are looking for yays. After a few yeah, yeah, yeahs, a quick phone call, become Dan. No one knows ‘Dan’ but Dan will do. Dan does deals when Deals isn’t around.

The lads are rolling. Wine. Beer. Spirits. Park in front of the liquor store for the fourth or fifth time tonight. Wait. Wait. Wait. Hit the sidewalk. Smoke. Fight. Drink. Hack. Laugh.

Stealing – caractérisme.

There’s a group, five or six of them. Meet them on Alcorn, the street that backs out onto a park laneway. Meet on the corner. It’s out in the open. (It’s the same place you do runners on cab fares.)

Show Stacy – the tall one who calls herself Stacy – a little bag of power powder. Talk it up. Big it up. She gives you eighty. Take off running.

Too bad, so sad! Do not pass Go. Do not collect. The lads roll up behind you. One of them asks, where’s ‘Dan’ going?

Meanwhile, Deals is on the rails. He met up with Blythe Jacobson’s friends to chop some weed. Friends tried to rob him. Deals pulled a gun on them. Everybody ran.

Come downtown. Bring everyone up to speed. Get bats, golf clubs, knuckles, and knives.

Earlier, when Dan was talking to Stacy, someone spotted Jacobson’s crowd in front of the archdiocese waiting for someone to come out of the North entrance of the liquor store. The lads ran up and they ran off. Blythe got in a cab.

Gear up. Head to Jacobson’s parents’ palace on Comerford Drive. Call the house phone repeatedly. Circle round.

One huge pulsing group is ready to beat the fuck out of anyone. Wheel round and round.

Fear builds. The house is no fortress. The wrapped up flowerbeds, dark doorway, rotten woodpile, dirty brick, the third floor bedroom where kids shotgun cans / huff inhalants, frosty windows, all of it is immoveable, helpless, fucked.

Skunk, the boldest of the lot of you, rings the bell. Mrs Jacobson picks up the phone, voice frantic. She’s calling the police. Fear for sons.

They’ll be ten minutes.

Don’t go outside. Know what’s good for you. Touch knives in pockets. Rub bats. Clubsmash the planters in front garden.

Link chucks a clay pot at the side of the house. Kick. Cover the slate steps in earth. The faces on the mouldings, little miniature heads carved in the tiles here and there, they’re screaming.

Someone cracks a joke about how Blythe’s name is actually Blythewood. Someone yells: Go fuck yerself!

No one’s coming out. All the lights are off but everyone is inside, cowering. The garage at the side of the house is unlocked. Go in. No entrance.

Hear the cops coming: Time to jet. Steal a pair of skis from the Jacobsons’ garage. Steal Blythe’s brother’s bike.

Dart one last glance at tiles with human faces, screaming. Push off. Drag the skis with bike tires trailing in the snow.


EVER SEE an all white bicycle? Spot a few of them around town.

Get a plain 10-speed and whitewash it. Make the machine look completely immobile, stopped, painted in space. It sits, chained somewhere, forever motionless, ghostly, unridable – dead.

Blythe Jacobson’s brother likes to go biking with his friend Paul.

After the winter, during the spring after Blythe moved out, he couldn’t go because his new bike was gone. Someone stole it before he ever got a chance to ride. (Someone sold it for a half-bottle of Goose and a quarter of weed.)

Paul rides out alone.

Fly down Cambridge Rd., the long way round. BMX. Pop off the sidewalk onto the road. Hop back on the curb. Hop off. Swoop. Play music. Ride over annuals.

Knock the road clear. The rush of air through hair, bare chin, wear a helmet but leave the strap undone so it won’t chafe tender teenage skin.

Pick up racing speed. Won’t be long now. Go. At the corner, down the hill, towards the ravine, make your way across Mt. P——, before the traffic dips under the bridge and passes out of sight.

A turning car crushes Paul and drags his bicycle for a few yards before stopping.


LOOK ROUND the rock-hewn beach. A short ride from Midlothian up to Midland. It’s a warm sunny day. Ride. Paddle in for a rest. Rest.

Apply ointment. Add spices. The little park-side grill, the aroma of meat cooking, the chemical smell of charcoal, all of it hits your nose as your skin starts to sizzle in the sun. The grill is dirty. No matter. Get a steel brush out of the canoe.

Cue vegetables too. Cook zucchinis for ten minutes. Ten years have past. Fire the memory.

Enjoy lonesome quiet.

Dan’s sober. He’s a different person now. Deals left the city. Link went after him. Patrick (Skunk) became obsessed with martial arts while he was on house arrest.

Someone nearly beat the life out of Blythe Jacobson. Remember the kick. Kick. Trauma. Head injury. Repeat. Punch. Sidewalk. Smiley. Assault X 2. He got done.

The Jacobsons (mom & dad) divorced. The brother is about to go to Trinity. He’s fine.

Blythe and Stacy share a section of a triplex in the west end. She’s in school. She drinks. He cleans building sites. He passed his real estate exam.

The chicken’s burnt on one side but drips of juices. Clean the grill again. Gather wood. The charcoal will be finished soon. Clouds move in for rain. Hopefully it will hold off. In a few months, snow will fall again.

Spend as much time here as possible. Imagine. Get married, children, God, the guy on the plus sign, attend the alumni ceremony, the party for the ten-year reunion. Power now.

The eight ball rolls along the rails and stops just short of the hole. Be a happy loser. Smile that smile, yes, that smile, the very one.


Pour citer cette page

Christopher McCarthy, « White Bicycle »,  MuseMedusa, no 6, 2018, <https://archives.musemedusa.com:443/dossier_6/mccarthy/> (Page consultée le 07 December 2022).


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