A New Deal

In true gentlemanly fashion, he politely introduced himself to my mother. He thanked her for her significant contribution to his successful night at the table. And he graciously asked her to permit him to double her winnings. He then. presented her with $300.

That’s how my mother met Henry Sperling, a well- known Portland businessman, who later on became her lover and “fairy godfather.”

Late that night, when my mother and Agnes arrived home, they were chattering and giggling like a couple of Buckman school girls.

With her $300 doubled into a $600 bonanza, my mother paid-off past-due grocery bills for my grandparents. She bought herself an old, third-hand Chevrolet jalopy that seemed to be in pretty good shape after 96,000 miles. And she bought me a shiny, new Schwinn bicycle.

She said she still had $40 left over, which she popped into the bank.

***

What a bike. I remember the day we brought it home. It was bright red with white and gold racing stripes. Wide, steer-horn handle bars. Fat balloon tires. Single­speed. Firm, no-nonsense,foot-pedal brakes. Stylized chain-guard and extra jeweled mud-guards. Cushioned, harness-leather seat. And a gleaming, chrome front headlight. I tell you, it was a real hog.

Boy, was I proud of that bike. It was the first new bicycle I had ever owned. My grandfather attached a fancy metal owner’s tag to the frame, with my name on it.

Three days later, when somebody stole the bike, I was heart-broken. Absolutely miserable.

It was my own fault. I swallowed hard, blinked back the tears and admitted full responsibility to my mother. I’d left the bike unlocked, leaning against a post in front of the grocery store for five, maybe ten minutes. It was a painful lesson for me.

However, I was a lucky kid. Far luckier than I deserved. A few days later, the Portland Police Department’s stolen bike detail (one uniformed cop in a pickup truck) found the bike abandoned in a Ladd Park driveway, less than a mile away. It had suffered one long, deep gouge in the paint job.

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