As a child, I had plenty of time to worry about things. Chief amongst my worries was Skylab, of course. What if it fell on my house? Or in my yard? We had a big yard. The more space, the more likelihood of having Skylab hit it. What if, on my way to school, a big chunk of flaming space station dropped on my head and crushed my bike? Why did I have so much concern about my bicycle in that scenario and not the rider? Maybe because I had such a cool bike. It was yellow.
It was actually not Skylab that threatened my bicycle so much as a kid named Dwight Corkum. For reasons that were never revealed, Dwight hated my guts, and he would demonstrate his hatred by regularly deflating the tires on my bicycle. He was a strange kid a year or so younger than me, even nerdier and more lost than I was, with thick glasses, buck teeth that rested on a pale lower lip, and straight oily hair that hung evenly from a razor-sharp centre part that his mother probably incised into his head every morning. One day, after a week of having to walk my bicycle home, I came out at recess to find him kneeling at the bike rack, patiently deflating my back tire. I shouted at him and he ran around the corner.
I was confused. Dwight Corkum and I had never hung out together, never talked to each other - I had never actually heard him speak, come to think of it - and I couldn't imagine why he'd embarked on this weird tire deflation campaign. Was he envious of my wicked cool yellow bike? Well duh. Did he get satisfaction at the sight of me walking my wobbly bicycle home day after day? Or was he just an irrational seven year old freak with an instinct for mindless vandalism? Maybe he was addicted to the sound of escaping air and the pressure of the valve pin against his thumb.
I confronted him by the monkey bars at lunch. My friends had psyched me up for some confrontation and possible violence. Maybe some light shoving. "Hey!" I called out. Dwight peered back at me.
"Hey!" I said again. That was about the extent of my ammunition. "Why are you letting the air out of my tires?"
Dwight picked up a big sharp chunk of shale and hucked it at me, spinning his upper torso to get some leverage. It smacked into my forehead and opened up a long gash. Blood started to run into my eyes, down the bridge of my nose. I could look at the ground and watch the drops release from my eyebrows and break on the gravel.
I believe I said Aaaahaaahah. Dwight ran off without speaking a word. Weird little bastard.
But Dwight Corkum and Skylab were not my biggest worries. Mostly I was preoccupied with cheetahs. They were fast. Even though I scored well in the 100 metre dash, I knew I could not outrun a cheetah. Ligers, leopons and pumanards were hybrids and therefore cool (see Napoleon Dynamite for further information). Regular big cats claimed their proper place in the food chain heirarchy and deserved respect. Sabre-toothed tigers? Freaked me out. But their long period of extinction served as reassurance.
But cheetahs were too fast. If a cheetah set his sights on you, that was it. They would chase you down and there was no way you could get to your door fast enough. Despite the vast distances separating me and the nearest veldt, I figured that living so close to a major port city put me at risk. What if a cheetah stowed away aboard a shipper and leapt off in Halifax? It would likely be really hungry. I'd done the math on the situation and I was on the wrong side of the equation.
Today, though, I have great news: Cheetahs are stupid.
Apparently, in their single-minded fixation on their prey, cheetahs will run into objects or gore themselves on branches at 100 klicks per hour. I wish I'd known that back in 1979. I would have kept close to undergrowth, spiky trees, and deceptively solid walls. My strategy would have been to stand stock still, face down the oncoming bullet of hungry cheetah, and jump out of the way at the last minute. Wham.
Better yet, I would have hidden behind Dwight Corkum and let the cheetah smash into him. Stupid weirdo.