FICTION

Bicycle Built for Two

JOHN HOLDEN August 1 1932
FICTION

Bicycle Built for Two

JOHN HOLDEN August 1 1932

Bicycle Built for Two

Sport fashions may change, but Romance goes on forever

JOHN HOLDEN

I SHOULD like to see,” said Mrs. Wimple with sarcasm, "if my wooden legs will carry me to that hot-dog stand over yonder.”

“Darling,” said Mr. Wimple.

"I will fetch you a hot dog.”

“You will kindly sit still, you tyrant.”

The lady climbed out of a ten-thousand-dollar car and, on legs that were merely cramped from nine hundred miles of motoring, made her way toward the centre of the park.

John Wimple looked after her with regret. He knew that he was too fat and bald to be a perfect lover, nevertheless he considered himself a pretty g;x>d husband. His wife was just being crabby. She hadn’t cart'd about visiting the old home town. All the way she had grouched about one thing and another.

Well, he hoped she would eat a dozen dogs and stay away an hour. I íe wanted to embark upon a mental excursion back to the long ago; to that glamorous day thirty years previously when, in this very park, which then was a fair, ground, the town band had played in his honor and folks had cheered him till they were hoarse and the sweetest girl that ever lived had called him her hem. Ho-hum. Those were the goc>d old days. His mind went tripping down the years

'T'HE chances are that Johnny Wimple would never have fallen for the bicycle craze had it not been for Daisy Doolittle. He hadn’t noticed her particularly at first, even though he had heard her comeliness commented upon. He merely possessed a taste for chocolate drops instead of chewing tobacco, and dropjx-d in occasionally at the P. S. and R. G. Whiffington store. Candy and Confectionery, for a nickel's worth.

"I’m going to get a bicycle." said Daisy one evening.

"Do tell,” said Johnny.

"Yes. Ball bearings, pneumatic tires and everything. You ought to get a wheel. Mr. Wimple.”

"Why?”

"Oh just for fun and fancy."

She smiled a little as she said that, and for the first time Johnny noticed that her chestnut hair had a beautiful, rich sheen, and was pompadoured very neatly indeed.

Carefully Daisy dropped chocolate drops into a scoop until they tipped a small brass weight. She flipped a piece of wrapping paper into a cone-shaped holder and poured them in; then, with cool deliberation, added three more.

Gosh! Johnny wondered why he never had noticed that Daisy was a really nice girl.

But just the same he had no intention of squandering his hard-earned dollars on one of those newfangled contraptions about which the young and old were becoming so enthusiastic. No. sir. Catch him tearing up and down the streets, tinkling a little bell at every crossing, ostensibly to warn all and sundry that he was coming but really to show off.

What did he care if half the grandfathers in town were riding with high-up handlebars so their whiskers would hang straight, and if the ladies were losing their sense of decorum to such an extent that they didn't care who saw their ankles, and if all the smart Alecks were going in for ram's-horn handlebars so folks would think they were racers? He was a sober young man who saved his money and hoped to become a capitalist some day.

But when Daisy actually acquired her bicycle and went scooting around the horse-racing track at the fair grounds with that prince of philanderers, Bill Hickup, every evening that she wasn't at the store —that was another story.

And wheeling with Bill wasn’t the worst of it. Pretty soon Bill was hanging around the store during the dull period regular as clockwork. Nearly always, when Johnny hoped to catch Daisy alone, there would be Bill.

One evening Johnny rented a bicycle. Even if Bill possessed a big reputation as a ladies’ man, Johnny hoped to show him that in one case at least he couldn’t have everything his own way.

He bit the dust once or twice while learning to balance himself on the tricky conveyance, and some frolicsome kids recognized the wheel as a rented one and yelled “Yer hour’s up!” But Johnny persisted till he could ride fairly well along the back streets, then he purchased a bicycle of his own. He pedalled up to the candy store when he could see quite plainly that Bill was inside, and leaned his wheel against the tie-post and entered.

TH VEN Bill seemed to recognize that Johnny was a regular fellow now', just like himself.

“Well. I’ll be homswoggled,” he said. "I didn’t know they was giving wheels away w'ith a pound of tea.”

“Bought and paid for,” said Johnny.

“What make is it?” queried Daisy.

"Penguin. Latest model. Gosh, but she’s easy riding.”

“I do declare! Why, that’s one of the best there is. Could I try it some time? I’ve got bloomers now and can

ride a man’s wheel.” Johnny was quick to take advantage of the opening.

"Bet your sweet life you can,” he declared with enthusiasm. "Tomorrow night at the race track, eh? I’ll meet you there. We’ll have a good long ride all by our lonesome.” "Fine and dandy,” agreed Daisy.

Johnny bought his nickel’s worth of chocolate drops, and walked out with a sense of triumph that was worth a whole bucketful of chocolates.

Next evening it was Johnny who scorched around the track with Daisy. After that they sat on the fence for a while, watching the other cyclists. Then they pedalled downtown, and Johnny, with his hand firmly placed under Daisy’s elbow, steered her into an ice-cream parlor and treated her to a fancy new drink called an ice-cream soda. He took her home and she called him "Johnny” for the first time. An evening to be remembered !

But Bill Hickup wasn’t a vanquished swain just yet. Previously he had been knowm as the most successful “masher” in Duncaster, and he desired to uphold that reputation.

Really, he possessed many advantages which Johnny had never known. His father was superintendent of the bolt factory and, in the local parlance, was known as one of the “big bugs” of the towrn. The Hickups lived in a grand mansion built like a wedding cake, and their wide lawn was ornamented with more jaguars and lions and deer —iron ones, of coursethan any other demesne could boast. The manner in which Bill could wear a white collar that touched his ears was considered extremely swagger by other Duncaster youths, and the up-to-date way in which he tucked his necktie into his shirt bosom and turned up the bottoms of his pants was considered the height of sartorial elegance, too. Also he could part his hair in the middle and make it stay flat; whereas Johnny, even after he procured a bottle of goose grease from Joe Bluebeard, the barber, couldn’t keep his unruly locks slicked down at all.

Compared with Bill, Johnny Wimple looked as plain as a tie-post alongside a barber’s pole. He didn’t even possess a white-collared job; just worked in the glove factory, and paid board at his modest home, and tried to learn the business so he could go on the road as a salesman some day.

T5 ILL continued to hang around Daisy. Now and then he talked her into going for a ride with him. Often he came into the store when Johnny was alone with her, and one evening he was particularly exuberant.

“Well, Johnny, old skeezicks, how’s your pertinacity sagashiating?” he began.

“Fair to middling.” Johnny replied with no excess of cordiality.

“I seen you flinging up dust like a two-forty trotter day after the one before yesterday.”

“Dare say as how,” Johnny admitted. “One o’ them new horseless carriages tried to give me a race, but I beat the crazy galoot all hollow.”

“Holy smoke! You’re fast as that, heh?”

“Yuh, indeed. A scorcher from Scorcherville. that’s me.” And Johnny winked at Daisy, meaning that when it came to dispensing airy persiflage he was not so slow as people used to think he was.

“There’s a way to push a bike would make you almost as fast as me.” Bill continued. “You see. the way bikes is made nowadays one pedal is up when the other is down, so you can only push with one foot at a time. If you fixed 'em so both pedals would be up at the same time you could push with both feet at once and then—”

“Hah, hah! Think you’re smart,” said Johnny.

“And mebbe you think you’re a real pedal pusher. Say. kiddo, I could give you a head start from here to the drinking fountain and in two minutes you couldn’t see my back wheel for dust.”

Johnny was not given to the sniffing habit, but-this time he wrinkled his nose just a little.

"Oh, I guess you’re not the only pebble on the beach when it comes to scorching,” he said.

"No? How’d you like to go me a race?”

“I’d just as leave.”

Bill turned to Daisy who, behind the counter, was listening with quiet impartiality.

“Hear that, Daise?” he said with the easy familiarity for which he was noted. “Johnny thinks he can do me in a race.”

Daisy reached inside the glass case and laid a chocolate drop on the counter in front of each admirer.

"Johnny is pretty fast,” she remarked.

“Well, I’ll be jiggered!” exclaimed Bill. “You really think—” He turned to Johnny. “It’s a go. old hoss.. We’re going to race. We’ll race at the fall fair, that’s what. Where the whole darned town can see us.”

Johnny experienced an uneasy feeling that perhaps this desire to exchange flippancies with the champion “hot-air artist” of Duncaster was getting him into deep water.

A private race along a country road was one thing; taking a chance of making a spectacle of himself in public was another matter.

“But—but—” he stammered. “Bike racers don’t race at the fair. Only horses.”

“A fat lot you know about it,” chuckled Bill. “Ain’t my old man one of the high mucky-mucks of the fair association? I’ll put up a holler about a race and he’ll tumble to the fact that it’ll be the clear McCoy, see if he don’t.”

“All right; I’ll be there with bells on,” gamely agreed Johnny.

Daisy gazed with admiration at each.

“My!” she exclaimed. “I wouldn’t miss that race for a trip to the PanAmerica Exposition over in Buffalo.”

Unexpectedly Bill grabbed Johnny’s hand.

“Shake, kiddo,” he said. “Gentleman’s agreement. You’re more of a hot sport than I thought you were.

Trot out three ice-cream sodas, Daise.

I’m blowing myself tonight.” He rattled coins in his pocket. “Got more chink just now than a bedtick has feathers.”

"THINKING -*• over his somewhat reckless agreement later on,

Johnny wondered if he had not opened his mouth only to, as the saying was, put his foot in it.

Bill Hickup was a real speeder on a wheel. Why not, since he had possessed one for tw'o years longer than Johnny? Ever since, in fact, people rode those strange contraptions which gave the general effect of a tin pan running after a wagon wheel?

The fair, however, would not be held for a month, so there was time to get in some good

licks at training. He would tie weights to his feet and pedal five or six miles around the track every evening; rub himself down with horse liniment and eat lots of raw beef, too. Yes. sir. If preparation could win the race, it was as good as won already.

In the cellar at his home he mounted his wheel on rollers, and bought Indian clubs and dumbbells. Every morning he rose early and went through a course of exercises. He began to read half a dozen of the best bicycle magazines, and he paid a dollar for a txx>k entitled “How To Become A Champion Cyclist.” Also, by w'ay of bolstering up his sometimes waning courage, he decorated his walls with magazine pictures of such world-renowned heroes of the silent steed as Eddie Bald and Jimmy Michael and Nat Butler.

“I’m getting terribly excited about your race with Bill,” Daisy told him once.

Often Johnny pedalled around with her in the evening, after his outdoor training session was over; but Bill Hickup pedalled with her just as often.

News of the match got around, of course. In a town so small as Duncaster one couldn’t keep anything quiet. Bikeless spectators would gather around the rail fence at the track and watch Johnny training with weights on his feet, and often they would call out would-be humorous remarks.

“Hump yer back more, Johnny.”

“Better git a horse an’ sulky.”

“You ain’t got a high enough gear, old socks.”

Then came an unexpected development.

Bill Hickup. meeting Johnny at the candy store,* announced, with a face as long as a fence rail, that his father, as chairman of the fall fair racing committee, would not agree to stage a match race on single bicycles.

“Just the two of us making chumps of ourselves wouldn't be any hip-hurrah for the crowd, the old man says.”

Daisy was greatly disappointed.

“Wouldn't that jar you?” she said with mingled sympathy and indignation.

“A measly shame.” agreed Johnny. “All the gixxl training I did gone up the flue.”

Bill bit into a chocolate drop as if it were a crabapple. “The governor says, though, that if we could talk a lot of other scorching fiends into getting up a real big tandem race—”

Instantly Johnny blurted:

“Be my partner. Daisy!”

Too late, Bill realized that in spite of his vaunted reputation for being quick on the trigger he had been outwitted this time.

“Aw, shucks!” he said. “That’s no’ fair. I was going to ask Daisy myself. Let’s go head or tails to see who she rides tandem with.”

“Nit!” exclaimed Johnny. “I asked her first. Didn’t I, Daisy? Come on, now,” he wheedled; “don't give me the cold shoulder by saying you’re going to ride with this old stick-in-the-mud.”

Bill glared.

“Me a stick— Say, you lobster, in two shakes of a lamb’s tail I can—”

“Now, now,” admonished Daisy, and she made eyes at Bill in a way that wiped some of the belligerency off his handsome features. “If you had asked me first, you wouldn’t like it if I nxle with Johnny, would you? Well, then, don’t be sil.”

“Oh, all right. Guess I can take my medicine if it comes to that,” acquiesced Bill with ill grace.

“Lots of mollies would be tickled to death to have you for a partner,” comforted Johnny.

“Don’t you never you mind about that.” Bill stalked to the door. “And if we don't beat you two from June to January I hope to croak,” he added as he went out.

Daisy looked at Johnny in dismay.

“Gixxjness, Johnny! Now we’re in the soup. I can’t ride for sour apples.”

“Come off the perch, Daisy. You’re all to the good. We can beat ’em, easy as pie.”

“But how will we train together? We haven’t got a tandem.”

“The Blue Bird bike shop has four or five. We’ll rent one.”

“The kids will yell, 'Yer hour’s up!’ if we ride a rented wheel. They always do.”

“I think I know a way to make 'em keep their traps closed.

COCI ALLY, Johnny and Daisy got along ^ very nicely after that; and athletically they made progress, too. They trained together on a tandem every second evening. and did not always confine themselves to the fair grounds track. There was a rising roadway to the top of the mountain north of town, and naturally when they got there they had to rest and look down upon Duncaster and the miles of smiling countryside beyond. In between his training rides with Daisy, Johnny developed his wind and his legs on his cellar apparatus with all the verve of a second Mile-A-Minute Murphy.

The gentlemen in charge of the fair announced on flaming posters that first prize for the tandem race would be a pepper-and-salt bicycle suit for the man and a bloomer outfit direct from Baris for the woman, and quite a number of entries were received.

The Blue Bird tandems were rented every night, and the juvenile comedians were warned by the constable that any more cries of "Yer hour’s up” would land them in the town lock-up, which was better known as the “cooler.”

The great day!

Half a mile from the fair grounds one could hear the bawling of the bulls and the whinnying of the horses. Wagons and buggies were thicker than flies on taffy. Peanut roasters screeched, the town band played, drums boomed in front of posters advertising Jo-Jo, The Dog-Faced Boy, and the Two-Headed Calf. A tightropewalker walked, and trapeze artists brought gasps from one and all. A merry-go-round ground out the latest cakewalk hits, and from somewhere came the gay lilt of a voice lifted in song:

’A grasshopper sat on the railroad track Picking his teeth with a carpet tack ...”

Bill Hickup and the buxom damsel

Continued on page 40

Bicycle Built for Two

Continued from page 21

whom he had honored with his preference were on hand early, with a shiny new yellow tandem procured from out of town. Johnny Wimple and Daisy Doolittle came riding into the grounds on a rented one, and got an enthusiastic reception from their numerous friends and well-wishers.

The final of the two-forty trot or pace was run off in a swirl of dust, leaving the track considerably cut up, and from the judge’s stand came the stentorian announcement that all entrants for the grand ladies’ and gents’ tandem bike race would line up under the wire.

Bill and his partner were on the track in a moment, ready to start. Bill wore a pink sweater and checked riding knickers with blue stockings.

Daisy cowered beside the judge’s stand awaiting the arrival of Johnny, who had gone off to the horse stables with a satchel. She was as nervous as a filly and seemed almost to wish that she were elsewhere — very different from the bovine beauty who accompanied Bill Hickup.

Pacers and trotters were forgotten now. Duncaster’s first bicycle race was a novelty, and as such drew the attention of every one except a few mossbacks who maintained that horse tracks were for horses and the committee was going crazy with its newfangled notions.

Johnny arrived, clad in a whipcord overcoat, under w-hich his bare legs showed.

“Sakes alive!” exclaimed Daisy. “What have you been up to?”

“Dressing for the race, of course. You don’t think a real scorcher dresses in common clothes, do you? Not on your tintype. Ain’t you ever seen pictures of Eddie Bald and Jimmy Michael?”

“But what will people say?” Daisy blushed like a rose. “Me riding with a m-man that’s almost n-naked!”

“They’ll cheer their heads off when we

A judge was yelling for the other entrants.

"All out for the ladies’ and gents’ trot or pa—I mean, bi-cy-kel race! Where’s them other tandem teams? Put the boots to them fellers an’ get ’em on the mark!”

Gradually it dawned upon judges and spectators alike that no other competitors were to be expected.

“Holy Moses! They flew the coop,” said Bill to Johnny. “They didn’t have the gizzard to stack up against us. Wouldn’t that jar you?”

“It’s all the samey to me.” commented Johnny, looking cool as a cucumber on ice.

The starter ordered them to get ready. The tandems were wheeled up to the scratch, and two spectators jumped over the fence and held them upright while the girls mounted the front saddles. Johnny tossed off his overcoat, and the striped bathing suit that he wore caused one and all to gasp. Some one sang, “Johnny, git yer pants,” to the popular tune of “Johnny, Get Your Gun.” but an official quickly ordered him to desist.

Bill and Johnny climbed up on the rear saddles and clamped the clips firmly on the toes of their boots, and the spectators held their breath.

“One, two, three—go!”

"DILL and his partner got the better I -*-* push-off and jumped into the lead. ! Johnny and Daisy pumped hard, but they : had to eat the dust.

The roar of the multitude which was gathered on a side hill overlooking the finish came clearly to Johnny’s ears as he pedalled for all he was worth around the lower turn.. He drew up almost even with Bill and found, to his great relief, that he and Daisy could hold the fast pace without too much strain.

“Save up for the finish,” he warned Daisy. “Don’t try to get ahead just yet.”

Not a word did Daisy say. She seemed so intent on her job of pumping the front pedals that she did not even hear him.

Around the lower turn of the oval trac they streaked. They straightened out f( the back stretch, still behind but wit plenty of reserve power for a dash to tl front when they considered it advisable.

The going here was not good. The hors had cut it up like a plowed field. Sudden Daisy, who was steering, hit a rut. B front wheel jerked to one side and Johnn unexpectedly thrown off balance, sudden! found himself jolted out of the saddle ar sitting in the dust.

Daisy apparently did not know that si had lost him. The loss of his propellit power seemed neutralized by the loss of h weight. She did not look around. Sí streaked along by herself.

For a matter of seconds Johnny felt mo humiliated than ever before in his life. T! roar of the crowd, rolling across the mu field, seemed to be telling him that he w the prize boob of the universe. He jumpt to his feet. What to do? He had to c something or be laughed out of town.

He had it. A stallion with a blue ribb: on his neck was tethered to the fence th bordered the track on the inside, pawii the ground and snorting like a locomotive

Johnny had been bom outside of ton on a farm and had learned to ride bare bad He legged it to the stallion like a frightene colt to its mother. Quickly he untied i halter rope. He leaped to its unsaddk back, headed it across to the upper side the oval on the far side, lashed it with tl rope’s end.

By the renewed cheering he knew that h action was observed and that the croît was urging him to regain his bicycle sadd!

Poor Daisy. She was lagging behind not The home stretch was a long one, howeve If he could only climb back to his sadc behind her . . .

He reached the fence just as Bill Hicku and his fair partner whizzed by. The didn’t see him. Their heads were dow: their legs were pumping like pistons, the seemed to be tiring.

"P\AISY saw Johnny slide off the stallio and jump the fence. She looked behin her, and seemed about to faint when sh realized that she was pedalling the tandei all alone.

“Stick to it!” yelled Johnny, dashing ov in front of her. She stuck, and slowed dow only a little. Running alongside her, Johnn grasped the rear handlebars and vaulte into the hind saddle. The tandem slewe a little, but did not topple.

"Fell off, but all right now,” he gaspe: “Dig in. We’ll catch ’em yet.”

How they pedalled ! How the cron split its throats, yelling for them to come ot

Johnny’s brief recess from pedalling ha given his well-trained legs a rest. Dai? without saying a word, pitched in wi renewed energy also.

How they rode! Gaining now. Tl Hickup team, though a considerable distan in front, seemed to be tiring. The cheerir grew to a thunderous roar as the Wimp team picked up lost ground. If only tf home stretch were long enough!

Ten yards to gain now, and a hundre yards to go. Could they make it? Suddenl Johnny felt that Daisy in front of him ha weakened. The strain had been too muc for her. But she continued to steer straigW Up to him. His legs felt as lifeless as stick: his gasping breath rasped his throat. Butgaining, gaining . . .

Right on Bill’s back wheel now. A fe’ more good pushes. Even. One more—a-ai

The race was over. The Wimple tea: had won by inches.

Bill Hickup learned what had happene and, of course, made a protest. But tí crowd wouldn’t have it. They roared the verdict that Daisy and Johnny had woi and the judges, not being well versed in tí strict rules of bicycle racing, gave in t them. They awarded the race to the Wimp team, and the crowd yelled its approval o

{he verdict. Johnny was a hero. Daisy was a heroine.

The band broke into a well-known tune, and the crowd chimed in with the words.

“ . .It won’t be a stylish marriage

For I can’t afford a carriage;

But you look sweet, upon the seat Of a bicycle built for two!”

HO-HUM. The good old days. Johnny Wimple was a rich man now, but no hero. His wife grouched at everything . . . There she was, coming back.

Surprisingly, she carried a hot dog and a bottle of pop.

“For you, John,” she said with a smile.

“Huh?” John Wimple looked at his wife in surprise. “What’s come over you. Daisy?”

“Oh. I’ve just been thinking. I took a little stroll, honey, while I was eating my dog.” She stepped into the car and sat beside him. “I’m sorry, dear, that I crabbed about coming here. I was looking for something over there. Do you know what?”

“No. What?”

Her hand closed gently over his. She sighed and a little quaver came into her voice.

"To see if that hole in the ground—the one you made when you fell off the tandem —was still there.”