For breakfast the next day, they had scrambled eggs and bacon. Anna asked her husband what he would like for dinner on the day he got back. Lewis (Happy) Joyce was a tall man with the build of a linebacker but not very good coordination.
“If you really loved me, Daddy, said little Lew, “you’d get me a bike for my birthday.”
Happy Joyce smiled and looked at his wife. “How’d he get to talk that way?”
“Where do you think?”
“I do not talk that way. . . . If you really loved me!”
He looked at his son and smiled. “When I get back, maybe.”
“But that’ll be after my birthday,” said little Lew.
“I know. I wish I didn’t have to go on this trip, but when I get back, we’ll see.”
“If you really loved me, Daddy, you’d buy it now.”
“I know, birthday boy, I know.”
“You’re not getting him a bike,” Anna said. “He’s too young.”
“He’s not too young, Anna. He’s going to be ten. Ten isn’t too young to ride a bike.”
“Happy! He’s too young. You’re always getting him things he’s too young for. You got him that baseball catcher’s mitt when he was three and he cried for two years because he couldn’t catch. He still isn’t a good catcher. He doesn’t know how to ride a bike. Wait a year. He can live without a bike.”
“Gimme a break, Daddy, I’m not too young,” said little Lew.
“You were right about the baseball catcher’s mitt, but this is different. He’s ten now. He’s not too young for a bike.”
It was almost dark and Bruckner’s Toy Store would close in 15 minutes. Happy Joyce put his suitcase down in the entrance and went over to Mr. Bruckner behind the counter.
“Going away again, Happy?”
“Just for a few days.”
“Isn’t it little Lew’s birthday tomorrow?”
“That’s why I’m here. I want to buy him a bike for his birthday and I want you to bring it to him tomorrow.”
He picked out a bike with a red seat.
“I think that’s a little big for him,” Bruckner said.
“He’ll grow into it. He’s growing fast.”
Happy gave Bruckner the money for the bike in cash. “Bring it to him about 12. Tell him it’s from his father who loves him very much.”
Bruckner looked at Happy Joyce.
“He’ll know what it means.”
When Bruckner delivered the bike, Anna told him to put it against the wall. “It’s probably going back,” she said, “but I’ll talk to my husband.” Little Lew begged her to let him ride it around the block.
“When Daddy gets back, it’s probably going back. If you ride it, the tires won’t be new.”
“Just once, just once!” he begged.
When he got back from the bike ride, little Lew went right to his room and didn’t tell his mother that he had fallen off the bike and cut his foot.
The next day, Anna’s brother took her and little Lew to the hospital.
“I told Mr. Bruckner to put it against the wall,” Anna said to her brother. “I told him it was probably going back. But I let him ride it just around the block because he was so excited. Look at it now. It doesn’t look like a foot it’s so swollen.”
“How could you let it get that way?” her brother said. “It could be gangrene.”
“I didn’t know he fell off the bike. He didn’t tell me. He was afraid I’d be angry at his father for getting him the bike. And I was. I never should have let him take that bike out, but he was so excited. Then he came back and stayed in his room. I didn’t know what happened. In one day the foot got like this.”
When Happy Joyce got back from his trip, a black mourning wreath hung from the knocker on the door.
At first Happy thought it was the bike that broke the course of his life. But after a while he came to think of his love, which had been responsible for his buying the bike, as the cause of his life’s being swept off its natural course. He began to blame his love for shattering his life. Forever after, he couldn’t help thinking that his love had killed his life.