Daily I bought him candy, riding the bike we’d built from junk, the bike that had three tires, one on the front and two on back, the two back tires with one inside the other, so we could stagger holes against a blowout. Daily I rode it to the neighbor grocery, that had an old-time wooden floor worn into pathways by years of feet, there to buy three Hershey bars, with or without nuts, like old Norm said, smiling slyly at the embarrassed boy, who didn’t want to show he knew the joke. Sometimes I didn’t buy the Hersheys, I hated the joking part so much, sometimes I’d buy licorice, but then grampa’d be mad, for Hersheys were what he really liked. I’d lie and tell him Norm was out, and he’d eat second best, unsatisfied. Always, though, I’d buy red soda, a big bottle, because we both liked that, then ride back home one-handed, paper bag in the other arm, pretending to go up or down a mountain, depending on which gear I was in, high or low, for second gear was broken. He’d sit on the porch, on the left side sagging, stick arms and legs and a big body, almost like I’d drawn him once, circle for body and lines for limbs, like a boy will sometimes do. Careful of mother, I’d come the back way, on the dining-room side of the house, for Hersheys and soda were secret things, the kind of secret the old and young will make against the big ones of the house. It was more than that though, more than a secret, though I never did quite know what was wrong, why candy was bad, and why soda, except it was something called insulin, that happened at night, that I wasn’t let watch, that had something to do with little bottles kept cool in the icebox, that I couldn’t touch. So we kept the secret that mother knew, knew but overlooked each afternoon, the secret really secret from my father, who would have stopped my daily rides, but an old and dying man’s got to have something, like she told me ten years later. My anger at what she’d done outgrown, and even outgrown my own guilt, I’ve become almost proud of what I did, that I rode the bike and bought the candy to battle the insulin, maybe killing a little, maybe taking some weeks from his months with eight-years-old near ignorance of how good candy could somehow be bad, and I remember with no accusations the learning about secrets, years ago.

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