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A Gift within a Gift

boys bicycle

Ever since Mary Jenkins’ husband died of a heart attack, eight years ago, life has been a constant struggle.  During those years, she had taken every job she could manage, sometimes having as many as three part‑time jobs at the same time.   Her lack of a good education had meant that she had to make do with unskilled work, such as cleaning, usually at small offices or schools.

Her main concern was for her two children, Tracie age nine and Paul, twelve.  Mary had always been aware that they had missed out on what, to them, would be luxuries but to most children would be basic essentials such as colour television, electronic toys and even holidays.  Presents had always been cheap, often second‑hand toys and their television was a reconditioned black and white portable.  Since both children started coming home from school with letters about organised holidays, which she could not afford, it made her dilemma even worse.

After paying the rent, heating, food and clothes, there was little money left.  If there was any, she would save it to pay for those unforeseen occasions.  When it was coming up to Paul’s thirteenth birthday, Mary realised that it was going to be very difficult to buy what he wanted.  All his friends had their own bikes and he felt left out by not having one.  He had pleaded with his mother to buy one, but she couldn’t see how to afford it.

A new bike would cost well over a hundred pounds, making it out of the question.  In her determination to find a second‑hand one, she scoured the free newspapers and local shop adverts for a potential bargain.  Mary did see many bikes which, although cheap, were in poor condition and probably wouldn’t last long in the hands of a normal teenager.  Hopes of finding one were beginning to fade when, while passing a newsagent’s on the other side of town, she noticed a new advert being stuck to the shop door.

To her relief, it was for a boy’s bike.  After making a note of the number, she rushed to the nearest telephone box and called the owner.  For once, Mary was in luck.  The man said she could see it straight away and, on arrival, she couldn’t believe her eyes.  It was a smart, black bike and it looked almost brand new with hardly a scratch.  It was an absolute bargain at twenty pounds and this even included lights and pump.  Fortunately, Mary had the money on her and eagerly offered her hard‑earned savings.

As Mary pushed the bike home, she began to wonder if it had been stolen, but realised there was nothing she could do about it.  Although there was still a week before Paul’s birthday, she decided to let him have it straight away.

Paul’s face was sheer joy when he saw the bike.  It made all the efforts worthwhile just to see the wide‑eyed wonder and pleasure in his face.  He already knew how to ride a bike and insisted that Mary and Tracie watch him ride up and down the street.  His pals noticed him and came out to admire the gleaming bike.  Apparently, it was a well‑known make, costing nearly three hundred pounds when new.

Paul didn’t take any chances on his new possession being stolen and begged Mary to let him leave it in the lobby.  There was not much room, but she agreed to his request.  It was after that when strange things started to happen.  When they came downstairs each morning, the bike would be in a different place even though Paul always left it in one position.  On some occasions, the light on his bike would be switched on and yet the batteries were never flat.  The strangest event, though, was after an evening’s cycling where the bike had become quite muddy.  It was late and Paul promised to clean it the following morning.  Mary was the first downstairs and was amazed to see a shining, perfectly clean bike.  She immediately went back upstairs only to discover Paul still fast asleep.  He was just as amazed to find the bike so spotless.

Paul did then admit that, when riding his bike, he often felt as though someone was looking over his shoulder.  Mary felt a cold fear overcome her as he told his story.  He noticed her anxiety and immediately reassured her that, if his bike was haunted, he felt no fear and knew that it meant him no harm.  Paul knew that Mary would get rid of it if there was likely to be any danger and pleaded with her to let him keep the bike.

Mary was still very concerned and telephoned the man from whom she had bought the bike.  He had obviously expected her to call him about strange happenings with the bike.  Mary listened, spellbound, as he told her about his son, Mark, who had died in a road accident twelve months earlier at the age of fifteen.  He had adored his bike and, after his death, had constantly made his presence felt wherever the bike happened to be.  The strain of the constant reminder of the son he had loved, was affecting his health.  For that reason, he had decided to sell the bike and at a price that would ensure an early sale.

When Mary asked him why he had not told the truth, he pointed out that no‑one would buy a bike that was known to be haunted.  He did offer to give the money back, but she could not accept it.  Paul had become so attached to his bike, that she would not take it away from him.

Mary had just put the phone down, when Tracie rushed in looking upset.  She quickly explained that Paul’s bike had been stolen.  A gang of three boys had forced Paul to hand his bike to them.  Mary and Tracie rushed out of the house and to the street where Paul was last seen.  As they reached the scene, two of the boys were holding a struggling Paul and a third was sitting astride the bike, laughing at Paul’s vain efforts to escape.  When the boys saw Mary, the two released their hold on Paul and the other quickly started pedalling to escape with his prize.

He had ridden quite a way down the road and was travelling at a fair speed when, for no apparent reason, the brakes were applied hard and the boy shot over the handlebars, landing heavily on the road.  He was not badly hurt, but obviously bruised and shaken.  As he scrambled to his feet, he and everybody else there were amazed to see the still erect bicycle do a complete turn and swiftly travel back along the road.  It stopped smartly at the now‑smiling Paul and let him take control.  The three boys could not believe their eyes and rushed away terrified, hopefully not to be seen again.  Both Tracie and Paul were cheering excitedly and making a great fuss of the bike as if it were human.

“Thanks Mark,” said Mary quietly and walked back to her house, happy in the knowledge that Paul now had a guardian angel.

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