When I was fourteen or fifteen, I stole a motorcycle. It was easier than you may think because it was my brother’s. Having the keys required no real prowess as a thief. Somehow, his keys on the dresser and an afternoon unsupervised led to me taking his much beloved Kawasaki KZ400 for a little tour of our neighborhood. Luckily, I had some riding skills developed on the back of a minibike that our pastor had. He would let the younger kids take turns riding it around the grass field next to the church on Saturday afternoons. Just a 50-cc engine, but the use of a clutch and shifting gears became an intrinsic skill set.

And this was not my first adventure on the back of his motorcycle. I had taken it for a spin on a few occasions before, and nobody was the wiser. Not sure how to express the giddy feeling of showing off around the neighborhood. I was King for a day. I would go everywhere I could hoping to be seen and then put it back just the way I found it. The small amount of gas used would simply go unnoticed.

But on this occasion, things did not go exactly as they had in the past. While tooling around my old elementary school, I saw another guy on a dirt bike on the playground. I thought I would go say “Hey” to this fellow “biker”, so I took a short cut across the baseball field to get to the playground. My lack of riding skills, the power of a 400-cc engine, and a little wet grass got me thrown out trying to steal second base. I crashed the bike hard. Immediately the kids on the playground ran to my rescue. I extricated myself from the bike and felt a bit of pain in my left foot. I was sure that I had seriously sprained my ankle. But the bike suffered much worse. The handlebars were bent to an absurd angle, the tank and fenders were scratched and dented, and the battery was half falling out of the bike.

My immediate concern was to get home. I righted the bike and the engine kicked over without issue. I hopped on and pointed myself in the direction of home. It was only seven or eight blocks, yet it seemed to take forever. Likely because I could not get it out of first gear. I would pull the clutch in to upshift to second, but my left foot could not make the shift lever move. So, there I was with the engine screaming like a banshee trying to get home at ten miles an hour.

I, eventually, made it home. I first went and got the toolbox from the shed and sat down to see what repairs I could make, and quickly realized I did not have this skill set at all. My next plan was to put it back where it was, precipitously balanced on a kickstand that was not fully deployed and replaced the cover that my brother kept on it. My theory, or hope, was that my brother may come home after a couple of beers after work with the boys, go to remove the cover, and the bike would fall off the kickstand leaving him amazed at the amount of damage that simply falling over could do.

After at least hiding my mischief from plain view, I set out to figure out what was wrong with my left foot. I barely got my shoe off and my foot was already so swollen I could not remove my sock. With no one at home, I made my way to the neighbors in search of help. The McNeil’s were good neighbors and we had lived next to them most of my life. Embarrassed by my criminal behavior, I decide to tell the story that I had dropped a weight on my foot while working out in our basement. It seemed highly plausible and was immediately accepted as the truth. Now the hard work started. Mr. McNeil took me to the hospital while Mrs. McNeil called the local shopping malls trying to make contact with my parents. This was the world before cell phones.

At the hospital, the only thing they could do was take an x-ray. The doctors had to wait for my parents before they could provide any type of care. I continued to run with the “dropped a weight on my foot” story as it was eagerly gobbled up like a best-selling novel of fiction. Eventually, my parents were tracked down and arrived at the hospital. I fed them the same story and they asked few questions as they were now dealing with my prognosis from the doctors. As it turned out, I had crushed all the bones in my left foot. They were going to schedule surgery in the morning, but there was a chance I may never walk again without a pronounced limp. Crushing news to parents of a two-sport varsity athlete, and pretty tough on the athlete too.

There was a huge outpouring of sympathy and concern for me. The story had held to this point. In the back of my mind, I thought I may actually pull off this charade. My brother, in time, made it to the hospital. As my parents talked with the doctor outside my room, my brother came in and, with great concern on his face, asked me what had happened. I told him the “dropped weight” story and his demeanor stiffened to an angry glare. He said he had been home, and he wanted to know what “really” happened. I told him the whole story. I left out that it wasn’t the first time I took his motorcycle out for a ride. No need to be overly honest at this point. He very calmly said “As soon as you get better, I am going to kill you”. Then asked me if I wanted to tell our parents the truth or leave it up to him. I knew it would be best if I confessed and so I did. At this point, my parents were certainly angry with my behavior and lack of honesty, but they were also wrestling with what the future held for me. Though my brother wanted me punished within an inch of my life, my parents made no threats of future punishment. They may have surmised that my injuries would be the greatest punishment of all. My brother did not share this feeling.

In the end, I ended up in a cast for many, many months. How well I would be able to walk afterwards was still a question mark. I lost out on a whole summer of fun, my brother took the insurance money to buy a new motorcycle, and my parents were just happy things had not been worse. Everything seemed to work out, except for my sister, Jody. You see, she was getting married, and I was to be one of the ushers. We had already been fitted for tuxedoes before the accident. But now I could not fulfill those duties. So, we had to find someone the same height and build to take my place. Luckily, the son of one of our parent’s friends was just the right size. The wedding went off without a hitch, albeit with a stand-in. She has never let me forget this.

Years later, when my brother and I were re-kindling a loving relationship, we often shared the road together on our motorcycles. He, on more than one occasion, suggested I take his motorcycle for a ride to see how I liked it. I never could. I could not get on his motorcycle without replaying this history in my head. I did eventually ride his motorcycle. I rode it to his memorial service to be put on display with the other important pieces of his life. It was the first and last time I was happy when a ride was over.


29 Responses to “Consequences”
  1. Truth – I started reading this and wondered if you might omit how your joyriding stunt affected me as well. You know that old adage that “you may forgive but you never forget”? That applies to this story! But, I AM glad your foot wasn’t permanently impaired!

    • Brad Osborne says:

      I could not leave you out. You are the big moral to the story. We often cannot predict what ripples are formed by the stones we throw. Love you sis and if you ever get married again I will not fail you this time!

  2. beth says:

    what a rise and fall from glory and many lessons learned. i’m sorry for the loss of your brother.

  3. Well, although I believe in being honest, telling the truth is not always the best option, however it may be…this was a very touching story my friend…

  4. kristianw84 says:

    This story tagged at my heartstrings. I love when you share these stories and I learn a little more about you! Were you able to play sports again?

  5. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for sharing the memory.
    Your final ride on brothers bike is bitter sweet.

  6. Jim Borden says:

    what a wonderful story, I think my favorite one yet that you have shared. It seems like in the end it likely strengthened the bond between you and your brother, and what a lovely tribute to him at the end. and I was wonderfig is this is the sister that comments on your blog – and aparently it is!

  7. Much of this resonates deeply with me. Thanks, I appreciate you sharing my friend!

  8. petespringerauthor says:

    Now, if this poetry gig ever gets old, consider trying your hand at short stories. This was such a remarkable story! Who can’t relate to the feeling of doing something we know we shouldn’t and then trying to find a way to cover it up? I also enjoyed reading about your relationship with your brother and working through the understandable feelings of anger and love.

  9. jonicaggiano says:

    This is an interesting story Brad. I know you were a kid I am just glad you were not seriously injured for life. Sounds like you more than paid for your gallivanting and your fibs. I don’t know how you walked in that foot at all. Some of the things we do as kids. Interesting story. Yes I too am one who believes any lies catch up with us in life. Great story Brad. I am so sorry for your loss but so glad you two became close again. Hugs and love ❤️ Jonikins

  10. A great story by any account, made all the better by your telling. My brother Kevin was Best Man at my wedding and was up on the altar hobbling on crutches from a skydiving mishap. My wife was none too happy about being upstaged with all eyes on Kevin.

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