God's Bicycle

Flash Fiction by Sarah Elisabeth Sawyer


Chicago, 1893


“We won’t get caught.”

My buddy, Charles, always said that right before trouble. But I followed. We crawled under the fence to get into the World’s Fair grounds. At least, the Midway Plaisance part that was half-opened. We wanted a peek at the steel contraption we couldn’t wait to ride. There would be a test run today. We crept through the mud and hid behind a small building. 

What a monster! The gigantic wheel had spindly spokes like a bicycle wheel, a bicycle big enough for God Himself to ride.

My mother’s voice scolded me. Don’t talk lightly about the Almighty. He can hear even your thoughts, you know.

Since she had died, no one around me talked about the Almighty much.

We watched the workers hang the sixth car. I whistled. “That thing’s as big as a railroad car.”

Charles jabbed me but it was too late. A face appeared above us. “What are you boys doing?”

Charles took off for the fence. I stumbled and landed on my knees in the mud. The man snagged my collar and pulled me to my feet. “Hold on there. A Pinkerton man after you or something?”

I watched Charles wiggle under the fence. Someday I’d be big enough to beat him up. 

I stared at my bare feet as mud oozed over them.

“There’s nothing to be afraid of. In fact, we might be able to catch a ride on one of those cars.”

My head jerked up. I stared up at the man so far above me. I was eight, but shamefully small for my age. This fellow hardly looked old enough to shave, though he could still get me in trouble.

“I best go home…” My gaze trailed to where the wheel whined into motion. 

The man grinned. “You sure?” He released his grip on my collar and reached into his coat pocket. “Tell you what, I’ll help you get a ride on the wheel if you’ll take these two tickets, and promise to bring your renegade friend to this event tomorrow.”

A ride on the wheel, and free tickets? I grabbed them out of his hand.

He laughed. “I’m Henry Gates.”

“Adam.” I didn’t tell him I was an orphan. 

“Ah, the name of the first man God created. How about being one of the first to ride Mr. Ferris’s wheel?”

Henry’s legs were a mile long, and I could hardly keep up. We joined the mob of excited people pushing their way onto the wheel. Some workmen tried to hold back the crowd, but some joined in the fray of jumping on the revolving wheel with only six cars hung so far, with room for six times as many. Henry scooped me under the arms and jogged up the steps of the platform by the wheel. He stepped straight into a moving car. I shouted in triumph. Then I shouted in fright. We were flying through the air while nuts and bolts crashed onto the roof!

Henry chuckled and set me on my feet, though I staggered around. “This beast consumed over 28,000 pounds of hardware. Something was bound to be left laying here and there.” 

I stood on tiptoe and saw the magnificent view of Lake Michigan and the whole White City itself. This would probably my only chance to see it.

“You still have those tickets, Adam?”

I patted my shirt pocket.

“You know what they’re for?”

I shook my head.

Henry squatted to my level. “They’re for a special service Dwight Moody is holding at a theater. Has anyone talked to you about God, Adam?”

I didn’t know how to answer, so I asked a question. “Are you a man of God?”

“Something like that. Are you surprised?”

“I didn’t know God people had fun with things like this.” I nodded at the car we stood in as it calmly revolved through the sky.

“God created the universe, Adam. Do you think He enjoyed doing it? We’re created in His image.”

The car stopped at the bottom and the operator shouted for everyone to get off. The people begged for another ride, but when the operator threatened to run them to the top and leave them all night, everyone scrambled off.

Henry rested a hand on my shoulder. “Remember our deal, Adam.” 

“Yes sir.” I ran for the fence. Instead of thinking on how I could beat up Charles, I thought about the contraption.

God’s bicycle.

Author note: I was inspired to write this flash fiction after the load of hours I put into researching the 1893 Chicago World's Fair to include in Traitors, book two in the Choctaw Tribune series.

If you look closely at the cover below, you'll find an actual souvenir booklet gifted to me from a friend. How fun is that?

If you like to read heart pounding, heart wrenching, heart tugging, raw and realistic stories, check out my collection of over 40 of my best flash fictions in Third Side of the Coin (A Short Story Collection).