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Head to Head

Y. Bromberg

“I know kids don’t think riding with a helmet is cool,” Mr. Lewis said, his big eyes flickering in David’s direction. “But it saved my life once… Look at this, kid.”

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

head

Photo: Shutterstock

Based on a true story

Summer had just ended and the warm sunny days continued into the first months of school. That’s why everyone in my class rode their bikes to school; the weather was just too nice to miss out on. The only problem was that no one liked wearing helmets. So one day, Mrs. Bowers, our fifth-grade English teacher, brought in the school’s crossing guard to talk about bike safety. 

“Pay attention now, boys!” Mrs. Bowers said shrilly, pursing her lips like she was sucking on a lemon drop. “Anyone spacing out can stay after school with me, writing about Hamilton versus Jefferson’s debate on how to run the federal government.” 

Everyone snapped to attention as the door opened and in walked Mr. J. Lewis, the crossing guard. He was a hulking giant of a man who walked with his head down and spoke in a whispered lisp. He glanced furtively around the classroom, his eyes shadowed by the brim of a baseball cap pulled low. I couldn’t help but notice that his brown shirt was rumpled and untucked.

Photo: Shutterstock

“Good afternoon, Mr. Lewis!” Mrs. Bowers said loudly, startling everyone. “You may begin addressing the class!” 

Mr. Lewis cleared his throat and started talking softly. 

“It’s important to wear a helmet while bike riding…” He trailed off awkwardly and glanced at Mr. Bowers for support. She pursed her lips and said nothing. 

“When I was a kid I got real hurt… I fell while riding my bike, but I was wearing a helmet...” Mr. Lewis tugged on his baseball cap, nearly covering his eyes completely. “So you should listen to your teachers, okay? All it takes is one bad fall and you might never be the same...” 

His last words sent a chill down my back and I glanced around to see the class’s reaction. David, the most popular kid who led my biking group to and from school, was smirking and everyone else only seemed amused, as well. 

“Well, thank you for that”—Mrs. Bowers floundered momentarily for the right words—“important safety message. I’m confident it will have a big impact on my class.” She didn’t look so confident. 

Mr. Lewis nodded, tugged on his cap again, and quickly left the room.

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