The brand-new bicycle was a gift. Javion Jackson’s father gave it to him last week, the day Javion turned 6.
It was a BMX model, black with fancy hand brakes and cool platform pedals for, as its Wal-Mart sales pitch notes, “pulling off the most awesome tricks.”
Javion used to have a bicycle with training wheels.
“Look, Ma,” Javion told his mother when he cruised up on the new one, “I got me a real bike.”
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As new toys can, though, it presented an issue. Other kids want to play, too. Or in this case, take a spin.
For three days, Javion and his big brother, Shontrell Harper, 12, navigated the rectangular, red-brick duplexes of Pendleton Homes on Houston Avenue where they live.
One pedaled while the other rode on back, crouched on the rear wheel’s axle pegs.
“Everyone’s asking if they can ride and, ‘Does that bike ride good?’” Shontrell recalled.
Their mother told them to use their judgment.
For the most part, the brothers answered no to the first question and yes to the second, because the bike, a $100 Hyper Spinner Pro, rode like a dream.
“If I had let them ride,” Shontrell said later, “they would keep asking.”
Last Friday, Javion gave Shontrell the OK to take it for a ride by himself.
Shontrell tooled over toward the E buildings on the project’s south side, beneath the oaks along West Grenada Terrace.
There’s a dirty word spray-painted on the sidewalk in black. The bigger boys sometimes hang out.
* * *
One of the bigger boys, a kid 16 or 17, saw Shontrell on the new bike.
The teenager asked if he could go for a ride. The older boy wanted to do what he called “some catwalks.”
Shontrell knew the teen’s name, but didn’t know where he lived. Shontrell told him he couldn’t ride. Then Shontrell went to leave.
A Bibb County sheriff’s report describes what happened next. The teen asked again if he could go for a spin: “Shontrell said he again told (the teen) no. He said (the teen) approached him and pushed him off the bike.”
The teen hopped on and disappeared down the street.
He didn’t come back.
When Javion found out his bike was gone, he wondered if he could call his daddy for a new one.
* * *
Chances are if you’ve owned bicycles long enough, you’ve had one stolen. Most likely when you were a kid, back when your bike was your wheels, your ticket to the neighborhood and beyond.
“You take pride in your bicycle,” Javion’s mother, Sierra Jackson, said.
She lived in Pendleton Homes as a child, in the very apartment where she and her children reside. She had a bike once. One day she parked it behind a bush near her front stoop.
“I thought I had it hid,” Jackson said. “I wasn’t inside 10 minutes. Came back out, my bike was gone.”
“And,” she added, “you never find them.”
Last week, Jackson worried that Javion’s new bicycle might suffer a similar fate. Then it did.
She figured the thief “looked at Shontrell as a little boy, and ain’t too much he can do” to fight back.
Then Monday evening, Jackson saw the teen who Shontrell said took the bike. The teen was back at Pendleton Homes -- with the bike.
Someone nearby recognized Jackson as Shontrell’s mother and hollered, “There go his mama,” alerting the teen.
“He jumped on that bike and flew out of here,” Jackson said.
Jackson found out where the teen lived. She dropped by his house.
Jackson said his mother “was real nice about it,” but said she didn’t know about any stolen bike.
But the teen’s mother told Jackson if there was one, she would find it and return the bike to Javion.
Jackson said OK.
“We won’t hold our breath,” she thought.
* * *
The teen lives on a street just east of Interstate 75, four blocks south of Pendleton Homes, not far from Fincher’s Barbecue.
Tuesday morning, there was a dog out front chained to a Ford pickup. There was a bike in the backyard. It wasn’t Javion’s.
When a reporter knocked on the front door, a boy peeked through a window. The reporter said he was looking for a teen and gave the name of the suspect mentioned in the sheriff’s report.
The boy, shirtless and in shorts, stepped outside.
“It’s me,” he said.
The reporter said he was there about a kid’s stolen bicycle.
“My homeboy, he had it,” the teen said. “It’s in Bloomfield. My mama fixing to go get it.”
The reporter asked the teen if he knew who took the bike in the first place. The teen gave another boy’s name.
“He ain’t, like, this what they were doing. Like, all of ’em was up there, like,” and some other boy rode away on the bike, the teen said.
* * *
A minute later, the teen’s mother came out.
She said she was on her way to retrieve the bike and return it to Javion’s apartment.
It was 11 a.m.
By noon, Javion had his bike back. The teen’s mother, without explaining how she’d found it, showed up at Javion’s with the stolen bicycle in the trunk of her car.
The bike’s kickstand was missing and it had a different seat, a ratty old one for a bigger rider.
The seat was on a taller post, too, one hammered into the tube where the kiddie seat post used to go.
“They tricked it out,” Shontrell said.
The seat can’t be lowered, and because of that Javion’s legs are too short to reach the pedals.
“I’m mad about the seat,” Javion said. “I’m gonna beat (the thief) up for that.”
Javion’s mother is afraid to let her boys ride around the neighborhood anymore. She’ll have to drive them to her mother’s place to go biking.
Tuesday afternoon, Jackson stood watch as her sons coasted down their sidewalk.
Shontrell was pedaling.
Javion, clutching his big brother’s shoulders, stood behind Shontrell on the pegs, once again gliding through summer on his birthday present.
Contact writer Joe Kovac Jr. at 744-4397.