Katie’s prey was our father’s 10-speed Schwinn, a bike my father, for as long as I had been part of the household, had never once ridden. Katie told me she had never seen him ride it, either. He kept it in the garage as a memory of the past, she insisted, just like he kept his U of M curling brooms hanging on the garage's wall. The bike, a worthless lump under its blue plastic tarpaulin, would not be missed, Katie assured me. She said she could swap it with a department store mannequin and nobody would be the wiser for at least another century.
I believed her.
To be honest, I never actually saw Katie eat even the slightest portion of that bicycle. But by spring the bike was gone. Curious (and very afraid), I would from time to time steal looks under the tarpaulin, and, like watching a plant grow or a person gain weight, I didn’t realize Katie’s progress until her prodigious achievement was nearly culminated. One morning, at dawn, I snuck downstairs and into the garage. Under the tarpaulin, Katie had placed pieces of lumber to provide a semblance of the bicycle’s missing bulk. On the floor were the bike’s seat and chain, the latter greasy and caked in thick dust. I was equally proud and profoundly depressed. She was close to accomplishing her second-greatest feat.
During the months of January to May, I nervously kept watch to see if Katie's insane exploit was affecting her. She grew quieter, I noticed, but I chalked that up to her very real fear of our father finding out she had been eating his bicycle. Dad loved Katie more than anything, but even Katie admitted that this one, "the big one," would be the straw that broke the camel's back, the stunt that would land her in the loony bin. Other than that, she was vintage Katie. She even solicited Jessica to write “Big Daddy” in pencil before every mention of Cain in the bibles placed behind our father’s church pews. (Jessica refused after Katie told her there were ninety-one bibles.) There were no signs that Katie’s intestinal tract was becoming a metallic junkyard, and for that I was grateful.
Still, I worried. Katie looked increasingly morose, and I wondered if she was keeping a straight face to mask her inner turmoil. My mother always said, usually in reference to the Cold War, that man's inherent stubbornness would be the main cause of his downfall, and every time I heard her pontificate on the subject I was reminded of my sister, Katie: a teenager who would stop at nothing to achieve her goal, regardless of how insane it was, how life threatening it might be.
But I was very young, and I couldn't see the forest for the trees. Katie was clever, I knew, but I didn't realize until it was too late that her bicycle eating -- and to this day I'm positive she really did eat that bike -- was just a preparatory diversion.
Katie had bigger plans.