Iris Graville

Iris Graville


Circles me around the block of a suburban Chicago neighborhood. Dad’s broad hand, steady after a few shots of whiskey, braces my two-year-old spine. Mom watches through the picture window, her lips silently calling, “Be careful.”


Training wheels

Wobble down the driveway and into the street. Chuck, stepfathering in after Dad died, unbolts the wheels and lets go of the bike seat. Mom clutches Chuck’s elbow.


Roams with me and my cousins and grade-school friends around a little town and farmland in Southern Illinois. Banana seat. Butterfly handlebars with streamers. Chuck and Mom try on country life. Soon the Stingray rests in the barn, my exploration confined to hospital hallways and an incision on Mom’s bald scalp. Her tumor, benign. Her fear, incurable.


Blue Schwinn

Swerves through first job (proofreading at the local newspaper for the editor—Mom), first kiss, first chair in the flute section. Rusts in the garage through nursing school, first apartment, hospital jobs, Chuck’s death, and Mom’s grief.


Yellow Columbia

Wheels a Visiting Nurse bag and me around my inner city neighborhood in Southern Indiana. Chained and locked to dilapidated wrought iron handrails, always there when I returned. Companioned with my true love and his blue ten-speed. This work, this neighborhood, this marriage add to Mom’s losses.



Cranks up the hilly streets of Seattle. Shimano components, three chain rings, and eighteen gears fuel the Burley trailer I pull. My twin toddlers’ helmeted heads bob to the rhythm of the wheels.  On the phone, I describe this place to Mom, now in Florida with new love Steve, and three thousand miles from her only grandchildren.



Transports me to graduate school classes at the University of Washington and training rides for 200-mile Seattle-to-Portland Bicycle Classic. Shiny black, all-aluminum frame rides out mental and physical tests.  Mom and Steve visit our non-smoking house. Mom puffs cigarettes on the porch, exhaling smoke into the misty air.


Yellow Rock Hopper

Glides into a new job at the county public health department. Bumps through visits to pregnant teens and colicky babies with diaper rashes and irregular sleep and drooly, toothless grins. Grinds gears with measles outbreaks, deaths from E. coli, and downsizing. Starts anew, pedaling to a bakery job and family hikes in a North Cascades village at the end of a lake. Spirals in the wilderness for two years with questions about work.  No phones here. My hand-written letters assert new directions. Mom’s typed replies register qualms.



Spins me to town and back on an island in Puget Sound. Copper-colored, electric hybrid model eases the strain of hills, headwinds, and rains on my stiffening back and weakening knees. Now my desk calls to me. Words on the page, on the screen, seeking to make sense. Mom’s ashes swirl in the icy bay.


  1. This is lovely Iris, very powerful!

  2. Congratulations Iris. Wonderful story. Love the resonance of the title and the way you encapsulate so much in the images.

  3. What a lovely read.
    Must take skill to say so much with so few words.

  4. Iris, this is one of my favorite pieces I’ve read in Spry. Beautiful.

  5. Excellent, Iris. I really, really like this piece.
    Good work!!!

  6. Excellent, Iris! I really like this!!!!!!!!!!!

  7. Thanks for reading and commenting, Jane. You know the terrain where my Yellow Rock Hopper circled. Sorry I didn’t see your comment when you posted!

  8. Thank you, Amanda. I regret that I didn’t check this site after the essay was posted. The bicycle imagery allowed me to explore familiar terrain in new ways.

  9. Charlie, I appreciate your comment. You’re right about the hard work of this short form. Good practice for trimming what’s not needed so that the story isn’t lost. Thanks for reading!

  10. So nice of you to say, Adrien. I’m grateful to Spry for offering a home to this piece. Thanks for reading and commenting. My apologies for not checking in… last year!

  11. Thank you, Nancy, for reading and commenting. One of the beauties of Spry (and other online literary magazines) is the opportunity for dialogue with readers. I appreciate hearing when my writing touches someone.

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