Once upon a time there was a German wheel. He didn’t have a name, but he loved to roll. Born in Germany, he flew before he ever made a turn. It wasn’t the easiest flight; his handle caught on a conveyer belt in some deep underbelly of an airport in Chicago. Thus, he arrived already wounded: a gouge upturning the rubber on one of his joints. He was loved nonetheless, maybe more so because said wound scored his new owner a fortuitous discount.
Upon his grand unwrapping, he met the crew, a motley of others like himself all circular in body and in nature. There was quirky Janky, born in a garage in rural Illinois. There was the old and wizened Frankenstein whose bars were bordered by thick dark welding scars. Being as he and Frankenstein were the two largest wheels they would sleep next to one another at night. Nesting the smaller wheels, each at least 15 centimeters or three wheel sizes smaller than the one before. The new unnamed wheel looked nervously at what he feared would be his future. But Frankenstein was happy to have been so often reincarnated, “better whole than holy” he would sagely say as he creaked and wobbled back and forth across the room.
It soon became clear that this wheel was different somehow, he was never given a single name; it seemed that he had three. His name depended on who called him. Most often he was “Your wheel”, but sometimes it was “Chris’s wheel” and there seemed to be one in particular who called him “My wheel”. So this must be Chris, nice to meet you. The more they rolled together, the more they learned about how each other moved. Chris learned to avoid the upward turning gouge, and the Wheel learned where the particular balance points of this human were. Chris was not the worst owner, and a status as “owned” seemed to save him from the newest ones learning spiral. That job was saved for Frankenstein; who knows how many times that poor old fool had been slammed down by another failed straddle spiral. But Frankenstein took pride in the number of people who had battered their way into learning that trick on his tired and warped hoops.
It became more and more clear that he was a special wheel as he was loaded into the truck of a small black car and brought to a variety of odd places: A church, Idaho, The armory, Sokol, Aloft. The travel was his least favorite part; he felt so fragile and strained when his pieces were stacked in the back of that tiny car, every bump making him scrape against the trunk or stab greasy pins up into the roof. But once he arrived, he would be pampered with a cleaning and rolled delicately into the warm stage lights he learned to crave. After his adventure and cramped return trip, he would be once again be nestled with his family and they would all crowd in close to hear the latest news.
This was how he and they all lived, an occasional greasing, and a good isopropyl scrub to peel off the layers of dirt and burnt rubber from the occasional slide. In the morning they woke up early to roll out the cold and warm their core with sweat and music. Afternoons spent entertaining the children and patiently trying to keep the new wheelers from hurting themselves. Early evenings dashing off to far but not so far away places. And late nights huddled together in the cold dark space, telling stories to pass the time, until they could be unstacked once again.