The Blade Runner

JOGGINS - Accounting for the Earth's rotation around both its own axis and the sun, Jarrett Burbine was spinning through space at about 108,000 kilometres an hour on Wednesday evening.

Of course, depending on which direction he was driving on the Pit Road in Joggins, you'd have to add or subtract about 10 kilometres an hour to that figure.

Because with its throttle on rabbit setting, you could have counted the horsepower of the 15-year-old's ride-on lawn mower on your fingers and a few toes.

The machine, an ancient Craftsman model his dad gave to him, has no hood and two large rear wheels Jarrett took off a scrapped all-terrain vehicle.

"What a piece of junk," called out an older teen leaning against a car in a driveway.

But Jarrett paid no heed because it was a warm May evening and the sun was drowning itself in Chignecto Bay.

The only noise competing with spring peepers on this still, small-town night were the two worn and poorly timed cylinders of Jarrett's lawn mower.

On nights like these, a Cumberland County teenager could be forgiven for thinking that the only place in the universe not spinning like a bat out of hell through space is his hometown.

"I'm too young to drive a car and I'm not allowed to drive a four-wheeler around town, but no one can stop me for driving a ride-on lawn mower," Jarrett said.

"You don't even have to wear a helmet on one of these."

In another year he'll have his driver's licence and on evenings like these he'll probably head out Main Street and cruise through the relative metropolis of River Hebert toward the glowing neon lights of the Amherst Centre Mall.

The mall parking lot will have guys he doesn't know leaning against old Civics with holes punched in their mufflers and incongruous pterodactyl spoilers.

Inside there will be small flocks of girls fluttering between the national chain stores whom he may or may not get the nerve up to talk to.

A few years after that, he may drive out Main Street and look for his place in that crazy spinning world - only returning to visit like so many other Cumberland County youth.

But what he didn't know Wednesday as he popped a wheelie on a sad little machine that sounded as if it wanted him to just let it die was that this is the freest he'll likely ever be.

Because a giant spinning world you haven't been to yet is all possibility.

The hurts and worries both big and small that are bound to come don't factor into a 15-year-old's dreams on a May evening when you could almost wear a T-shirt.

On Wednesday, Jarrett popped wheelies through space at 108,000 kilometres an hour.

Give or take a few, depending on which direction he was heading on the Pit Road.

Aaron Beswick