The Unlucky Cyclist

Submitted into Contest #135 in response to: Write a story where fortune doesn’t favor the brave.... view prompt


Fiction Contemporary Drama

That Thursday, several years ago, I decided I did not want to be a writer anymore. My dog, Jumbo, a Pinscher mixed with all the breeds, and I were sitting on a bench in the small park watching the local fountain. Jumbo likes to watch stuff and reflect, just like I used to do when I dreamed of becoming a famous writer. 

It was late in the afternoon, and a lot of kids were playing outside. There was a young man in his twenties who rode a bicycle with a motor that allowed him to cross the park in seconds. Having disassembled some wooden boards from a closet, he decided to play the cyclist on the wall of death, the kind that once was part of the show in many amusement parks. This was his big show. In addition to all things bike-related, he occasionally got off the bike to fix an apparent problem with the chain, the electric motor, or the handlebars.

As he reached the fountain, our gaze met his whenever he pedaled or squeezed the pedals of his small electric motor until he got to the ramp from which he leapt to the finish line that only he could imagine.

I tried to picture myself at his age. What did I do then? My dreams weren't racing motorcycles or owning a motorcycle. On those parallel afternoons at home, I probably wrote a short story, one of many that never achieved fame, but earned me many hours of respite from the pressures of the day.

All of this must now come to an end. With my needs increasing, the small company I opened, whose sole purpose is to generate a handsome amount of income each month, exceeded all of my goals, making me far richer than most of my friends who decided to remain writers.

‘I'll tell you how deep your financial concerns are if you tell me who your fellow writers are,' A sign at the small park’s entrance read, but nobody could see it except me and perhaps the cyclist on the electric bike. However, the text that he saw in his eyes may have been different. ‘If you want everyone to talk about you, show them how brave you are.’

One of the Russian-speaking children who sat on the other side of the fountain approached Jumbo and asked me if he could pet him. It turns out that they have just such a dog in the house, and his name is... Well, here she says something in Russian that I cannot understand, and then she switches to speaking in Russian to my jumbo. As she stroked him like that, Jumbo apologized that he did not understand a word of Russian, but promised to take an intensive course if she continued to do so. The girl told me before rejoining her group again that her mom understands what dogs are saying.

I was surprised at how the racing driver on the bike failed to attract the kids' attention despite loud stops, jumps, and manuvers that caused the small park to seem smaller than it was. For a moment, I thought one of them had pointed to the stretched cloth sign at the entrance to the garden and read it to his friends. There will be no school tomorrow, the teachers are fired, see you at the beach.

As usual, Jumbo made a pretty impressive poop. Since the bag that should have been in my pocket wasn't there, I had no choice but to approach the group of Russian speaking kids and ask if anyone had an empty bag because I had to pick up Jumbo's poop.

"Look at this cute jumbo," cried the girl with blue eyes. She said that Jumbo was either the twin brother or at the very least a relative of her dog, Igrushka. I think she said igrushka.

One of the kids, whom they called crazy Vladimir, took a paper bag out of the bag, pulled out a sandwich in a paper package, threw the sandwich in the trash, and handed me the bag.

“This is crazy Vladimir,” the kids said.

The boy smiled and said in Russian that his mother was giving him disgusting food and that he preferred local junk food ten times better. The girl with the azure eyes translated it for me.

I was already beginning to understand Russian at that point. In my mind, anyway.

As I turned back toward the bench on which I was sitting with Jumbo, I spotted the cyclist. He suddenly had a helmet on. Probably because he felt that something was lacking for the show to be truly professional, he went home to get it. It was during that moment, as I bent over with the bag towards Jumbo's poop, that I heard the electric motor humming loudly near my ears and felt the breeze accompanying the cyclist as he passed just a few inches away.

It all happened fast.

The cyclist, who only realized what had happened at the last second, tried to pull the handlebars hard to the side, but the bend, coupled with his acceleration, sent him sliding all the way to the dog lawn, a distance of no more than ten, fifteen feet. That is, ten, fifteen feet of rough, painful concrete. 

There was a sound of kids screaming together. And there was the cry of pain from the cyclist. 

It was already too late to ask him whether everything was okay, as he was already on his feet, waving his hand that nothing had happened. He turned to his bike to check that everything was working and that the show could continue.

He had rubbed his knees and they were black. There was blood on them.

As the children approached him, crazy Vladimir took out a small bottle of water and gave it to the motorcyclist. He took the bottle away from the boy without saying a word, also without thanking, drank from it, sprayed the knees a little to show that he was taking care of himself, then returned the empty bottle to the child before getting back on the bike.

I came to apologize that it was all my fault, but he was already far away.

Having failed to reappear, he simply rode out on his bike with the intention of not leaving behind any memories of his heroic show of courage that ended inside the poop. That must have been his worst day in a long time. 

I noticed that Jumbo seemed excited about what was happening around him. After they stayed for a short while to talk about what they had seen, the small park was almost completely empty and it was only Jumbo and I left to figure out what was going on.

This should have been a festive day for me, the last day of my career as a writer, but I didn't feel as celebratory that afternoon in the park with all those guilt feelings. I promised Jumbo I would arrange a playdate with the Russian dog who looked like him in an effort to divert my thoughts.

When Jumbo looked at me, he didn't understand what the big storm was all about. His tongue was nicely protruding for a hot summer day. He occasionally stared at me, trying to catch my attention to the sign that read: ‘You will find many wonderful odors in this park.’ Or the one that read: 'We hope you enjoy your visit here and come back soon for a run, a game, or just a healthy and good poop, yours, the mayor.'

I sat at the desk at home and looked at the computer that I would no longer use to write stories but to check the business' profits. It was as if something had changed. My new enterprise status and the new revenues will allow me to actually go on vacation somewhere exotic rather than dreaming about it.

It was already the end of summer and I could smell a new scent... maybe jasmine combined with sage... or roses dipped in water... or pine needles that someone had put in a box...

Since I felt the cyclist deserved a story of his own, I was a little disappointed I didn't have the time to write the story. If I hadn't written about him, perhaps no one would have written about him.

His isn't one of those people you'll ever read about in a newspaper, unless my Jumbo makes a big one on the road and the King of Bikes slips and ends up in a hospital -- then a few lines will appear about him.

A newspaper line, however, never makes you feel like there is a human being under a helmet, someone alive, someone who could have been you. You need a story for that. A novel.

In the evening, I went for another walk in the park. It was my third walk that day. The day I decided to stop writing. We chose the same bench and saw some new people around. These were the night people. Jumbo made another big one.

The cyclist was still on my mind. I hoped he would return for a night ride. It would have been great to see him riding fast. Enjoying the moment. However, he did not show up.

As I walked to my apartment, I saw the girl from the afternoon with her dog. Jumbo’s Russian brother. Our dogs made us stop next to each other. They wiggled excitedly. We stood there for a long time without saying much, before continuing on our way.

At night Jumbo had nightmares.

I remember sitting down at the computer at four in the morning. When Jumbo was like that, I couldn't sleep, so I decided to just check my emails. My new company's website allowed me to see its profit status.

I then clicked "DELETE" and the website disappeared. While I sat there, I wrote the first ten pages of what would become my first novel. I called it "The Brave cyclist.". Of course, I couldn't resist including a dog named Jumbo in the plot, but that's a whole other story. 

March 01, 2022 00:28

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