Death came to his eyes that day. The advert had gone into the paper on Thursday and since then three calls, two visits and now a sale. He’d never expected this to happen. Why couldn’t he see this? Since he was three he’d lived on two wheels. Scooters, bikes, mountain bikes, motorbikes and trial bikes. The one selling today he’d only got last year.
For two long summers he’d worked at the hotel saving up; hospital corner after hospital corner on the beds, scraping his knuckles endlessly on the dark wood frame, loo after loo scrubbed, room after room vacuumed. He’d had a laugh with the other cleaners too – sorry, ‘maintenance crew’ or such nonsense. At lunchtimes they’d gathered in an unoccupied room watching sport on Sky, sometimes they’d sneak a few beers with them.
A couple of times he’d sneak Jessie from reception into a room. Together they’d tried out the double bed. Hmm…Jessie. She’d gone off to uni now. Of course, she’d wanted to do all that ‘long distance relationship’ rubbish. No way. Those never worked out. He’d told her so too. Okay, telling her by text might have been a mistake; his Mum had laughed nervously when he told her how he’d broken up with Jessie. His Dad just scowled audibly with disapproval. What the heck! It was his life.
They were here now. A couple with a Range Rover and a trailer bouncing behind. Adam, their son, scuttled out of the car and dashed up to the bike, his enthusiasm leaving a trail of happiness in his wake. So young. Just wait until life hits you, Adam. There he was, Adam, stroking, actually stroking the handlebars of his motorbike, now ducking down to look at the wheels, his head turning in exclamation to his parents, then an adoring glance at the engine. Joy radiated from his eyes.
Better get this over with, he thought, grabbing the keys from the pristine kitchen counter, reaching for the helmet on the stool. In the hall he looked into the mirror and thought ‘smile’. The corners of his mouth turned up into a grimace; that’ll do he reckoned as he headed out.
Hollow darkness filled his eyes as the car pulled away, his trial bike rattling in the trailer. An unfathomable emptiness cascaded over him as he glimpsed it for the last time.
He’d won three championships on that. Local ones but still. He’d been taught by the top rider in the country for a while. Then the falls! Remember the one on the moors, skidding down the muddy hillside, leg trapped beneath his bike, engine still running. Caked in mud, he’d got up and rejoined the race. Finished last but he’d laughed all the way to the line, celebrated all night with his mates, the most inglorious defeat and the photos of the day shared avidly on Twitter and Facebook.
Photos. He’d better take them off. Him and his bike. Just him now. As if he could ever have made it, been a real success. Stupid dreams. Those days of foolishness. Days of waste.
He took his mobile from his back pocket, scrolled through the photos. Here one on holiday with his friends all on their trial bikes. Who was that stranger staring at him, with a smile shining on his face? Who was that guy, laughing with his friends, his arm draped round his bike, chin resting on the seat? Click. Delete. Click. Delete. Whoever he was, he was gone. Click. Delete. The look of death in his eyes.
© Annika Perry
15 thoughts on “The Bike”
This was so moving and exceptionally well written. It reminded me of a true story my dad told me of his friend’s son that died aged eighteen in a motorbike accident. You never get over such a terrible tragedy and your words left me with that sad, eerie feeling, of loss.
Thank you so much Marje; your words mean a lot to me. I enjoyed writing this piece (one of those that writes itself!) and I’m glad you felt the spirit of it that I tried to capture. What a horrific loss for your friend – it must be as if their lives ended with their son’s. Words, as usual, fail at these junctures in life. Thanks for commenting.
What, where, how and why!! So many things left unsaid but a complete story in so few words. I simply want to know so much more about this chap – we don’t even know his name. Excellent writing Annika. I’m hooked.
Glad you’re hooked! That’s just the kind of questions I wanted to raise in your mind. Thank you so much for your enthusiastic and positive comment.
‘Bike’ could be replaced with so many different dreams. ‘Computer’ fits, too. I’m sad for him, but happy he’s moving on. Life forces that at times, doesn’t it?
Yes Jacqui, I think many words could replace ‘Bike’, the ultimate is dreams I feel though. Any change in life is tough, but particularly when young as emotions are felt so keenly. I wonder though if you totally give up on your dreams it doesn’t crush a bit of your spirit forever? Not sure myself on this one.
Oh, what a shame! 😦 You story tell well, Annika. 🙂
Thank you Jo, this was a joy to write. Gosh, now I feel mean, enjoying writing sad things…or is that the way for most writers?
Well, I guess there’s more depth in sadness. And we all have our own secret store, don’t we? 🙂
Great story. Haunting. I love these stories that say so much in so few words.
Thank you so much Diana. This was one of those stories that just wrote itself once I had the first few sentences down – almost as if in a trance. Sometimes those work, sometimes not but I was pleased with this effort. Wishing you a lovely weekend.
Another brilliant story, Annika. As usual, you leave us pondering. What was the death he was looking at? Age, defeat, or something more terminal? I think it’s amazing how you manage to get so much passion and mystery into so few words. I’m still getting to grips with the emotions that I’m left with.
Thank you Peter. What I liked about this story is that it remains oblique but powerful throughout. That is raises these questions is important but even more central is the aftermath on the boy itself…the loss of himself whatever the cause.
I am actually crying reading this. For the boy who had to abandon his dream.
For the shining smile he lost.
For all those dreams that get smashed.
Let us adult do our best to encourage the dreams in the young and nourish them;
as well as in ourselves.
Wonderful writing Annika.
Oh no Mirja, I don’t want you to cry. Here are some tissues for your eyes! I was actually inspired to write this by reading a blog on wordpress about dreams and never to give up on them as you lose risking yourself. I wanted to convey this in the story without specifying the what, whys etc. It is difficult to hold on to our dreams but think it is so important to try and also to help our children fulfil their dream if at all possible. To give up totally on them, is to give up a part of yourself. Thank you for your warm and insightful comment.