Today’s work of fiction comes, once again, from the writing prompt of Em Hawker. Today’s prompt:
I wasn’t entirely sure what Em was thinking, but my first thought was, ‘woah. Deep.’ Which summed up my day yesterday really. Anyway I got to thinking about how you could turn an expectation or thought inside out, rather than a physical item inside out. And with that, I came up with this: ‘Toby and the Not-quite Inside Out Bike.’
The bike was fire engine red — because red goes fastest — with fluorescent green wheels and handlebars. The pedals were so shiny they sparkled in the sun, and the tyres smelt just like the new playground at school.
It was the best bike ever.
Or it used to be.
‘What happened?’ Charlie asked, looking at the mangled red mess that sat on the front lawn, resting between the big tree and Mum’s flower bed.
‘I crashed,’ Toby said, sounding dazed.
‘Into what? A truck?’
‘The tree. I told you I couldn’t ride it!’ Toby turned to his friend with anger. ‘Why did you make me ride it?! Now it’s wrecked!’
‘You can’t have a bike and not ride it, Toby!’ Charlie said. ‘Why would you even have a bike if you don’t want to ride it?!’
‘I could look at it!’ He cast his gaze on the mess in front of him. ‘I liked looking at it,’ he added with a small voice.
‘Your Mum and Dad are going to be sooo mad,’ Charlie said. ‘When I got my new bike Dad told me if I broke it I wouldn’t get a new one. I bet your dad will say the same.’
Toby looked up at Charlie, his eyes wide with fear. ‘Maybe we can hide it?’
‘Hide what?’ The voice behind them appeared from nowhere, and they froze in place.
‘Um… nothing,’ Toby said, trying to move closer to Charlie to block the view.
‘What happened to your bike?’ Dad asked. Toby’s shoulders slumped and he turned around slowly.
‘I crashed into the tree.’ He braced himself, waiting for dad to yell.
‘So you rode it then?’ Dad asked. He didn’t sound angry. Toby risked glancing at his face.
‘Yeah… yes. I tried. I wasn’t very good at it. I couldn’t make it stop.’
‘I told him were the brakes was, but he didn’t use them!’ Charlie declared.
‘I did use them! That’s what made it flip over and hit the tree!’
‘Sometimes that happens,’ Dad said wisely. ‘Oh well, I’m glad you gave it a try.’ Then he walked off, leaving the boys looking at each other confused on the lawn.
‘I thought he was gonna yell,’ Toby said.
‘What do we do now?’
‘I dunno. I’m hungry. Wanna get some food?’
Several days passed and life continued as normal. The bike sat in the same place on the grass, and Toby sat on the front fence watching Charlie ride his own bike up and down the street, not crashing it into trees. He wished that he could ride like Charlie, but now he never would. Not only was it too scary, but after crashing his brand new bike, there was no way he would ever get a new one.
Then, one day, a miracle happened.
‘Charlie!’ Toby called over the fence one Saturday morning. ‘Come here!’
Charlie came running, still dressed in his pyjamas, weet-bix on his chin.
‘Look at my bike!’ Toby said pointing.
Charlie did look — it wasn’t hard to see. There on the front lawn, in-between the big tree and Mum’s flower bed, was a brand new bike.
‘Whoa!’ Charlie said. ‘Where did that come from?’
‘I don’t know. When I woke up it was here.’
‘Maybe your old bike got fixed?’
‘But my old bike was red with green tyres. This one’s green with black tyres.’ He looked at the tyres closely. ‘I think they look faster.’
‘Maybe your old bike got turned inside out?’
‘Turned inside out?’
‘Yeah. Maybe your dad tried to straighten it and it wouldn’t work so he turned it inside out and used the other side and the other side was green.’
‘Oh yeah maybe. Like Dad does with his jocks sometimes.’
‘Yeah like that.’
Both boys stopped and looked at the bike for a minute.
‘That doesn’t explain the tyres, though,’ Toby said eventually.
‘No… are you going to ride this one?’ Charlie asked.
Toby looked at the brand new bike carefully thinking. ‘Maybe later.’
Charlie just shook his head and went home.
Toby was still considering riding it that afternoon when his dad came home from work.
‘Hey! Check out that new bike! Where did that come from?’
‘I thought you turned the old one inside out?’ Toby said. Dad laughed.
‘There was no fixing that bike Toby. No, Mum and I bought you this one.’
Toby’s tiny brow furrowed with confusion. ‘Why? It’s not my birthday. And… and I broke the last one.’
‘How did you break it?’ Dad asked.
‘By riding it,’ Toby said softly. ‘I don’t think I’m a very good rider.’
‘Well if you’re not a good rider, then you need to practice.’ Dad patted the bicycle seat as if by invitation, and Toby approached it carefully.
‘But why should I practice on a new bike? Shouldn’t I have an old one. What if I break this one too?’
Dad knelt down and looked Toby in the eyes. ‘You know why I bought you a brand new bike Toby?’
The little boy shook his head.
‘Because you tried. And because I know you won’t make the same mistake again. You deserve a second chance, and second chances don’t have to be second best. ‘ He stood up and lifted Toby onto the seat. ‘Now, this time, let’s learn about the brakes.’
And so Toby learnt to ride his bike and even though he did fall off, and crash more than once, he never turned his bike inside out again.
Second chances don’t have to mean second best. 🙂