A Short Story
By- Thomas Kubrak
Barreling down the road was the annual bike race in the small town of Somerville. 400 riders, from all over the world came out every year in September to take part in the legendary race in the center of the state of New Jersey.
It was one of many events now in the bustling town off of the train line. The city had been in growing and changing rapidly since the early 2000’s.
As the race went on that day a man in his late twenties sat outside of one of the bars. He sat under a tent sipping on a Guiness alongside his wife. A woman he had met and wed within a year. He had just moved into their first apartment together about a month ago into one of the new apartment buildings off the train line. He was from New York, but wanted a change and to get away from the bustling city in hopes he could find a place to raise his future family. It was hot that day in September and they both were dressed lightly for the festive occassion. His wife, Stephanie wore a long simple patterned dress that reached to the ground covering her feet. Her top was a white t-shirt. She also wore a sun hat was made of staw with a thick red string around the brim. She wore no jewelry- instead had a purple sports watch on. Mark wore a light blue pair of shorts with a navy blue t-shirt and a New York Giants hat.
The crowd cheered as the racers whizzed by for their 30th lap, causing a much needed breeze over the crowd for a minute as all the racers passed by the start line. It was a track set up around one square block. The race was 50 laps. Each lap took the bicycle racers about five minutes on average, with the fastest lap recorded at a four minutes and 22 seconds. The first race of the day was at 10am and there were four of them throughout the day. The handicap race was first- then the mixed bicyle race- then the amateur race and finally the Pro race, which was going on right now and the one that all the people were waiting for.
Mark put his arm around his wife and kissed her on the cheek.
“What was that for?”
“I don’t know.” He replied as he gazed into her deep brown eyes.
At that Stephanie kissed him back, but on the lips and pulled back quick.
“What do you think about that?”
“Try it again.” He replied, daring her.
She went in quick at that and he swiftly grabbed the back of her head upon contact.
“What the hell has gotten into you.” She said smiling.
“Well,” He paused looking up and down her a few times. “If you quit wearing dresses like that maybe I’d stop.”
“You, my loving husband,” She said, caressing his cheeks tenderly, “defy all logic, this dress is designed for leisure and for men not to stare.”
“Is it now?”
“Yes!” His wife said exasperately, grabbing his beer at the same time and taking a long swig.
“Well, whoever made that dress made a faulty product and needs to be fired.”
“I can’t stand you,” she said smiling, as she leaned in for another kiss- while the racers roared by finishing another lap. “I need to use the ladies room. I’ll be back.”
Mark smiled at her and said, “Alright, will you grab me another beer while you’re in there?”
“Sure honey.” And she left.
He stood up and walked out from under the table letting the sun beem down on his pale skin for a moment. He enjoyed a good burn but his body didn’t, so he only did it for a few seconds before retreating back under the tent.
The racers were coming back around again and he stood up to get a good look this time.
‘The speed,’ he thought ‘I don’t even understand it.’
The sound of so many prestine-custom built bicycles whizzing by at speeds of 40-50mph was exhilerating. He understood now why so many people came out to these races in this town.
‘You don’t find races like this where I”m from.’ He thought smiling.
Mark closed his eyes taking in this unique blend of almost symphonic sounds.
“Oh my God!” Someone from the crowd yelled. Mark looked up and then a different more terrifying sound came.
BMPhCRAKKKKKKKKKk -tires squeeled- metal on metal- one of the bikers went careening into the barrier where several people jumped back to avoid getting hit as it flung the barrier backwards. Several bikes did full flips. Crys of men rang out through the street as the race hit a full stop. The ones in the back of the pack were the lucky ones as they were able to stop and avoid the crash.
A moment of helplessness occurred as the crowd didn’t know what to do. Looking at twenty to thirty injured men lying on the ground was nauseating . Finally, after mere seconds, someone from the crowd hopped the railing but was immediately stopped by security.
“What do you expect! Help these men!”
Finally the crew came in to help the riders before the ambulances arrived to assess if there was anyone who needed to be carted off to the hospital.
It was a a gruesome crash, but not a typical bike race crash. This one was one for the ages as they crashed on the open straight away… the fastest part of the track. Blood was all over the place as the first 20 riders at the head of the pack hit the pavement or the bike in front of them at speeds of over 40mph. A few of the riders had bones sticking out, one was completely unconcious hitting his head so hard on the pavement not even his “concusion proof’ helmet could help him.
After five minutes, but what felt like and hour, the officials called off the race when they realized one of the racers wasn’t waking up and was in critical condition.
Everyone in the crowd was aware this was going to happen and the festive mood turned instantly to calamity and worry.
Mark began to edge closer to the barrier and made it his mission to see first hand what something like this looked like.
“Excuse me, Excuse me, Excuse me.” He said forcing his way to the front.
“Relax buddy.” Someone said as he went straight through him. But Mark didn’t respond as he got to the front to take a good look at what was going on. And what a sight it was.
His wife still hadn’t come out of the restroom so he squeezed in closer to the crowd looking all over to take in the scene. He looked up and across the street however trying to see everything.
He saw 3 ambulances each being loaded with multiple riders. He saw across the street, a woman yelling “Please help Pleeease!” He saw restaurant owners turned their open signs to closed, he saw vendors pack up their things, and he saw onlookers begin to disperse.
Mark had never seen anything like this in his life. Even living in the city where burgarlry, hits and runs were the norm this was different.
It was time to head back though, but before he did he took a glance up in the apartment buildings above where hundreds of heads were out of their windows assesing the scene as well.
He went by a family of three who’s kids mouths were wide open, a couple about his and his wifes age glued to the scene, and older woman who seemed like she’d been through much worse and finally he scanned to the fourth floor where his eyes suddenly locked with somone.
Instantly, he was in almost a trance, as the blonde haired woman’s gaze penetrated deep within him. He tried to look away but he couldn’t escape the gaze. Then he realized that…
‘I’ve seen you before.’
Multiple ambulances sirens were heard next and flew by his line of sight, causing him to finally break his stare.
“Mark!” Her wife called out to him, squeezing her way through the crowd to get to him. “What’s going on?”
Mark barely heard her and didn’t respond as he scanned the windows trying to find the woman again.
“Mark!” She yelled again finally reaching him, and turning him around to face her. “What’s going on? Are you okay? What happened?”
He replied calmly, “I’m fine, they called the race because of a terrible crash.”
“Oh my God.”
“Yeah lets go home no one should see all of this.”
“Alright lets go then.” His wife said grabbing his hand.
They began walking away, hand in hand. As they got through the crowd Mark took a look back, not at the chaos, but to see if the woman in the window was still there…
By- Thomas Kubrak