The Flame editors and staff congratulate the Flash Fiction Contest winner, Nate Holdych.
The Bicycle Had Been His Sister’s by Nate Holdych
The bicycle had been his sister’s. There is a bit of rust around the pedals from when it had been left in the mud for a few days on end, then insufficiently cleaned off afterwards with perhaps indifference or distraction. When he puts his weight on the bike it groans, like a pair of lungs that have had all the air knocked out of them. He almost jumps back off (it wouldn’t be the first time) but he steels his nerves and begins to move forward. The levers grind and the tires sag, but he manages to move a few feet before he tips over, barely catching himself from falling completely over sideways. He props the bike back up as it had been, in plain view of anyone who should walk by, acting as a message. After strategically placing the flowers back on it he goes inside.
The next day he waits for his mother to leave for the store, the way he had the previous day. It seems as though she goes at least once every 24 hours, buying anything and everything the family could need for a hundred years. Except for alcohol. Whenever she came back he could never see any bottles anywhere in the disorder within those brown paper bags. Once he makes sure that she’s gone and is not coming back soon, having forgotten keys or a jacket or anything there is to forget, he exits the door, keeping it cracked in case a mad dash back inside is required. He won’t be going far. He never makes it long. He walks up to the old bike, removes the flowers, and carefully places them on the ground, careful not even to fold one of their petals, which represent so much more than simply the beauty of nature. Once again he drapes his leg over the seat and pushes himself forward, not expecting much. He knows that he doesn’t possess the skills to ride it, but he hopes that one of these days it will all just click. He wants to know what her last few minutes were like, churning feet and wind in hair. It seems that everywhere he turns in his house he can see her face, but he can’t make any other connection to her, and sometimes he wonders if he could before. He can’t remember that, however. He was far too young. Too young for his parents to teach him how to ride a bike, before he was absolutely forbidden to do so. Too young to understand the loss that shook his family. He tips over and, lost in thought, he collides with the ground. He gets up and walks the bike back to where it had been, where it always is, and, as far as he knows, where it always will be. As he closes the door and locks it, the way his mother had left it, he racks his brain for yet another way to explain the bruises on his body.
Featured image by B Pollard
Flash fiction from all of our finalists can be found here.