It was so much fun reading everyone’s pieces I felt compelled to post one of my own. This is from Pedal, which is due for release in May. It’s the story of Joanne Brick, a single 49 yr. old elementary school music teacher who is fired and struggles to reclaim her life back through bicycle racing.
At this point in the book Joanne has done everything, and more, that she possibly could to excel. She is competing against her two fiercest rivals, Sheila and Pam. She has never defeated either one of them. This is Joanne’s make or break race – her sense of worth is tied to this moment. (Tiger is her bike.)
Joanne was five feet behind them. She shifted gears, raised her butt off the seat, pumped her legs like twin locomotives and bolted forward.
Pam was a foot in front of Sheila, but Sheila was picking up ground.
Images swept past like notes from Bach’s “Prelude and Fugue in D minor.” They soared through, into and out of Joanne’s head. Her muscles were working so hard she wanted to cry, but was afraid of the energy her tears would burn. She had nearly reached her limit. Her body was begging her to end the raw, scalding pain eating her up, but she was nearly upon them.
She continued pedaling; pedaling past the vomit swabbing her throat, past the pudgy hand of Principal Haley thumbing her out the door, past her father, blue faced, hauled away in a screaming ambulance; past the lonely, loverless nights; past her mother and Ellie’s demands, she pedaled nearly even to Sheila, who was an inch behind Pam.
Praying her body wouldn’t shut down, Joanne pumped even harder. Her blood pounded like tympani claps through her carotid arteries. Her vision fell dark and narrow, as if she were gazing through a bassoon. The pain, the images, the emotions drifted slowly backward as she jetted forward. There was nothing but air. Not the hot, labored air from her lungs. A cool, lifting pureness: “A Horse With No Name.” She was above the ground, floating. No, she thought, not floating. Galloping. She wasn’t even sure if she was still breathing. She felt eternal—and with a flash—it was gone.
She was neck-and-neck with Pam. Sheila was slightly behind and gaining. The finish line was punching them in the nose. Pam inched forward. Shelia was now even with Joanne and moving ahead.
Joanne tried pistoning faster but her legs wouldn’t respond. Her shoulders felt like they could no longer sustain her arms, her arms could no longer support her hands. Her spine was a limp string of pearls. Her muscle cell mitochondria could no longer handle the intake of lactic acid—the furnace had blown. Pam and Sheila’s front wheels were a half-foot in front of Tiger’s. The finish line was laughing in her ear. Joanne spewed an agonizing grunt, rammed her arms and legs forward against the handlebars and pedals, and at the same time shoved her butt backwards until it was behind the saddle and nearly rubbing the bike’s rear wheel. The counter-energy from the backward thrust lunged Tiger forward and across the finish line.
Joanne swerved to the curb, threw up and collapsed. Floaters filled her eyes, wooziness sprinkled down like magenta colored salt. She passed out.