Friday Fiction – Living Up To The Challenge
Hello and welcome to Friday Fiction, my weekly fiction link up. I have a short story today – a stand alone story, not related to anything else I am working on. I hope you enjoy it and maybe it will inspire you to write your own short story or flash fiction piece.
Don’t forget, this is a linky post too, which means that you can add a link to your own fiction work and share it with others. Please follow the blue frog link below to do this. I look forward to reading your work.
Living up to the Challenge
My dad did it; my grandfather did it and his father before him. It is a tradition in my family that goes back generations. I can’t admit that I’m scared. Dad says that you have to be brave to be the best. He doesn’t have time for losers or wimps, like me. He’s disappointed, I know, that I haven’t shown as much interest as he’d like.
‘It’s in your blood, Son,’ he would say over and over as he put me through the rigorous training programme. Despite my aching bones and bruises, he would push me on and on. I did it because I wanted to please him. My mum saw through me though, she always did.
‘Darling, you don’t need to do this. We’ll tell daddy and he will understand, I’m sure he will,’ she said. I knew that wouldn’t be true. I wasn’t as strong as the other boys at school and I couldn’t run as fast. I was clever when it came to schoolwork, but that wasn’t enough for my dad. Being the man he was, he needed a champion for a son. This was the only thing left: my last chance to make him proud. If I failed . . . Well I didn’t like to think about that.
The day was fast approaching. I’d trained until I had bruises on bruises and I every move I made hurt. In some ways, I felt stronger, but there was an underlying hopelessness running through me and I felt it every time I moved and jarred one of my sore muscles. Thoughts of my dad and my grandfather and great grandfather spurred me on, though. It got me through the darkest moments.
During the long drive across country, dad was animated. He was competing too and this was a big day for him: the day when father and son would compete together for the first time. It was a moment in history for our family, a memorable occasion. As we arrived at the arena, I could feel my heart rate step up, not just one, but twenty notches. Dad greeted old friends and archenemies of the circuit. I looked on, unable to speak.
‘This is my son, the future champion,’ he said. I wanted to run away and hide. He didn’t seem to notice their pitiful looks. No one mentioned the fact that I had never watched a tournament, that I was the boy who always hid in the truck, too scared of the noise of both the crowd and the animals. No one questioned why I was even bothering to put myself through this. No one ever questioned my dad.
I was competing with the juniors. We were first up, so I joined them in the line. I knew some of the other boys. We all grew up together, being brought to these circuits time after time and year after year. When I was little they used to talk to me, but as soon as they realised I wasn’t like them, they stopped bothering. I could hear sniggering and I knew it was aimed at me.
‘What is he doing here?’
‘He doesn’t belong here.’
‘Why is he even bothering to try?’
Those whispers all around me were like a verbalisation of my own inner subconscious and I tried hard to shut them out. The more I tried, the angrier it made me. This feeling, spiked with the adrenaline that was already running through me, flipped the switch from flight to fight mode. Suddenly I wanted to show these boys that I could be just as brave as they were, if I tried.
I watched as one after the other hit the ground. I was last to go and not one of them had lasted as long as the buzzer. I had nothing to lose and all I had to do was hang on for as long as possible. I felt a small wave of hope, but at the same time I had the realisation that if they hadn’t been able to hang on, what chance did I have?
There was another problem. I had never sat on a real life bull before. My practice sessions had always been on a mechanical one. There were only a small number of programmes and I had learned to predict what would happen. I couldn’t do that with a real-life animal. I had no idea what this creature beneath me would do.
I gripped my legs tight around his big muscular body and checked that the straps were firmly wrapped around my wrists. Then I closed my eyes and focused as we were let loose in to the arena. The bull writhed and bucked, determined to rid himself of me. However, I remained strangely calm, floating around inside my head, riding the wave. I was vaguely aware of the screaming and cheering. I felt us move from left to right and across the entire space of the vast arena and then I heard it – the claxon sounding the end of my time. I had held on and I had won.
I jumped off the bull and ran as quickly as I could to the edge of the arena, where I was helped over the side, whilst the bull was distracted. My heart was beating through my chest making my ears ring and my hands and legs were shaking so much I could hardly move. My dad and grandfather were at my side within seconds.
‘Well done, Son, I knew you could do it,’ they both screamed in to my ear.
I felt it then. That important historical moment, as dad lifted me on to his shoulders and carried me outside.
‘What did I tell you,’ he shouted to all who would listen. ‘My son, the future champion.’
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