I just entered a writing contest I may or may not be eligible for. I’m not really sure. The grand prize isn’t much — a hundred bucks and a copy of a book I’ll probably buy anyway — but the prompt was really interesting, and I came up with an angle pretty quickly, so I decided to give it a go. Since I’m trying to wrap up work on a strategy guide (with yet another potentially starting in early June) I’m going to cheat for this week’s post and simply share my 500-word entry with you. I don’t think that’s against the rules. I’m not sure if I care.
Oh, but before I share my contest entry with you, I wanted to also mention my latest strategy guide. What a treat it was to come back from our two years away and jump right back into video game strategy guide authoring with such an amazing game as the new DOOM (book link here). Unfortunately, I only got to write the multiplayer portion of the guide — we were under an unusually tight deadline and two other authors handled the single player campaign — but if you’re going to be playing this game, then you really want to pick up the book. The level design for the single player campaign (which I’m playing through now on my shiny new PC) is some of the best I’ve ever seen. Honestly. I’ve been gaming since the days of the Atari 2600 and the level design in DOOM is brilliant. It’s the perfect blend of old-school, high-speed action with Metroid-like spelunking and an upgrade system popular in modern-era games. And it looks positively fantastic. It’s rare that I buy and play a game I already wrote the strategy guide for (Gears of War aside) but I’m squeezing in an hour or two of DOOM every night since it released last Friday. I can’t get enough.
On to the contest…
Bicycles I Have Loved and/or Lost
Rules: In honor of National Bike Month, tell us about a bicycle that has meant a lot to you in your life. Whether it is the first one you learned to ride on, the one you took across country, or the one that was stolen and you still cannot get over — all bikers have a memorable story on two wheels. Submissions must be less than 500 words and received by May 30th, 2016.
My entry is below. If you’d like to enter the contest as well, you can do so by clicking here.
I held the seaman’s rope in one hand and steadied my bicycle with the other. The deck of the Hatsu Crystal loomed eighty feet above. The gap between the dock and the container ship meant a surefire swim should my knot come undone. Panic washed over me. I looked skyward, tried to yell, but my embarrassment clogged my throat. I sheepishly waved the Filipino crewman down to the dock. Best to leave the knot-tying to the sailors.
The man smiled at me, took the dangling end of the rope, and in a flash of twists and folds and tucks, had it secured to the top tube of my bike. My precious bike laid on its side, leashed while the knot-tying savant sprinted the gangway, skipping stairs as he went. The bike looked sick. And scared. Unable to move on its own accord, but tethered for its own protection, like a dog about to be put to sleep.
Movement. The rope came taught and the bike slowly rose onto its wheels, as if by magic.
I watched as she took flight, being jerked by a pair of crewmen high above. It was there, standing in a harbor in Greece, bound for Malaysia, when I realized how much I loved that green beast of burden. We had come so far together. I owed my life’s greatest adventure to the strength of her steel, the comfort of her leather, the grip of her rubber.
Twenty feet above sea level.
Through blistering cold, hail, snow, and too much wind, she carried me across the northern United States and Canada. Through swarms of gnats and visible humidity, she rolled along the hills of those old Appalachians. If my constant cascade of sweat bothered her, she kept it to herself.
Forty feet above sea level.
I leaned her against a castle in Scotland and pedaled her across London Bridge and along the shores of Normandy. I parked her outside countless convenience stores, in too many hotel closets, and in the shade of too few cathedrals and museums.
Sixty feet above sea level.
I gave her a new drivetrain before leaving for Europe. For my birthday, in Paris, I gave her new tires and a thorough bath. I padded the rails of her luggage racks with plastic tubing in Morocco. For thirteen thousand miles, she never wavered. Sure, she broke a spoke when I got a little too rough with her. And she flatted more than a few times on the glass-strewn streets of Turkey, but her abilities were never in doubt. She was as reliable a bike as any ever built. And not just a prized possession, but a partner. A part of who I am.
I watched her disappear over the railing of the deck, into the arms of strangers. It was only then that I realized I had been holding my breath. My racing heart slowed as I let out a lengthy sigh.
We were safe.