Short Story Submission: The Race Track

Leonardo Paley

This student submission was originally published in the Fall 2018 “Culture of UNF Issue”. 

The track the boy would ride around was worn down, and rightfully so. The school had closed a year or so ago because of things the boy was either too young or too dumb to understand. All he knew was they had left the playground and race track open to the public, a new public park to replace the loss of the school. No one had really taken care of the track when the school was there, and now no one was left to pretend to take care of the track. The red paint that had been added when the track had been laid was wearing off, slowly bleaching away in the sun. The white lines that designated where to ride had begun to fade long ago, and all the remained were light spots around the edge of the track and the remnants of numbers at one end. The boy had to ride the bus for a long time to get to school now, but he didn’t really mind. Dad always got home from work early in the morning and would make lots of noise, so the boy was up early anyway.

Every day after school the boy would come to the track and ride his bike around the track. Mom wouldn’t get home from work until the sun was starting to go down anyways, and he had nothing to do in the house. So every day he rode his bike around the track until the sun would start to go down, when he would ride slowly home to help Mom make dinner. Sometimes other kids would be on the playground, and their moms would sit on the benches and watch the kids run around. If the kids got too close to the boy as he rode, the moms would call them over and whisper into their ear and the kids wouldn’t come back near the track. No one ever stopped him, and he never really stopped for anyone either.

If he was really lucky that day, a lizard or two would be on the track when he was riding, sitting out in the sun on the cracked, warm pavement of the track. He would ride as far away from the lizard as possible, while still staying on the track; sometimes riding on the faint white line that slid along the edge of the pavement, a lazy suggestion of where the grass was supposed to stop growing. He would count how many times he could go around the circle and the lizard would still be there, and when it left he would forget about it, and go back to riding.

One day another boy had ridden around the track with him, and he tried to talk to the boy, say hi and ask his name. But the boy didn’t say anything, and he didn’t look over at the other boy. He kept riding around the circle, and eventually, the other boy stopped trying to ask.

After a few laps like this one, the other asked why the boy was riding around the circle, and the boy didn’t answer. He didn’t have an answer, he just kept going. He didn’t know if he even liked riding around the circle. His bike was old, and getting too small for him. The newcomer eventually left, and the boy continued to ride around the track, waiting for the sun to go down. When it finally began to fall, the boy made his way back home.

He brought his bike under the porch, setting it neatly up against the wall by the front door and chaining it to the small stretch of iron fence going down from the steps to the walkway. He went inside and kicked off his shoes, throwing his backpack into the living room as he walked to the kitchen to help his mom make dinner like he did every night. He never went back to the track, and for a week the other boy would come to the track and ride around, waiting for the boy to join. But he never did, and eventually, the boy stopped looking for him and just rode in silence, never really sure why.

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