The Most Hazardous Handicap by Spencer Wile
Danny grew up in Hazard County, Mississippi and had a hard time as kid. He tied his shoelaces in knots and could never figure out how all the other kids had perfectly tied laces—except for Harold Henderson, he wore Velcro shoes.
By the time Danny went into third grade, he’d learned to tie his laces but now he wanted a bicycle. He wanted to ride to school like all of the other kids. He watched them fly by him on the way to school. Zoom! His schoolmates would pass him on their gleaming-new mountain bikes. Danny longed to be like them. He wondered why he should have to walk in the hot sun when everybody else had wheels. On his ninth birthday, he parents bought him a new dirt bike. As Danny’s father taught him how to ride, he felt he would be speeding around with the other kids in no time. And eventually he did.
Danny’s love for bicycles had begun to grow over the years, and by the time he was in high school he had won several races. Throughout Hazard county, there was only one person who could ride all day and all night. Danny. His parents thought it was unhealthy that he spent so much time riding and fixing his bicycles, but soon they accepted it was something he truly loved.
When Danny met Stephanie while riding his bicycle on that quiet country road, he thought she was the one. She was riding an old Schwinn and wearing a nice sundress, her long brown hair neatly tied in a ponytail with a beautiful purple bow. Danny began to show off his moves and she immediately fell for him.
The countryside became their private heaven. They rode everyday together. Danny and Stephanie rode out miles into Hazard Country. They picnicked in shaded meadows, had long talks on creek banks, and secretly slow-danced underneath bridges. They became inseparable. Danny’s parents were glad that he had met such a nice girl who shared his love for bicycling.
As Stephanie got to know Danny better, she noticed that he had a hard time with some things. His shirt was never tucked in quite right. When he left for school, there was always something that he’d forgotten. She saw how especially hard it was for him to tie the bow on her birthday present. When it came undone, he kept shouting, “Shit, shit. Not now!” He almost broke into tears when he couldn’t retie it the way he wanted.
The biggest bicycle road race in the county stared at 8:00 a.m. Saturday, the 15th of June, and Danny had that date imprinted in his mind. There was no way he was going to miss it. He’d been practically training his whole life for this. “I wanna be right in the front so I can cheer for you when you come in first place,” Stephanie told Danny. He couldn’t have been happier to hear those words.
Bang! After the starting gun sounded, Danny pedaled faster than he’d ever done before. He was pulling ahead and he’d never felt better. No one knew these Mississippi back roads better than Danny. He knew ever twist, turn, bump, and bend in the county. Danny kept thinking that if he won, it would launch his career in the world of cycling. Images of The Tour De France and the Olympics ran like movie trailers in his mind. He pulled so far way from the rest of the cyclists that he knew they’d never catch up.
Everyone from Hazard County was waiting at the finish line. Danny’s parents and Stephanie saw one cyclist appear and making his way towards victory. It was Danny. Stephanie noticed that something was hanging from his left shoe. She shouted, “Your shoe! Danny! Your Shoe!” When he heard her shouting about his shoe, he looked down and his lace got tangled in the chain. Within seconds, the tangle pulled his left leg to the ground and he lost control. He veered so far left that he flew over the guardrail on the bend. Stephanie ran to look over the edge and saw that Danny was lying twenty feet below and not moving.