Break a Leg
By Mike Stevens
Around the track he went, building up enough speed. All his friends watching him said it couldn’t be done, and that he was crazy even to try. But Ben Haversack knew it could be done, and he’d bet every last one of his friends he would make it. As he approached the take-off ramp, he took his hands off the handlebars and waved to them. They probably think I’m crazy, Ben thought to himself. But I’m not crazy. Unbeknownst to them, he’d been secretly coming here and jumping his bicycle, he knew how far he could safely jump, and this jump was going to be easy. He had plenty of speed as he hit the ramp. He went airborne, pulled up on the front end, and watched as his front tire fell off and bounced beneath him. He knew he would bite it upon hitting the ground. Damn! His bike landed, clearing the boxes by plenty, but upon hitting, he flew over the handlebars, did a face-plant, the bike pin-wheeled above him, and the forks struck him right in the middle of his back. He jumped up, fear gripped him, and he managed to say, through clenched teeth,
“I’ll see you guys later, I’ve got to go!.”
Yeah, to the hospital, all his friends thought. As he ran through the woods that bordered the track, he heard laughter from his friends; laughter! He didn’t know how badly he was hurt, yet they were laughing. After he’d run for a ways, the pain started to ease. He dared to look down. He wasn’t seeing any blood. His back still stung, but that was all he noticed. If he was severely injured, surely he’d be in horrible pain, and blood would be everywhere. The surge of adrenaline had passed; so if the pain was going, he must be okay. He turned around, put on a brave face, and walked back to his friends; friends he wasn’t too sure about anymore. He walked up to his bike and proclaimed loudly,
“I’m okay and I’m going to try that jump again.”
His friends just stared at him in disbelief. Had the fool plum lost his mind, they wondered? He retrieved the bike and the wheel, and soon had the two joined together again. He’d had to straighten the forks, but other than that, the bike was fine. As he was setting the bike back on its wheels, he heard a commotion from his friends. He glanced up towards something they were looking at, out on the track. His friend’s grandfather was racing around the track, on his grandson’s racing bike. Ben called out,
“Sir, what are you doing?”
The older guy yelled back, his voice vibrating with every bump he hit,
“Oh, it looked like fun, so I thought I’d try it.”
“Sir, that’s not a good idea, you could get hurt”
“Nonsense, I used to do this sort of thing when I was young.”
They all watched as the older man approached the jump. He flew up the ramp, pulling up a little too much on the handlebars, and with his arms flailing the air helplessly, he sailed off the back of the bike. The bike, sans rider, hit, bounced high into the air, and disappeared into the sticker bushes which surrounded the racetrack. Meanwhile, the friend’s grandfather hit the ground and performed a nice-looking somersault, hit the ground again, and lay motionless. After they got over the shock of what they’d just seen, everyone rushed up to the guy, fearing the worst. He was moving, at least. Ben said; worry making his voice tremble,
“Are you okay, man?”
The older man groggily tried to get to his feet. As everyone tried to help him up, he whispered,
“Y-y-yeah, I-I th-think I’m o-o-kay. If yo-you guy-guys do-don’t mi-mind, I th-ink I’ll he-head on ho-home.”
And with that, he slowly limped his way to the trail through the woods and disappeared. Ben followed the others back to the track. That had been scary! What was the older fella thinking?
Ben was on the track once again, heading as fast as he could peddle towards the jump. He was bound and determined to make the jump successfully. Briefly, ever so briefly, he had a vision of his tire falling off again, then shook his head to clear his mind. He didn’t need those negative thoughts. Nothing bad was going to happen; the wheel was tight. He told himself to concentrate on the positive. As his friends watched, he hit the ramp, went airborne, flew through the air, and landed perfectly, skidding to a stop in a swirling cloud of dust. He’d made it!
Trotter Willow had just seen the future; the future that would save his bleak career. He was a talent agent, representing anything that would pry the money from people’s pockets. He’d been struggling to come up with something which would draw a crowd; and make him a lot of money. Just by chance, he had come with a friend to this dirt oval out in the middle of nowhere, to have a few beers and at least help pass the day. Here, he had unexpectedly seen a man who would be his next client.
This teenager had tried to jump 8 boxes on his bicycle and had endured a terrible crash, only to get up, dust himself off, and successfully try the jump again. The young man had no fear; he probably should have had, but was too dense. Perfect!
Ben had started to ride home when a stranger he was riding past waved for him to stop. He grimaced inwardly as he came to a stop. The stranger walked up to him and said,
“Hey kid, my name is Willow and I watched you jump today. Pretty brave of you to try the jump again after the spill you took on your first try. I’m looking for a man of your bravery (to himself he thought stupidity was a better word) to represent and make a star. I was thinking “movies” but after watching you out there, I said to myself, why not a stunt rider? I just happened to be here visiting a friend, and that’s when I saw you jump. I would like to represent you, and there are plenty of places where people would pay a lot of money to see you jump, so what do you say; are you interested?”
Ben was shocked; pleasantly shocked! “Do you mean I could make a living at jumping things?”
“Sure, and a handsome living at that.”
Ben Haversack was almost sick with nerves. Tonight was the big Tractor Pull, during which he would attempt to jump a motorcycle over 3 full-sized buses. He had wanted to start with an easier jump, but his new manager, or agent, Trotter Willow had told him if he wanted to earn the big bucks, this was a must. Spectators would only come out and spend their money if they thought there was a chance Ben would crash.
“Do you think I’ll crash?” he asked Trotter.
“Kid, if I thought you would crash, I would never have picked you. You’ve taken to a motorcycle like a duck to water. I know you’ve never jumped a motorcycle before, but it’s very similar to a bicycle. I have complete confidence in you.” Only you’ll be going over 100 miles per hour, with a heavy bike that might land on you as you pinwheel down the track after losing control upon landing, and are eating the dirt, he thought to himself. Inside, he was confident alright, confident that Ben would bite it, but outwardly he tried to look confident for Ben’s sake. He figured this was more than likely Ben’s one and only jump, so he’d take advantage of Ben’s ignorance. He figured this jump was suicide, after he’d watched Ben try to master a motorcycle, he’d become more and more convinced he would crash.
Ben sat at the top of his take-off ramp and looked over the crowd. This was the intermission between the dirt bike races that opened the Tractor Pull, and the demolition derby which closed it. All eyes were riveted on him. In turn, his were riveted on the buses, looming large in his vision, and he told himself to be positive. He would make this jump. He blocked out any thoughts of failure, and started down the ramp. Faster and faster the bike went, and it was almost time to pull—suddenly, he was at the ramp. His mind went blank, and to the sound of the screaming engine, he was flying through the air. He couldn’t help looking down, because when he’d hit the end of the ramp he’d forgotten to pull up on the front end. He saw the busses sailing beneath him, knew he was in big trouble, and lost control of his bowels. His bike landed almost nose-down, and suddenly he knew what a rag doll must feel like, as his body bounced off of the landing ramp and like a slow-motion cartwheel in old stunt wipeouts he’d seen, his flying body pin-wheeled end-over-end, until he at last came to a stop. Of course, hitting the concrete wall might have been part of the reason for the sudden stop.
The kid was finally coming to. Trotter Willow looked down at him, in a full body cast and blood-soaked bandages around his head. Trotter felt a twinge of guilt, but it soon passed. After all, he was only a businessman, doing what he could to earn a buck. Yeah, he might have used the kid’s naivety, but the kid had also willingly attempted the jump. So he was just as much to blame for his current state. The doctors had told him the kid had suffer three broken ribs, a broken right leg, a gash on his head from plowing into the wall, and a severe concussion. When he came to, they were going to recommend no more jumping for him. Now that he was coming around, Trotter knew his meal-ticket would heed the doctor’s advice and quit jumping, but oh how he wished it could be different. He felt a flood of guilt; here the kid was lying there, all busted up, and all he could think about was the money he’d be losing. What the hell was the matter with him? Of course, the most important thing was the kid’s health. Just then, Ben’s eyes fluttered open, and he just stared at the ceiling, as he tried to remember what had happened to him, and figure out where he was.
“Ww-wwhere am I, and what happened?”
Trotter quickly answered, “You’re in the hospital, you took a nasty fall off your motorcycle when you attempted to jump three buses, but you’re doing fine.” It was a lie, but there was no need to freak the kid out even further.
“Oh, now I remember. Did I clear the buses? I can’t remember anything after I hit the ramp. And boy, does my head hurt!”
“Your head hurts because you’ve suffered a sever concussion,” replied Dr. Tallman, who had entered the room unseen. “I’m afraid they’ll be no more motorcycle jumping for you, you can’t risk another concussion and probable permanent brain damage. I’ve got to make my rounds, but I’ll check in on you after awhile.”
Trotter hated hearing the words he knew were coming, but at least he knew it was for the kid’s sake. The doctor left, and he said to Ben, “Oh well, your young, and have the whole future in front of you.”
“The hell with that,” the kid replied, “how soon can you line up my next show?”
Trotter didn’t think he heard the kid’s reply correctly. “What?”
“I said when can you line up my next show?”
“But you heard the doctor, no more jumping.”
“Ahh, he’s just being overly-cautious. Can you get me some aspirin? My head’s killing me!”
It was almost time; Ben Haversack took one last look at the river gorge he’d be attempting to jump in his special rocket-car, and prepared for take-off. He would sail across the gorge, deploy his parachute, and gently land the car on the other side of the river. He glanced once more at the T.V. crews covering his historic jump, and pushed the ignition button. He felt a deep rumbling, then the car begin its upward trajectory. He saw the end of the ramp slide by, and then he was sailing out and over the river gorge. How tiny it looked! He was atop a missile, flying across the gorge. When he judged he wasn’t too far from the opposite bank, he pulled the lever that would deploy the parachute and cut the engine. Nothing happened! His car crossed over the other side of the river, still accelerating, and kept flying. There was no way to stop the damn thing. He was flying directly towards a town, a town some five miles from the river. He was desperately trying to think, wondering where he would end up. They had never even thought of this, the chances seemed almost zero, so he had no idea what he should do! Maybe he’d get lucky and sail over the town, into the wide open dessert, where he could gently ease her down, and gently bring her in for a landing. He could roll forever, there was nothing but smooth, hard-packed dessert for miles. As he was thinking this, the rocket quit and the car headed down! In a panic, he tried the parachute again. This time, it deployed, but he needed more room for it to take affect. The car was sailing directly for a three-story brick office building. He was going to crash right into it! He screamed, and covered his eyes. So this was the end of everything, huh? He waited for the final impact.
His eyes snapped open and he looked wildly around. The first thing his blurry eyes focused on was the clock on his nightstand. The impending wreck had only been a dream, a vivid one, but a dream none the less.
“Ben, I’ve lined us up for a new gig; one that will put a healthy chunk of change in both our pockets,” Trotter Willow was saying, when he had called Ben later in the morning. Ben was tired, as he’d had the same nightmare for the last 3 nights.
“Ben, let me tell you about it; it’s big! Think beyond anything you’ve ever thought up before. We’re going to jump Deep Canyon in a rocket-car!”
Ben dropped the phone in surprised shock; it was his dream, only it was becoming a reality. He retrieved the receiver, and barely heard Trotter saying,
“I say, did you hear me Ben, a rocket-car! We’ll make this a media event. They’ll be falling all over themselves to cover it. We’ll build grandstands, and charge people $100 to watch it. We’ll make a killing on the concessions, alone.”
“I wish you wouldn't use the word “killing” when talking about this jump,” replied Ben. “I’ve been having these terrible nightmares about jumping a canyon in a rocket-car. In them, I launch the car, and…”
“That sounds scary, but you’ll have to finish telling me later. Right now I’ve got a million things to make sure are covered for the jump. I’ll call you later, okay Ben?”
“Oh, sure Trotter, I’ll talk to you later.”
Ben hung up the phone, terrified. No wonder he’d been having those dreams, they were a warning to him not to jump; that if he did, disaster loomed! He was scared out of his mind, yet he didn’t know what to do about it. He should just back out of the jump, but how ridiculous would it sound to say he’d been warned not to do it by a dream! Everyone would think he was nuts. He racked his brain about what he should do, and suddenly the answer came to him; he decided to visit a fortune teller. If he was told not to jump by the fortune teller, he wouldn’t do the thing.
Darwin Truth was at the end of his rope; he had no money, no friends that would loan him money, and bills coming due that he couldn’t pay. What was he going to do? What he needed was a new scheme; something that would earn him the money, like yesterday! As he was thinking, he was watching television, only half paying attention. Suddenly, a man appeared who grabbed his interest. It was a show about a sleuth who solved crimes with the aid of a wacky fortune teller, who spouted lame one-liners. It wasn’t the terrible on-liners that got his attention, it was the idea; why not become a fortune teller, and charge people whopper bucks to tell them what they’d like to hear?
Ben Haversack was going crazy with worry. He just knew he wasn’t going survive the jump over the river canyon in the rocket-car. He was sitting in the home of a fortune teller; sitting across from him was Darwin Truth, who had some tea leaves spread out on the table in front of him. He stared at them, forecasting Ben’s future.
“The leaves are a good omen. They tell me that you’ll have a successful jump. They tell me there’ll be money and fame for you,” Darwin, the fortune teller said.
Ben asked, “Are you sure about that?”
Darwin replied, “Yes, I’m very sure. That’s the way the tea leaves arranged themselves after I dropped them, and the leaves are never wrong.”
Ben got all excited, shook Darwin’s hand vigorously, and he said,
“Thank you, Mr. Truth; now that you’ve read about my future, you took a huge weight from my shoulders. Thank you and I can’t thank you enough!”
© Copyright 2016 Mike Stevens. All rights reserved.
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