The Great Bicycle Race
Ever since Casey had been a newborn Mynci, crawling on the
front yawn, she had dreamt of winning the Great Neighborhood Bicycle Race. It
was the biggest neighborhood event all year.
All the big kids would pedal past on their new
bikes, wind running through their fur, and in seconds, the race would be over.
The racetrack was from the lamppost at the top of the old hill to Mrs. Fern's
mailbox. It was an easy ride for the big kids, but to small kids like Casey,
it seemed to be miles and miles of difficult road.
The fact that the Mynci's older sister, Brianna,
had been the champ for the past two years was both inspiring and intimidating
to Casey. Her big blue Uni sister had a big Pink Racing Bike and had read the
book How to Ride a Bike so many times that she had memorized every word.
And always, the day after the race, the mailbox
would be flooded with fan mail for the race winner. Often enough, Brianna's
friends would stop by and ask if she'd help them practice for next year. She
never did. "I wouldn't want to give away my secret, would I?" she'd say.
Finally, this year, Brianna wouldn't be the
only one in the family to compete. Just last spring Casey had gotten her first
bike. It was coated with shiny blue paint, and Casey loved the soft seat cushion.
"Brianna," Casey would ask sweetly. "How do
you bike so fast and so quickly?" She'd smile at her tall, strong sister, so
weak compared to her. The Uni would snicker and stamp her hooves on the ground.
"As if I'd tell a shrimp like you!"
Biking wasn't the only thing Brianna excelled
at. She was one of the smartest pets imaginable at the Neoschool. Her report
card would be taped to the fridge the day she brought it home, and her owner
would hug her and say, "Brianna, you make me so proud."
Brianna really was perfect. She was popular,
athletic, and smart, but just about the worst big sister in the world. Casey
would always come in behind her, following in her footsteps, trying to live
up to her standards. But she never would.
Casey stood, the crisp autumn air rustling leaves,
her rusty bike by her side. Silently, she climbed up onto the soft seat cushion.
She smiled, seeing where her sisters love for bike-riding came from. She felt
like she was on top of the world as she grasped the handles with her paw.
The green Mynci was at the top of the hill.
She could just barely see Mrs. Fern's yard, her goal. Taking a deep breath,
she began pedaling. To her delight, she didn't have to do much work, since it
was all downhill.
The wind blew through her fur, chilling her
bones, but that would not stop her. Her fingers were numb with the cold and
it was brutally cold, but she clung to the handles. She glided down the hill,
and was soon right next to the finish line.
Mrs. Fern's yard was on top of a very small
hill, which is why the race was to her house. You could glide and glide and
do nothing, but you had to make it up the small hill. A look of determination
marked Casey's face, as she braced herself for the challenge. It was only a
hill; only a hill.
She began pedaling, her tiny Mynci limbs working
as hard as they could. With a burst of speed, she sped over the hill and past
Mrs. Fern's mailbox. Casey, a look of satisfaction on her face, walked her bike
back to her Neohome.
"I practiced for the race," Casey announced
one night at dinner. Her owner and sister were absorbed with their meals and
didn't take notice that she had said anything. "I practiced for the race," she
repeated, her tone calm, reflecting her obvious frustration.
Brianna and Polly, her owner, just continued
eating, completely ignoring the Mynci. She pounded her fists on the table and
stared at her family. Her lip quivered as she received nothing but a raised
eyebrow from her sister.
"Thanks for the support," Casey grumbled.
She was used to being shoved aside by her big
sister and her owner, but it still annoyed her. Anything Brianna had to say
received applause and enthusiasm from Polly. But anything Casey said got at
the very most a roll of her owner's eyes. When Casey had been younger, she'd
been Polly's center of attention. But as she got older, and Brianna got more...
perfect... Polly had gradually stopped caring about the little Mynci.
Not at all hungry, Casey decided to take her
anger towards her family out on her dinner. Her plate full of leftover cucumber
salad and boiled Neggs soon looked like nothing more than a yellow-ish green
blob. Brianna stared in disgust. "Ew, you little... creep. What did you do to
your food?" Casey continued to stab her dinner with her silver fork.
"Stop it!" Polly said, raising her tone. It
was the first thing Casey's owner had said to her all evening, and the Mynci
was pretending not to hear it.
She put her fork down. "I'm not hungry." Her
Uni sister mumbled something that sounded vaguely like "but you didn't have
to wreck your food... I would have eaten it," but Casey wasn't sure, nor did
she care. She then stared at Polly. Her gleaming blue eyes were staring straight
into her food, and her blond hair had salad dressing in it. She curled her Mynci
nose in disgust. "I think I'll go outside."
No one said anything, so she got up from the
table and left.
Casey felt so much happier outside. Her fur
stood on end as the chilly night's air blew by. She loved it. She slowly walked
to where she had left her bike propped up, and placed her paw on the soft leather
seat, savoring its comfort. If only she could feel this happy with Brianna and
Polly, but she knew she never would.
She happily clutched the handles and walked
her bike up the hill and to the lamppost. And then she practiced. She peddled
and peddled and peddled, and practiced and practiced and practiced, and when
she was done, she felt like the happiest pet in the world, and had completely
forgotten about any of her troubles that night.
The day of the race was a perfect day; perfect
in every way. The sun was bright, but not so much that it was too hot for the
racers. The air was cool - not muggy - even though Casey's paws slipped off
the handles because they were so sweaty. Five minutes to the race. Her giant
shiny helmet (hand-me-down of Brianna's, naturally) engulfed her, but she didn't
care, even though she had to push it up and out of her face every minute.
She was excited. The moment of truth was coming.
She had practiced, and she was sure she could do it... even though all the other
competitors were bigger and looked better, and even though not a single person
on the sideline was cheering for her. Her heart fell for a moment. Even if she
did win, Polly wouldn't care. She'd just care that Brianna hadn't won.
Casey sank. Her excitement drooped and her helmet
slid over her face once more. Yes, she loved riding, and she wanted more than
ever to win, but it wouldn't be worth it if still, no one was proud of her.
She sighed. The race was about to begin. She had to have faith.
Quickly, she scanned the crowd: excited owners
and siblings cheering on the racers. Polly. Polly was waving her arms up and
down, cheering. Next to her, a skinny black-haired girl was saying, "You're
Brianna's owner? Wow!" Casey looked away. Her gaze fell on a little yellow Kacheek,
sitting on a small bike, and holding a boy's hand.
She smiled. The little Kacheek face was bright
with excitement. "Go, go, go!" he mumbled, waving his hands. He giggled, and
reminded Casey of someone. Herself. Until this year, she'd done the exact same
thing: stand in the crowds, watching with excitement, and at the same time longing
to be competing like all the big kids. Suddenly, she felt confident again. She
wasn't doing this for Polly. She was doing it for herself. She was doing it
because she'd always dreamed of doing it.
Her attention focused back on the race. She
was charged with energy. She brushed the helmet out of her face, and waited,
as a tall old women walked out. She was Mrs. Higgins, and she had been in charge
of the race ever since it had first started. She looked around at smiled. Her
eyes met Casey briefly before turning back to the crowd.
"Contestants, get ready," she said, her feeble
voice full of excitement. "On your marks," she continued. "Get set... GO!"
With that, all the bikes took off, speeding
to the mailbox which marked the finish line. Casey was about even with everyone
else. Her blue Uni sister and a red Meerca were slightly in the lead. Casey
peddled harder, her heart pounding. The wind began blowing fiercely, but still,
she peddled - harder and faster than she ever had before.
She couldn't think. Her head was pounding. She
was even with Brianna and the Meerca, and the mailbox was getting closer. She
was almost there. She could do it! But suddenly, she felt her speed slow slightly;
here was the hill. Her little limbs ached. She couldn't make it up the hill.
Brianna was going to beat her. She pushed, and pushed, trying as hard as possible.
Casey thought once again of the yellow Kacheek
on the sidelines. Eager, happy, and just like her. But then suddenly she got
a burst of energy. She didn't think she could go any faster, but suddenly, she
did. She picked up speed and passed Brianna and the Meerca. She was getting
to the mailbox. Just a few more feet now. She pushed herself to her absolute
And then it was all over. Within seconds, all
the riders had finished. Casey wasn't quite sure what had happened, but everyone
was looking at her, smiling. Mrs. Higgins was coming towards her. Her heart
was still beating incredibly fast. Had she won? She felt dizzy. There was a
buzzing noise in her ear. Or was that a buzzing noise? She looked around the
crowd again. They were chanting something... but what?
She tried to read their lips, because it seemed
that her ears no longer worked. She spotted the yellow Kacheek. He too was chanting.
And then she figured it out. The crowd was chanting with joy, "Casey! Casey!
A week had passed, but Casey was still just
as excited as ever. Things had changed after winning the race. A couple of the
neighbors who had been in the race had been annoyed at first. It was one thing
to lose to a powerful blue Uni... but to a small little Mynci, who was competing
for her first year ever? Talk about embarrassing.
Brianna had been furious, and at first, had
refused to talk to her. Polly had been a mix of proud and angry at the same
time, but Casey didn't care. She had done what she had to do. And everyone had
been happy for her - the entire crowd.
She was sitting in her room, lying on her bed,
when she heard a knock at the door. She shrugged, and said, "Come in." Brianna
her blue Uni sister marched in, hanging her head.
"I'm a jerk," she said, sadly. "A mean jerk.
A mean, mean jerk. But what's worse, I'm a jerky, mean sister. And that's really
bad." Casey was in shock. Was Brianna apologizing? "I'm sorry," her sister continued.
"But I was wondering... maybe later, we could go biking together? You know,
I have to practice some more... so I can beat you next year."
Casey smiled. "I'd like that," she said, giving
her sister a hug. For the first time since she could remember, she felt happy...
really, really happy... and she wasn't riding a bike.