Inspired this time by Oamaru's Victorian Heritage Celebrations we undertook to write a short story that had to include a one-armed person, a fob watch and a penny farthing. Setting restrictions can help get us started and provide some really interesting results.
Monsieur Sebastian Cavrot took one more gasp of air then exhaled through pursed lips as he shunted his new model Penny farthing two more steps before bounding up its spine via the newly adapted foot-up, now with serated grooves cut in by father Jaque. The father and son team were desperate to break their main rival’s two-time champion of the Pigalle to The Arc De Triomphe, Penny farthing race, Pierre Badeaux’s record time of 15.12sec.
As his legs spun and pumped groundward with all the strength he could muster, he noticed his lungs pump with every four rotations of the crank shaft. He was in la zone.
Seb now had time to take in le mise en scène. As he raised his dome to gaze upon the road ahead, he got sight of a string of dancers outside the infamous Moulin Rouge, hitching up their skirts , kicking Can Cans and crying at the top of their musical lungs ‘Ride like the wind’! Sebastian locked into his now long practised meditative state and kept his derrière glued to the saddle, blood now coursing through his veins.
Now, riding through the heart of cobblestoned Parisian streets is no easy feat, but still Sebastian pursued his and his father’s dream with a whole-hearted eagerness unbeknownst to most mere mortals.
It was time. A small furl appeared on the right side of his mouth, a smirk perhaps.
He took a hand off his steering apparatus and fidgeted around in a small waste pocket sewn onto his riding shirt. A fob watch slowly appeared, glinting and attached to a chain. He caught a glance, He was on track. His smile grew, he raised his tight little French buns out of the riding stool for the extra surge, sat, pressed on, picking up the pace while scanning for cracks on the now well-ridden route.
Behind his smile was a true happiness he had rarely felt before. All the effort the father and son team had put in was finally coming to fruition, and they could finally rest on their laurels after the race, regardless of the result. Jaque had come up with the ingenius idea of attaching the fob watch to a waist pocket he had sewn into the racing shirt so Seb could monitor his own progress. And this idea, all came from a truly dreadful accident the year before.
Jaque had been out ploughing the field on their small farm when he stumbled forward over a stone, reached out to catch the handle of the plough, caught his sleeve and let out a staccato’d grunt. The beast pulling the plough lurched forward, his arm dropped suddenly, catching Jaque’s hand in a piece of the plough. As if in one foul swoop, the beast took one more heave and ploughed on, ripping poor Jaque’s arm cleanly out from his shoulder so quickly, that the break was barely audible from within a few short meters. Jaque would later compare it to the sound of three hens having their necks snapped simultaneously. This, he loved telling around the dinner table.
After the recovery from almost dying from loss of blood, Jacque sat by the fireside for the first time since being out of bed, he spied his shirt he had worn the day of the accident. His eyes met part of the chain protruding from the pocket, glinting in the fire’s light. Jaque shuffled, stretched and withdrew the watch. He all at once thought of the training, hard-work, time and money invested into what now seemed a far-flung and doomed to fail, Farthing venture.
He fondled the time-piece in his non-dominant hand, tried to hold, then wind it’s tiny dial. He struggled several times with this before a large tear grew in the duct of his eye and dropped onto the fob itself.
Jaque now swallowed nothing in his dry and quenching throat, lay the watch on the small round table in front of him and exchanged it for a half-empty whisky glass, raised it to the fireplace and took a half-decent gulp, closing his eyes. The moment between swallowing and reopening his eyes seemed like a full minute. He then sighed, and nine years of toil, sweat and pain swept through his nostrils like a team of the most hardened pack horses pulling the devil himself in a thick marble carriage.
When his eyes opened at long last, a large, glorious smile now drew across his fatherly face. He raised the fob and kissed it.
By Jamie Bennett