The Finalists: Win a Bicycle Contest
July 25, 2012 | by The Paris Review
Our inbox runneth over! We asked you to describe the facing image in three hundred words—in the style of Ernest Hemingway, P. G. Wodehouse, Joan Didion, Elizabeth Bishop, or Ray Bradbury—and some two hundred of you did just that. We had hoped to announce a winner yesterday, but it took us this long just to read through all the manly terseness, Jeevesian whimsy, California deadpan, villanelles (“Write it! Pedal faster”), and Martiana. Plus a surprising number of entries that went their own way and ignored the “in the style of” part of the contest—thereby forfeiting the chance to win a bicycle but showing impressive powers of imagination when it comes to devils and flappers on wheels.
The Drones’ First Annual Charity Tour De Blandings and Fancy Dress Ball took a wrong turn when Freddie Widgeon and Billie Mainwaring arrived. Somehow each had misread the invitation and got the idea that the cycling was fancy dress. Billie came as a “Muse of Modern Dance,” all chiffon and gauze and trailing scarves. Isadora Duncan on a velocipede. Freddie had on a fearfully complete devil’s costume, though how he’d pedal in those hoof-shaped boots got right past me.
There is an unending abyss in a bicycle pedal. She could feel it in each foot, neatly pinched into squeaky leather, pushing down, down, down, never arriving anywhere but somehow at the same time propelling her forward along the dirt path to see Mr. Sunshine again. It carried that same satisfaction she had had standing, five years old, in the dirt pit during a thunderstorm, letting the ground suck her in, one toe at a time, until her mother’s faraway shrill, echoing from the back porch, broke the earth’s thick, muddy hold on her. Soiled petticoats do not become little girls.
At first light he rented two bicycles from a man in San Sabastian so they could ride to the water. The bicycles were fine and the girl had good legs and rode well. He wished that they could be like this forever—with the girl pedaling in front of him, riding better than he thought she would.
Consider the road. Burnt orange and winding, but straight as an arrow now. For it is rarely the same, the woods fly by as green flashes.
“Keep up!” She yelled to the one following her. “We’ll never make it if you don’t hurry!”
The wind whipped the words from her mouth. Sunlight, shining upon her dress, colored her dress a darker shade of gold. Her bike groaned and creaked under the pressure of her pedaling feet. The spokes were cutting an ancient language from the air, urging the devil forward. Stomping his hoofed feet, he gained the ground between them. Her dress flowing in the wind grazed the tip of his nose.
She breathed out heavily.
And He, he breathed it in.
“Ride!” whispered the girl, mid-dream. The hot summer night air rippled the fabric of her subconscious like an iron across a linen shirt. The distant thunder signaled a dawn that, upon breaking somewhere to the east, had unleashed a weighty humidity that had been pent-up all night. The rain marched steadily across the landscape creating a gradual crescendo of whirr and shush. In the dream, she was Lady Liberty (without the verdigris color, the crown, or the book), wrapped instead in a saffron yellow tunic, hair bobbed, hose and heels incongruously applied to the task of pumping the pedals on her bicycle. At first, there was nothing behind her save a bare alpine landscape and a vague sense of foreboding. Gradually, a dot emerged from perspective to become a man-sized, horned, red devil in muscular pursuit of her. She regarded this with a cool sadness. Almost wistful, she knew she would never be caught.
We were drinking Arneis to cut the dust of the roads and he was telling me about Coppi and how Coppi was the best rider in Italy and maybe the best rider in the world, but when you are using la bomba before every race like Coppi was then it will only end up bad. Coppi had good stuff but he did not trust himself and so he used la bomba and anything else he could get to help him over the Alpe d’Huiz and to get through the roads in San Remo and in all the races.
From San Francisco to Palo Alto runs a concrete ribbon for bicyclists to travel the forty miles between the two cities, but no matter how quickly cyclists cover the distance, the Santa Ana winds always arrive second, directly after the tepid sunlight that glistens the grapes. The best anyone can hope is to come in third. On August 21, 1963, I mounted my Hudson Urban Beater bicycle and began my final trek from my San Franciscan home on Polk Street to the path along the bay.
Prudence Lassiter was as fine a specimen of girlhood as the English aristocracy ever bred, and in several respects rather finer. Each summer Prudence was to be seen yachting at Cowes, laughing in the royal enclosure at Ascot, riding to hounds, attending the smartest dances in London, and, of course, exercising daily on her Rover safety bicycle. Prue—for that is what her school chums called her—looked “just right” in whatever she wore. Prue’s father, Lord Mornington, began his life as a golf professional. Tiring of this, he joined the Indian army, and thenceforth frequented the best London clubs.
And, the winner of the Beater Bicycle, Isabella Hodge!
I mean dash it all, what's a girl to do with a horned devilish fellow pursuing her on a bike, of all things?! I booked it and sped on, the old lemon throbbing wildly, and persp. flowing freely in salty gallons down the face.
Now, get to New York and claim your prize! Thanks everyone who participated!