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 Post subject: The Sign
 Post Posted: Mon Nov 28, 2005 2:09 am 
The Sign

By Angela Seneviratne

When I was 12 going on 13, I went on my usual school holiday to the ancestral home in the fishing hamlet. Accompanying me on this particular year was my cousin, from my maternal side who as I recall had never been on holiday before, as she came from what my mother termed “a poor family”. Not that we were richer by a cent, but that’s another story.

She and I had a wonderful time. We went pottering round the huge garden, down to the lewaya,, played hopscotch, wasted money on bull-toes from the kadey in front, and spent hours on the flight of steps on the varendha, just watching people go by.I secretly think we would have done better chatting-up anything aged 16 or over that looked remotely male, but then we had cultural differences and parents who were related to Hitler.. One afternoon we decided to do something different. My cousin Noel and my cousin Niel had spent a lot of time riding around on Daddy’s bikes, so we were sorely tempted to try this contraptions and began riding around the garden, with my cousin doing the steering. Due to our apparel (somewhat inappropriate for bicycles) and our general demeanour (extremely silly), we attracted the attention of quite a few male passers-by, and a wonderful time was had by all.

And then we dared to get onto the road. As we rode along, we noticed a bus coming up from one of the two paths which led to the sea. I suggested we had a ride down to the sea and my cousin agreed. As we started down the path, we saw a large sign, but neither of us had the chance to read it as we were going too fast. We had also noticed my two male cousins standinf at the edge of the sea path pointing at the sign and laughing.

As we turned the first corner, the bike started to gather speed and she began to have a little difficulty steering it as the path was constantly winding as it made its way down. Before too long, it became apparent that she was finding it very hard to handle the bike.

“What’s going on?” I shouted, as we almost hit a tree. “I don’t know, I can’t control it!”, cousin shrieked back. Her face was as white as the proverbial sheet by this time and her hair was almost standing on end.

“Just steer it, stupid”, I answered, in my usual helpful way. “I’m trying”, came the reply, “but I’ve never ridden a bike before today”. At this point, I began to feel more than a little anxious.

The next thing I knew, the bike started careering downwards at an alarming speed and we were aiming straight for a point where the path plunged down into a ravine. How Cousin managed to stop it going down I have no idea, but somehow she managed to turn it at the very last minute. Her hands seemed stuck to the wheel and her knuckles were white. If she hadn’t turned the bike when she did, neither of us would be here today.

Well she lost control of the bike completely at this point, partly from total fear and partly because the path was simply too steep to be able to do anything other than go with the flow.

We turned yet another corner and there in front of us was an elderly couple, enjoying a gentle ramble down to the sea. “I’m going to hit them!” Cousin cried. “Just go round them”, I screeched back. “I can’t, it won’t steer anymore!” replied the driver. Somehow the elderly couple got out of the way, the male half almost toppling over as he jumped to the side. Unfortunately, they didn’t hear us shouting “Help! We can’t control the bike!” as we passed them.

“There’s a load of steps leading to the sea. We’re going to crash!” “You said there weren’t any steps on this path”, Cousin had no chance to answer, as at this point we hit the steps. Amazingly, the bike did a sort of double jump onto them and bounced its way down each one. It hit the sand and went forward several hundred yards, finally throwing us out in a heap somewhere in between two gaily hued fishing boats.

We picked ourselves up and surveyed the damage. My skirt was ripped, my top was somewhere around my neck, revealing more than I cared to reveal to the flock of beach birds watching with interest, and both items were covered in bicycle grease, sand, and blood. My face, which must have looked like an artist’s palette (black/blue eye, orange sand and red blood) and my upper torso (equally colourful) were totally covered by my hair, which was rather long those days,which had sort of turned itself upside-down. I had to toss it back over my head several times before I could get it to stay put so I could see anything.

Cousin’s hair (which usually resembled a bush, but now looked more like a tree) was almost on the point of gagging her and she was furiously trying to spit it out of her mouth. Not only did she look exactly the same as me, she also had half a seashell stuck up her left nostril. This gave me a serious case of the giggles, which soon turned into a fit of sobbing (which Cousin quickly joined in with) as the enormity of what had happened finally hit us.

As for the bike, it had two buckled wheels and a ripped seat and even if we could have ridden it back up the hill it wasn’t capable of being ridden anywhere. We therefore had to push the thing all the way back to the top, which took us well over an hour.

On the way up, we passed the elderly couple and asked them why they hadn’t tried to stop the bike. “We thought you were just messing about”, they replied. We explained that we weren’t, we had lost control of the bike, and they looked at us as if we were totally demented and said “Didn’t you see THE SIGN?” We could hear them muttering to themselves as we went on our way up the hill, catching the odd recognisable phrase such as “stupid children” and “young people today”.

All the way back up the hill and through the road homewe had to bend our heads in case we saw anyone we knew (in other words, any male persons we were hoping to impress), which made our journey take even longer. There was absolutely no way we could let ourselves be recognised looking the way we did.

When we finally made it back, we found my mother in a state of panic. “Your Dad has gone off looking for you, he was worried out of his mind when Niel told him what had happened”, she said, for some reason frantically waving a tea-towel in the air. “Didn’t you see THE SIGN?” My Dad, who somehow missed us, appeared shortly afterwards, puffing away furiously on a cigarette and saying “Thank God you’re all right. Didn’t you see THE SIGN?” My male cousins then arrived and, after they had finished laughing at our appearance (which took some time), asked us “Didn’t you see THE SIGN?”

The following day, we went back to the path to see THE SIGN. It was quite simple, really. It said something along the lines of “This sea path is for the use of the pedestrians only. It is highly dangerous to ride bicycles further than this point. Anyone who does so is at grave risk and we cannot accept responsibility for any consequences which may arise as a result of the disregarding of this Notice”.

How anyone on a bike which is already gathering momentum at a rate of knots could be expected to read a sign of that length is beyond me, but there you go! (Or rather, there we went – and there we very nearly never came back). Taught me a lesson, it did!!

 Post subject: Very funny
 Post Posted: Fri Jan 20, 2006 3:06 pm 
That was a very funny incident. You write very well. Its almost like being there.

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