The Gypsum Paths

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Photo by Victor Bezrukov
Photo by Victor Bezrukov

The bike trails made a show of tangling themselves in the forest, but they always led back to the same point.

Hervé wanted to break a new trail this time. He’d spent the whole of August following these gypsum-veined paths, their kid-crazy loops designed like play slides in summer camp. He wanted to skid some down a slope beyond the ones marked out in Geolithic swerves.

The Kevins, Lisa Patrocles, Tennis Janice, Zorb, Erik and Eric—they lacked nerve. They were bike-warriors from their mountain gear to their scuffs and scratches, but they were just doing it for the kicks. There was no sport-passion there, no desire to take a bad tumble for the sake of artfulness. Or in the name of a legacy.

Hervé hadn’t seen his parents for three years, and that made the not-coming-back swings he drew with his wheels seem more serious. [private]

Now, alone, because the others were out by Maplewood lake spinning underwater in imitation Indian kayaks, Hervé wanted to make a stand—a daredevil skid for those without a home to miss. Because the parents’ visit was looming—tomorrow or the next day. Soon they’d be swooping in. He was tired of hearing about what a drag they were, how lame-ass and stupid-mortifying.

Hervé never missed home. He felt better in motion—rolling the gypsum course in record speeds three times over. He did that as warm up, to practice the known paths before trying out deviations. He improvised short cuts between loops, noting how his bike broke open wet paths of grass, red flavours of mud. This was the opposite of a home—where the gypsum gives out, a place where there were no white streaks in the ground.

The woods took on the character of leaving-be.

Fourth time round, fifth, Hervé tried out speeds and shifts, pauses and turns. For a while, off the ground entirely, he imagined travelling mid-air forever. What a life that would be, never having to land, coming to light endlessly.

It wasn’t surprising when he hit underbrush, hard, when he scratched wildly through trees, scraping arms raised to shield his face, and when he came off the bike entirely at a spot never dreamt of before by those who laid out those snaky lanes. [/private]

David Mohan

About David Mohan

David Mohan is based in Dublin, and received a PhD in English literature from Trinity College. He came second in the Sean O’Faolain International Short Story Award and won the Hennessy/Sunday Tribune New Irish Writer Award. He has been published in Necessary Fiction, Word Riot, Opium, SmokeLong Quarterly, FRiGG, Contrary, elimae, NANO, Flash International magazine, The Chattahoochee Review, New World Writing and Used Furniture Review. He has been nominated for The Pushcart Prize.

David Mohan is based in Dublin, and received a PhD in English literature from Trinity College. He came second in the Sean O’Faolain International Short Story Award and won the Hennessy/Sunday Tribune New Irish Writer Award. He has been published in Necessary Fiction, Word Riot, Opium, SmokeLong Quarterly, FRiGG, Contrary, elimae, NANO, Flash International magazine, The Chattahoochee Review, New World Writing and Used Furniture Review. He has been nominated for The Pushcart Prize.

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