LAND SPEED by Alex Evans

LAND SPEED by Alex Evans

On October 24th, 2011, Oscar Valentine broke the land speed record riding his Schwinn through a suburb outside of Madison, Wisconsin. People said that this was impossible, that Oscar Valentine, being neither a professional high-speed driver nor a legal adult at the time of the achievement, could not have exceeded 760 miles per hour. Others cite the vehicle as their source of skepticism. Not only does a bicycle seem an unideal method by which to compete for speed, but a close friend of Valentine has publicly stated that the tires on the Schwinn were nearly flat that morning, and he ought to know, as he was the owner of the only bicycle pump on the block. But the fact remained, it happened.

Many explanations have been posed for this inconceivable scientific phenomenon, each more implausible than the last, but almost all prior investigations have turned to the cosmos for answers, citing freak meteorological events, gusts that travelled from the Gulf to Wisconsin and buffeted the rusting bicycle from A to B in record speed. None have looked at the boy himself, Oscar Valentine, to understand what inspiration a teenager might have for that level of speed, instead assuming that the inspiration was the same for everyone who competed for the land speed record, that Oscar Valentine and the drivers of rocket fueled super cars were in fact one and the same. This is a flaw in the existing research and will be corrected here. This story aims to set the record straight, showing Oscar Valentine for what he is: not the victim of a meteorological coincidence, but a lover of chess, a dutiful son, and a boy who would stop at nothing to pursue his passions.

The reality is this: on the morning of October 24th, 2011, Oscar Valentine was running late. He had agreed to join two friends for a game of chess in the park, having already promised his mother he would go to church. The church was four blocks from his home, and the park was fourteen blocks in the opposite direction. Realizing his mistake upon waking up to his mother calling for him, Oscar was faced with two unconscionable options: to skip his planned chess match and thus risk disappointing his friends and losing his rank as Monroe County’s finest chess player under the age of 18, or to disappoint his mother and, by extension, God himself, whom Oscar felt certain was already not fond of him. Neither option was ideal, and in that warped state between sleeping and waking where impossibilities becomes possible, Oscar decided to do both.

The mass began promptly at 8:30 and lasted one hour, though Father Chandler usually cut it short early, on account of his drinking and resultant forgetfulness, which caused many parts of the service to go missing. On one recent Sunday, it had only been fifteen minutes before Father Chandler had called out, “Go in peace to love and serve the Lord,” at which point the congregation had stood and filed out as usual, each member too polite to bring up that there had been no verses read, no communion, and no homily. It was upon Father Chandler’s unpredictable timekeeping that Oscar’s plan depended.

His chess match was due to begin at 9:30, and though his friends were fond of him, they were also hungry for power, as most teenagers are, and Oscar knew they would seize any chance to eliminate him and take his title. Thus, he wheeled his bike to the church and left it outside, ready at a moment’s notice for Oscar’s escape to the park and to victory.

At this time, all of Wisconsin’s communion wine was produced by the Glory of God Vintners, LLC. They signed an exclusive deal with the archdiocese two years earlier, and every church in the area had been well-stocked with their stigmata-emblazoned cartons ever since. However, one week before Oscar’s fateful ride, the Madison Police discovered an enormous quantity of cocaine and a stash of jewelry belonging to the deposed king of a small European nation in the factory of Glory of God Vintners, LLC. It was the largest drug bust in Wisconsin’s history, and aside from giving the Madison Municipal Police some much needed good P.R. after years of rampant corruption, it also created a major shortage in communion wine, as the entire production was seized by the state. Thus Father Chandler was sober for the first time in almost a decade, and he had many thoughts on the ways God punishes man which he intended to share with the congregation.

So you see, rather than running short, the mass had potential to run longer than ever. Oscar Valentine loved his mother and could not leave early. It would break her heart, and though Oscar was many things, he was never a heartbreaker. So, he squirmed in his pew through Father Chandler’s homily, eyes on his watch. He would have missed his chess match entirely, stuck in the church all afternoon, had it not been for Winston, the organist. It was Winston who had made meaningful eye contact with Father Chandler and gestured to his watch. Thus the service had ended with seconds to spare, and thus our hero, having taken a majority of those seconds to shake hands with members of the congregation, was forced to either admit defeat or confound the laws of physics.

The rest is history. It has been demonstrated that in times of immense stress, humans are capable of performing extraordinary feats of strength. Like a mother lifting a midsize sedan off her child, Oscar pedaled his bicycle at a speed which, by all calculations, ought to have caused both his legs to detach at the hip. Those who do not believe it can check the satellites. On October 24th, 2011, Oscar Valentine broke the land speed record on a bicycle, but he lost his chess match, and that’s the end of it.

Alex Evans lives in Cincinnati, Ohio and has done for a while now. He writes stories, makes coffee, sings songs, drinks wine, and doesn’t sleep nearly enough. He loves wrinkly dogs and hates the smell of airplanes. His little fictions have been featured in the Jet Fuel Review, Five on the Fifth, and Ohio’s Emerging Writers: an Anthology of Fiction. He tweets here and lives here.

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