Grit by Joanne Done
We’re taking the bikes to the quarry. I thought I’d ride with Grandad but Dad says, No, you ride with me.
He wears a helmet but I don’t because there’s only one and Grandad says Dad should wear it because he can’t afford to damage the brain cells he’s got left.
I look across at Jude. She gets to ride with Grandad. Her smile is, I told you so. Her cheeks look slapped.
Grandad rode motorbikes in the war. He likes recordings of the TT. He’s taught me to listen for deceleration that means a corner. He’s taught me to lean, and squeeze with my knees when he breaks.
The side of the quarry is steep, with loose stones everywhere. It’s freezing weather. I came without gloves because I can’t hold on when I wear them. My fingers won’t grip. Now they are red like Jude’s cheeks.
Dad says, Sit up front, be a daredevil.
Grandad says, Watch the lass.
He won’t let Jude go up front. It’s my turn to wear the, I told you so face.
Dad starts before I’m ready. I grab the handlebars inside where his hands are. The roar shocks my ears and I feel the back wheel slide. I can hear Grandad’s bike carrying Jude. It sounds like raspberries being blown against baby skin.
It doesn’t scream like ours.
The ground comes up fast. My bum wants to leave the seat so I sit down hard. Dad breaks. My fingers are crushed. I can’t pull them free, but I won’t scream.
When he lifts me off, he turns me away so Grandad won’t see me crying.
I told you, you daft beggar, Grandad tells him.
But he still won’t let me ride back with him, because grit is what we’re made of.
Joanne Done is a writer of stories living in Oxfordshire, UK. She is a final year MFA student at Manchester Metropolitan University with a short story forthcoming from Nightjar Press. Connect with her on Twitter or Instagram @Jodododone