Last year, I created and celebrated ‘Word Challenge Week’.
For those of you that weren’t here then, I dedicated a whole seven days to writing and posting short stories prompted by only five random words. I had to link these words into my prose for each short story.
What happened, though, was that instead of getting seven sets of five random words, I got eight. This, ‘The Race’, is the result of the eighth set. I thought it was time to share it with you.
My words were: tail, chocolate, fragrant, paddock and sport.
Fred’s tail flicks at the multitude of flies surrounding his rump. For some reason, it’s their local hangout spot—a place where they gather and share the latest events to shape their short lives.
This paddock was Fred’s favourite too. His mother told him he wasn’t allowed to have a favourite—especially since they move around so much—but over the last few years, this paddock had stood out from all the rest. It had the sweetest grass and the coolest shade. It had the trough with the least amount of algae of all the troughs on the farm. How could you not like it?
The last couple of days have been a little strange, though. The paddock hasn’t been the same. The humans, Kevin and Ryan, have carted these metal frames into the field and have cut a random loop in the grass near the fence. Fred frowns when he sees them from two paddocks away. How dare they deface his favourite place?
They started putting signs up near the road yesterday.
‘We’re going to revolutionise sport.’ Ryan had said into his little electronic thing-a-majig as he hauled a massive sheet of corrugated iron down the driveway. It had something painted on it in large red letters, or so Fred assumed. All those human symbols were gobbledegook, ‘I’m telling you, Tim. We got a permit, and it’s gonna be awesome!’
Fred stared at Ryan. What was he talking about? What sport?
A couple of birds chatter loudly on the branch above Fred’s head. Briefly, he wondered if it was possible to learn fluent tweet. Maybe they could elucidate Ryan’s comments to Tim; if only Fred could speak their language. But, then again, the birds were practically screaming at each other, so it would have been a miracle if they had heard anything other than themselves.
‘Oi, Kev!’ Ryan yells from the road.
Kevin slowly straightens with a groan and looks in Ryan’s direction. His hands are heavily dusted with dirt, which he promptly wipes on his ripped jeans.
‘Yeah!’ He bellows back.
‘Sign’s up. Looks sweet!’ You can hear the smile in Ryan’s words. Fred rolls his eyes.
‘Come over here and help me mark parking, yeah?’
Three days later, Fred’s favourite paddock is surrounded by humans. They crowd in around the fences, ignoring the concept of personal space completely. There’s a man on the driveway with a bright yellow reflective vest on, directing traffic to the parking area.
‘Ladies and gents,’ Ryan’s voice comes from a small and very loud machine that has been strapped to the branch of a tree, ‘are you ready for the race of the century? Make your way over to trackside to watch it front row! Watch out for those fragrant, chocolate pies, though, eh? Don’t want to stink out the car on the way home. Race starts in five minutes.’
Fred attempts to roll his eyes. It’s not like we can help where we go, he thinks, it just sort of happens!
‘Alright, Freddy boy,’ Kevin says, ruffling up the fur on Fred’s forehead, ‘You ready to run?’
‘Let’s get you into the starting gates.’
Me? Run? You’ve got to be joking. I find it hard enough moving from one paddock to another at a stroll.
Strapped into some tiny cage thing, Fred begins to panic. His breathing is exaggerated and short, he kicks and makes ghastly groaning noises of agitation. It’s obvious he wants out, but Kevin is ignoring him, taking the noises Fred is making as ones of intense excitement.
‘Get ready, folks. It’s about to start. Watch out for gate four! He’s one of our own! Fred’s his name. Make sure you give him a cheer.’ Ryan’s voice booms again.
The crowd shrieks and woops and generally makes idiots of themselves.
‘Ready Fred?’ Kevin asks again.
No. No I am not.
Without another work, Kevin climbs over the cage and onto Fred’s back. Fred starts bucking frantically, dinting the metal that surrounds him.
‘Racers, ready …’
And then the starting gun fires.
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