Dead Man’s Hill
by Geoffrey C. Porter
They called it Dead Man’s Hill in school. Take a cell phone and hope you’re not injured too bad to dial for an ambulance. I’d heard it before. I’d just moved here from San Francisco, and I was like the tyrant of all hills.
My feet pedaled the bike faster and faster. I was traveling up an incline, but it was only slight. The kids at school told me at the end of this gradient was Dead Man’s Hill. After reaching the summit, I stopped to quiet the fire in my lungs.
I didn’t look over the side yet. I knew it would be a non-challenge. This was Kansas, and they just don’t make hills in Kansas. I looked down. Not much of a hill. The interesting thing was, at the bottom, a busy street.
Ben pulled up next to me, huffing and puffing. He was out of shape. But he was the first person to make any attempt to befriend me. We played games on his console after school and, while I hoped to make more friends, it was Ben or nobody for now.
Ben pulled a cell phone out. You know one of those new terabyte storage phones. He was gonna film my ride. That or use the cell phone to call for help. The hill beckoned, and my eyes surveyed the field. There was not just one intersection down there, but three. I started counting in my mind. All three lights were presently red.
Soon, the closest light turned green. Then a few moments later, the second one changed. I kept counting. The third light flipped to green. Twelve seconds. My mind began to process my odds. The bet was a simple one. If I made it to the bottom of the hill, Jessica Smithers would date me. If I failed, if I lived, I’d have to streak the whole school at the next assembly. I was proud of what I had down there, so streaking wasn’t such a horrific ordeal.
A car hits me, and I lose. I stop, and I lose. The camera would record everything. Ben was still breathing rather hard from the bike up to this apex, and I watched those lights cycle back through red and green again.
His hands were shaking bad, too. I punched him on the arm and said, “Get it together, man.”
There wasn’t much traffic on the road in this direction. Ben’s voice quivered, “You’re not really gonna do it are you? This is the third time I’ve watched a friend take on this hill, and I won’t visit you in the hospital.”
I thought about Jessica for a moment. “Start the camera!”
He held up the phone and pushed the button.
My feet pressed those pedals as hard as they could go. I rocketed down the first stretch of the hill, all the while counting down. I knew I was going too fast to hit the first green light, so I applied a little bit of brake. To my left and right was just a blur. The light turned green. I pedaled like mad.
I breezed through that first intersection, amidst honking horns and cursing drivers. My middle finger flashed in their faces as I blew by. The second light turned green. I coasted, steering clear of a turning sports utility vehicle.
I knew from my counting that I needed to go faster. The third light had already turned green, and that gave me no more than thirty seconds. A woman turned right in front of me as the third light turned yellow. I didn’t even have time to touch the brakes. My bike stopped quite abruptly, but my body kept on flying. I rolled. Scraped up my right elbow, but I knew I’d heal.
I grabbed my bike, told the woman who hit me that I was gonna sue, then walked back up the hill.
Ben said, “You almost made it.”
“Did you get it on camera?”
“I got it.”
The film got posted to a popular video sharing site. People at school were impressed. I started to acquire more friends. A week later it was time for the assembly.
I told my teacher I was sick, and I needed to see the nurse. He didn’t care. I think he smoked pot in the teacher’s lounge since it was legal in this state.
The sounds of the assembly carried through the hallways. Nobody was around. I stripped naked. I ran through that gym so fast. The kids all laughed. The teachers tried to catch me. I made it back to my clothes when the principal caught up to me. I got dressed with a quickness.
The principal had this stupid grin on his face. Hell, maybe all the faculty smoked weed. “A month of detentions, young man.”
I nodded. I was expecting expulsion.
When I stepped out of the school building, after detention, a group of kids was waiting for me. Jessica walked right up to me. She leaned over and kissed me. “We can date,” she said.
I had won after all.
Copyright © 2014 by Geoffrey C. Porter