I am so excited to have a second stop on the Gap Years blog tour, and absolutely thrilled to be able to share an extract from the start of chapter one of the book with you all. Thank you so much to Dave Holwill for allowing me to share this.
Shit, Dad was right.
Why does Dad have to be right?
Why am I so annoyed that I am wrong?
That’s not what’s important here.
Priorities Sean, that car just came out of nowhere, and your twelve year old stepsister is in a hedge.
Not on her bike, in the hedge, upside down and not screaming anymore. It’s been less than a month since we met, and I’ve killed her.
Why didn’t they stop? The car should have stopped, pulled over and checked we’re alright before apologising – and helping. It didn’t, it swerved round me, the dog’s lead went completely taut and my bike stopped (I didn’t, I am soaring over the car in a slow, graceless arc). Dad told me not to tie the dog to the bike, and not to take Melody on the road. He loves all three of us – I assume, he hasn’t mentioned it to me – but he will probably love them a little more than me when he hears about this.
I look down at the flattened dog, and Melody’s legs poking from the hedge. With a twitch of toes and squeal of joy she leaps out in a single bound.
‘Come on Whizzy, get up.’ A crackle of green light streaks from her finger. The blood pooling in the road regroups and streams back into the dog, who re-inflates, runs a few circles around Melody then sits next to her with his best good boy bark, tail thumping against the pot-holed lane.
‘Sean, come down from there and let’s carry on,’ Melody groans, as another flash from her fingers turns our bikes from mangled wrecks to two new, perfect specimens. I try to land but am unable, I am soaring ever higher, floating on a gentle summer thermal towards the sun, the sun has a face, it is smiling at me, beckoning me closer with short stubby yellow arms. I feel its warmth across my face, it smells like hot tarmac.
Tarmac, I remember now.
I am unconscious.
Melody is not a wizard.
The dog is almost certainly dead.
I landed on my head.
The balance of my life is now dependant on whether or not the helmet I hope I am still wearing was worth the extra twenty quid it cost. I suppose this flying towards the sun is some kind of rubbish visualisation of me clinging to/escaping from life. After all these contactless years I finally get to spend some time with Dad and his family and I’ve killed most of them/us. Well played Sean, well played.
I am metaphorically dragged back down to the road and reality. I open my eyes to a wheel flashing past. It’s a big wheel and very close. This is a truck, I am still lying in the road, why is nobody stopping? I pull myself to my feet, and check my limbs. All moving, a bit achy, probably just bruises. Good news, I walk towards the dog, at least I try, before my right leg gives way and I cascade to the ground.
‘Hey, are you alright man?’ A voice, finally somebody has stopped.
‘Apparently not, how many fingers am I holding up?’ I ask, waving my hand.
‘Three, but that’s not how it works, how many am I holding up?’ He thrusts his hand in my face.
‘Oh yeah, that’s true, three?’ I venture, I can see three, I hope I’m right.
‘Three it is,’ he laughs. ‘You’ll be fine, come on then.’ He picks me up off the road and helps me over to the verge. I recognise him now. I’ve seen him around. He looks like he came straight from a Grateful Dead concert, all long hair, beard and tie-dyed shirts. I see him quite a lot when I’m cycling about, he goes everywhere on a big old heavy dutch bike – which in Devon is madness, these hills are hard enough work on my super-lightweight road bike – usually with a basket full of cider, in a big floppy straw hat and flip flops. I don’t think he’s a serious cyclist, but I do think he can’t afford a car.
‘My sister,’ I say, ‘she’s… she’s…’
‘Already seen to her,’ he says, ‘in the recovery position and breathing, you got a phone I can use? Or you want to call it in yourself?’
‘You haven’t called an ambulance?’
‘Hey man, I needed to check you were both breathing.’ He looks offended, I feel bad now. ‘And anyway, I don’t have a telephone, no need for one, happier without.’
‘Okay, I can do it,’ I say, fumbling in my back pouch for my phone. I make the 999 call, my companion proving invaluable in pinpointing our location.
‘And the dog?’ I ask, once I know the ambulance is coming, I don’t think I want to hear the answer.
If that has grabbed your attention, you can find out more about Gap Years, and Dave Holwill over on my review from 15th February here. Don’t forget to have a look at the other blogs taking part.