Ray Bradbury, author of Fahrenheit 451, offers some great writing advice in a lecture to young authors. Among things like “read widely and often” and “stay away from computers”, Bradbury gave one interesting challenge: Before you write that novel, first write a short story every week for a year. Because it’s highly unlikely that you’ll write 52 bad stories in a row!
This year I want to write more fiction, and improve my writing as a whole. So I am going to go for this challenge in 2016! And so here (a little late) into week 1, is short story #1: The Trick. Enjoy!
The Trick: Short Story #1
Samuel McGrady discovered one afternoon that he had the uncommon ability of flight. He could just think it up and sore as high as he wished for a long as he liked. He would go from place to place in no time at all. Before long he sold his car and used flying as his sole means to get around town.
Initially it was awkward. Samuel would often burst up into the blue expanse, in what you might imagine to be a grand and splendid effort, but at first was far more like falling, just falling up. He would flail his arms wildly, turn his head back and forth trying to regain balance, and oftentimes he would even end up upside down. But after a few weeks of adjusting he finally regained a sense of decency about the matter. And before he knew it, Samuel McGrady was flying with gusto and flair. He knew how to make it look easy, and whenever his friends asked him to show off a little, at parties or get-togethers, he would oblige them with glee. He found joy in flight and the freedom and fame that came with it.
Quickly Samuel became know as the flying man. People would come from the nearby towns just to watch him to go work in the morning. It got to be such a spectacle that one day a very clever friend of his devised a plan to make money off of his new-found talent. He worked it out to put on a show every morning from his front porch, and how he could charge people money just to witness his commute to work. Eventually, this event became so popular that Samuel quit his job to devote himself only to flying.
With the free time he now had, Samuel and his friend set up time blocks and show schedules to accommodate the growing interest in his art. As his fame spread people came from miles to see the amazing flying man. He soon began offering private flying shows to fancy bureaucratic parties of famous men and women from the community. He would show up in his tuxedo and perform with a whoosh right off into the night as applause and laughter followed his heels. Some brave dare-devils even paid him to take them with him on his flights. Carrying them in arm he obliged them, too.
As his fame spread, his name now the table-talk of the region, so did his wallet grow. Samuel McGrady, a man of humble origins, joined an elite and revered members of society. He purchased whatever he desired. New Italian suits, leather and suede shoes, a bigger TV, and with all this luxury came more dignified, equally wealthy friends to keep him company. His days were a wheel of color blurred together to the rapidity of his newly wild and adventurous life.
Until one day his manager (formerly friend) greeted him with a new and exciting job offer. He told him, “If you play your cards right, this put your name in the history books.” With excitement he continued to describe how he was invited to work for the circus. But this wasn’t just any old circus. This invitation was for the world’s most extravagant and wonderful circus of all: The Grand Spectacular. It boasted an average of one million visitors each month as it traveled from state to state, country to country, continent to continent.
Without any hesitation Samuel accepted the offer, and promptly ran inside to pack his bags. That very night he flew off to meet the circus manager for dinner.
It was grand. Day after day Samuel took great delight in the cheers of the crowd and the joy he felt every time they “aw”-ed and “oh”-ed his performance. But as the years went by the crowds all started to look the same. The places all started to look the same. He grew tired of the traveling, the waiting, the set up and tear down before and after each show. What was once a technicolored thrill ride, the culmination of his wildest dreams, soon became meager, grey, and mundane. But Samuel wouldn’t let a little slump get him down or stop him from enjoying the prime of his career. He was they amazing flying man after all! So he came up with a new trick, the grandest of all. He spent every waking moment the trick. He dedicated months to it. He read books on the science of it. He knew what he was getting into would change the whole world, and he knew he had to get it just right. So he planned and worked it out all to a “t”. Finally, he was ready to show to the world his trick. Never would they forget his name. He would be the very first flying man to successfully break the sound barrier.
The day of the trick Samuel put on his uniform, although this time he made sure to wear a helmet (what he typically did without). Fearful nerves arrested him as them announce his name, closely coupled with the roar of the hungry crowd. Just as he was about to walk onto the stage, his manager (former friend) stopped him. Saying, “Hey, Sam. What’s with the helmet, man?” Trapped, he replied, “Oh, nothing. Just thought I’d try something new today. Keep them interested, you know?” He gave a curious look but said, “okay, good luck bud. Knock ’em dead.”
On the stage Samuel breathed one last deep breath before bolting to the sky. This moment would be remembered in history. Flying higher and faster than he had ever flown before, Samuel shot up and up and up until he felt the bitter cold of the upper-atmosphere sting his skin. Turning back he bolted to Earth. Faster! He calculated it perfectly. Faster! With the help faster! of gravity he would break Faster! the sound barrier. Faster! He just had to pull up in time.
The crowd watched as a streak of red came bursting back to the ground. Murmurs rang throughout the crowd: “He won’t make it. He’s going way too fast.” When suddenly, with a bang!, a boom!, the ground sh sh shook! and the crowd screamed with panic. Samuel McGravy had not pulled up in time. Only a large hole in the ground where the stage once stood remained.
Months later, in rural China, an isolated farmer dusted his crops. Though no one was there too see it, a smile came across his face. It was the most honest he’d ever smiled before. Because he was free.