After clambering up the side of the steep hill dragging his bicycle behind him, it seems a good idea to rest for a while at the top. The sun beats down on the boy’s back; it’s the start of the summer holidays and six weeks stretch ahead of him like an endless plain.
From up high on the hill he can see the flash of a lake, the red of a tractor in a field, the distant flatness of sea. From here the white chalk horse is so close, etched into the hillside by who knows who.
‘One, two, three, go!’ he says to himself and taking one final look down, he kicks away the ground beneath the wheels and launches himself over the edge, skittering over stones and bumping over clumps of grass, half following the chalk path but sometimes taking a short cut. On straight bits he sticks out his legs and feels the strong wind rushing past him, hurrying in the other direction. And the little stones bound along the path with him, rolling and picking up more of their fellows, and the pricky twiggy bushes are chasing him on their stubby little legs and out of the corner of his eye he sees a white thing moving and realises the horse is now galloping close behind him, throwing up clods of earth with its hooves.
Faster and faster and faster they all go, pulling the summer behind them, the boy just ahead and the horse snorting behind. ‘I’ve got you, I’ve won!’ shouts the boy as he feels the ground flatten until finally, in a skid of pebbles and rocks the boy and his bike come to a long slow halt, panting and wide-eyed and not quite believing he’s just done that.
He catches his breath before glancing behind him. All is as it was. But if he looks carefully, he might just see the horse’s flanks panting in and out, high up on the chalk hillside.
(inspired by Louis McNeice’s beautiful poem ‘The Cyclist’)