The Short Story

Entry by: Corone

21st May 2015
The Short Story

"It's not fair!" shouted Anya, glaring at the painted clown on the stick whose cheery smile was clearly gloating. "I'm easily tall enough."

"But sweetheart, your feet won't reach the pedals," her mother mollified as she noticed they now had the attention of most of the other people in line.

"But I will! I'll squish down. I'm big for my age!" Tears of frustration were appearing on Anya's face but the attendant was giving her mother a look that suggested they should move aside for the next customer. Despite his cheery yellow uniform, it seemed the measured stick he held was absolute.

"I'm sorry honey," he offered unapologetically. "Looks like you'll have to grow some more."

Anya glared at him, searching for the word fascist to add to her vocabulary. Then with resignation she stepped aside and allowed her brother Neil to pass by the measuring stick. He was easily tall enough and with an elated grin strode forward to claim a helmet with the other tall enough children.

Resigned to defeat, Anya allowed her parents to take her to the side so they could watch Neil burn around the small circuit in one of the go-carts. It may have only been a small theme park but Anya had wanted to much to try the go-carts. Her parents had thought she'd be tall enough but it seemed she'd have to wait until her next birthday to try them out.

On the way home, the go-carts were all Neil could talk about. How fast he went, how he overtook some of the other children, how utterly amazing the entire experience was. Anya suspected he was overegging the pudding but seethed in silence for most of the journey. Eventually she cracked and punched her elder brother on the arm as hard as she could. The resulting argument settled very little but did serve to make her feel a little better.

The farm Anya lived on was set in a small valley surrounded by hills on which their sheep grazed peacefully. The car pulled up to the main gate on the hillside and Anya's father got out to open it. Her mother took the time to finish the speech she had been making about how Anya and Neil were expected to behave, even on a birthday, which they both suffered in silence.

"Oh damn, its jammed again," said Anya's mother as they watched her father struggle to open the rickety wooden gate. "Not a word from either of you until we get indoors!" she warned as she undid her seatbelt and got out to help her husband. The children remained silent in the back seat, the only sound being the low hum of the engine ticking over in gear.

"Don't leave dad shorthanded mum," whispered Neil with a grin once she had gone. "That would be really low of you."

"I hate you!" said Anya. "I'm not too short, the stick was wrong. Stupid clown stick."

"You are too short," said Neil, now apparently a go-cart expert since this afternoon. "And if you'd tried it you wouldn't have been able to reach the pedals."

"I could have. I can prove it!" said Anya and climbed into the front seat of the car. Her parents were still struggling with the gate, although it was almost open.

"Ha!" said Neil looking at Anya's feet dangling over the car's pedals. "See, your feet don't reach those pedals either."

"Yes they do," replied Anya as she pushed down in the seat to prove her point, her head only just above the dashboard. However, even with her bottom shuffled right on the edge, her feet didn't quite touch the pedals. Neil grinned in triumph. Anya glared at his unspoken challenge and tried one final push.

Gripping the steering wheel for support Anya slid off the seat and landed with both feet on the accelerator pedal. The car lurched forward angrily, the engine roaring. Anya was thrown back in the driving seat and for a moment saw the horrified look on her parents faces as the car shot towards the open gate. She watched her father consider the futility of throwing himself at the car to stop it, before jumping clear with her mother into the muddy grass.

Neil was screaming in the back, the car still moving under momentum. Anya was no longer standing on the accelerator, but the push had been enough to tip the car through the gate onto the downhill path. It began to pick up speed as it rolled down the hill towards the farmhouse and the small lake at the bottom of the valley. Anya half stood in the driver's seat and gripped the wheel. She knew now she was so far past being in trouble that she may as well enjoy the ride. Heaving on the wheel she kept the car on the path, but it was going faster and faster. Her home was growing ever closer as Neil curled himself up in a ball behind the passenger seat, whimpering that is wasn't his fault.

Anya realised her options were running out, even though she was at least able to steer the car. She seemed to have only two options, crash into the house or drive it into the lake. Neither were looking very appealing and either would ensure no birthday cake when they got home. Her heart was beating like crazy and she desperately tried to make a decision. Lake or house, lake or house? Then, with the car powering towards a punishment Anya dreaded to imagine, she considered a third option.

She knew one of the pedals was the brake, but which one? Why three anyway? Surely one to go fast and one to stop was all that was required. The third one was clearly there just to be confusing in situations like this. Anya firmly decided she would write a strongly worded letter to the car's manufacturer if she was still alive after dinnertime. As the brick walls of her house and the icy water of the lake closed in, Anya made a decision. Screwing her eyes tight shut in case it was the wrong one she slipped off the seat and threw all her weight on one of the other pedals.

The car lurched to a halt, trying to throw Anya off the pedal so it might be free once more. She held on tight, bracing herself on the steering wheel and holding on for dear life. An ominous metal screaming sound echoed around the car as the brick walls of the house loomed outside the car windows. But the car finally came to a stop, and Anya opened her eyes.

The car has rolled along the front of the house, putting a long scratch along the driver's side. But it had come to rest, wedged against the wall. Anya could hear the sound of her parents running down the hill. She glanced through the back window. They were covered in mud with faces she knew would turn very angry now she and Neil were safe.

Neil crept out from behind the passenger seat. "See, I told you your feet wouldn't reach the pedals!" he said to Anya.

"I may be short," replied Anya. "But I have clearly learned to overcome it." she told him triumphantly.