Beware Pedestrians — short story by Gladys Hobson

Beware Pedestrians

You have been warned!

Les pedalled up to the sea end of the canal and stopped at the BEWARE PEDESTRIANS sign, grinning at his thoughts: loiterers on foot had better look out if they didn’t want to tangle with his super-geared Cannondale, SystemSix, the lightest and most explosive bike he’d ever ridden.
His legs turned into dynamos as he set off along the restricted road by the canal, aiming to reach the main road in one minute flat. The excitement of watching the Olympic contestants racing for their medals still fuelled his brain: now that he had his new bike, whatever they could do, he would do. Okay, he will have to allow for the fact that his bike had cost a fraction of theirs, but all things taken into consideration what he lacked in bike perfection he’ll make up with perfect coordination and sheer guts! His legs will go faster, his determination will be keener — he, Les Jolly — will be a champion to reckon with: this year, fastest along the canal; in four years time a winning member of the Olympic team!
‘Clear off,’ he yelled at the same time as he pressed the hooter he’d fixed to his handlebars.
The couple of joggers ahead of him turned their heads, saw him racing towards them and jumped quickly out of his way.
A dog walker came into view. A long blast on his hooter sent the dog off into the bushes with its owner still attached to the lead.
Eyes on the road ahead and breathing hard, Les had no spare energy to laugh at his thoughts, a pair of old wrinklies were doddering just ahead. Huh! Must’ve heard the horn but hadn’t budged. Did they think they owned the road? Were they deaf or daft?
Les overtook them, almost touching the old boy. He gave a quick glance in his mirror and noted with satisfaction that the old woman was clinging to the old guy who stood angrily waving his walking stick. Serves them right, pensioners think they have rights beyond their capacity to enjoy them.
Whoa! Woman with a kid. A long blast for that pair! That got her to pull the little blighter out of the way.
Now what we got? Ducks walking across the bloody road! Keep the hooter going for that lot. Damn — a splatter on my helmet as they flew off.
Nearly there. Keep the legs moving. What the—
Brake quick! Must be a bus-load of tourists. Ah! Saw me coming. Seems a couple fell in the canal — keep going, keep going.
Main road coming up now, take a detour up the Hoad.
Les slowed at the A590 junction, but quickly took off again as a gap in the traffic allowed him to get into the lane to turn right. Ignoring the blaring horns of motorists stopped in their tracks, Les put his legs into full power to shoot along on the inside of traffic until he came to the gateway that led up to the Hoad Monument footpath. He swung onto the pavement and halted at the gate, picked up his mechanical steed and hoisted it over the gate. He mounted the bike again and set off at full power. The uphill gradient kept his legs at full throttle but slowed down his rate of progress.
This was the stuff for men, not boys. He might be just sixteen but his muscular build — acquired through hard graft — medium height with body sun-tanned to perfection, spoke of his manhood. Pity the girls couldn’t see it under my gear, Les thought as he laboured on. I’m a man all right, a cycling tornado… unbeatable… unstoppable!
Hoot! Hoot!
Walkers saw him coming and stepped out of his way.
On and on, labouring hard up to the top of the hill. No time to gaze at the view from Hoad Monument. Now to ride completely round the mock lighthouse and back to the canal.
Wheeee… down… down…
Sheep scattered, their lambs chasing after them. Dogs barked and one of them gave chase pulling its owner off the path — both rolling down the hill entangled in the lead.
Hoot! Hoot!
An old gent pulled his old biddie partner onto a seat. Children ran out of the way: in his mirror Les saw them looking after him with awe written on their faces.
A skid brought him to a halt at the bottom of the hill. He lifted the bike over the gate, mounted again and crossed over to the left side of the road. A lorry braked hard with a screech of tyres. Les mentally laughed at his invincibility.
Now back at the road by the canal. He saw the sign, a copy of the one at the other end: BEWARE PEDESTRIANS
He checked his watch. One minute allowed for his return journey. His legs became dynamos again. He met again some of those he’d passed by on his way up, and he grinned at their startled faces and shaking fists. Nearing the end of his journey he saw the pair of old wrinklies sitting on a seat. Well, they’d better stay there if they knew what was good for them. He gave them a loud blast of his hooter just the same.
What the—
Les found himself spinning in the air, his feet, still attached to the pedals, took the bike with him.
Splash!

An hour later, sitting on a trolley in the A and E department of the local hospital, Les related to the police how he came to be fished out of the canal by a pair of pensioners:
‘But they sent me and my bike into that oversized water butt deliberately,’ he complained. ‘That old buzzard’s walking stick is still entangled in my front wheel. He’s responsible for my broken ankle! I’ll sue the blighter!’
‘Sir, there are warning signs at both ends of the road by that canal,’ said the policeman. ‘You should have taken notice. We have some assertive pensioners who do not take kindly to having to jump out of the way of cyclists. If you saw a sign on a gate “Beware of the bull” I assume you would take notice?’
‘Of course,’ said Les.
‘Well, I suggest the next time you see the warning notice: “Beware Pedestrians,” you do just that!’

From – Still Waters Run Deep, stories of hidden depths
Magpies Nest Publishing
See Author site

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