Spirit Rally -- creative nonfiction by Jerry Xia
The bell announcing the end of the school day would ring in exactly 120 seconds, but by then, hopefully, I’d be zooming down Oregon Lane.
"Hey, Jerry! You coming to the spirit rally?" my friend called from behind me.
"Of course! See you there!" I yelled back.
Around the corner, I dashed past the library, my backpack straps fluttering. My chance encounter had cost me ten seconds, and the bike racks on the other side of the campus next to the stadium seemed miles away. The same stadium every student in the school would pour into in exactly 110 seconds.
My shoes slammed on the concrete as I sprinted along the math building. Classroom doors flew by, their numbers counting down as I approached the end of the row. 805. 804. 803.
I imagined everyone's eyes fixated on me as I passed classroom windows. Why should I care what they thought? They didn't know me and wouldn't remember me after I left the frame. So why was I still running?
My cheap Casio watch read 3:48:50: only 70 seconds left. My breath wheezed, and the summer sun burned a hole in my forehead. My backpack bounced, and my legs stretched to greater lengths.
Thank god. I reached the bike racks—fifty seconds to spare. Weaving my way through the tires, pedals, and spokes, I spotted my red bike locked against a pole. I turned each of the four numbers to match the combination: 1234.
The third ring on the lock refused to budge. Shaking, I fumbled with the mechanism while glancing at my watch. Thirty seconds left. My heart was sweating. Darn it! Soon, my classmates would be pouring out of their classrooms, laughing and chatting. What could be worse than having to pretend I'm sociable for an hour? Was hanging out with other people supposed to be fun?
Twenty seconds. I yanked on the dial, and the metal clicked. Finally! I clipped my helmet on, dislodging my bike from the pole, and I shot off towards the parking lot.
Ahead of me, a minivan door swung open, and girls from the dance team poured out. My tires shrieked as I swerved around the van. A row of cars single-filed into the parking lot. A cart of banners reading "Go Bears!" rumbled toward the stadium. Briefly, I stopped so a group of teachers could cross the path, blocking me from my escape.
The school bell rang.
A roar rose from behind me as all the classroom doors blew open. "Go! Go! Go!" The chants grew louder as the mob approached. With sweat dripping down my chin, I slammed on the pedals and maneuvered my bike between rows of cars, cutting off parents and teachers as I raced toward the mouth of the parking lot.
I burst out onto the road, car horns blaring behind me. But by then, the wind blew past me as I pedaled down the open bike lane. Faint cheering became a distant hum.
As I paused to catch my breath at Oregon Lane, voices drifted on the breeze. Was it a chant of "Jerry!" or "Go Bears!"? I looked back as if I could see my friends laughing, inviting me back. But maybe it was only my imagination.
I turned down my cul-de-sac and stopped in front of my house. After stowing my bike in the garage, I opened the front door. I took a deep breath of the silent air. I'd made it but maybe next I’d stay.
Jerry Xia is a rising junior at Palo Alto High School, California. He loves writing short stories, poems, and book reviews. His work has been published in Palo Alto Online and in the Scholastic Arts and Writing Awards. Aside from writing, he enjoys solving the Rubik's cube and has two chickens as pets: Albert and Arthur, who enjoy tearing up his backyard looking for worms.