One of my favorite hobbies has always been dirt biking. From the first time I revved the engine and felt the tires spin through the dirt under me, I knew I was going to spend all the free time I had flying down trails on my dirt bike. I had no idea, however, that I would one day stumble upon the idea of competitive dirt bike racing and love it even more.
I hadn’t actually been racing competitively for that long when I met the boy who I would come to consider my arch nemesis. His name was Phillip and, though I didn’t really know him, I definitely recognized him from school.
I think we might have been in the same science class freshman year, because that’s the first insult he decided to throw at me when we ran into each other as I was coming off the track after a glorious win in my first heat of the weekend. I’m not really a tough or athletic guy. I’m not “macho” or “butch.” In fact, I’m the highest scoring science fair contestant from my high school the past three years in a row.
“Well look who we have here,” Phillip hissed to the two little minions he was towing along behind him, “It’s Mister ‘Look How Fast I Can Dissect a Frog.’ Shouldn’t you be off in some lab somewhere trying to clone a goat or something?”
I had never been a confrontational person, so I decided not to comment on how rude he was being, opting instead to offer my most polite greeting.
“Hello, Phillip. How are you today?” I said through a smile that I was praying didn’t look as much like a grimace as it felt.
Clearly, my prayers hadn’t been answered as Phillip’s snarky smile turned into a downright sneer.
“How cute. He’s supposed to be a genius and he can’t even figure out when he’s being made fun of,” Phillip hissed to the guffaws of his lackeys, “Has Mr. Science Champ Eight Years Running started to lose his edge?”
“Three,” I replied faintly, feeling a slight surge of pride followed immediately by a flood of regret and horror as I watched Phillip erase the few feet of distance between us and fist his hand in the collar of my shirt.
“What did you just say?” he asked in a dangerously low voice, “What did you say, nerd?”
“Uh, I said that, um,” I mumbled, “I just said that I’ve only been the Science Fair’s top scorer for the past three years, not eight.”
“As if I care exactly how big of a geek you are,” Phillip growled at me, “All that matters is that you stay in your little lab and leave the racing to me. You don’t belong here and I don’t want to have to remind you of that in the big race at the end of the month. So get lost.”
With that, he shoved me away by my shirt collar and proceeded to laugh at me with his tag-alongs snickering behind him. I watched them go, trying to catch my breath and reminding myself that Phillip didn’t own the track and that there was no way he got to decide who raced there and who didn’t. I decided right then and there that I wasn’t going to leave. I made up my mind that I was going to keep racing at the track as long as I felt like it. In fact, I decided that I was going to see Phillip again in the big race at the end of the month and I was going to show him just how god this little nerd was on a dirt bike.
I knew it wasn’t going to be easy, and I quickly learned just how much effort, time, and patience it was going to take to get me qualified for the big race. It had helped that I’d won my heat that very first weekend, but I would have to keep finishing in the top three if I wanted to advance to the next heat on the next race day. So, every school day after class, I dragged myself out to the practice track to work on my speed on the turns, my landings after the jumps, and my ability to avoid obstacles and stay upright on my bike.
Then, every Saturday and Sunday I would rush out to the track to get everything in order for my next race. With a combination of luck, skill, hard work, and determination, I was able to achieve a third place finish or higher in every race I rode. Finally, the names of the racers who had qualified for the big race were announced. My name came right after Phillip’s.
His heats had mostly been different than mine, but we had seen each other a couple of times on the road to the big race, and every time Phillip looked like he wanted to rip me off my bike and punt me out of the racing compound. That was nothing compared to the way he looked when we met at the starting line before the big race. His face was like thunder as he approached me, eyes unblinking in the narrowed, angry slits. His fists were clenched so tight around his handlebars that I could practically see the bone poking through the skin.
“You should’ve stayed in your lab,” he told me as we both swung a leg over our bikes, “because by the end of this, you’ll wish you had.”
“Hey, Phillip,” I retorted in a rare moment of bravery, “What do you get when you put together the periodic symbols for the elements Fluorine and Uranium?”
As the engines around us revved and a confused expression slid over my foe’s face, the starting gun went off.
“F U!” I cried, taking off at a break neck pace.
It was a whirlwind of a race, with Phillip appearing at my side as we swung around one corner and completely disappearing as we darted around the next. When he botched the landing off one of the jumps I couldn’t believe my luck as I gunned it extra hard and flew over him and his bike entirely. When I crossed the finish line and read off the scoreboard that I’d finished second compared to Phillip’s fifth, I must say, it felt better than all three science fair wins combined.