Nervous energy filled the surrounding arena. The crowds had looked forward to this moment for so long that they braved the torrential rain for what was easily the most anticipated race in modern history. Statistics were poured over in the days leading up to the event, with each of the racers’ strengths and weaknesses studied and analysed to better make conclusions about who will be crowned the winner and who will be deemed loser. Firstly, there was Ainsley Adair. A first-time racer who had delighted crowds with his efforts in the pre-match events. Then there was Briony Bay, a veteran racer, known for patiently playing the long game. Despite the quality of the field, the favourite for today’s event was Clay Conell, a racer whose level of fame was only matched by his theatrics. Today would mark Clay’s fourth race, but, being a leaf in the intense world of gutter racing, four races was more than enough.
Dozens of excited sticks, ecstatic blades of grass and intensely dedicated birds waited in anticipation for the racers to arrive and take their places at their starting position. There was an air of expectation surrounding Clay Conell’s entrance and he did not disappoint, his yellow body floating down from the sky in a series of flips, turns and tumbles after being released from the talons of one of the most majestic eagles the crowd had ever seen. This was classic Clay, and he was the reason a majority of the crowd were here. The commentators of today’s race did not hesitate in making the claim that Clay himself was solely responsible for the dramatic rise in the public’s interest in gutter racing, adding that, If Clay won today’s two-meter race, he would not only be crowned winner, but would be considered the greatest racer the gutter racing world had ever seen. If Clay was feeling half as nervous as the crowd when he took his position beside the other two competitors then he was certainly not showing it. With the three competitors lined up at the white pipe marking the start of the race, the umpires gave the signals for them to prepare to race and, a split second after the whistle blew, they were off.
Due to the consistency of the rain, the water levels in the grey, concrete gutter and risen dramatically, resulting in a powerful current that Clay could use to his advantage. He shot out in front, sharpening his focus on the obstacles ahead. This was a difficult course, with three tufts of grass growing out of the cracks in the gutter at the thirty, forty-five and eighty-centimetre marks, their longer blades swaying back and forth across the width of the tack. The shallow section between the ninety-five and one-hundred-and-twenty-centimetre marks would prove to be Clay’s undoing if he didn’t make the best use of his lead. Then there was the bend, where he might be able to gain some traction by making his way to the inside of the track. If everything went according to plan, Clay would be able to use his remaining strength along the straight, falling down into the drain first and claiming his place in gutter racing history.
Clay made easy work of the first and second tufts of grass, gliding passed the first while, ducking underneath the second in an act of pure showmanship. The crowd showed their appreciation, but Clay heard their cheers quickly turn from excitement to shock when he got himself caught on the blades of the third tuft of grass. Trying to keep the attention of the crowd while maintaining his lead, Clay used some of the strength he was saving for the upcoming shallows to flip himself over the waving grass, but it was too late and Ainsley now had possession of the lead. Seeing the mistake for what it was, Clay eased back, regaining some of his energy while providing the rookie with the false hope of having both the mental and physical games in the bag. As they approached the shallows, Clay could sense Briony’s patience aching to give way to action. He distracted the crowd from his lack of prowess in the shallows by spinning his bodily rapidly from one end of the shallow section to the other. Clay drifted out of his final spin, straightening himself up and reading the race as the crowd stood on their feet in anticipation of what was to follow. He wasn’t in the last position for long, using the inside of the bend to overtake Briony and take Ainsley in his sights. Clay’s theatrics and his passion for gutter racing overlapped as he raised half of his body out of the water, waving to the crowd and using the energy from their chants to power himself along the straight and overtaking a very exhausted Ainsley Adair.
Falling into the drain in first place happened in slow motion, with each drop of water representing the hand of mother nature congratulating Clay on his commitment to being the best. Despite the illusion of ease with which Clay won most of his four races, the achievements that came from this race were the result of a lifetime of dedication.
Today, Clay would celebrate being a champion. Tomorrow, the world would continue to celebrate the art of gutter racing.
My name is Gregg Savage and, every night when the house is quiet, I write and publish a free children’s story at dailytales.com.au for you to share and enjoy.
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