Cezarija Abartis

Photo Credit: markconsidine33

Her muscles ached, shoulders and back from leaning over the bike, quadriceps and calves from pumping the pedals. She had cycled the course a couple days earlier, past the grade school, church, cemetery, past the abandoned paper mill where her father worked fifteen years ago. He had said life was complex, memory was complex. He wanted to forgive his own father and his grandfather too. She had not rested enough. Her muscles had lactic acid to dispel, but mostly she wanted to outrun the past. She surged ahead of the pack.

When she cycled, she was in The Zone, unthinking, a machine of gears, pedal strokes dissipating confusion and fear, leaving behind the bruises of her memories.

Her lungs burned. One more turn and, farther ahead, the glare and cheers of the finish line. Her heart bumped like a rock rolling down a hill, like a staggering drunk, like her father thumping on the closed door of his own bedroom, Mother and Father screaming and soon weeping and, after that, laughing. They shrieked at each other: about money, the future, the child. She used to put her hands over her ears then.

But when she cycled, she was not that frightened child. She was a pair of pistons; she could as easily have been a blade of grass or a dandelion. Light flashed in her eyes. She brushed by a weed on the roadside. Nobody in front of her.

“My little flower,” her father used to call her. Her father had taught her how to ride a bicycle, balance a checkbook, peel a potato, trim a forsythia bush, dance the Charleston. She did not want to outrun those memories.

Sunlight streaked through leaves. Her tired legs slowed. She took a cutting breath, and two cyclists passed her. The finish line gleamed ahead. Let them win. It was all right.


Cezarija Abartis’s Nice Girls and Other Stories was published by New Rivers Press. Her stories have appeared in Per Contra, Pure Slush, Toasted Cheese, and New York Tyrant, among others. She loves to participate on and Her flash “The Writer” was selected by Dan Chaon for Wigleaf‘s Top 50 online Fictions of 2012. “The Argument” was chosen by Beate Sigriddaughter as a runner-up for the Fourteenth Glass Woman Prize. Recently she completed a novel, a thriller. She teaches at St. Cloud State University. Website. Email: c.abartis[at]

Print Friendly, PDF & Email