By Joshua Johns
Tommy couldn’t stand Lincoln Wozol.
Ever since the first day of preschool Tommy knew that kid was no good and spending the last seven years of primary school together had done nothing to improve his opinion of master Wozol. Lincoln was a bully and a liar. He had never bullied Tommy personally but Tommy often saw Lincoln harassing other kids-smaller, weaker and younger ones. It was always someone who would never stand up for themselves.
Tommy was by no means a fighter or a ‘tough kid’ but he stood up to the bully because he knew Lincoln was a coward who didn’t have the guts to take a swing at someone who might take a swing back. The bully was well aware Tommy knew this so the two boys had developed an odd, tense kind of relationship over the years. They were begrudgingly polite to each other when necessary but almost always stayed out of one another’s way. Lincoln also made sure he never bullied other kids when Tommy was around.
That does not mean, however, that Tommy was never in earshot of Lincoln’s ridiculous lies. At most lunch breaks the majority of students at the school would gather around Lincoln and listen to his over the top tall tales that, unsurprisingly, always made him out to be a hero wise and experienced in the ways of the world. Even the kids that were scared of Lincoln, which was almost everybody, would sit and listen to his stories, their mouths agape, believing every word and not once questioning any of the verbal diharrea which the bully spouted eternally.
One week Lincoln was an up and coming pro skater who unfortunately injured himself so severely he could no longer attend the international extreme games to which he had been invited. The next week he’d discover he had a long lost uncle who just happened to be a famous director in Hollywood, making a big budget movie blockbuster in which Lincoln would be doing all the stunts. But then, as luck would have it, the movie studio ran out of money and could no longer complete that particular movie. Then there was that time Lincoln and his three older brothers broke into the old abandoned haunted prison and stayed the night. It turns out they saw heaps of ghosts but the ghosts were scared of the Wozol brothers because they were so tough.
And the list goes on.
Tommy wasn’t bothered by these stories for the most part; they didn’t hurt anyone and he mainly thought they were funny in their ridiculousness. He also hoped that when the younger kids who listened intently in awe to those stories got a bit older, they would realise Lincoln was a big fat liar and everyone would look at him like the idiot he really was. Although in some cases Tommy wasn’t so sure of that, after all some of Lincoln’s biggest fans were the seniors of the school.
Of late the lies were coming thick and fast and they were so large and ludicrous that it was almost unbearable hearing them every other day. It was as though Lincoln Wozol woke up one day and said: “Gee, it’s the last year before high school, better lie ‘til my bum falls off!”
Tommy would clench his teeth and roll his eyes, repeating to himself: “The years almost over” again and again almost like; the mantra for his sanity. Once the year was over, he and Lincoln would be going to different high schools and Tommy would never have to put up with the bully’s lies ever again.
But despite this, before the year was out, Tommy would love just once, to make Lincoln look like the fool he truly was in front of the whole school. He had tried in the past but Lincoln had a tremendous skill of wriggling out having to prove his outlandish claims, usually by making everyone feel sorry for him which in turn made it seem like Tommy was the one doing the bullying. It often involved Lincoln reciting the following lines: “I can’t believe you would accuse me of being a liar, today of all days; the day my aunty/dog/nana/uncle died.” That was always followed by Lincoln pulling the saddest face he could muster while a crowd of bystanders shot dirty looks at Tommy. That scenario always left Tommy feeling like he was crazy; was he the only one who noticed Lincoln’s uncle regularly died 10 times a year?
Regardless of all that, today Tommy would get his wish because for whatever reason, maybe he had run out of stories or just couldn’t be bothered, Lincoln decided to tell a very simple, but stupid story that could quite easily be proven true or not and for once he had no excuse to get out of it, no pets or relatives to bury today.
It was second lunch break or ‘big lunch’ and as usual Lincoln had half the school down at the grade 7 playgrounds listening to him retell his latest escapade. Tommy was nearby under a tree, reading a book and trying to ignore the Lincoln Wozol show but the sound of stupidity tended to travel.
“…So Kyle,” Tommy could hear the bully saying, “My oldest brother said: ‘It was like that when we got here,’ then we ran off!”
Lincoln exploded with laughter, braying like a donkey. A moment later the crowd joined in laughing too. The laughter suddenly died down and with the story over people started, very slowly, to shuffle off in different directions, going back to their respective play areas or lining up at the tuck shop. Soon it was just Lincoln standing on his own looking vulnerable and unimpressive. He must have felt vulnerable too because quite suddenly and very loudly he said: “Wait, I almost forgot.” And all the kids in the dispersing crowd turned to look back in his direction before regathering around the bully like rain water droplets converging on a big puddle. The great story teller, he had drawn them back in.
He looked over his audience with great satisfaction then said:
“After that we, my three brothers and me, were on our way home and this guy rode past on a push bike so my brother Aaron says: ‘Pop a mono man!’ and then…”
Lincoln stopped mid-sentence. One of the little grade two boys sitting at the bully’s feet had his hand stuck straight up in the air saying: “ S’cuse me. S’cuse me. S’cuse me,” over and over again.
Lincoln turned his gaze to the kid and looked at him as though the little boy had just called him a rude name.
“WHAT?!?,” Lincoln barked loud enough to make the grade 2 boy jump.
“W..what’s a mono a mono, Mr.Lincoln sir?” asked the boy timidly.
A sinister smile spread across the bully’s face, the smile of a shark.
“WHAT ARE YOU AN IDIOT?” Lincoln growled, “A mono, a wheelie. Like when you ride a bike and you pop the front wheel up in the air and you ride along just on the back wheel.”
Lincoln then mimed riding a ride, pulling up the invisible handle bars then teetering along on the invisible back wheel. Tommy looked up from his book to see this and thought that bully looked more like he was riding a horse. He chuckled to himself then went back to reading.
“YOU GOT THAT?!” Lincoln bellowed at the little kid. The boy recoiled from the bully, nodding frantically.
“Anyway,” the bully continued, “this guy lifts his front wheel up in the air, lookin’ at us like he’s so good then my other brother Dwayne says to him: ‘Oh yeah bet you can’t keep it up ‘til the end of the street!’ and the guy says back: ‘Bet I can. Just watch.’ So we watch him and sure enough he’s holding it up. It’s a really long street and none of think he’s going to pull it off, but he’s doing it then just as this guy’s about to reach the end of the street-ZAP! He’s gone. Disappeared into thin air. Vanished.”
On that last word Lincoln wiggled his fingers in the air as if to convey the spookiness of the situation, “vaannisshed” looking at the crowd with a wide eyed expression for dramatic effect.
“But here’s the weird part-we walk up a few streets further and there’s the same guy on the push bike. He rides up to us and says that when we saw him disappear he teleported up to this street. He said right at the end of the mono, right when he thought he was going to lose it he started to see bright colours and sparks and right when he thought he was gonna hit the deck he closed his eyes and when he opened them he was in the street were on. Obviously we don’t believe him so we get him to do it again. So he starts riding, pops a mono then ZAP! He’s gone. We walk over a couple of streets and there he is. He does it twice more- same thing but on the third time he vanishes but he doesn’t reappear a few streets over.”
Lincoln paused for a beat, “He reappeared on the other side of town. Over near the old footy oval. That’s gotta be at least a couple of K”
“Whoooaaa” emanated from the crowd of gullible little faces; genuine astonishment.
Good Lord thought Tommy.
“Yep. Me and my brothers saw it with our own eyes,” exclaimed Lincoln.
“Wait a minute,” said Tommy (‘gotcha Wozol’, he thought), “How did you guys see it with your own eyes if he reappeared where you weren’t?”
The bully stumbled over his words.
“W..well we saw…the top of his head in the distance, y’know like on the horizon. Yeah,” with that Lincoln folded his arms in satisfaction, turning to leave before Tommy could question him further. The bully was not getting off that easy.
Tommy stuck a finger up triumphantly to make a point.
“Wait a minute, you said the old footy field, no way you could’ve seen him pop up there if you were all the way at Church Street” Tommy said.
“Who said we were in Church Street?” Lincoln said matter-of-factly.
“It was implied,” Tommy began, “from where you were in your last ‘tale’ before the wheelie story”
This caught Lincoln off guard. He wasn’t sure what to say, so he simply said:
“Are you calling me a liar Thomas,” He was doing his best ‘I’m offended’ face.
Tommy folded his arms and stepped up to Lincoln.
“Yeah. As matter of fact I am,” Said Tommy.
“Oooww” came from the crowd of huddled students.
This got Lincoln defensive; he was being challenged in front of his most loyal, naïve fan base. He couldn’t allow that. Tommy didn’t know why he was doing this. It was so ridiculous engaging Lincoln but what the heck – only a couple of weeks left of school, why not humiliate Wozol while he could.
Tommy smiled: “Okay Linc Linc, prove it.”
“Don’t call me that!” spat the bully “I will prove it, you’ll see”
“Oh yeah?” said Tommy
“Yeah” said Lincoln.
The crowd was dead silent, tension at its pinnacle.
“Ok Mr. Wozol. You said that guy only popped a wheelie for a block and ended up K’s away? So I challenge you to pop a wheelie starting ON Church street and carrying it all the way through to Mary Street which, by my calculations, should be enough to teleport you to Spain”
The crowd of students erupted in laughter; this aggravated Lincoln to no end.
“Shut up,” he growled, “Shut up. I’ll do it. I’ll show you”
He thought on it for a minute then said, “Gimme a week. One week to practice up so I make sure I do it right”
Tommy nodded smugly. “Ok. How about 2 weeks; you do it on the final Friday of school when we get an early day.”
“You. Are. On” the bully said sternly.
“I’ll see you there. I cannot wait. You probably won’t need much practice seeing as you’ve been a professional stunt man, moto GP racer and body guard to the stars so I’m sure you’ll nail it first go” chuckled Tommy as he walked away.
The crowd was a buzz with whispers and laughter; some of Lincoln’s biggest supporters rallied around him and patted him on the back with reassurance he could do it no worries. Everyone was so caught up in the excitement and fanfare that no one seemed to notice just how very worried Mr.Wozol actually looked.
The final two weeks of the school year were over in the blink of an eye, as were Lincoln Wozol’s rigorous training sessions. Every morning before school, at every lunch break, after school and well into when the street lights came on at night, Lincoln was practicing studiously with his crack team of sidekicks. ‘Team Wozol’ Tommy had come to call them, consisted of Lincoln’s older brother Dale who was in charge of engineering (making sure the bike didn’t fall apart), Dale’s twin brother and also Lincoln’s brother Rick who was in charge of strategy and hydration (yelling at Lincoln to ‘keep holding her up!’ and squirting water into Lincoln’s mouth when necessary); the twin brother’s friend Wal, who had probably the most important job which the team just referred to as “Up!”. Meaning that at any such time when Dale was not running beside the front wheel of the bike and juggling it to keep it Up! in the air, he was not doing his job correctly. And rounding out the team were two younger school junior hangers-on from playground story time, simply there to cheer the gang on and tell they were nailing it even when they weren’t.
And for the most part, at least when they first started out, they really weren’t nailing it, But Tommy had to admit that Team Wozol did pull it toghether after their initial hiccups. He was impressed that under a strict dead line Lincoln had proven he has the drive and organisational skills to complete a big task. Tommy hoped that Lincoln would later see this realisation new skill set as the reward for this whole endeavour. He had to get something out of it; he sure wasn’t going win. He wasn’t going to ‘teleport’. No bets had been made. That’s what Tommy thought was so absurd – the prize was simply being right about the teleportation, one way or the other. But if it turned out Lincoln was right Tommy would eat his hat.
The last day of school was only really three quarters of a day, and what little time the students actually did spend there were split between watching movies and mucking around. The seniors didn’t seem to acknowledge or care that it was a momentous day, taking one step further into adulthood by leaving primary school for high school. They, like everybody else cared only for the Wozol Wheelie. Church Street was packed on both sides – living oceans of all different primary school aged kids. It was noisy and sweaty. Mates were making wagers with each other and joking about the outcomes. Quite a large group of grade 6 girls were giggling uncontrollably at Lincoln Wozol’s attire. It was a one piece Lycra number like something professional cyclists wore riding around a velodrome. The bully was willing to endure the ridicule; that is how set on winning he was. Because realistically if Lincoln’s teleportation trick actually worked, who gives a stuff how stupid he looked while he pulls it off, as long as he pulls it off. So he really was pulling out all the stops. Good on him, thought Tommy, good to give him a challenge.
Lincoln and his team were doing final adjustments to the bike; to the Lycra; quick group huddle; ready. If Dale, Rick and Wal all had their game faces on then Lincoln looked like an action hero, well more like a super hero in the get up he was wearing. But he was definitely determined. Lincoln straddled the bike and the entire three hundred kid strong crowd fell to immediate silence.
“Some people doubt me and my claims,” bellowed Lincoln like a true show man. “Those people are called…Tommy.”
Everyone turned to Tommy who gave a sheepish little wave. All heads turned back to Lincoln.
“I am here today to prove those people; to this Tommy, that teleportation is without a doubt an achievable occurrence.” The bully raised his arms above his head in a grandiose gesture.
“Come on then maestro,” said Tommy playfully, “Let’s see it.”
Silence again from the crowd. Lincoln had hushed words with his crew and took a sip of water. He started peddling, Wal running up on one side, he brothers on the other. He began building momentum then it happened – front wheel lift off! A sea of kids swarmed down the road after him. He pulled back harder and was now in the full wheelie position. He had a slight bump which Wal corrected by tapping the front wheel then Lincoln was off, unassisted. Tommy had to admit it was a hell of a mono – bike almost vertical, no wobble, just precision. Lincoln passed the first block, two more blocks and he was on Mary Street, home free. He took the next block with ease. The crowd running behind; cheering him on. He peddled hard for a strong entrance to the final block and finish line. Wow he really had done it. That was a big ask and he did it like it was nothing. However there was no teleportation and the bet wasn’t just to see if he could do a mammoth mono. He hit Mary Street and kept going.
“I’ll keep going. I’ll do it, I’ll show youse” he yelled.
He peddled even harder. Hit the next block. Then something happened. Sparks from the front wheel as it spun. But it the wheel wasn’t scraping on anything; it was rotating freely through the air with no resistance. Tommy started running faster to get closer. More sparks. And more. Lincoln smiled his best ‘told you so’ smile at Tommy who was kept up running next to him. He was in total disbelief. For some reason the entire rest of the crowd dropped back and it was just Lincoln and Tommy. Suddenly coloured lights started shooting out from the spokes of the front wheel. Like translucent rainbow ribbons they wound their way around the bike and started heading for Lincoln’s body.
“No way this can’t be real. No way!” Tommy screamed.
Tommy shot a glance over at Lincoln who wore an expression of terror as he was encased by the ribbons of light.
Tommy screamed at him: “Stop peddling Lincoln, put the front wheel on the ground!”
“I can’t; I’m trying. I’m scared Tommy” blurted Lincoln.
“It’s ok we’ll….” Tommy was cut off as the ribbons began to flow and swirl around Lincoln and the bike faster. As they sped up they got brighter; soon Tommy couldn’t even look at them. He heard Lincoln call out his name then the light was so bright Tommy was blinded for a couple of seconds. When he could see again Lincoln was gone; steam was coming off the road in a bike sized patch and miniature light ribbons faded and retreated into the road surface.
“Lincoln! Lincoln” screamed Tommy.
The crowd finally caught up and Tommy was immediately inundated with: “Where’s Lincoln? Where’d he go? Did he really disappear!? Oh my god. Oh my god! Did you see it?!”
Tommy was really shaken.
“Yeah,” he said quietly, “He teleported. He was right. He actually did it. I was wrong”
That garnered a solemn reaction as it set in to the crowd. Suddenly one of the junior boys said: “Well did he end up then!?”
Suddenly three hundred uniformed primary school student scattered and exploded nosily in a thousand different directions to find Lincoln’s destination. It was pure chaos; there were more kids on the road than cars. All of them frantically looked for the missing bully. Although it was safe to say he was now more of a hero than a bully. It was pandemonium and it didn’t stop for hours. Parents had to wrangle and subdue their children to bring order back to the streets. And they still didn’t find him.
And you know what? No one found him for weeks. Everyone was fearing for his safety, thinking the worst when he suddenly showed up in the most unlikely, unexpected place – on TV. Tommy was watching a morning news show with his dad, it was live on location from overseas. The reporter was interviewing a local man on camera when suddenly, in the background of the shot, out of a ball of blinding light appeared Lincoln Wozol. He looked extremely dishevelled, exhausted and confused. Still on his bike; live on TV in the Lycra suit. The wheelie he did was so immense that it caused Lincoln to blink out of existence for two whole weeks and rematerialize thousands miles away. Turns out Tommy’s calculations were almost correct – Lincoln had ended up in Italy not Spain.