The Beginnings of a Story

01.27.2015 | 4:53 pm

A Note from Fatty: Last week I was interviewed by The Outspoken Cyclist about The Great Fatsby and anything else that came into my head. It was a fun conversation. Listen to it here. And be sure to subscribe to The Outspoken Cyclist’s podcast, while you’re at it. It’s awesome.

I’m a big fan of the short fiction compilations Ride and Ride 2. They’re interesting, diverse, sometimes exciting, sometimes thoughtful, sometimes funny, sometimes serious, and always about bicycles.

I’ve been asked to contribute a story for Ride 3. It’s a huge honor, and I’m really excited to be included.

The only problem is, fiction is not something I normally write. I’ve tried, and tried, and tried. And then I generally give up. The problem isn’t so much that I cannot write fiction. No, the problem is that I seem to be unable to begin fiction. 

But today, I shall begin my story. No, I shall begin three different stories, because I figure I have roughly a 33% chance of actually having an interesting story beginning. 

Please let me know which, if any, of these you’d like to see more of.

Oh, and also, as I write this sentence, I have no idea what any of these three story beginnings will actually be. None. At all. 

Pressure’s on.

OK, for reals I’m going to start now. Right after I go get a snack and use the restroom.

And make a few calls.

Two hours later…

Evidently, this thing isn’t going to write itself. Let’s get started. Now.

Idea 1: “Kokopelli”

Daniel was one of those people who never stops talking. Which explains why, right this second, he is saying, out loud, “Oh no. Oh no oh no oh no.” Even though there’s nobody around him. 

For miles.

Daniel, you see, thinks he’s probably going to die. And for once, Daniel is probably right.

Let’s back up a little for a moment. Not very far—this isn’t going to be some Tarantinesque flash-forward-flash-back story—but just a few minutes.

Daniel had been riding his mountain bike on The Kokopelli Trail, from Moab, Utah to Mack, Colorado. All 142 miles of it, in one push. By himself. In June. On a clear, windless day. 

Which is to say that, about three minutes ago, the temperature outside was 102 degrees. (Fahrenheit.) 

This was foolhardy, but not out of character.

But it wasn’t the heat that was likely to kill Daniel. At least not directly. In fact, right at this moment, Daniel isn’t really even thinking about the heat. Although he is sweating profusely.

He’s not even thinking about his broken collarbone, although I guarantee you that in about twenty minutes he’ll be giving it a considerable amount of attention.

Right now, Daniel is thinking about what caused him to endo and break his collarbone three minutes ago. Which was his friend Eric—very recently deceased—lying on the trail, facedown in what at first looked like a pretty good-sized anthill, but which in fact was an astonishing large pile of heroin.

Daniel doesn’t know what Eric is doing there. But he’s going to find out. Soon. Real soon.

As soon, in fact, as he stops wailing so I can step out from behind this rock and introduce myself.

And then we’re going to have a conversation. 

Idea 2: Podium

I am 43 years old. I am a professional. I am a parent, a husband. I am a philanthropist, a sports commentator, and an orthodontist, licensed to practice in every state west of the Mississippi.  

I am also the most successful professional cyclist that has ever lived. 

And I am not talking about the past, either. I mean I’m the fastest cyclist who has ever lived, and I’m the fastest cyclist there is, right now

I just won the Tour de France, for the twelfth time. Consecutively. Also, I just broke the hour record, which I already held. But this time, I broke it during the evening after the hardest climbing stage of the Tour de France (which I won). 

If you and I were to meet at a party and, by way of getting to know me, you were to ask me to list three interesting facts about me, here is the list I would give:

  1. I have won three of the most recent Tours de France solo. Which is to say, I did not have a team. Which is to say, I raced by myself to give the other racers a chance. 
  2. I do not have many friends.
  3. My name is Larry Armstrong. No relation.

I would not mention that I am not precisely human. I think I’d wait ’til we knew each other better before I told you that.

Idea 3: The Hunger

Nolan was being punished. He had done wrong, been bad. He had, in short, ruined everything

And now he was going to have to ride this bike. For the rest of his life.

Which would be OK, he supposed, except that he hated riding his bike. No, not just his bike. Any bike. But this bike in particular, for certain.

But he was going to ride this bike anyway. He was going to figure out how to ride without his butt hurting. How to keep his knees from hitting his stomach. How to make that damned chain stop making that noise.

He was going to figure all this out because it was important. Because he wanted to stay alive. 


  1. Comment by leroy | 01.27.2015 | 5:12 pm

    An orthodontist licensed in every state west of the Mississippi? My dog says that’s hard to believe.

    But of course you can’t believe half the stuff he says.

  2. Comment by Gina | 01.27.2015 | 5:28 pm

    Did Walter White move on to heroin from the blue stuff? Did Eric inadvertently discover his stash while out for a pleasant MB ride with a pal??? I have to know!!

  3. Comment by NZ Ev | 01.27.2015 | 6:22 pm

    Definitely number 1. Can’t wait!!!!

  4. Comment by Rick S. | 01.27.2015 | 6:28 pm

    Numero Uno.

  5. Comment by MtlDan | 01.27.2015 | 6:29 pm

    Number 3. 1 is too dramatic, 2 is too silly. 3 is more realistic, and you can impart some truths that you’ve learned the hard way. I don’t think you could know what it’s like to win the Tour 12 times or see your friend killed, although panic on the Kokopelli may be familiar to you.

  6. Comment by Scott | 01.27.2015 | 6:40 pm

    1 please

  7. Comment by Kristina | 01.27.2015 | 6:58 pm

    Hmmmmm…. I think number 3 sounds the best. But if you could please write very very short synopses and conclusions to whichever two you DON’T pick, and post them here?

    … I don’t like not knowing how things end.

  8. Comment by Wayne | 01.27.2015 | 7:16 pm

    Number 1 is super strong and interesting. I would certainly read whatever follows.

    Number 3 would be my second choice.

  9. Comment by brian | 01.27.2015 | 7:27 pm

    number 1 for sure

  10. Comment by nathan | 01.27.2015 | 7:32 pm

    My vote is for number one also, very interesting beginning.

    Number three is my second choice.

  11. Comment by Bart the Clydesdale | 01.27.2015 | 8:02 pm

    #1 top choice, #3 2nd choice

  12. Comment by berry | 01.27.2015 | 8:08 pm

    I didn’t read any other comments because I didn’t want to be influenced, but I’d read #1.

  13. Comment by Ryan | 01.27.2015 | 8:27 pm

    Probably 3. 1 is strong, but ultimately, I’m more interested in 3. Not sure why. Perhaps it’s the convoluted construction of 1 which I normally enjoy, but for some reason today is turning me off. On the other hand 2 could be a rollicking fun ride.

  14. Comment by Kris | 01.27.2015 | 9:28 pm

    I can’t decide between #1 and #3. I think I’m going to lean towards #3… reminds me of a story about a group of folks forced to walk and walk and walk. If you stop… die. It was quite a good story, as I’m sure yours will be.

  15. Comment by Clint | 01.27.2015 | 10:12 pm


  16. Comment by Elena | 01.27.2015 | 10:39 pm

    I’d say nr 3, but to be honnest I’m fond of thrillers and mistery, so….
    Greeting from China!

  17. Comment by clydesteve | 01.27.2015 | 11:12 pm


  18. Comment by Mark in Bremerton | 01.27.2015 | 11:15 pm

    I’m not an avid reader (except your blog), but in 20 or so pages, it has to develop and conclude pretty quickly. #3 seems, to me, to be something that would work on either a humorous or serious level, that might have an unexpected twist. #1 would be good if there was lots of description of the trail along with the intrigue (your TRUE stories of some of your desert rides are excellent, just add a fictional component).

  19. Comment by Tom in Albany | 01.28.2015 | 6:16 am

    You are a funny guy. #2, please.

    By the way, got my copy of The Great Fatsby. I’m planning to use the dedication to ask my wife to bake a pie every weekend – because Fatty said all of my rides should end with pie!

  20. Comment by Dave | 01.28.2015 | 6:18 am

    Number one has me hooked. Either way I really want you to finish that one.

  21. Comment by bykjunkie | 01.28.2015 | 6:25 am

    Please introduce yourself.

  22. Comment by the Putti | 01.28.2015 | 7:39 am

    number 1

  23. Comment by Keith | 01.28.2015 | 7:47 am

    #1 for sure

  24. Comment by Jim Tolar | 01.28.2015 | 8:13 am

    Number 1. It’s an interesting start and it feels to me like you found your real voice for this story quickly, like by the fourth paragraph.

    Do it. Do number 1.


  25. Comment by Mefly | 01.28.2015 | 8:15 am

    Definitely #2 you could really work some (more) humor into that one.

  26. Comment by Tom | 01.28.2015 | 8:21 am

    # 1 is my choice. But I’d like to know why Nolan in number 3 has died and gone to hell. Maybe he’s the really Eric the dead guy from story #1? And Larry Armstrong from #2 is really the devil!


  27. Comment by Jeff Dieffenbach | 01.28.2015 | 8:53 am

    First choice: #1
    Second choice: #3
    I do not have a third choice.

  28. Comment by Steven Soto | 01.28.2015 | 9:05 am

    Number three is first choice; Number one is second.

  29. Comment by Jeremy | 01.28.2015 | 9:07 am

    Kokopelli. Definitely Kokopelli, because Kokipelli is an incredibly fun word to say. And who can resist finding out about an “astonishingly large pile of heroine.” And how that fits into the plot.

  30. Comment by Paul Guyot | 01.28.2015 | 9:18 am

    No brainer.

    The Kokopelli.

  31. Comment by Tom in Albany | 01.28.2015 | 9:27 am

    Oh c’mon people! You have to choose #2! How else will we find out how I can get an edge on the bike with orthodontia?!?

  32. Comment by Steve | 01.28.2015 | 9:50 am

    No. 1

  33. Comment by AKChick | 01.28.2015 | 10:17 am

    Idea #1 “Kokopelli!” :)

  34. Comment by Flying Ute | 01.28.2015 | 10:18 am

    Since I broke my collar bone riding the Kokopelli Trail 14 years ago (which was my first real long bike ride that has since launched me to 9 Leadville 100’s, 3 of which were sub 9 hour finishes, and which I will not be riding in this year to get my 1,000 mile buckle due to the fact that I forefoot-ed my guaranteed entry out of loyalty to a group entry in hopes of pulling in Mike Birch who has sponsored the race 3 times for over $30,000 and did not get in last year and we thought our odds were in our favor, but apparently the Leadville people wanted to bring someone else in a little more…or just have a good giggle) then I vote for the Kokopelli.

  35. Comment by Brian in VA | 01.28.2015 | 10:28 am

    Number 1 is what I’d read with 3 as runner up. Number 2 doesn’t even make the podium.

    Flying Ute – good thing you’re not bitter! (Not that I’d blame you for being so.)

  36. Comment by Larry Armstrong | 01.28.2015 | 10:32 am

    Number 2 sounds interesting

  37. Comment by mike | 01.28.2015 | 10:37 am


  38. Comment by esteefatty | 01.28.2015 | 10:39 am

    Hands down, Kokopelli gets my vote. I love reading mysteries and this one has me hooked. I MUST know what happened.

  39. Comment by pbrmeasap | 01.28.2015 | 10:55 am

    If you can throw in a coyote in #1 that would be my choice.

  40. Comment by Turn The Damn Cranks | 01.28.2015 | 10:58 am

    One is great — I wanted to read more RIGHT NOW. Two is strong, and I’d have been happy to read more now. Three is eh (strong concept, but the least well-written by far.)

  41. Comment by Welnic | 01.28.2015 | 11:01 am

    I would like to read a fictional piece about a cyclist who at the end or the last century tried to finish the Leadville 100 in under 9 hours but missed by 13 minutes and 9 seconds. I think that would be a good story.

  42. Comment by Anonymous | 01.28.2015 | 11:03 am

    @pbrmeasap – coyote – good idea. Or a rock weasel. A rock weasel in #1 would totally make this story work.

  43. Comment by Clydesteve | 01.28.2015 | 11:06 am

    @pbrmeasap – coyote – good idea. Or a rock weasel. A rock weasel in #1 would totally make this story work.

  44. Comment by Shugg McGraw | 01.28.2015 | 11:23 am

    Read Tim Krabbe’s The Rider and walk away.

    You know, maybe we should make that the next Book Club book. – FC

  45. Comment by Wade | 01.28.2015 | 12:54 pm


  46. Comment by oheckler | 01.28.2015 | 1:16 pm

    I’m saying:

  47. Comment by MattC | 01.28.2015 | 1:27 pm

    I like #1…partly cuz it’s written in “your style” where you give some info and then teter back and forth eeking out more details…sucking us in quick. Finish it please! (and what Clydesteve said…must be a rock weasel in there somewhere, in for nothing else than the comic value of that name). The coyote was a great suggestion too. And maybe you can then slip in some kind of Acme product…like a giant slingshot, or maybe an anvil.

  48. Comment by Jeff Dieffenbach | 01.28.2015 | 1:29 pm

    I wouldn’t mind reading more by Flying Ute. A full 85% of that post was parenthetical, and that’s not a feat you can pull off without some serious writing chops, stamina, and OCD-level attention to detail.

  49. Comment by MattC | 01.28.2015 | 1:32 pm

    #2 sounds kind’a like the opening of an X-files. Maybe Mulder and Scully will pop into the scene (really miss that series).

  50. Comment by old guy who likes to ride | 01.28.2015 | 2:01 pm

    It has a nice Hunter S. Thompson Fear & Loathing style rolling with it.
    My $.02

  51. Comment by Kukui | 01.28.2015 | 2:58 pm

    I haven’t read the comments, yet.

    #1 – Kokopelli!

    The Kokopelli beginning is my favorite. This one has your voice immediately (which in my head still sounds like Stanley Tucci).

    BUT..! I want to know the middle and ending of the other two! Is Larry Armstrong a cyborg??? What did Nolan do???

  52. Comment by Jim | 01.28.2015 | 3:01 pm

    Ding ding ding, I think we’ve got a winner!

    #1 in a walk.

    I’m trying to remember who the style reminds me of, but it’s definitely the most interesting right out of the gate.

  53. Comment by Andy | 01.28.2015 | 3:11 pm

    #3 please. Not sure why, maybe because it reminds me of the premise for a Stephen King short story from many years ago: The Long Walk. I think you’re not going in the same direction as that story though. Given the over-the-top manner that you presented #1 and #2 I believe that #3 is the one that you really _want_ to write. But that’s just MHO of course.

  54. Comment by BostonCarlos (formerly NYC) | 01.28.2015 | 3:41 pm

    Numero Uno por favor.

  55. Comment by MukRider | 01.29.2015 | 12:38 am

    I like 3, because 3 is a nice number. Or third time’s a charm. Or whatever. Mostly because I’m hungry.

  56. Comment by Derek | 01.29.2015 | 8:23 am


  57. Comment by Mark | 01.29.2015 | 8:54 am

    I would say number 1

  58. Comment by Mark | 01.29.2015 | 8:54 am

    I would say number 1

  59. Comment by Laura | 01.29.2015 | 2:27 pm


  60. Comment by Clydesteve | 01.29.2015 | 3:44 pm

    OOO! ooo! A coyote paired with ACME anvil would be excellent. Just DO NOT drop it over a cliff into an area of delicate desert sensitiveness while filming.

    @MattC – I knew weasel would be good at the advice of Dave Barry. I added rock to weasel because in the rocky places Fatty rides, it seemed right, and even funnier. I was oh, so happy to get a Wiki hit on a ‘rock weasel’ from Uzfreakistan, or somewhere close.

  61. Comment by Jeff Bike | 01.29.2015 | 5:27 pm

    I would say #1 with the “Rock weasel” (not the band) in some how. Remember the “Coyote” is slang for a smuggler in the southwest of drugs or illegal aliens. So I see the “heroin” as his and Eric was forced into being a “mule”. Why are you behind a rock in the desert?
    Clive Cussler (author) always makes a very minor appearance in his books with some tidbit of information or something to help the hero along the story. It is very much like Alfred Hitchcock’s cameo appearances in his movies.
    You could recycle some of the pain and emotion from #3 to express how the hero feels as his epoch struggle unfolds as he is plagued with a broken “collarbone” and relentlessly perused by our antagonist the “Coyote”. I see him in a 4 wheel drive truck belching pollution. a little like Steven Spielberg’s movie “The Duel” with Dennis Weaver.
    #2 could be a fantasy flash back on how great our hero’s ride was going until “three minutes ago”.

  62. Comment by Rydeordie | 01.30.2015 | 11:06 am

    Well it must be nice to have the second part of the story tied in already. As we all know you, fatty, are a literary genius. I’m sure after writing the first story about the kokopelii trail, fans will clamor for a sequel, which,as previously propositioned, you will right about the dead guy in the heroin on a sysiphean quest. And finally the penultimate finale, book three about the deal the dead guy in heroin made with satan to return to this celestial plane and crush things with one or two testicles.

  63. Comment by Rydeordie | 01.30.2015 | 11:09 am

    Of course the final condition of the dead guy’s deal with satan is he has to change is name, to Larry Armstrong.

  64. Comment by Bob B. | 01.31.2015 | 11:29 am

    I had only six hours to deliver the message before the next attack of the Orkens. Should I take the Ibis Z-Works Niner or the Colnago 363 Singlespeed? Dammit, man, make a decision! The cyborgs could wipe out the entire town of Fruita!


    The Ibis has a titanium frame that tracks well on descents…

    [to be continued]

  65. Comment by Aaron Davidson | 02.1.2015 | 12:06 pm

    Go with option #3!

  66. Comment by Karin | 02.1.2015 | 7:06 pm

    One or two.

  67. Comment by John | 02.2.2015 | 4:35 am

    Definitely number 3.

  68. Comment by pfonke | 02.2.2015 | 4:16 pm

    Number 1. I’m pretty sure I’ve already three and it was boring. Two makes me want to stop wasting time and get back to work. Number 1, I want to know what happens next.

  69. Comment by Anonymous | 02.5.2015 | 9:00 am

    It’s tempting to fall for #1 because it’s the story line that is most fleshed out. Your style rings through because of that.

    Any story you tell is going to show us your style and talent, I believe.

    With complete confidence in your writing super power, I vote for #3.

  70. Comment by NancyJBS | 02.5.2015 | 9:04 am

    It’s tempting to fall for #1 because it’s the story line that is most fleshed out. Your style rings through because of that.

    Any story you tell is going to show us your style and talent, I believe.

    With complete confidence in your writing super power, I vote for #3.

    - See more at:

  71. Comment by traildiva | 02.11.2015 | 12:20 pm

    One and three, please – they both sound like stories I’d really like to read!


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