Skateboarding 101

Contributor: Don A. Gerred

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The horizon grew dark. Across the intersection of an empty access road, in front of a lifeless shopping center, barren trees of late autumn formed a wall of black shadows against the fading colors of an early sunset. Streetlights buzzed, signaling their intent to flicker to life.

All was quiet. No engine noise, no music, no voices; silence except for an occasional chirp from a bird with no plans for winter migration.

The horse-shoe shaped shopping center faced an enormous parking lot filled with cars precisely parked between yellow lines. Abandoned, the smashed, deserted vehicles disintegrated in the parking spaces. The burned-out shell of a late 80’s Honda Accord landed upside-down; roof on the sidewalk, wheels in the air. The beaten and battered hulk blocked access to a lane of neatly nested shopping carts.

The stores were dark except where faint light seeped from a few anemic signs. An ice cream store’s neon sign spelled “CAR.” “VEL” burned out long ago.

Thick layers of dirt covered everything, windows, sidewalks and cars. Safety glassed windows were cracked and shattered as though someone, or something, had attacked them with a car jack or a baseball bat.

Long ago, the door to a jewelry store window imploded. Gold, silver, Rolex watches, diamond rings, rare gemstones and glass shards intermingling on worn black velvet. Once beautiful baubles scattered among the debris, treasures too dirty to glitter and gleam any longer.

A boy limped passed the broken door, oblivious to his surroundings. In the darkening sky, he looked to be about sixteen, a teenager. He was tall and skinny, thick, curly black hair hung in his face, obstructing his vision. He shuffled along carrying some kind of long flat thing. His right hand pinned it tightly against his scrawny thigh.

He moved off toward the rear corner of the parking lot toward a steep concrete ramp. He paused at the top. A faded ‘wheelchair accessible’ sign dangled from a steel rail. His baggy, tattered three button Italian suit might have been an olive color once, now it was dirty gray. Both knees poked through the torn pants. His loose necktie was knotted with a Windsor knot; the color faded and the pattern indecipherable.

The thing he carried was a skateboard. He flipped the board upside down with an awkward jerk. The board was grubby and the wheels rusty. It looked like a kid had forgotten it in the front yard for an entire year. The current owner spun each wheel, one at a time, watching each until they stopped. As the teenager watched each wheel revolving freely, he muttered to himself in a barely audible raspy voice, “Good.”

Deliberately, he set the skateboard on the level, flat concrete at the top of the ramp. The board surface revealed a faded skull and crossbones emblazoned around the word ‘FLIP’ in its center. His movements were painfully slow. He stood erect. It took two attempts to get his left foot on the front of the board, even as his right hand clutched the steel handrail running parallel to the sides of the ramp. He paused and gazed intently across the street at the parking lot.

There was not a living soul in sight. He stood for a long time and gave the impression of searching for an image from a long lost memory.

His stiff right foot rose and rested firmly on the back of the board. He gingerly pushed himself backward and shoved himself down the ramp.

He was rigid, unable to bend his back or his knees, and unaware of the need. Gravity took over. Somehow, he balanced on the board as it accelerated forward, crossing the seams in the sidewalk with a quiet clack-clack, clack-clack.

The board went in a perfectly straight line. It was a little short of its maximum speed when the board intersected the steel rail at a corner point. There the ramp swapped directions to complete the route from sidewalk to the parking lot.

The rail caught the teen’s body at waist level. He was flipped off the board in a judo movement. The board rolled faster under its lightened load.

The boy hit the pavement face first. A thick black oily substance splattered on the concrete. His head bounced like a melon into the street, the rest of his body tumbled behind him.

The skateboard held its steady course. It passed under the railing, and under an Econoline van. I was halted mid-trip by smashing into a pile of rusty, power tools. The impact flipped the board onto its back. The racing wheels slowed and finally stopped. The board was lifeless once again.

The boy lifted his head off the ground high enough to look for the skateboard. A streetlight flickered above. He pulled himself off the ground in the same slow and deliberate manner he used to cue up the board.

His face had gravel and stones embedded in it, minor mutilations compared to his grotesquely, broken nose. His nose lay smashed flat against his upper lip. Not one drop of blood flowed from the shattered nose, just that black, oily stuff. He managed to get to his feet. He walked forward looking for the place where the skateboard crashed to a stop. Suddenly, he stopped. He either sensed or felt the injuries to his face.

He used his hands and fingers like a vise to squeeze the bridge of his nose. The cartilage cracked as he adjusted it. That facial feature was still crooked but no longer flat.

He looked around for the board, but couldn’t find it. Losing interest, he started shuffling away. Bright street lighting revealed the ripped back of his coat, and the grungy shirt underneath. Three large holes punctuated his upper back, exit wounds from a .357 Magnum. The wounds were open and oozing but not bleeding. Holes through his heart and lungs made it difficult to believe he could remain standing, let alone ride a skateboard. Impossible in fact. But then again, Zombies aren’t really alive, are they?

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I have a wife, three daughters and a female cat. It is hard to find time to write more than my signature on a check or a credit card slip!
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