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The Skater
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“Hey!” I shouted as I was shoved into the front door of my new school.

"Next time, get out of the way!" growled a guy wearing skater pants and a baggy red shirt.

Spying the tattoos that peeked out from under his shirtsleeves, I swallowed my snappy remark. He reminded me of Rodney from my old school--same look, same bully attitude--another druggie. "Sorry," I said instead, turning away.

Someone tapped me on the shoulder. I tensed and felt heat rise along my neck. Was it the skater? My hand tightened into a fist. I swung around, ready to throw a punch.

It was a pimply-faced red headed kid. "Hey dude. No need for that," he said, catching my fist in his hand. "I'm your friend. I'm everybody's friend."

“Who are you?” I asked, frowning.

"I'm Brian. And you?"


Brian reached into his pocket, then opened his palm flat, exposing a rolled joint. "Need any, Mike?"

I scanned the hallway for teachers. "No thanks. I'm not into that. I can't afford to lose the brain cells."

Brian shrugged. "Too bad, my friend. I've got the best price in the school." He sauntered down the hall, tugging his pants down a bit more so his Joe Boxers showed. Great. First the County Fair on the weekend was nothing but a bunch of hicks showing off their cows, then the first guy I meet is a drug dealer. Welcome to small town life.

The warning bell rang, making me jump. The hall filled with kids as I tried to find my first class.

When I finally got there, the skater was sitting in the back row. I took one of the few empty seats as Brian strolled into the room and sat in front of me.

During the lesson, the teacher didn't notice Brian pass a joint to the girl beside him or the girl hand Brian a wadded up bill. But I did. Brian poked his chin up at me and held out his hand, which was filled with more rolled joints. "You sure?" he mouthed.

I sneaked a glance at the teacher. She was busy helping a student. I hunched further into my desk and shook my head. Was the whole school on drugs?

The bell rang and I jumped out of my chair, racing to hand in my assignment. I'd need every minute of the break to find my next class.

At the front of the row, I banged into the skater, sending our papers into the air. I groaned as they fluttered to the floor. "Aw, man. I'm sorry."

He Narrowed His Eyes and Moved Towards Me

"Yeah, that makes twice today that you've gotten in my way." He narrowed his eyes and moved towards me.

I took a step backward and bumped into a chair. Losing my balance, I smacked to the floor.

Laughing, the skater put out his hand.

"Um… Thanks," I said, taking it.

With a hand pressed to my back, he steered me out of the class.  "I saw what happened," he whispered.

What? I wondered. Was the guy accusing me of picking my nose or something?

"I saw you turn Brian down. Good for you. I don't do that stuff either."

I stopped, stared at the tattoos and raised my eyebrows. "You don't do drugs? But you look…"

"Don't let these fool you," he said. "They're temporary. I got them at the fair."

"Do you really skateboard?"

"Oh yeah. That's the reason I don't do drugs. If I do drugs, I'll never get good enough to attract a sponsor."

The pro skater, not just the skater.

The skater did a little side step and jump, as if he'd done an 'Ollie' on his board. “I guess people just can't be creative and find real things to do."

"There's nothing to do in this town. There's no movie theater, no swimming pool, no mall." No friends to hang out with.

"You could join the school band, most of them are clean. Or try out for a team. Or you could take up skateboarding."

"I don't have a skateboard, or the clothes that go with it."

He laughed. "You don’t need the clothes, you just need a sense of balance. I've got an old board you can borrow until you get your own." He hung his arm over my shoulder. "By the way, my name’s Sean. I’m sorry about this morning. I hate being late for class.”

I shrugged. “No problem.”

“My dad helped me build a bit of a skateboard park on our acreage. Why don't you come over tonight and try it out?"

"I don't know…" Why not -- a friend and a place to hang out. "Yeah, sure. That would be great." I grinned. "Now, can you help me find my next class?"

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By Gloria Singendonk. Reprinted with permission from Listen, November 2006. Copyright © 2012 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines.

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