We hadn’t much to celebrate after we left Texas, nothing other than the fact that we had escaped with our lives. But now we had something—my birthday!
Mom rose early to make my favorite breakfast before she headed off to work. As a registered nurse it didn’t take her long to find a job.
“French toast!” I squealed as I entered the kitchen.
I love French toast, especially when it’s smothered in butter and syrup. Today, Mom added fresh strawberries to the mix. I guess that’s what you get when you become a teenager.
Even my sisters got in on the act, each one presenting me with a gift. Sue gave me a box kite with an extra-large ball of string, perfect for a windy day at the beach. Diane gave me a coupon book for Buddy’s Burger Shack.
As I leafed through the coupon book, the phone rang. Mom answered it, talked for a moment, then handed the receiver to me—“It’s Tim.”
“Well, hello birthday boy,” Tim said, acknowledging what he had just learned from talking to Mom.
“Hello,” I replied.
“How ‘bout we get together today?” Tim continued.
“Sure,” I said. “I just got a kite. Want to try it?”
“Kite, smite, leave it home and meet me at the small park near my house,” Tim instructed.
“Okay,” I replied, disappointed that he didn’t want me to bring the kite.
“I’ll meet you there in fifteen minutes,” Tim said and hung up.
As I approached the park, I spotted Tim. He was playing with something with his foot.
“Hey,” Tim called, when he saw me. “Ready for your first skateboard lesson?”
“Well, sure, you got to know how to skateboard before you can surf,” he replied, “and there’s no better place to learn than here.”
Tim was right. The park was a maze of sidewalks, crisscrossing every which way. But that’s not what made it a great place to skateboard. It was how the park sloped toward the canal.
“Hey, you make that?” I asked, looking closer at the sleek skateboard beneath Tim’s foot.
“Me and my dad.”
“Yeah, and it’s yours.”
“Mine!” I exclaimed.
“Why not, after all it is your birthday.
“Oh, man, way too cool.”
“But first, sit down, and watch.”
I sat in the grass and watched as Tim pushed off with one leg until gravity captured his momentum and sent him sailing down the main sidewalk. He worked the skateboard like a giant slalom skier, weaving back-and-forth as he sped down the sidewalk.
The sidewalk dead-ended into another sidewalk that ran parallel to the canal. When he hit the intersection, Tim leaned hard to the left, and scooted along the adjoining sidewalk. Then he turned and headed back up to where I stood watching, pumping his leg to get up the incline.
“Your turn,” Tim beamed, once he was within earshot.
I took the skateboard from him, set it down in front of me, and gently put my right foot on it. Then I pushed off with my left foot. The skateboard lurched forward. I steadied myself as the skateboard gained speed. Then I tried to do what Tim did.
I rocked the skateboard back and forth, from one side of the sidewalk to the other. By the time I got to the place where the two sidewalks intersected, I was screaming down the slope, going way too fast to make the turn. But I tried anyway.
As I leaned hard into the turn the back wheels skidded out from under me and I fell face-first onto the sidewalk, catching myself at the last moment with my hands. When I sat up, my hands were scraped and my left knee bruised. Tim’s skateboard lay belly-up in the grass next to me.
“Wow, are you okay?” Tim asked, racing up to me.
“Yeah, I’m all right,” I replied, getting up slowly.
“What were you trying to do?” Tim asked, studying my scraped hands.
“I did what you did. I worked the skateboard back and forth, but I lost control.”
“You sure did,” Tim said, “because you really didn’t do what I did.”
“What do you mean?”
“What you did increased your speed. What I did created drag.”
“Drag?” I repeated, somewhat puzzled.
“Yeah, you used your legs to push off every time you wove back and forth along the sidewalk. If you do that, you’ll gain speed.”
“What did you do?”
“I didn’t push off,” Tim explained. “I let the weaving pattern create drag.”
“So you would slow down,” I said, finishing his thought.
“That’s right. I only pushed off at the last moment to propel the skateboard through the turn.”
“Okay,” I said, “let me try it again.”
“What?” Tim replied, surprised by my response.
“Yeah, let me try it again.”
When we got to the top of the park, I dropped the skateboard in front of me and jumped on it. As I rolled down the incline, I could hear Tim’s voice trailing after me, “Remember, don’t push off until the last moment.”
I wove back and forth, careful not to push off with my legs, trying to control my speed. When I hit the intersection at the bottom of the sidewalk, I leaned into it hard and pushed with all my might.
Whoosh! I sped through the turn and sailed down the sidewalk that paralleled the canal. At the first intersection I turned and headed back up the hill, pumping my leg the way Tim did to make it up the incline.
“Cool,” Tim said, “Very cool.”
“But now it’s time for the real test,” Tim announced, taking the skateboard from me.
He set the skateboard on the ground and jumped on it with both feet at the same time, landing squarely on the board, one foot at either end. Then, he leaned back and tipped the skateboard up so it stood at an angle, held in place by the weight of his back foot.
“Yeah, what’s so hard about that?” I snickered.
“Oh, that’s not the test. This is!”
I watched as Tim leaned forward until the skateboard rested on both sets of wheels again. Then, all of a sudden, Tim leaned back, torqued his body, and whirled around on the back wheels until the board spun around 360 degrees.
“Whoa!” I exclaimed.
“Your turn,” Tim said, jumping off the skateboard.
I set the board in front of me, took a deep breath, and with one quick movement jumped on it, landing on both feet, one at either end of the board.
“All right!” Tim exclaimed. “Now the 360.”
I took a couple of breaths, crouched slightly, torqued my body, leaned back, and pushed off. The board spun around, but not once or twice. It spun around three times. When the skateboard stopped, I looked up and saw Tim staring at me, his mouth wide open.
“I don’t believe it,” he said, “I don’t believe it.”
I jumped off the skateboard, grinning.
“I don’t believe it.”