Number One

Cole braced his tiny midsection for impact as he skated into the wooden divider wall. It was the only way he knew how to stop. He didn’t rollerskate much, just the few times during the school year when the school sponsored a skate night at Skateland. He couldn’t really go by himself to Skateland, as he was only 12 and Skateland sat on an otherwise deserted stretch of forgotten highway outside Briarton, Illinois. Cole landed with a bang the set off creaky reverberations in the rest of the aging divider wall. His sandy blond hair jolted into cascades at the impact.

Cole struggled toward the exit of the rink, hand over hand on the railing like a pubescent mountain climber. He propelled himself across the worn carpet of Skateland, plopping onto a bench to retie his laces. Stupid laces, he thought. Why are you so smoothed over and why do you come untied all the time? Ricky Beirbaum totally ran over my laces to trip me and make me look dumb in front of Lisa. He knows. He’s being a real asshole.

His hip still aching from his spectacular fall, Cole decided to save himself any further embarrassment by playing pinball. Cole was always excited about coming to Skateland for the pinball. Specifically, he was excited about Pin-Bot, who was more robot than pinball table. Pin-Bot used his flipper-like fingers to bounce the space-age pinball across drop-targets and light-up displays on the playfield. It spoke your score aloud as you racked up thousands of points in a swath. The laser-fire sound effects, the illustrations on the backglass, the visor. Oh, the visor. Activating each one of the colored targets would make Pin-Bot’s visor raise, revealing more targets with incredible point values as well as a slingshot bumper that could knock your ball clear down the center of the playfield if you were careful. Cole sank about a dollar-fifty into Pin-Bot before his fingers got sore.

———

While Cole was mastering space-age pinball strategy, an all-skate block of music was being played over Skateland’s aging stereo system. The selection of music had also seen better days, as grade schoolers where gliding around the rink to Tag Team’s “Whoomp! (There It Is)” followed by “Rock and Roll pt. 2″ by Gary Glitter.

Lisa Hammond was sipping on a Slush Puppy in the snack bar watching all of her friends skate by doing hilarious poses. Jane Halloway kept doing goggle-eyes at Lisa, Scott Foreman kept doing discreet middle-fingers until he was caught by a chaperon, and Ricky Bierbaum was doing exaggerated hip thrusts to the beat of the music. She laughed very loudly and smiled wide, taking off her glasses to wipe her eyes. She wore square frames. It was a look she was trying. She thought it made her look smart. I want to be smart. Will I be smart? I think I’m not that smart now. I do dumb things.

After she finished her drink, she rejoined her friends on the rink. “Fantasy” by Mariah Carey was playing.

———

Cole stumbled and rolled his way over to his friend Andrew who was struggling to play Ridge Racer 2. Skates are murder on an accelerator, even if it’s for a video game. Andrew’s grubby hands gripped the fake steering wheel with maniacal intensity. He brushed his dingy hair out of the way of his face as he careened back and forth across the virtual course, making more collisions than headway.

“Hey, man,” Cole shouted over Mariah

“What up?” Andrew replied, eyes still on the game.

“What do you think about Ricky Bierbaum?” Cole asked sheepishly, hoping for Andrew to reply with disgust. Oh, how I hate you, Ricky. You have a swimming pool, you’ve touched like 5 boobs, and you’ve had a beer before! Why do you get everything, Ricky? Sorry that my parents don’t own a bank, Ricky! Jeesh.

I hate you, Ricky.

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Moonlight Skate

Adam Bozarth