Authors: Lesley Choyce
Copyright Â© 2008 Lesley Choyce
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system now known or to be invented, without permission in writing from the publisher.
Library and Archives Canada Cataloguing in Publication
Choyce, Lesley, 1951-
Skate Freak / written by Lesley Choyce.
ISBN 978-1-55469-043-5 (bound).âISBN 978-1-55469-042-8 (pbk.)
I. Title. II. Series.
PS8555.H668S49 2008Â Â Â Â jC813'.54Â Â Â Â C2008-903218-7
Quinn Dorfman is struggling at school and is watching his family deteriorate and, since moving to a new town, has trouble enjoying his passion, skateboarding.
First published in the United States, 2008
Library of Congress Control Number:
Orca Book Publishers gratefully acknowledges the support for its publishing programs provided by the following agencies: the Government of Canada through the Book Publishing Industry Development Program and the Canada Council for the Arts, and the Province of British Columbia through the BC Arts Council and the Book Publishing Tax Credit.
Cover design by Teresa Bubela
Cover photography by Getty Images
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Printed and bound in Canada.
Printed on 100% PCW recycled paper.
11Â Â 10Â Â 09Â Â 08 â¢Â Â 4Â Â 3Â Â 2Â Â 1
If it's worth doing, do it. If it's not worth doing, do it anyway
. That's my motto. It keeps me going.
Leaving Willis Harbor knocked the wind out of me. Moving to the city was not my idea. I liked my old hometown by the sea. I had lots of time to myself. I had the sea. I had my skateboard. I was the only skate-boarder in that small town. And I had the rocks, the Ledges, as they're called. At the
Ledges I pictured myself as the boy with wings. The Wingman.
That's not what they called me in the city. The guys I met at the skate park on the commons tried out a whole lot of names on me. But the one that stuck was this: Freak. Skate Freak.
That first Friday afternoon it was crowded at the downtown skate park. Everybody knew each other. There were kids on Razors, rollerblades, mountain bikes, freewheelers and, of course, skate-boards. The skaters ruled. The other kids were just in the way. And the skatersâwell, some of them were good.
I'd never skated a real skate park, not a manmade one anyway. Back home, I had the main road, a paved roadside ditch, one church railing andâthe big challengeâthe Ledges. The city had half-pipes and railings just for skaters (unreal!) and more curved concrete than I'd ever seen. At least I'd found
about this ugly place that I liked.
Skateboarding always made me feel in groove, totally chilled and high-wired at the same time. At the skate park, though, I felt none of that. I slapped my board down, kicked for speed and dropped into the middle of the bowl. Way too many people were zigzagging crazy patterns back and forth. It was madness.
I was getting some nasty looks. But I couldn't leave, even though that was what those ugly staring faces said without one word. It was clear I was not liked. Was it the way I looked? Was it my hair? Or was it just me?
That's exactly what it was. It was me. I was new. I was not one of them. This is what they did here. Make the new guy feel like used toilet paper. Then flush him.
And flush they did.
I dropped down one side of the half-pipe and rolled up the other. I wasn't trying to impress anybody. Two guys looped around me on their boards, breathing down my neckâsome kind of test. I decided to be
cool and pretend nothing was happening. I had as much right to skate here as they did.
I had to kick my board up twice to keep from running into a couple of younger kids, barely rug rat graduates. They both shot me looks like they hated me. For what? I kept wondering.
For being alive, they seemed to say. But that was just in my head. I kept at it, smooth and easy, nothing fancy. I increased my speed so that I hit the lip of the half-pipe, almost got air but didn't, and then I drove for the bottom, angry enough that if I had run into someone, I wouldn't have cared.
From behind, someone finally spoke. “Hey, freak,” were the words.
The guy on the bike who spoke the words slammed down on me. The front wheel of his bike landed on the backs of my ankles. I folded forward until my knees hit the ground. The rest of my carcass followed until my lips were kissing concrete.
And all I thought was, Man, I hope my board is okay.
I'm not saying it didn't hurt. It hurt a lot, especially where my forehead followed my lips into the relationship with the concrete.
I lay there trying to figure out which part of my body hurt the worst.
I decided it was my pride. Sure, my lips were bleeding and my head was scraped and hurting and the backs of my legs felt likeâwell, they felt like someone had landed a mountain bike on them.
And the guy on the bike was riding away. He never went down. He had used me like I was just another rock in an obstacle course. I saw the name on the back of his jacket:
. What kind of name was that?
As I lay there trying to recover, I realized that people were laughing. And then a skater coming down the half-pipe was yelling at me. Actually, it wasn't one, but two. The second skater was coming from the opposite side.
I waited for the delivery, but it never came.
Both skaters swerved around me and continued on. They were good. I rolled left, grabbed my board and decided to limp home.
The wingman had lost his wings. The boy who flew had been grounded.
I had been at the new schoolâJerome Randall High, or random High as the kids called itâfor almost a week. It's safe to say I didn't fit in. Willis Harbor was only an hour's drive away. But it was if I had come from another planet.
I had never been good at school. I could draw. I was good at that. But words on paper were not my thing, and numbers were not my friends. And teachers. Well,
teachers either thought I was stupid or stubborn, or, worst of all, they felt sorry for me.
I had no ambition other than to skate for the rest of my life. Get on my boardâ which thankfully was not busted in the bike incidentâand skate. Maybe make enough money to buy some new trucks and better wheels sometime. That was my ambition.
But there was one good thing about school. Only one: the girl I saw putting a skateboard into her locker.
She wasn't in any of my classes. I only saw her in the hallway. I wasn't one of those dudes who could walk up and say, “Hi, my name is Quinn Dorfman, but you can call me Dorf.” Not for a second.
I was the kind that slinked around the hallway like a stalker. How pathetic is that?
My father had taught me no social skills at all in his considerable time of unemployment. My mother had given up on that too. And on us, I was beginning to think. After
my old man was laid off and the unemployment money was running out, she had decided to go out west and get what she called “a real job.” So if I was going to figure out how to meet this girl, I was on my own.
I was too shy to ask anyone who she was, so I just thought of her as Skateboard Locker Girl (SLG for short), which sounds incredibly lame, but that's what I called her.
After the skateboard accident, I was walking around school with a fat purple lip and a scab on my forehead that looked like a piece of pepperoni. The look added to my aura of loserness, I'm sure, but I didn't care. I thought I'd let my face heal a little before I tried to speak to SLG.
But she caught me watching her from down the hall. It was as if she could sense someone was staring at her. She turned. And smiled.
At least I think it was a smile. I'm not sure. It was an almost-smile at least.
But the bell rang right away, and she slammed her locker and fled.
SLG had long dark hair, dark eyes, a beautiful face and, oh yeah, she had a sweet custom skateboard from Homegrown Skateboards, one of my favorite board makers. I vowed that some day (after a bit of facial healing), I'd walk up to her and tell her straight out that I liked her board.
That's what I would do.
After school, I retrieved my own beat-up board from my locker and spit on the right front wheel for good luck. Some younger kids saw me, and I could tell I grossed them out.
“Sorry, dudes,” I said, “it's what I do.” As if that explained anything.
I don't like having to explain myself. I do what I do and I have my reasons.
Or not. But I do what I do anyway.
Outside, it smelled really funky. There was a brewery down the street and, well, it smelled like a brewery, I guess. As I cruised down the sidewalk on my board, I sniffed
at the funky air, sang some of the lyrics from the Dead Lions song, “Garbageville,” and I thought about Willis Harbor.
I didn't wear earbuds or have an Mp3 player in my pocket. I don't do that. I make my own soundtrack. I don't sing as well as Linus from Dead Lions, but I like hearing my own voice. I sing lyrics from my favorite bands: Dead Lions, Dope Cemetery, crime of the Century, Skate Moms and Poorhouse. Sometimes the music is just in my head. And that's cool too. The songs remind me of my old lifeâthe good old days.
Aside from skateboarding, home life in Willis Harbor had not been great. My father worked at a fish plant and my mother was a waitress at a restaurant that was busy in the summer and slow in the winter. Then the fish plant closed, and so did my father.
It was a crummy job, but once he lost it, he seemed to give up. My mother was making next to nothing in tips since summer was over. Then she saw the ad
in the paper. It was for free training for women to operate heavy equipmentâ something to do with oil drilling or mining. But we'd have to move out west.
My father didn't want to move. And neither did I.
But I guess my mother did.
She left. I thought she was coming back, but that didn't happen.
My father's plan of action was really no plan at all. We'd move into the city and
would come of it. He thought there would be a good job for him in the city. Maybe he was thinking of getting a job at the brewery. Maybe he thought a job would just happen. Just jump up and bite him in the ass.
But it didn't.
Pretty soon the unemployment money would run out. Then my father would have to stop watching television twenty hours a day and get a job.
My after-school routine in the city was to skate the streets until dark. Then,
sometimes, skate some more. I stayed away from the skate park though. The streets seemed safer. Cars I could understand. Territorial skate dudes I could not.
I found some good railsâat churches mainly. All the city churches had excellent railings. Many of them were empty during the week, so I could get a couple of amazing slides and grinds and move on before anyone hassled me.
Back in Willis Harbor, there was only one railingâat the church, of course. Reverend Darwin, a very religious black man from Ghana, saw me popping ollies and grinding down the handrail one day, and he came out to talk.
“How do you do that?” he asked.
“I see it in my head. Then I just do it,” I said.
“It's very beautiful, this thing you do. Your parents must be quite proud.”