“I think I may go and try me some of that cane,” Luvens said aloud to himself. The beads of sweat were squeezing out his pores like condensation on a cold cola bottle.
The slave was accustomed to saying things like this out loud to himself. Years of working monotonous work - mostly alone - out there in that dense field forced him to talk aloud like this, lest his head burst from all the thoughts running through his mind. An objective observer would have, perhaps, called him a tad crazy - watching him mumble to himself all day - but the truth of the matter was that speaking out loud was the only way to prevent him from going crazy.
“Yes, how about some of that cane.”
Luvens had spent years and months and days and hours and minutes and seconds harvesting that ripe cane, but - after all that time - he never actually had the opportunity to taste the stuff. This was mostly out of fear, because the plantation owner - Monsignor Dupont - would probably have had his ass caned (no pun intended) if he were to taste some of that delicious cane. But, today, the slave was in an unusually rebellious mood. He figured that he’d been faithfully enslaved for years, so the least he deserved was a small taste of that delicious cane. Yes, that sweet little baby ripe cane.
“Gonna have me some of that cane.”
The bold slave knelt down to the dirty plantation floor and hacked off a four-inch piece of cane with his rusting machete. His mouth couldn't help but water from the thought of chomping on some of that delicious sugar. Of course, before he actually went through with eating any of it, he wanted to be absolutely sure that nobody was around, especially that pesky brown-nosing slave-driver Radis who cared more about pleasing the white men than helping any of his fellow slaves out.
Luvens looked both ways and assured himself that, indeed, there was nobody in sight, especially that Radis who undoubtedly would have reported Luvens in a heartbeat. Yes, there was nothing but extremely dense stalks of cane, and no sound but the buzzing from those heat bugs or whatever those darned insects were called. Luvens referred to them as “heat bugs” because they seemed to buzz the loudest when the sun was at its high noon position. The stronger the sun beat down on them, the louder those bugs seemed to buzz.
“Nobody’s gonna know if I’m havin’ some of this cane,” the slave assured himself.
And it was with this thought in mind that the slave gnawed off the stalk’s brown bark, spitting it to the dusty plantation floor. With the bark removed, he then went to work on the cane’s inner green skin, which was a kind of epidermis that needed to be removed before consumption. Soon, all that remained was nothing but that white stick of tasty goodness.
“Oh, yeah...this is gonna be some tasty cane.”
He sunk his teeth into the sweet stalk, chomped on the pulp and sucked out the goodness. The juices oozed out the corners of his mouth, dripped all the way down his leathery, black neck and eventually got absorbed into the denim of his overalls. The sweet, sticky nectar felt cool against his overheated body.
“Oh, that’s some good cane.”
He kept chomping on all the pulp and sucked out all the juices.
“Yeah, that’s some sweet little cane.”
It may have sounded ridiculous, but Luvens couldn’t help but feel extremely guilty for indulging himself in such a manner. He wasn’t used to doing something so self-gratifying. All his life he had been conditioned into thinking he was inferior to the white man, that God placed him on earth - not as a human being - but as an assistant to the white man’s progress. This meant that it was his sole purpose on earth to help the white man be all he could be, but it wasn’t his purpose to be all HE could be. He was basically a means to an end, the end essentially being the white man’s success. This is what he was led to believe, anyway, and - for the most part - he believed it, even though another voice inside of him - call it instinct, maybe - told him it was nonsense.
So, yes - conditioned as he was - Luvens perceived something as simple as eating (just a tad) of sweet little cane as an act that only got in the way of the white man’s progress. It was also something that he interpreted as a sin against God, since God placed him on earth in order to assist (not get in the way of) the white man’s progress. But, again, the slave was feeling rebellious on this particular day, so - goddammit - God send a lightning bolt his way if he couldn’t just take a moment to savor some of the delicious cane that he had personally worked so hard on harvesting.
Luvens sucked in the last of the cane’s juices and was relieved that he didn't hear the crash of any lightning bolt anywhere around him. But he DID hear something else. It was a noise, kind of like a dull murmuring sound that seemed to be going: “Uuuuuuuuuuuuugggggghhhhhhhhhhhhhh.”
'What was that?!' Luvens wondered. He thought that somebody – maybe that darned Radis – had snuck up without him being aware of it, so he quickly hid the remaining cane in his overall pocket and gave his cheeks a swipe to hide the juices. But there was nobody there. He could have SWORE that he heard the groaning sound coming from not too far away. Was it his stomach, maybe? Or did he unconsciously groan in pleasure while chewing on the sweet pulp? God knows he liked that delicious cane, but did he like it so much that he would involuntarily make a groan as loud as what he just heard?!
No, the groan didn't come from him after all. The noises were coming from further away - perhaps a few rows of cane over. Or perhaps it was all in the slave’s head. Yes, Luvens ultimately concluded that the sounds were all a product of his borderline hallucinatory mind. With all the intense heat and sun and consequent dehydration that he usually experienced, it wouldn’t be the first time that he’d heard/seen things that weren’t there.
Chalking up the moans to hallucinations, the slave took the cane back out of his pocket and proceeded to take another chomp out of it, squeezing out the juices and pleasuring his taste buds in ways that he hadn’t had the privilege to experience in a very long time. But, then...
There was a piercing scream in the not-too-far distance. The scream was so loud that it frightened Luvens half to death and he spit all the tasty cane onto the plantation floor. Now, he was pretty darn sure he didn’t hallucinate THAT scream! The moans and groans? Maybe he imagined those things...but that scream?! No way! He didn’t hallucinate that scream! Oh, no. That scream! Not that!!!
The slave stumbled to his feet and crept his way through one or two or three rows of cane. The air from a light zephyr dried the juices on Luvens’ face and he could feel his skin getting sticky, from his face all the way down to his chest. The sugar plantation was so dense and thick with green. He couldn’t see five or maybe not even three feet in front of him. There was nothing but green stalks of sweet-smelling sugar cane.
Machete in hand, Luvens chopped his way through a dozen or so rows of cane, but he stopped dead in his tracks when he heard some more noises. He stood in silence for a moment and listened carefully. It was like lip-smacking or chomping, or like somebody was feasting on some chicken thighs or something of a pastier consistency. And then...
Jesus, it was another groan coming from close by.
“Radis?! That you?!” shouted Luvens, thinking that it could be that wannabe white man munching on a snack he undoubtedly earned for sticking his nose far up Monsignor Dupont's buttocks. But there was no answer, not even a sound, except for more lip-smacking and some crunching and maybe even some finger-licking.
Luvens carefully weaved his way in and out of another stalk of cane or two or three, his heart rapping harder and harder against the bone of his chest-plate. Logic told him that there was nothing he should be afraid of...but his instincts told him the complete opposite. To his tragic misfortune, he decided to listen to logic instead of instinct. Big mistake.
Luvens pushed one last stalk of cane to the side with his blade and peeked his head around its frayed greens. ‘Strange,’ he thought. There appeared to be an area where much of the cane had been broken and, in many parts, it was matted down to the plantation floor. It appeared as though something rather chaotic had recently taken place (a scuffle or fight, maybe) and it disturbed Luvens in a rattling way. He knew that something wasn’t right. Something definitely wasn't right.
The slave reluctantly took a step into the clearing and immediately sensed movement in his periphery. He turned his head towards the movement and saw something that - at first - seemed too disturbing to be real. But it was real all right.
“Oooooooooooh. Brains. Oooooooooooh.”
Why, it was three of his fellow slaves - Robens, Asperen and Sylvester. But they weren’t...um, themselves. Robens, in particular, was on the ground not looking too...er...healthy, while Asperen and Sylvester were kneeling beside him, eating what appeared to be his...BRAINS!!!
“Braaaaaains...” the two slaves moaned. “Braaaaaaaaaains.”
As you may have surmised, describing Robens as being ‘unhealthy’ was a bit of an understatement. He was dead. Very dead. And his brains were being feasted upon in the most terrible and hideous ways.
A chill ran down Luvens’ spine and froze him into a momentary state of paralysis. He had heard rumors of “zombies” in the past, though he always brushed them off as being a bunch of superstitious humdrum that bore itself out of the Haitian Voodoo culture. But now he was starting to think that maybe these rumors weren’t rumors after all...and such a thought scared the wits out of him. In fact, he was so scared that his eyeballs popped out from their sockets, almost like they were being sucked out by a powerful vacuum.
“ZOMBIES!!!” he screamed.
The two brain-eating slaves heard Luvens’ shout and looked up from their tasty victim. Their faces were paled with chalkiness and their eyes lacked spirit and soul. If there was one overall word Luvens would have used to describe the way his former friends looked, it would be ‘despair’, sheer and utter despair. The corners of their mouth dripped with blood and oozed with brain matter. Indeed, these two slaves looked like they COULD be ‘zombies’.
“Zombies!” Luvens shouted again, and he ran the hell out of there, hacking away with his machete at any cane that stood in his path.
But the zombies weren’t about to let Luvens get away, lest they miss out on another delicious meal with tasty brains as its main course. They stumbled up from the ground and chased after Luvens. Their motor skills seemed out of whack so they weren't very fast, but they didn't need to be. With so much cane in Luvens' way, he could only run at about a third of his highest speed. He was lucky if he was able to keep more than five feet between him and those disgusting zombies.
Luvens clutched his machete as tight as he could to be sure he wouldn't drop it and he plowed his way through endless layers and layers of sweet-smelling cane. He couldn’t help but wonder if what was happening now was some sort of punishment that God sent his way for eating some of the white man’s cane. Yes, maybe this was the lightning bolt, after all. Maybe it really WAS true that the black man was on earth to serve the white man and once the black man rebelled against this role, God did something to punish him. Oh why?! Why did he have to go and eat that cane?!
Luvens ran about 100 feet or so through more dense cane and stopped dead in his tracks. He hoped like hell that those damned zombies decided to stop following him. All he heard was the heat bugs and, of course, his heart, which was beating so hard against his chest that he had to bend over into a forty-five degree angle to alleviate some of the pressure. But, suddenly...
There was rustling behind him. Moans. And groans. And also ‘uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuggggghhhhhhhs’.
“Zombies!!!” Luvens shouted and he ran it the hell out of there, like a Cheetah on amphetamines.
The zombies followed him, not by means of eyesight, but by means of scent; yes, it was the smell of fresh-tasting brains that guided their way. They were like Bloodhounds, only the more precise term would be ‘Brain-hounds’.
Luvens ran and chopped and tripped and burped and also vomited up some of that delicious pulp he was feasting on earlier. What a waste of tasty cane! And it was at this point that Luvens started to consider the possibility that God had no part of this and he was the victim of some rotten hex. Yes, certainly he was hexed right now from some horrible, evil force. What else could have made him burp up that cane and put all that goodness to waste?! Hexes!
After several hundreds of yards of nothing but cane, Luvens finally got spat out of the sugar field and tripped his way onto a blanket of weedy, unkempt grass.
“Umph!” he grunted as he landed face-first into the ground. Luvens peeled his face out of the grass and heard more rustling from the field behind him. God, how was it that those zombies were gaining on him so fast?!
Luvens didn’t know where the hell he could run to. He looked every which way for the wisest escape-route and that was when he spotted the sugar mill about a couple hundred yards across the grass. Surely this was the only place he could find some safety from those hexed creatures that trailed his scent of brains!
He made a run for the mill, peeking over his shoulder every few seconds or so. The zombies tore their way out of the sugar field by this point and they were stuck on the scent of Luvens’ brains.
Luvens ran up to the mill's entrance and immediately noticed a black ‘X’ painted on the wooden door.
"Voodoo!" he shouted.
Yes, it was the mark of voodoo! Surely somebody at this plantation had been dabbling in the arts of something rotten. Nothing good had ever come out of such practices. The superstitious folks believed voodoo - especially when practiced in an abusive manner - had the ability to open up a portal to a dark, dark world with some dark, dark spirits. Maybe that could explain what was happening here.
Either way, if Luvens had only known that there was an X painted on the door to the mill he wouldn’t have headed in this direction. He would have stayed far, far away from that hexed mill and escaped elsewhere. Hexes! But now he had no other choice. The zombies were only yards behind him. He had to go through the ominous door. He had no choice.
He gripped a rusty metal ring and pulled the heavy wooden door open with all his might - the thing must have weighed a good hundred pounds - and he jumped inside, slamming the door back shut behind him. Then he shackled the cursed thing with three different locks.
Thump! Thump! Thump! The zombies started throwing their bodies into and slamming their heads against the door. “Oooooooooh. Brains!”
Phew. Luvens was safe from those cursed creatures...for the moment. He let out a long exhale and turned into the main belly of the mill, which reeked from the overwhelming sweet smell of sugar. The entire place was extremely dark, or at least it appeared to be. Luvens’ pupils still hadn’t readjusted themselves from the harsh sunlight outdoors. But along with the darkness, the air also seemed thick and opaque. It gave Luvens the sensation that something oppressive - an energy of some sort - was pressing down on his chest.
Gradually, his eyes adjusted...and adjusted...and adjusted to the new light. The thick darkness became thinner and thinner and thinner. Luvens began to see the outline of what-appeared-to-be a person standing in front of him. And then another outline of what-appeared-to-be a person.
His eyes adjusted some more and the ‘outlines’ became full-out silhouettes...of not just one or two or three people, but maybe five or six.
“Uuuuuuuugggghhhhhhhhhhhh,” moaned one of the silhouettes.
Luvens’ eyes bugged out of his face like a goldfish. “Zombies!” he yelled.
By now, his pupils had fully adjusted to the darkness and faces appeared within the creepy silhouettes. Hexes! Yes, they were zombies...all with chalky faces and pinkish eyes and jellied brain matter smeared all over their faces. Luvens immediately identified all these particular zombies as more of his fellow slaves. Why, it was Evens! And Rodner! And even the brown-nosed slave-driver Radis who perhaps finally got what was coming to him. Oh, the hexes that had been placed upon these slaves! What evil force had done this?!
But there was another zombie that stood out from the others, mainly because his skin was whiter than the rest...a little too white...maybe because he WAS white. Indeed, this was no slave. It was the slave...master!
“Monsignor Dupont!” Luvens yelled.
But Dupont couldn’t get any words out of his mouth except for those of a vegetable. In other words, he dropped his jaw and said...
...yes, that’s all he could get out of his mouth. Oh, except for one more word:
Luvens was about to turn right the hell around and get the hell out of there, but there was a noise that made him stay put for just one more moment. It was the sound of footsteps against the mill's wooden floor.
Cluck. Cluck. They were coming closer and closer...and closer.
Cluck. Cluck. Cluck.
The lineup of horrible zombies started to part in the middle and a black-rimmed hat appeared in the shadows behind them. The silhouetted outline of a mysterious man gradually manifested itself within the darkness, almost like out of thin air. At first, it was just a head that formed, but then there was a torso and legs and, then, every other appendage that a body possessed.
This mysterious, shadowy figure took three steps forward and overshadowed the line of zombies with his presence. His face became much more discernible and the first thing Luvens noticed was that he had very wiry eyebrows with dashingly blue eyes that seemed to emit their own light, like a prince in some fairytale novel.
Luvens couldn’t help but be hypnotized by the gaze of this shady man. And for a moment it felt like he had lost all control of his body’s motor controls. He didn’t really know how else to describe what he felt except that it was like losing a grip on his soul and he wanted to be as far away from this man as possible.
“Who are you?!” Luvens yelled, trying to regain control of his body.
But the man with the black hat said nothing in response. All he did was allow a subtle Cheshire grin to crawl up his face, a grin that was so eerie, Luvens was convinced he was standing face-to-face with the devil himself.
“Agh!” shrieked Luvens as he ran towards the door, momentarily forgetting that there was a very good reason he came into the mill to begin with. He unshackled the door's locks and pulled it open. Bright daylight flooded into the room, blinding Luvens’ eyes that had only just recently adjusted themselves to the darkness. But as soon as he opened the door...
That’s right! How could he have forgotten?! There were zombies out there! Luvens was so rattled by the presence of the man with the black hat that he completely forgot those miserable-sounding zombies were waiting for him outside!
“Zombies!!!” he screamed.
He turned back into the mill and caught another glimpse of the zombie slaves, Monseigneur Dupont and that shady man with the black hat, that specter-like man with his mesmerizing blue eyes. That wizard! That sorcerer! Prince of darkness! Whoever he was!
“Pleeease!” shouted Luvens. “Who are you?!”
The man with the black hat had no response for Luvens. But he DID start to fold his hands together, which appeared to be some sort of command for the zombies, because as soon as his fingers became interlaced with each other, the zombies were no longer stationary! They were on the move, stumbling closer...and closer...and closer to poor Luvens. They were coming right for him!
“Zombies!!!” Luvens yelled.
He pivoted back towards the door.
Yes, poor Luvens was surrounded by zombies on all sides. He had nowhere to run. Nowhere to hide. All he could do was grip his machete and hold it out in front of him and be ready for anything. He didn't have it in his heart to take a slash at either Evens or Rodner, but Radis was another story. Without another moment of hesitation - Whaaack! - he slashed Radis' chest with the rusting machete blade but it didn't seem to phase the former slave-driver-turned-zombie one bit, and the strange thing is that the resulting wound didn't seem to bleed at all; all it did was spew out some chunky, clotted goo. Whaaack! Whaaack! He slashed at Radis again, and then at the other zombies, but, still, nothing happened, just a few scratches with that hideous clotted goo. In other words, it didn't look like Luvens and his machete were going to be any match against these doomed zombies. All poor Luvens could do was kneel to the ground and pray to God that he would be saved from the horrible situation that he was in.
But God didn’t show him any mercy. Maybe God was still angry at Luvens about the sugarcane. Maybe God's lightning bolt finally came...in the form of the zombies pouncing on poor Luvens.
“Aaaaaaaagggggghhhhhhhhhh!!!” Luvens screamed. Within seconds, he was covered with zombies like maggots on a piece of meat.
And then there was silence. But then some tongue-licking. And some snacking. And some lip-smacking. And some finger-licking. And then...
Luvens was no longer Luvens. He was just a hollow piece of flesh lacking spirit and soul. The hinges of his jaw shook a moment and then his mouth drooped down to his neck.
"Oooooooooooooooooooh," he groaned.
Luvens had turned into one of THEM.
Chapter 1 - Suburban America. A Few Years from modern day...
Jay and his best bud Cuddy glided down the super-smooth asphalt with their Powell Peralta skateboards. Jay was kneeling low to the ground and running his gloved fingers over the pavement like a surfer would do. He liked to touch the pavement while he skated. It seemed to add to the experience, made him feel more 'at one' with the streets he skated on. It was kind of like a transcendental experience, or a Zen sort of a thing. Well, fuck, he didn’t really know what Zen was all about. Let’s just say it was a ‘spiritual’ experience or something of that nature. No, fuck it, let’s just say that it was fun and that’s all that really mattered! Yes, let’s leave it at that, please.
The wind blew Jay’s long devil-lock to the side of his face and it flapped in the wind like the pirate flag of the ship that was his skateboard. A crucifix earring dangled from his left ear, kind of like Barry Bonds’ signature earring, but Jay wasn’t thinking Barry Bonds when he got his ear pierced (after all, why would he model a look after some juiced-up “athlete” and, yes, that latter word should be put in quotes when referring to some phony on the roids!); he was thinking Christian Slater circa the late 1980s, or, to be more specific, Christian Slater in the super-cool skateboarding movie Gleaming the Cube, which was Jay’s favorite movie of all time. Yes, Jay was totally Hetero, but he had to admit that Christian Slater totally had ‘the look’ in that movie. In fact, much of Jay’s appearance can be rooted back to his infatuation with Christian Slater in Gleaming the Cube, like, for example, Jay’s jangling dogtags that he sported around his neck (that hung over - not under - his Public Enemy T-shirt, of course), not to mention his leather, finger-less gloves.
But there was also another key influence behind Jay's look other than Christian Slater. Jay’s devil-lock hairdo, for example, had nothing to do with Gleaming the Cube; its influence stemmed from The Misfits and, no, he was not paying tribute to those characters in the Rudolph the Red Nose Christmas special; nope, he was paying tribute to the band The Misfits, which was his favorite band of all time, especially when Glenn Danzig was their front-man, though Jay had no problem with Michael Graves either. Not only were The Misfits HIS favorite band of all time, but he also thought they were - objectively speaking - THE best band of all time, though he realized several people would beg to differ with him. OK, maybe Led Zeppelin was the band you were “supposed” to say was the greatest band of all time or whatever, but Jay didn’t think how he was “supposed” to think. Jay thought what he wanted to think.
Jay’s best dude Cuddy had a slightly more unoriginal look going on with him, but that wasn’t to say that it still wasn’t mega cool. Hell, any square looking to get into being more cool could most definitely use Cuddy’s look as a decent starting point. Basically, if you looked up Thrasher in the dictionary, you would probably find a photo of Cuddy right next to the definition. His hair was shaved low, but he still had enough stubble present so as to not deceive people into thinking he was a lame skinhead. For clothing, he had a light-blue-collared shirt, tan khaki pants and a pair of black, low-top Vans. Although he claimed that he “found” his outfit in some thrift store somewhere, Jay knew Cuddy more than likely purchased the majority of the outfit at the galleria's PacSun, aka "Pacific Sunwear", aka a store where - according to Jay - posers go with their moms to buy clothes that make them APPEAR to be a hardcore thrasher. But true thrashers didn’t shop at the local PacSun. Thrashing wasn’t a uniform...it was a state of mind, dude, not something that could be purchased.
Needless to say, Jay liked to give his best buddy a hard time about (allegedly) shopping at PacSun, not to mention Hot Topic, though Cuddy relentlessly denied ever stepping foot into either of those stores. Instead, Jay's skater buddy tried to play off an “I don’t give a shit” attitude when it came to his clothing...
“No, dude, I just found it in some Salvation Army store. I swear.”
But Jay knew full-well that everything was very well coordinated. He could just picture Cuddy laying every outfit out on his bed at night, like what girls do before their first day of high school. Hee hee hee.
Of course, this wasn’t to say that Cuddy was all show. He was an overall righteous dude and a friggin’ kick-ass skater. In fact, he was almost at the same skill-level as Jay was. Hell, he’d probably be just as good as Jay if only he was just a little more graceful and put a little more heart into it. Cuddy was always one of those 'textbook' thrashers who judged a skater by the amount of tricks he could do, or whether he could get air on a half-pipe or how high he could ollie or whatever. Jay was never really like this. Jay placed more of an importance on the skater’s style than his tricks. In his eyes, it wasn't very impressive to see some clown roll down a driveway and do a kick-flip, but it WAS impressive to see him do a kick-flip up to a curb and then see him nose-manual for twenty feet or so and then end with a 360-variel. Something like that was creative and was a clearer indication of a good skater. It was all about being brave enough to do things differently than the Tony Hawks and Mike McGills and Rodney Mullens and the other precedent-setters, though Mullen was kind of in a league of his own, a friggin' angel sent to earth to do one thing and one thing only: skate better than anybody ever could. It wasn't even possible to be different than Mullen. Mullen existed on a plane that was totally unique and totally untouchable by anybody. It's questionable whether that dude was even human. Pardon the digression...
But, yes, for the most part, Cuddy was more textbook than creative. This was why he felt the need to call out every move he pulled:
As opposed to just doing it.
“Ready, Jay?! Wheel slide!”
"Shut up, dude!"
"Oh, sorry, man."
"I forgive you, Cud!"
He and Jay thrashed their way through the sterile suburban neighborhood, pulling all sorts of insane shit. It was about two o'clock on a Saturday afternoon and the neighborhood was so quiet it looked like it could have been two o'clock on a Tuesday. Most of the homes were either ranches or raised ranches that looked like they had all been molded from the same cookie-cutter blueprint. There was at least one window to every home that had a small satellite dish mounted on the sill, sucking entertainment out of the sky and right into their living room’s widescreen, back-projected, plasma high-definition televisions. The satellite dishes were eyesores to Jay's eyes; he equated them to spuds growing out of potatoes.
Each of the home's yards had obligatory wine barrels filled with Impatiens and squared plots of lawn that had small, yellow signs poking up from the corners. These signs warned passersby that strong chemicals were used to create the illusion that the grass was much heartier and healthier than it actually was. Stay off the grass, folks, unless you longed for the cancer!
Most of the yards also had another sign that warned potential prowlers of some top-of-the-line home security system. With America facing a trillion dollar deficit, taxes going way up, less money going into social programs, stocks going berzerk and unemployment rising steadily, America was in the middle of a recession and crime, especially burglary, was more of the rule than the exception. The only industry that seemed to be booming was the surveillance/security industries, both because of the constant threat of crime, but also because of the constant threat (real or unreal) of terrorists - homegrown and foreign. The top-of-the-line surveillance technology may have deterred the evildoers to some extent, but the downside was that Big Brother was stronger and more present than ever. But it was a small price to pay for feeling more secure. Or was it?
Aside from the signs, the suburban yards also had an occasional basketball net or hockey net or trampoline that managed to give the property at least SOME semblance of personality. But they all seemed rusty and unused. The neighborhood kiddies spent most of their time playing video games or watching the boob tube or Facebooking.
So, yes, the neighborhood was relatively calm and boring at this hour; well, that is, if Jay and Cuddy weren’t around. They were the sugar and cinnamon to this otherwise tasteless bowl of oatmeal.
“Five-O!” yelled Cuddy as he grinded his board’s back trucks along a sewer’s curb.
"Dude! Stop calling out your tricks!"
"Sorry, sorry. I can't kick the habit!"
Jay pulled a nasty vari-flip over a plastic trash barrel that was knocked over on its side and he landed back on the pavement with ease. He and Cuddy were causing such a commotion (relative to the ordinary silence the neighborhood was used to) that they couldn’t help but set off a few SUV alarms. A few of the neighborhood Rottweilers were barking as well. The beasts were well-trained by their owners to sink their teeth into a couple of skater punks like Jay and Cuddy. Fortunately, they were fenced in.
After he nailed the vari-flip, Jay whipped up a manual for almost fifty yards or so and then boldly decided to skate up one of the house’s hilly driveways and “pull a Bert”. Pulling a Bert essentially consisted of treating the hill as though it were a wave and treating your skateboard as though it were a surfboard. You rolled up the hill, planted your hand into the concrete, slid on the wheels and whipped the board 180 degrees, and then went back down the hill. The move was named after the surfer Larry Bertleman who used to nail these things all the time. The pioneers of skateboarding, the so-called “Lords of Dogtown”, ripped a lot of these with their super-thin banana-shaped skateboards. In fact, this was basically the first and only move to do with skateboards back in the 1970s when nobody knew what the hell an ollie or kick-flip was.
Anyway, Jay had decided that, what-the-hell, he’s gonna go and pull a fuckin’ Bert on this poor bastard’s driveway, whoever he is. The hill was too damn perfect to be passed by un-skated.
“Jay, what are you doing?!” yelled Cuddy, watching his buddy go up the driveway.
Jay said nothing in response. He coasted up the driveway, bent over backwards, planted his hand into the driveway and nailed the Bert with such grace and beauty. He was like a ballerina on that damn skateboard.
“No, he didn’t just do that!” Cuddy yelled. “No way!”
But, suddenly, the resident of the house burst out the front door - the TV blasting behind him - and he started running after Jay with a wooden baseball bat in his hand. Crap! It was a sports dad and he was wearing a nylon running-suit made by that company Adidas.
“Oh, shit!” Jay shouted as he sped back down the driveway.
“Goddamn skater punks!” yelled the sports dad, his hair slicked back with moose. “I just got that driveway paved! And sealed! Fucking dipshits!”
“Sorry!” Jay yelled back. And, really, he was. If he knew the guy just got the driveway sealed he probably wouldn’t have gone ahead and pulled that sick Bert. But, hey, he couldn’t do anything about it now. What was done was done. And, damn that was a friggin’ gnarly Bert!
The sports dad chased Jay and Cuddy down the street for about a hundred yards or so but the two skater punks - with their Cross Bone wheels and top-of-the-line Swiss bearings - were just too fast and the guy started huffing and puffing and then eventually stopped.
“Goddamn dildo freakshows!” the sports dad yelled, waving his fist high in the air.
"Nice meeting you!" yelled Jay, waving goodbye.
By now, the sports dad was far in the distance, coughing on a cloud of skateboard dust, and, soon, all trace of him disappeared over the street's horizon. Jay and Cuddy kept thrashing through the lower depths of the neighborhood for another five or ten minutes, and then they ended up at a culdesac where they met up with some other fellow skater buds: it was Link, Gecko and Spud!
“What’s goin’ on fellas!” Jay shouted as he whipped his board into a 720-degree spin, looking much like a goddamn figure skater. He kept going around and around. At first, he was on two wheels, but then he was just on one wheel, and he kept going around and around and around.
“Jay! Cuddy! Get ready to be happy!” Gecko yelled. He had red spiked hair and wore a Dead Kennedy's shirt with holy jeans that were held up with a studded leather belt.
“I’m ready!” Jay yelled back. “Make me happy!”
“OK, so me, Link and Spud were just up on Indian Hill with my binoculars, right?!”
“I like where this is goin’!”
“We were scopin’ out the neighborhoods for pools.”
“Yeah? You find one?!”
“All’s I gotta say is Five Eagle Drive.”
“Looks like we're going to Five Eagle Drive!”
Chapter 2 – Five Eagle Drive
Jay figured Five Eagle Drive must have been inhabited by a super-patriot of some sort, as was indicated by the abundance of American flags on the premises, both on poles and also hanging beneath the split ranch's windowsills. The yard also had rusted trucks and tool sheds so it was evident that he and his skater buds were dealing with somebody who probably wasn’t going to be friendly towards skater punks. Could be a Redneck. Possibly an NRA member. Maybe somebody who considered The Fox Network to be a respectable source of news and saw Rush Limbaugh as a valid voice of reason. But, hell, part of the thrill of trespassing on one’s property and skating their pool was knowing that there was an incredibly good chance that whoever lived in the place was a total douche nozzle. Of course, if it was an old lady’s pool, it would just be totally wrong. The old woman would be scared. Confused. No, Jay didn’t want to give a poor old woman a heart attack. But if it was a friggin' Fox News nozzle Jay was dealing with, all the more reason to ride the pool! He didn't like these dudes!
He and Cuddy crept their way past the yard’s rusty trucks while the other skater buds hid in a nearby bush. Jay was eyeballing the dilapidated vehicles and he noticed the weathered bumper stickers plastered on the bumpers. They had slogans that said things like “Support your troops” and “If you don’t like it here, leave”, the latter of which referred to the American malcontents...the “punks” if you will...or, to put it more simply, the people who actually cared enough about their country to question things. Whoever lived in this house was probably the kind of person who viewed dissent as treason, and the protesters were the people who were committing treason. Truth was seen as unpatriotic. Lies were seen as patriotic. Shut up and listen to the one-percent...and...and if you don't like it here, leave! Yes, surely Jay’s suspicions had been confirmed. He and his skater buds were dealing with a fascist freedom-hater here. Jay was gonna skate this pool, no doubt about it. He was gonna skate the SHIT out of this pool.
Jay took another look around the yard and - with the exception of the rusted trucks in the yard that hadn't been driven for years - there was no newish vehicle present, which hopefully meant that nobody was home at the given moment. But Jay needed to be sure.
He rang the doorbell and a dog immediately started barking its ass off from inside.
“Crap,” Cuddy said in a whisper. “We gotta bail!”
“Calm down,” Jay said. “I don't think anybody's home...and if they are, we’re looking for our lost dog, OK?”
Jay took a peek through a smudged square window to the left of the door, but couldn’t see much except his own reflection blended with the face of a mean-ass growling Doberman. If somebody were home, they’d use the lost dog story, then the person would say, “no, I haven’t seen your fucking dog” and then Jay and Cuddy would go skate somewhere else. It was a simple plan.
But nobody seemed to be home in this particular house, except the vicious dog barking out its tonsils.
“I think it’s all clear,” Jay said.
“I don’t know about this,” Cuddy said.
“Don’t be a wuss.”
“Listen to that dog, man! It’s an omen!”
“Well, I’m skating this fucking pool. If you want to be a chicken shit, then go to the playground and ride the kiddie ramps.”
Jay was referring to the newish skate park that the town’s recreational department recently built next to the little league baseball fields. It basically consisted of three concrete quarter-pipes, a funbox and a picnic-table-type-thingy where you could grind the benches and do various other boring shit. Jay never liked the place because you could only have so much fun on a few ramps and a funbox, not to mention that there were usually little kids zipping all over the place with their Razor scooters, and then there were some rollerbladers or - even worse - mountain bikers who weren’t even supposed to be there anyway. Plus, the skate park rules required that you wore a helmet, which Jay absolutely refused to do, since it was imperative that his devil lock be visible at all times. Overall, the park was built to try to corral all the suburban skater punks into one area, downtown, that could be easily monitored by the police department. But it was built by a company that didn’t know the first thing about skateboarding! “Skateboarding is about being free!” Jay would always proclaim. How can you be free when you’re confined to a cage filled with three fucking quarter pipes and a funbox? It’s like being animals in a zoo!
“Fine, dude. I’m in,” said Cuddy and he gave Jay a fist bump.
Jay gave Link, Spud and Gecko a thumbs-up and the skater buds jumped out of their hiding spot.
“Siiiiiick!” Spud howled. "I'm so jazzed about this."
"This is gonna be sooo awesome!" Link yelled.
"Let's pop this thing's cherry!" Gecko shouted.
All the thrashers ran to the wooden backyard fence and helped each other hop over its pointy pickets.
Chapter 3 – A Sick Pool
“Gnarly!” yelled Gecko as he dropped into the pool's deep end, rolled up the opposite side, did a fifty-fifty grind on the pool's freshly candle-waxed lip and proceeded to roll into the shallow end. The concrete pool on Five Eagle Drive was completely drained and shaped like a kidney bean. Gecko's fellow skater-buds were kind enough to allow him to christen the pool first, which had been likened to taking the virginity away from an eighteen-year-old girl who attended Catholic School.
Gecko rolled through the shallow end and then dropped back into the deep end, picked up tons of speed, rolled back up the lip and did a nose pick, stalling for a good three seconds, then dropped back into the pool backwards. Then he switched up the pace and spent a good minute riding through the pool, going up and down its sides, running his hand along the concrete, surfing the cement “waves”, as it were. He didn't even have to pump his board at any point; he just coasted and coasted and coasted. His Crossbone wheels were equipped with German bearings, the second fastest bearings on the thrasher market (Swiss being the fastest) but they still made the board roll like it was on a tuft of air. He skated back up to the waxed lip, ollying 180 degrees and then nailed a tail slide along the pool's edge for a good five or six feet until the wax stopped.
“Rad!” Spud yelled from the pool patio. He had one eye on the pool and one eye on his cell phone. He was texting more of his friends to come down and ride the pool.
Gecko rolled up the other side of the pool - where the pool light was - rolled over the light, kissed the pool's lip with his trucks (in the form of a gentle fifty-fifty grind) and then rolled back down.
“Dude, that's sick!” exclaimed the paranoid Cuddy. He was perched atop the pool’s water-slide, keeping a lookout for the home’s owners or any coppers.
“So sick!” Link yelled. He was texting some friends and also posting about the pool session on his Facebook and Twitter.
Now for the big finish. Gecko rolled up to the pool’s lip and nailed a mega-gnarly hand-plant.
“Tots-tacular! Tots-tacular!!!” Spud yelled. He pocketed his phone, because he was next in line to skate the pool.
Spud had a decent session but he basically did a lot of grinding and sliding (he wasn't able to catch any air). Link was next and he had a decent run as well, mostly doing kick and heel flips, rocking and rolling, and other tricks of that nature - nothing too remarkable (both he and Spud's skills were at a lower level than their friends).
By the time Spud and Link were finished taking their turns in the pool, the party of five skaters grew to about a party of fifteen or twenty. In fact, the ‘party’ really HAD turned into a party. Not only were there more skaters at the pool, but the skaters had brought their cute girlfriends and their cute girlfriends’ friends and there were also some dudes Jay referred to as the ‘groupies’ - the younger teens who dressed in their best PacSun garb and enviously watched Jay and his friends land nasty tricks. Some of them brought their own boards (bought at Toys R Us or Olympia Sports) and practiced their ollies on the patio. A lot of these punkers weren't even interested in skateboarding; they were more into the partying, drinking Pabst Blue Ribbon beers, or maybe Mountain Dews, trying to look extreme. One of them had also brought a boom box and a bunch of mix CDs and they were blasting the best of Rancid, Pennywise, The Ramones and No Use for a Name. Yes, things were getting a little rowdy. Jay pretended not to care, but deep down he knew that he and his skater buds were really pushing it this time.
Nevertheless, Jay loved that there would be an audience for when he skated. In fact, this was one of the reasons why he allowed his skater buds to ride the pool first. He knew that the longer he waited, the longer the text messages would spread like rabbits during mating season. More and more people would come. More groupies and, especially, more girls. Oh, yes, there were more girls, all right. There was Lindsay and Skyler and Heather and Mandy and Vanessa and Erin and many, many more. There was definitely a good chance that Jay would be able to grab one of these girls' attention when he nailed a nasty Airwalk and maybe - just maybe - he’d spend the rest of the afternoon making out with her. Of course, this all sounded like middle school stuff, but Jay was a tad “immature” for 22-years-old. He still loved making out and fooling around with the bases like he was still in Junior High. Call him Peter Pan, call him what you will. The more “mature” you got in life, the more fucking boring you got.
“You’re up, Jay!” Cuddy yelled.
“Huh? Oh...” Jay tried to play it cool at first, as though he wasn’t eagerly waiting to rip up that pool and impress the hell out of all the bystanders. Yes, his demeanor said, “Oh, OK...I guess I’ll go,” but he knew full-well that as soon as he dropped into that pool, there were going to be three or four girls who were instantaneously going to want him in a major way. A dude could be the ugliest bastard on the planet but if he was able to skate well - or do anything real well like play guitar or whatever - he’d be able to get any chick on the planet, at least temporarily. Girls loved the power and the talent and the god-like abilities. Of course, ultimately they seemed to go for the guy with the most financial security, regardless of how talented he was at anything. Yeah, the idea of being with a skater was cool because they pulled some sick tricks, but then they eventually saw how insecure the lifestyle was and ended up with boring Johnny Wall Street. Skanks! Just kidding...well, sort of not.
Jay locked the tail of his skateboard on the lip of the pool and got into pre-drop-in position. But before he dropped into the pool, he took a moment to soak in all the whispers and mutterings he could hear behind him:
“Pssst...this kid’s sick.”
“This is gonna be sick...just watch...watch this shit.”
“Dude, you know who that is, right?”
Jay pretended he couldn't hear all the gossip as he sucked in a breath of air and then dropped down into the shallow end of the pool.
As far as how his session compared to Spud’s or even Gecko’s, there was absolutely no contest. First of all, Jay was able to catch major air off the lips because his board was faster than the rest. Not only did he have Swiss bearings but they were also greased with about a half a can of WD-40, which made his skateboard ride so smooth that he might as well be on a goddamn hover-board.
“Yeah, Jay!” yelled Cuddy, still sitting atop the water slide.
Jay not only caught major air, but he pulled a kick-flip and did a fifty-fifty stall on the lip.
“Sick!” Gecko yelled.
Then he pulled an air-walk.
“Raddy Daddy!” Link yelled.
Then he decided to open a can of something REALLY nice and pulled a hand-plant - out of nowhere - and it stunned everybody.
“Holy shit!” Spud shouted.
But what distinguished this hand-plant from Gecko's was that Jay held the position for longer than usual, showing the girlies that not only was he a sick skateboarder but he also had great upper body strength as well. Once he landed this trick, he knew he had a make-out session in the bag. Maybe a little bit of second base as well...if he was lucky.
He finished off the session with some grinds, nose-picks, tail-slides, board slides, one dark slide and a few Berts up the sides of the pool for style points.
“So fucking sick!” yelled Cuddy as he hopped down from the water slide.
Jay propelled himself out of the pool and back onto the patio. He gave each of the skater buds complicated high-fives with various finger-wrestles and palm-slides. Then Jay scoped out the girl situation, looking for the one with that special look in that face, the one that said, “Oh, my...that dude’s amazing and I’d really like to make out with him, but oh, no...am I good enough...do you think I’m good enough for him? Maybe not, but wait...he’s coming towards me right now. Oh, my God, he’s actually looking at me right now. I mean, he’s definitely looking at me, right? Oh, God, I hope my breath is OK...what do I do? What do I do? I'm nervous, I feel like I should be doing something with my hands.”
Yes, Jay had found a couple of girls who would probably get the job done. He knew he “was in” as soon as they started brushing their hair back behind their ears, which was a sure sign of nervousness on their part. It was a dead giveaway. Girls ought to know that any fiddling with the hair on their part was a sign of weakness. It screamed insecurity, which consequently gave the guy an upper hand in the situation.
Christ, Jay couldn’t believe how much fiddling these girls were doing with their hair. Was he really that good in the pool? So good that these girls couldn’t do anything but brush their hair behind their ears over and over again? This could have been the easiest make out sesh he’s ever had in the bag. Well, if that's what he wanted, and he DID want it...that is, until a little voice - from out of nowhere - changed everything...
"Mind if I skate this thing?"
Huh? Jay and all the skater buds turned towards the voice and couldn't believe their eyes: there was a smoking-hot chick standing behind them, holding a skateboard by its top truck. She had really dark-black hair (which was probably dyed), a sick nose ring and a sleeve of Japanese-looking tattoos on her arm. But what made her even hotter was her super-short denim shorts - frayed at the bottoms - and her petite Bad Religion tank top, which nicely hugged her smoking babe-a-licious chest.
Jay and the other skater dudes were understandably a tad caught off guard by this smoking-hot girl. They didn't know if she was joking or if they were simply hallucinating. The cat had their fucking tongue.
"Uuuuuuhhhhhhhh...." Link, Gecko and Spud were all speechless.
"Uuuuuuuhhhhh...." So wasn't Cuddy.
Jay was the only dude who could finally get some words out of his mouth. Instead of just saying, "Uuuuuuuuuuhhhhhhh...", he said, "Uuuuuuuuuuuuuh...sure."
The skater dudes parted like the Red Sea and the mystery-girl made her way to the edge of the pool, planted her tail onto the lip and dropped right into the fucking thing without any hesitation or fear. Hoooooooooooly shit. The skater dudes, again, thought that they may have been hallucinating. This was a girl. Skating. A girl skating. And she was absolutely fucking sick!
The mystery skater-chick was pulling nose-picks, tail-picks, five-o-stalls, nose-grinds. Then she started catching major-air. Kick-flips! Heel-flips! Fakie-everything! Airwalks, variels, twists! Even a hand-plant. No, she didn't hold the hand-plant for as long as Jay did, but - still - holy shit!
Jay and the skater dudes kind of just stood around the perimeter of the pool, frozen in awe, with their jaws basically drooping down to the fucking concrete patio.
"Who IS that?" asked Jay, breaking the shocked silence.
"I think her name's Krystal," Link said. "I heard a rumor there was this sick skater-chick who was new in town. I guess the rumor's true."
"This girl's fucking sick," Cuddy said.
"And smoking hot, too," Gecko added.
Jason kept watching Krystal thrash the hell out of the pool - grinding, sliding and basically OWNING that fucking thing. It was at that moment that he felt a little tingling sensation near or around his chest area, even though he felt pretty girly for admitting it. This chick in the pool was waaaay different from any of the other girls at the party. To hell with getting easy make-out sessions and second base action. He didn't care about any of that shit. He was attracted to this girl in a way that was different from any other attraction he had ever had. It wasn't about getting to bases and all that shit. All that crap seemed to exist on a whole other plane of reality. The attraction he felt for this girl was going to rock his world and, yes, he acknowledged how dumb that sounded, but, hey, it was the best way to describe what he felt.
But, yes, what a feeling Jay had near or around his chest area! Fuck it, it was probably his heart that was experiencing the sensation, but he definitely didn't want to admit THAT. Jay probably would have taken a little more time to process the feeling and what it actually was...that is, if it weren't for a sudden and abrasive interruption to the moment.
See, this whole time there was a young rookie Cop - Officer Patrick - cruising slowly down Eagle Drive, tailing a couple dumb stoned punks who ultimately hopped over the wooden fence to attend the pool "party". It didn't take the young rookie cop much time to put two and two together.
"Calling all units!" he yelled into his radio. "I got one word for ya: skater punks!"
The skater punks were conditioned in almost a Pavlovian way to start running their asses off as soon as they heard that whoop-whoop sound.
“Shit! It’s the fucking cops!”
Yes, all the thrashers and posers and moshers and girlies and Mountain Dew slammers scattered like a bunch of cockroaches in a cheap motel. They grabbed as many PBRs as they could carry, along with their skateboards, and also their boomboxes.
"Shet!" Spud shouted. "We gotta go!"
Spud, Link and Gecko made like a tree and got the hell out of there.
"C'mon, Jay!" yelled Cuddy, but Jay hesitated. He looked down into the pool and saw Krystal standing there - board in hand - looking confused in the shallow end.
"Cops!" Jay shouted. "We gotta split!"
Jay reached down to the shallow end and gave Krystal his hand so she could easily climb out of the pool.
"C'mon!" shouted Cuddy again, waving for them to follow.
Jay, Krystal and Cuddy booked it for the wooden fence bordering the yard and the pool. Much to their dismay, there were loads of dog droppings all over the place and they were nearly impossible to avoid. Didn’t the god-dog homeowner pick up after his goddamn dog? Perhaps he waited until the amount of dog loads got unbearable to look at (never mind the smell) and THEN he picked everything up at once. But why couldn’t he just keep a pooper-scooper handy and pick up each load right after the dog did them? Of course, such mysterious questions were not important right now. What WAS important was shaking the cops, which wasn’t going to be the easiest thing to do, seeing that the house was surrounded on all sides by streets. There were no woods to scatter into, not even a ditch or a shrubbery that was big enough for everybody.
Jay, Cuddy and Krystal locked the trucks to their boards atop the wooden pickets and started climbing up to the top of the fence, trying to scale over the thing unseen. But, fuck - Whoop! Whoop! - a couple cruisers sped down the street and screeched in front of the fence.
“Freeze, dildos!” yelled two members of Appleton's finest as they hopped out of their cruisers and whipped out their batons. "One can of pepper spray, coming right up! Haw, haw haw!"
The skater punks hopped down from the fence, grabbed their boards and ran in the opposite direction, back towards the front of the house, and also squished their way through all sorts of other smushy dog loads.
“We’re fucked, Jay!” Cuddy yelled. “I knew this was a bad idea right from the get-go.”
“Pull yourself together, Cud! We’ll get outta this!”
"I can't go to jail! It'll ruin everything! Oh, I never should have listened to you!"
"Relax, dude! Everything's fine!"
They managed to arrive at the other side of the yard, where the fence was slightly taller but still possible to scale. They each chucked their skateboards over the fence and then started climbing it. But Krystal was having trouble. Her upper body wasn't strong enough to get her to the top and the soles to her Vans were worn and had difficulty gripping the wood without slipping all over the place.
Jay looked over to Krystal, saw what was going on and knew that she needed some help. He hopped back down from the fence and tried to assist her.
"Jay, what the hell are you doing?!" yelled Cuddy, seeing what was happening.
"Give me a hand, Cud."
"Just give me a fucking hand!"
Cuddy rolled his eyes and reluctantly hopped back down from the fence to help out.
"I got it!" yelled Krystal, feeling embarrassed by the situation. "Don't worry about me. I can take care of myself!"
But Jason wasn't listening to any of it. He and Cuddy locked their fingers together and "gave Krystal ten". Krystal was still embarrassed and stubbornly hesitated...
"Just do it!" Jay yelled.
Krystal finally swallowed her pride and caved. She stepped into the ten fingers and the skater dudes hoisted her up a bit. Now she was easily able to get over the fence with no problemo.
As soon as Krystal was home free, Jason and Cuddy both hopped up and gripped the pickets with their hands. Then they started pulling themselves up, desperately trying to get some good footing with their sneakers, which was difficult. But before they could even make it to the first crossbar...
"Hooold it right there, you goddamn gypsy-dicks! One more move and I blow your scrotums off!"
Jason and Cuddy froze where they were and then dropped back down to the ground. They slowly turned around with their hands up in the air. There he was with his glock drawn, that rookie cop Office Patrick, and he was grinning like he had just eaten a pile of shit.