Authors: Eric Walters
Copyright Â© 2004 Eric Walters
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.
National Library of Canada Cataloguing in Publication Data
Walters, Eric, 1957-
Grind / Eric Walters.
I. Title. II. Series.
PS8595.A598G75 2004Â Â Â jC813'.54Â Â Â C2004-904735-3
When Wally is badly injured skateboarding, Phillip must decide what is more importantâskating or making things right with his friends.
First published in the United States, 2004
Library of Congress Control Number: 2004110961
Orca Book Publishers gratefully acknowledges the support for its publishing programs provided by the following agencies: the Government of Canada through the Department of Canadian Heritage's Book Publishing Industry Development Program (BPIDP), the Canada Council for the Arts, and the British Columbia Arts Council.
Cover design: Lynn O'Rourke
Cover photography: Eyewire
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For all those who have the guts
to go big instead of going home!
The bell rang, marking the end of both the school day and my nap. I reached down and grabbed my backpack, stuffed in my notebook and got out of my seat. Despite the slow start, I was still the first person through the door. That was the fastest either my mind or my body had moved all day.
The door closed behind me, cutting off the teacher yelling out his reminder about the
test tomorrow. Didn't he understand that the school day was over? He should stop talking because I'd stopped listening. I knew there was a test and I'd definitely study for it. My plans were to cut first class and get ready for the test. For now, though, I was free.
I worked my way down the hall, weaving in and out of the crush of kids moving in the other direction. I didn't know most of them, but what I did know was that we all wanted the same thingâto get out of the building. I reached my locker, opened it up and threw in the backpack. There was nothing in there that I was going to need tonight. The only thing I needed was in the bottom of my locker and â
I turned around. “How's it going, Wally?”
“School's over, so it must be good. What do you want to do?”
“I figured I'd go straight home. I have some chores to do around the house. Then I'll finish all my homework and do some
math, just so I can be better prepared. Then
I'll read a little bit from the Bible before I turn in for the night because early to bed, early to rise makes you healthy, wealthy and wise.”
“Seriously,” Wally asked.
“Ask a stupid question, get a stupid answer. What do you think I'm going to do?” I reached down into my locker and grabbed my skateboard.
“I knew we were going skating,” Wally said, his board tucked under his arm. “I just wanted to know
“I was thinking behind the Super Save.”
“That's good for me. I don't imagine Lisa will be coming.”
I turned around, slammed the locker closed and clicked on the lock. “What do you think?”
“Still a little sensitive, huh?”
“Not sensitive. Just tired of people asking me. You want to skate or what?” I demanded.
Wally took his board out from under his arm and held it out. “I'm not carrying this just to look cool.”
“That's good, because that whole cool thing just isn't working for you,” I joked.
The crowd was already starting to thin out. That meant some people had escaped before me. I didn't like that. We hurried down the corridor. I thought about how much faster we could move if we just put down the boards and jumped on. Of course, that would have meant a suspension.
Outside the school, the parking lot was a crush of cars, backing out of spots, bumping along the rows, lined up ready to leave. Kids snaked between the cars. We worked our way through the traffic. Again, skating would have been faster, but the same rules applied in the parking lotâget caught skating and you got suspended. It felt like there were more rules and punishments applied to skateboarding than there were to selling drugs.
We finally reached the edge of the parking lot. Just a few feet short of school property I put down my board, jumped on and pumped my way to freedom.
The path was smooth, sloping down, leading to a tunnel that went under the main road.
There were clumps of people along the path ahead of us. I liked that. People became pylons to skate around. I pumped harder, picking up more speed. I zipped in and out, avoiding people, but trying to
I bent down low, allowing the hill to work for me, picking up speed. Just at the bottom of the hill there was a set of stairs â twelve of them. The stairs got closer and closer. I flew off the top, getting great air, grabbing the board with one hand, flying, hitting the pavement with a bump and then flying forward off the board and face planting in the grass and gravel at the side of the path.
I heard the screams and laughs from behind me â people on the path. I picked myself up.
“You okay?” Wally asked. Board in hand, he'd run down the stairs.
I spit out bits of grass and grit. “I'm good.”
“You didn't hurt your wrist?” he asked.
“I made sure I landed on my face.” I'd just got the cast off three days before. I'd broken it boarding.
“Nice move,” said a big guy walking by with a couple of giggling girls. He was in grade twelve and played football.
“Like you could do better.”
He stopped. “What did you say?” he demanded.
“I just said thanks.”
“Let's keep it that way,” he snarled and started to walk away again.
“Doing that jump is dangerous enough by itself without you trying to pick a fight with a guy big enough to eat you for lunch,” Wally said.
“I'm not afraid of him.”
“If you're not afraid of him then you're even more stupider than I thought.”
“More stupider? Who taught you how to speak?”
“Actually you did. You and television.”
“A dynamite combination.”
I'd first met Wally in grade four. He was the new kid â straight off the plane from Poland âand I was asked by the teacher to be his buddy. The only English words
he knew were Nike, Coke and hello. We'd been friends ever since.
“Don't you ever get tired of missing that jump?” Wally asked.
“I was tired of
it the first time. That doesn't mean that I'm gonna stop trying. I'm not going to let a few misses discourage me.”
?” Wally scoffed. “This is May. You first tried that jump in February.”
“Okay, February 10. And every day on the way home from school you've tried it. That's got to be at least sixty times.”
“It's not that many!” I protested.
“Twenty times a month for three months. You do the math.”
“Whatever. But this time was the closest ever, don't you think?”
“Not bad. Did you ever think if you took it with a little less speed you'd get a little less air and you just might make it.”
“Go big or go home,” I said.
“That's a great bumper sticker, but with you it's often
Go big and then go to the hospital
“I wasn't trying to be funny.”
“I don't get hurt that often,” I argued. I deliberately tucked my right leg behind my left to hide the place where I'd just ripped the knee of my jeans. And the knee
“That's just wrong,” Wally said. “Thanks to you I feel like I'm on a first-name basis with every ambulance driver and emergency department nurse in the city.”
“It's not that bad.”
“They practically stop me on the street and say, âHey Wally, how's Phillip doing?'”
“It's not like you've never been hurt,” I said.
“A broken arm and a concussion and some scrapes and cuts. That doesn't even put me in the same league as you.”
There was no point in arguingâhe was right. I'd broken both wrists â at different timesâmy collarbone, three fingers, sprained my ankle three or four times, dislocated my knee, had three concussions and more scrapes and cuts than I could count. And
of course that didn't include my two front teeth â or more accurately my two capped teeth that replaced the ones I'd broken off. I was board sliding a rail when my board slipped and I hit the rail face first, snapping the teeth off right above the gum line. It was eerie to feel two little Chiclets floating around in my mouth â and then realize I wasn't chewing gum.
Actually I'd been injured so often that the hospital thought I was being abused. They'd even sent a social worker to the house to talk to my parents. I'd never seen my father that angryâso angry that he looked like he
beat somebody up. I finally convinced the social worker that I wasn't trying to “hide anything” but just got hurt skating.
“All I'm saying,” Wally continued, “is that if you took it down a notch or two, you'd make the jumps and save the injuries.”
“I always make the
,” I argued.
“What are you talking about?”
“I make the jumps. It's the landings that I'm having trouble with.”
We skated across the store's parking lot, keeping one eye out for traffic and the other for security. If security drove up, that would be the end of this skate session.
We skated to the back of the store. There was a big truck backed up and pressed tight to the delivery door. It was still early and no other skaters were around yet.
We warmed up by skating a couple of low ledges. I was always anxious to skip the easy
stuff, but I knew if I didn't warm up a little, the big tricks were impossible.
“Ready for some excitement?” I asked Wally.
I rolled up the bank lining the back wall of the store, gaining speed as I started down. I ollied up to the hand rail, 50/50ing down it and hitting the pavementâ¦staying on my wheels and on my feet. Nice. Very nice.
I leaped off the board, kicked it at the end and it jumped into the air. I caught it and tucked the board under my arm. I watched as Wally was about to hit the bank. He gained speed as he came down and ollied up and onto the railâit was a ten set â doing a board slide. He almost landed it but bailed at the very end, the board shooting in one direction while he ran in another. I leaned down and grabbed the board as it tried to skitter by me.
“Almost stuck it,” I said as I handed him the board.
“Almost,” he answered. “Feels strange to be here.”
“Why? We're here all the time.”
“Strange to be here without Lisa.”
“You still going on about that?”
“I know. It's just strange not to have her around. Mind if I ask you a question?”
“Would you stop if I said no?”
He shook his head. “Do you think you two will get back together?”
I shook my head. “She's still pretty mad.”
“Do you blame her?” Wally asked.
I shrugged. “Maybe it was for the best. We were starting to drift apart.”