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Authors: Trent Reedy,Trent Reedy

Stealing Air

BOOK: Stealing Air
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Always for Amanda.

“Great success through great risk,” Brian whispered as he jumped his skateboard off the curb. There were over a dozen kids carving tricks at the skate park just ahead of him. Brian didn't know any of them, but since tomorrow would be his first day at a new school, he might as well do something to start making friends. He stomped the tail of his skateboard to ollie it onto the next sidewalk.

This was his fourth day in Riverside, Iowa, but the first time he had been allowed to do much of anything besides carry things into the new house, unpack, and clean. He was glad to see that a lot of these kids looked like they could be heading into the sixth grade like he was. Most had skateboards. Some were Rollerblading. One girl jumped the ramps on her bike. A group of guys was skating the half-pipe, trying to complete a whole run down one six-foot ramp, up the other, and back again. So far, he hadn't seen anyone make it.

Brian rolled up closer as one skater put his back truck over the lip of the ramp, standing on the tail to keep the board on the deck. He stared down the ramp, breathing heavy. Brian shook his head. The kid was skater spooked. He had waited too long and thought about the trick too much. When he finally dropped into the curve, he lost his balance right away. The board wobbled and flew out from under him, and he went rolling down to the flat bottom.

Another kid moved to the edge, pushing some of the others back. “Out of the way! Give me room!” He was short and compact, but he had rolled up the sleeves on his plain black T-shirt, showing off his biceps. “I can do it! I almost did it yesterday,” he said. He pushed his curly black hair out of his eyes. “This time I'll do the whole run.”

“Five bucks says you can't do it, Frankie,” said a guy with short-cropped blond hair. “Up the other side and back without falling.”

“You're on, Alex,” said Frankie. “You better have the money.”

“I always have money,” said Alex.

Frankie positioned his skateboard on the lip of the ramp, front wheels up. He took a breath and then dropped into the transition. His lean was good. His board was steady. Brian figured he might make it. Up the other transition to the far side. Would he kickturn or just tap off the lip and ride back down fakie? He went for the kickturn, a pretty good one. But he messed up the transition going down and came in unbalanced. His board went rolling away from him just as he approached the other transition, and he landed on his butt.

The guys up on the deck clapped. Some groaned, saying he'd been so close. Alex just smiled. Frankie punched the ground and got up to go after his board. It had rolled over by Brian, so Brian picked it up and held it out to him. “Good skating,” he said. “Next time, when you're —”

“Shut up!” Frankie yanked his skateboard out of Brian's grip. “I'm the best skater in town. I don't need tips from freaks like you.” He went back to the half-pipe. “This guy here …” He jerked a thumb in Brian's direction as he climbed the stairs up to the deck. “This guy is trying to give
me
tips on skating.”

Some of the others laughed. Brian felt his cheeks go hot and hoped he wasn't too red. This move to Riverside was supposed to be a chance to start fresh. If he was going to make any friends, he needed to make a move now. Take the big risk.

“I bet I can do it,” he called up to the guys. He picked up his board by the front truck and made his way up the steps. Dad always said the best way to make friends was just to jump in and talk to people as though they already were your friends. Nobody seemed to notice him now, though. As Frankie handed his five-dollar bill to Alex, Brian swallowed and spoke louder. “I bet I can do it.”

Heads turned toward him. Alex raised his eyebrows. Frankie moved back and put his hands on his hips. “I'd like to see you try.”

Alex shook his recent winnings in the air. “Five bucks?”

Brian shrugged. “Make it ten.” He had to carve this trick right to shut Frankie up and impress the others. Plus, he didn't have ten bucks.

Alex laughed and typed something on the iPhone that he took out of his pocket. “All right, dude. You're on.”

Brian put his wheels over the lip with the tail of the board still on the deck. His hands were sweaty and his stomach felt hollow. He had to move fast to avoid skater spook. He stomped hard on the front of his skateboard,
Spitfire
, and leaned forward into the drop.

Into the first curve like a free fall, smooth and tight, zipping across the flat at the bottom. He bent his legs as he shot up the other transition. Grinding his trucks on the lip, he kicked it around and leaned into the drop. He rolled over the flat and up the other side to park it right on the lip with his front wheels up. Leaning forward, he let his board hit the deck and let out a shaky breath.

Everyone shouted and clapped. A skater with bright red hair yelled, “Awesome!”

“I have
never
seen moves like that on this ramp,” another kid said.

Brian grinned. Maybe Dad had been right. Maybe all he needed to do was take a risk. Alex shook his head and took a five from his wallet, which he handed over with Frankie's money.

“Can you get air?” One of the skaters took off her purple helmet and ran her hand through long black hair. When Brian saw her smile and her bright green eyes, he froze. This girl was an angel. The angel laughed a little. “Well, can you?”

“Um.” Brian swallowed. “What?”

“She asked if you can get air! You deaf?” Frankie shouted.

This guy was starting to be a major pain. Brian knew he had to go for it. He had scored air on the half-pipe back in Seattle a bunch of times, but he was still trying to pull off the Ultimate Trick, a full 360-degree spin in the air at the top of the ramp. He could do a simple jump now, though. He set
Spitfire
up for the drop into the half-pipe, and people cheered.

Frankie leaned against the railing at the back of the deck. “No way. He's gonna get hurt.”

“Five bucks says he can do it!” the angel shouted.

Alex whipped out his iPhone again and started typing. “Wendy bets five. Any takers?”

“You nuts?” said Frankie. “Ten says he can't get off the ground.”

Others chimed in with their bets. Alex keyed it all into his phone. He gave Brian the thumbs-up. “Okay, dude. Go for it.”

“What do
I
get if I make it?” Brian asked.

“I'll buy you a soda,” Wendy said.

Brian nodded at her. Her smile alone might just be worth it. Like before, he slammed the board forward, leaning into the drop. Down one ramp, across the flat, and then shooting up the other side. He tapped the far side lip, spun around, and rolled back the other way.

“He can't do it!” Frankie shouted. “Look, he didn't get no air! He did it same as before.”

Brian rolled up the ramp, whipping a quick kickturn, building speed. Fast now, up to the other side, and then back down across the flat. He was ready. He'd done it before. He'd go for air on the next pass.

Up the transition to the lip by the guys. Turn and —

Someone kicked the back end of his board and the wheels scraped sideways.
Spitfire
wobbled into the drop. Brian flailed his arms and tried to keep his balance, but he was off center and fell. A sharp pain shot up from his elbow as he hit the ramp hard and tumbled into the flat. The skateboard rolled up the far transition and then back down, smacking him in the back.

“Hee hee hee hee heeeeeeee! Wipeout!” Frankie sang the old song off pitch, making a sweeping motion with the toe of his boot.

“Frankie, you idiot!” Wendy shouted.

“Oh, come on. I was just joking around!”

Brian clenched his fists. It was the perfect run until this jerk messed it up. He stood up. “What's your problem?”

The other guys went quiet. Frankie stopped laughing. He slid on his feet down the ramp and shoved him hard in the chest. “
You're
my problem.” He was breathing heavy and glaring at Brian. “And now I'm gonna be
your
problem.” Frankie pushed him again.

Wendy moved up closer. “Stop it, Frankie!”

Frankie was so short and stood so close that he had to look up at Brian, but as he kept his big arms partly cocked back, Brian could tell he had been lifting weights. Worse, there was a little twitch in his eye that made him look like he could go off at any moment. This was not the kind of guy Brian wanted to throw down with, not right now. His foot found
Spitfire
.

“Time to teach you a lesson,” Frankie said, balling up his fist. He lunged forward, but Brian was quick, jumping back as he pushed
Spitfire
under Frankie's foot. Frankie slipped on the skateboard and went reeling backward, slamming down onto the flat bottom and hitting his head.

As he lay there for a moment, Alex rushed up to Brian. He whispered, “You got guts, but seriously, you should go.”

It would look bad to run from a fight, but there was no way this could end well. Brian ran to his board, jumped on, and kick-started off, cutting tight around the back of the half-pipe and shooting down the sidewalk the way he had come in. He'd only been in Riverside for a few days and had no idea where to go next. Worse, the town was built on one big hill. Getting to his house, to Grandpa's, or even just to the town square would be an uphill run.

Brian skated out onto the road, clearing the end of the block and shooting through the T intersection where Weigand Street met the highway. He glanced back, and Frankie was up and following on his own skateboard. Brian kicked at the street to go faster. How was he ever going to get out of this? Unless Frankie made a mistake and crashed somehow, there was really no way to escape. And if Frankie caught him …

He checked his six. Frankie was starting to close the gap. Brian pushed harder. Without thinking, he cut a tight corner, heading downhill toward the river. A grove of trees temporarily kept him out of Frankie's sight, but the tough guy would round the corner in no time.

“Brian!” A kid on a big blue two-seat bike shot out of the trees and pulled up alongside him, surprising him so much that he almost waxed out. With his black-rimmed glasses and dark hair, the bike rider looked like Harry Potter without the cool scar. “Grab on,” the kid said.

Whoever he was, he was Brian's best chance to get away. Brian took hold of the back handlebars and sighed as he relaxed his legs for a moment.

The rider risked a look back, sunlight flashing bright off his thick glasses. “I'm Max Warrender. I presume you are Brian Roberts?”

Brian nodded.

“I thought so,” the kid said. “It's nice to meet you, Brian.” He faced forward and kept pedaling furiously down the hill.

“Yeah, um, nice to meet you too,” Brian said. He glanced behind him again. Frankie was still on the other side of the trees, but he'd be in sight any moment. And Max was providing all the power for both of them on this heavy bike.

“Um, Frankie's right behind us,” Brian said. “We can't get away from him going straight down this road. He'll catch up to us eventually.”

“He will find it extraordinarily difficult to do so.”

“What?”

Max shot him a serious look. “You need to hold on to those handlebars very tightly.”

“Um …” What did this guy think he was doing? “Okay?”

Max tilted his head to the side. “How fast can a skateboard travel before the ball bearings in the wheels strip out?” He shrugged. “Oh well.” He reached down and flipped a switch on the tip of a big metal pole that he'd mounted on the other side of the bike.

A sound like a cannon exploded right next to Brian, and the bike shot forward so fast that he almost lost his grip on the handlebars. When he focused again, fire was erupting from the end of the tube. A rocket! How could there be a rocket? On a bike!

Max took his feet off the pedals and laughed as the bike roared down the highway. “Warp speed!”

They flew past a wooden sign with a picture of the starship
Enterprise
and the words
Where the Trek Begins
, across a bridge over the river and out into the country. Cornfields melted into blurs on either side of the road. Brian had to lean back while holding the handlebars just to keep the board under his body.

The wind blew through his hair as they passed fields, farms, and pastures. Frankie was nowhere in sight, and Riverside itself seemed to shrink in the distance. But the rocketbike still sped up, faster and faster and faster. When they zipped up over a hill, just for a moment, the bike and skateboard actually left the pavement. Brian loved the leap in his stomach as he soared through the air.

“Woo!” His heart was thumping as the bike and
Spitfire
touched down. “Max, I think we're safe now,” he shouted as loud as he could to be heard over the roar of the wind and the rocket. “Can you slow down?” If his skateboard's wheels seized up, the board would grind to a halt, yanking him off the bike and tossing him to the pavement.

“It's a solid-fuel rocket, Brian,” Max called back. “I'm afraid it will increase speed until it has exhausted its fuel supply!”

This is crazy
, Brian thought. If he let go of the bike, could he keep the shaking skateboard under control long enough to slow down? Maybe, but maybe not. He'd have to ride it out.

At last the rocket began to fizzle. It sputtered and emitted two last bursts of flame before the fire cut out completely, with just a thick grayish-white smoke rolling out of the back.

“Can you slow it down now?” Brian shouted.

“I'll try.” Max pulled the hand brakes. The brakes squeaked and smoked when they made contact with the rims of the wheels. “We have too much velocity. There's too much friction on the wheel.” He kept pumping the brakes, though, applying pressure, letting go, and then braking again. The bike slowed down until they finally came to a full stop.

BOOK: Stealing Air
2.11Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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