Authors: Michael Harmon
THIS IS A BORZOI BOOK PUBLISHED BY ALFRED A. KNOPF
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Text copyright © 2012 by Michael Harmon
Jacket art copyright © 2012 by Shutterstock
All rights reserved. Published in the United States by Alfred A. Knopf, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Random House, Inc.,
Knopf, Borzoi Books, and the colophon are registered trademarks of Random House, Inc.
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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Harmon, Michael B.
Under the bridge / by Michael Harmon. — 1st ed.
Summary: Wearing a police wire, a skateboarding street boy from Spokane confronts the drug dealer who threatens to kill his brother.
[1. Skateboarding—Fiction. 2. Brothers—Fiction. 3. Drug dealers—Fiction.
4. Spokane (Wash.)—Fiction.] I. Title.
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For Syd and Dylan
Special thanks to the crew: my son, Dylan, Andrew, Keylen, Aaron, Morgan, Hoover, Litz, and all the other skaters and friends who have filled our home with laughter, love, half-pipes, band practice, great times, awesome stories, and craziness. Your duty, respect, trust, and friendship toward each other inspire me and helped me write this story
This one’s for you, guys. And for Snakebite!
With love and respect, Mike
“This is not a drill. Please exit the school to your designated target areas immediately.”
I looked up at the intercom as the tired voice of Vice Principal Lackard echoed through the halls. If there was concern in that tinny voice, it was masked by complete indifference. Maybe a hidden wish that one of these times it would turn out to be real and that this school would end up being a shrapneled example of what went wrong with our youth. Of what went wrong with this world. “Such a terrible loss,” he’d say, splaying his hands and shaking his head to the news cameras while behind him the smoking ruins of our fine institution collapsed upon themselves.
Then he’d go home, sit on his back porch, his wife would hand him a gin and tonic, and he’d tell her we deserved every last piece of rubble. You could see it in his eyes when he walked down the hall. Guys today don’t shoot spitballs and
gather after school for the occasional fistfight. They punch teachers, stomp heads, sell dope, pack heat, and make pipe bombs. I didn’t blame the guy. We’re pretty fucked up as generations go.
I walked from my locker, my pack over my shoulder and my board in my hands. No English today. I glanced at the clock above the exit as I shouldered my way through masses of students pressing for the doors; half of them bug-eyed, the other half accustomed to evacuations and looking forward to sixth period being cut from the schedule. I could hear the sirens already. This was becoming routine.
“Lemmings on the march.”
I turned, and Sid, long black hair in his eyes, deck slung through his pack, skintight straight-leg jeans outlining his bony knees, sauntered toward me. We walked closer to our designated herding area. “Bomb threat, right?” I said, wondering if this one might be different. Alien invasion. The president visiting. Something to look at besides three thousand students streaming from the campus like water from a shot-gunned and rusted barrel.
He grinned, looking back at the red-and-gray brick Goliath called our school. “Yep.” Either Sid Valentino could hear the whispering voices through the walls or he was psychic, but he always knew what was going on in this place. And everywhere else.
His Adam’s apple bobbed as he chuckled. “If we gotta dodge flying bodies in the next few minutes, I’d say real.”
Sirens screeched closer from the downtown core of the city, racing toward the school. In the next moment, the Spokane City Bomb Squad rolled by in some kind of
armored vehicle, black-uniformed guys hanging from the sides, studying us like we might be the next Bin Laden. “This is lame,” I said.
“Wanna hit the Monster? Piper and your bro should be there on this occasion of terrorist-inspired freedom.”
Standard evacuation procedure said that once each group of the student body reached their “target” points, buses would transport three thousand students to the Veterans Arena, five miles away, for our parents to pick us up. Disciplinary procedures would be applied to any student leaving without a parental signature. Dad would be more pissed about having to leave work than about me getting busted for what he called idiocy. We could take care of ourselves, and Dad quit being our babysitter a long time ago. “Sure. I’m not wasting the next four hours sitting in a parking lot.”
Sid smiled. “They’re just grooming us to be good refugees. It doesn’t work if nobody knows how to be refugee-ish.”
I adjusted my pack higher on my shoulder. Sid wasn’t exactly the most optimistic of people. “I can think for myself, thanks.”
He loped along next to me. “Thinking is dangerous, dude. Just blindly follow. It goes along with the grand plan of devolution.”
I laughed. “Whatever, Sid.”
A good six hundred students milled around our staging-and-transportation
area as we arrived. Sid gazed at the crowd. “See, I’m right. Evolution in reverse.”
I smirked. “How?”
He laughed. “When some dumb-ass calls in a bomb threat, our incredibly brilliant leaders evacuate a fifteen-acre school to avoid a large body count, pack us all into two areas that are a quarter the size, and call it a ‘safe’ zone.”
He looked around. “I don’t know about you, but I don’t see much that makes this place safe, and I do know that any wacko with half a damn brain would call the threat in, wait till we’re all packed together here, then blow us up. He’d need half the explosives to kill twice the people.” He paused. “Devolution, man. And I don’t know who’s worse—the jackhole that came up with this plan or the idiots who follow it.”
I chuckled. Sid might have been the most dark, depressing, moody person I knew, but his logic made sense. “I suppose so.”
“I know so. Look. They think they’re safe because some tardo told them they’re safe.”
“Well, I’m glad you’re not a bomber.”
He shrugged. “People are so good at killing themselves they don’t need my help.”
Sid nodded, looking around again. “I don’t feel like being stupidized any more. Let’s split.”
I nodded. “Under the Bridge?”
He unstrapped his board. “Under the Bridge it is.”
Under the Bridge is the one thing that makes Spokane even close to cool for teenagers, and when the city built it, we thought it would be the lame of the lame when it came to skate parks. A bunch of square-headed politicians sitting around figuring out how to get votes. They’d build a park, all right, but it would suck in the best politically correct way. Helmet and pads required. Rules. Regulations. Security guards. Shallow bowls and short rails. A homogenized version of what could be cool.
Wrong. Before breaking ground, the developers actually brought in a dozen boarders and talked with them about what makes a park a good park, and they did a hell of a job on it. They also built the Monster, and my brother, Indy, owns it.
The Monster is the biggest, deepest, craziest skate bowl in Spokane, and the state of Washington for that matter, and Indy skates it like he was born on the flip side of a deck. Sixteen feet of vertical concrete keeps the kiddies on the other side of the park, and we like it that way.
Indy’s a year younger than me, and probably the best skater, sponsored or not, in the city. He’s also the worst high school student in the universe, too, which pisses me off because he could ace every class if he wanted to. I, on the other hand, suck at school because it’s hard.