Editor’s note: Each year Dirt Rag solicits readers’ fiction, essays and poetry in our annual Literature Contest. In Issue #182 of Dirt Rag you’ll find the winner of our 2014 Literature Contest, but we received many submissions worth sharing, so we will be posting some of the finalists here over the next few weeks. We hope you enjoy the creative contributions of fellow readers.
By Larry Camp
I need to work on my one-footers.
That dude in the woods behind the skatepark, I don’t know what’s up with that. Heard his flatties were legendary, that no one could table like Keith. I never saw him ride though, he was on to that other thing before I started going to the park. Was he seriously found totally naked? What the hell does that mean? There was stuff in the paper about it, sounds like the police don’t know either. Neither do I, don’t ask me anything.
The new lines are so sweet. When I first started going there, Bill would show up a lot. The track was improving. We only had one track back then. Bill, or someone, we don’t know who really, worked on it when no one else was around. Ruts filled, berms watered, smoothed, steepened, and some lips showed up on some of the rollers. Learned how to jump on some of those lips.
I really want to get tuck no-handers.
I hate being stuck here all day. I just want to ride. I don’t even want to go home after school, Don’t even care who is at my house, or what’s going on there. I just want to go straight to the park, jump until dark, ride home. Winter’s coming.
Most of the regulars came back as soon as it started getting warmer and drying out last spring. Most of the kids I knew from school, and a bunch of old mountain biker dudes, were always there riding and digging. The pump track and new jumps were in pretty shitty shape after winter and we were hoping our dirt fairy from last year would come back and fix everything up again. Derek has been working on spots almost every day and trying to teach us what to do. He has this thing where he dips his shovel in a bucket of water each time to keep the dirt from sticking and it makes such a smooth skin on the dirt. Everything rides so much faster after he works on it. I don’t like to work all that much, I just want to ride. I’ll work when I’m forced into it, but I don’t really know what to do on my own.
Dawson was gone for a whole year, he said it was for not going to seventh grade. He said he was put into a level two house with a kid who tried to stab someone, and another who tried to set a house on fire. For skipping school. That doesn’t even make sense. Hard to know what to believe though, and that’s something I don’t need to find out for myself. Dawson had a year without riding dirt. He’s back at the park now. Back in the same school he was in before. Like that year away never happened. A year of staring at walls he said. A year of not riding dirt. Not riding anything.
People seem to come and go and sometimes just disappear. It’s the same thing at home, the loser is always bringing his asshole friends around and they just lay around staring at whatever. I’m always glad to see them disappear though. Some guys disappear from the park for a while because they just started a new job, or got a girlfriend, or a car. Some of the mountain bikers are married and starting to have kids. Kevin disappeared for a year because his bike got stolen.
That’s a real problem lately. He was a great rider, and just stopped cold like that. I could never just stop riding cold. We’d see him on his skateboard, and he’d stop and hang out and watch the new jumps get built. Finally he scrounged up cash to buy a hand-me-down from another kid and he’s back at the tracks. He kills it too, big whips, and way up in the tree. I don’t ever want to disappear from the park.
Jack is one of the bike thieves. BikeJack we now call him. Idiot didn’t know there are cameras at schools and got caught stealing a rattle bike from the same middle school he goes to. Or, went to. That wasn’t his first. After that he went somewhere else. He was at the park every day until that happened, almost always in jeans, no shirt, no helmet. Really good rider, and rode every single day. He’d come and go all day in summer, even in the rain, which totally pissed off Weird Beard, who always lectured BikeJack and us to help out and fix ruts. We haven’t seen Jack this whole school year. He was here every day before. Now, no days. No way I could do that.
Our dirt fairy never came back this summer. Neither did Bill. We now guess they were one in the same. Someone saw his name in the paper. The only smart thing the loser ever said to me was “stay out of the newspapers.”
I really want to get more sideways whips before winter. Want to get everything before winter. The old crew added a bunch of new weird side jumps, transfers and options. I can barely do the easiest one so far, and some of those guys can seriously rip them. I keep running this one line over and over and getting closer to getting it. Definitely. Want.
I kind of like riding the park early on weekend mornings. I always like to get out of the house before anyone wakes up and they start smoking and yelling. Weekends are the worst at home. The older kids never ride until the afternoon and the mountain bikers are usually racing XC or at a kids soccer game or something. I have the runs all to myself. Most of the other kids have another house they go to. Another parent, a grandparent, whatever. I’ll take the park.
I don’t usually try anything crazy on those mornings, just work on flow. I really love four, which is a rounded step-up that no one ever tricks. It’s just a set-up for five, and you just float over it and sort of hover, weightless, for a moment. That moment – right there.
Hover right there…
The weekends sometimes get a little crowded with newbs. They usually come in a car with a parent, sometimes they ride from somewhere in town, though we never see them during the week. Those kids usually have helmets. Sometimes the dads ride, but mostly it’s just moms sitting in their car watching or reading or smoking. The regular kids just show up on their bikes from wherever. None of them have dads that ride. Most of them don’t even seem to have dads. One of the mountain bikers calls us “feral kids.” I don’t even know what that means, but Weird Beard laughs when he says it. I wish I could see my dad again.
One kid usually gets dropped off by a parent. Good rider. Sometimes his mom or dad will sit in the truck and watch him ride, sometimes they leave and come back. He usually wears a helmet for the jump line and takes it off for the pump track. Off and on, off and on. Helmets are kind of a thing, the kids with the helmets are usually the kids with the parents and they usually have nice bikes. And of course the mountain bikers wear helmets and have nice bikes, and some of the high school BMX kids too. Full face even. Kids with rattle bikes don’t have helmets.
Dark is coming.
Winter is coming.
He’ll be 37 when I see him again.
Twenty till three.
I’ll almost be out of high school by then.
I can wait.
It’s better than seeing him that other way.
Some old homeless guy has been sleeping in the woods and hanging out at the park during the day. He sleeps down by the creek where we fill the buckets. Man I hate that job. Hauling water up the bank to the track. It sucks when you just want to ride, and they have the tracks shut down to work on them. The mountain bikers are always pressuring you to help, especially Weird Beard, he’s always on us. The older kids don’t usually say much, and sometimes I help, but sometimes I just say screw it and go ride street.
That homeless guy was pretty funny though, telling us stories of different drugs, jail and the free food he gets on which days at which churches in town. He laughed about having sex on the picnic table we were all sitting on right then. Someone’s dad said he’s drunk, and some of the guys were egging him on for more stories. After a few days of him being around, security chased him away and we haven’t seen Old Joe since. I wonder if he’s still living down by the creek. He needs to make it somewhere until winter when the shelter opens back up.
Some other crazy guy was fighting with his woman on the rail-trail one day, when a couple of the fifth grade kids rolled by and somehow got in on their argument. Then the crazy guy starts chasing the kids, right up to the bike park while a bunch of us were riding. One of the fifth graders, DeAndre, wasn’t backing down one bit. Said he’d kick him in the balls and ride away. DeAndre is a good rider, clears all the jumps, and is pretty big and tough for a fifth grader. I’d guess he flunked a grade somewhere along the way. He’s OK though, and is one of the few guys around on weekend mornings with me. He’s been riding here for a couple years now and I’ve never seen his parent.
A sign went up last week at the park. Looks like the mountain bikers are holding a contest thing in a few weeks. It’s $5 to enter the jump contest, and $5 for the pump track race. I don’t have $10. I don’t have $5. It sucks that a bunch of outsiders will take over our park for a whole Saturday. Guess I’ll ride street that day. I don’t want to stand around and watch them have all the fun on our lines. The last time I asked mom for money for a new chain that loser smacked me. I swear if he ever does that again I’ll kick him in the sack and knee his asshole face when he doubles over. The next time he makes me pee in a cup for him he’s getting a face full. He better not take it out on mom.
It was so much better last when he got in trouble with his parole, and it was just me and mom.
Just me and mom.
Quarter till three.
I love that feeling of landing three; that speed; the G’s of the big berm. Coasting right back to the top. Swing your bike around, do it again. Again.
When it’s warm in summer, I like to just sit at the top of the roll-in after it’s gotten dark, after the guys have put the tools away and gone home, or gone for recovery drinks, or wherever they go. I stay there and watch the town get dark, the noises go down. That one time last summer I laid down to watch the stars and didn’t wake up until almost midnight. That was the best night of the summer. It’ll be a long time before I can do that again.
When I sit up there, I don’t even think about whatever hell is happening at home. A couple weeks ago cops came to the house looking for one of loser’s friends. Wish they could’ve taken both of them away. I wonder if I can somehow sneak in and get food after they go to sleep. That worked good last week, since they were hanging outside on the deck. It’s almost too cold for that to work now.
Ten till three.
Mom wasn’t feeling good this morning, and said I might be having a new brother or sister soon. Says we might have to move again so she can get a job with insurance.
Spin the bar, whip the tail, bring it in, pump the next one. Really need some good runs before winter.
Five till three.
Time changes next week.
How can I get dirty pee?