2015 Literature Contest Winner: Green Bean’s Last Run

In: In Print, YOUR STORIES By: Dirt Rag Contributor On: April 4, 2016

Hank Hansen took home the grand prize of a GT Zaskar Carbon 27.5 for his story about a kid, his bike and the dirt jumps that he so loved. Enjoy!

Words: Hank Hansen

Illustrations: Juliana Wang

Green Bean’s chest hurt. Again. He didn’t quite know how to describe it—pressure, kind of, almost like something was overflowing inside him, but sharper. Not that he had tried to explain it to anyone. The lexicon of pain that Green Bean’s friends employed had no room for things like “tension” or “discomfort.” Theirs was a language of shiners and sharkbites, hang-ups and hairline fractures. Once, when getting over a sinus cold, Green Bean had told JJ that he had a headache. JJ had nodded, as though he felt it too, and said, “Yeah…how did you slam?”

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Sophomore year was almost over, and for the first time that he could remember, Green Bean didn’t know how he was going to spend his summer. Everyone else from Dialed Krue was going to Woodward to ride the new dirt jumps and street course, but Green Bean’s parents had already told him that if he wanted to go, he’d have to fund it himself. With no job and, unlike some of the other guys in the Krue, no sponsors to hook him up when he blew through tires and grips, the outlook was bleak. Green Bean was beginning to get used to this feeling: sitting at his desk, staring a hole through the whiteboard and wishing his upper body would stop feeling like a compressed spring. None of this would be happening if they weren’t tearing down Post.

Green Bean went to Post for the first time when he was 8. That was when his brother Brady first got his learner’s permit, and thus became Green Bean’s de facto guardian, more or less excusing their father from the position. Green Bean didn’t have a bike then, so he watched from against the fence as Brady and his posse rode laps, floating over the lips of impossibly steep dirt faces, the better riders maneuvering their airborne bikes in different directions before landing into towering mounds that were mirror images of the ones they took off from.

One of the first sessions at Post Green Bean ever witnessed took place on Easter. One of the older, sponsored riders, called Boogie, was rolling around with bunny ears duct-taped to his helmet and a can of Pabst in his back pocket. Green Bean watched as Boogie took a handful of hollow plastic Easter Eggs and jammed them between his spokes, then dropped into the park’s A-line of jumps. On the first kicker, Boogie rotated a backflip, and as he spun, the eggs shot out haphazardly from his spinning wheel. Green Bean reached out as a single red egg fell toward him. Cracking it open, he found a single dollar bill and what he would later learn was a used brake pad. That night, after their parents had gone to sleep, Green Bean snuck down the hallway from his bedroom to his brother’s. In his hand were the contents of the egg.

“Hey, Brady,” he whispered. “Will you sell me your old bike?”

* * * * * *

“Pinnacle Brazilian Carnauba Paste Wax, 3 oz. Jar. $49.99.” Chuck clicked “BUY” and stood up out of his chair, then reached up and gave the fluorescent light above his head a firm punch. It flickered, then clicked into a brighter setting, illuminating the unadorned white walls of the office so that they glowed. Chuck sat back down and was just beginning to fantasize about the blemish-free shine that he would now, in four to seven business days, be able to evoke from the fuel tank of his Harley-Davidson Sportster, when the phone rang.

“Chuck. This is Bernie. Got a dozer gig for you.”

“I’m listening.”

* * * * * *

When Green Bean was 3 years old, his father had been in a major downhill skiing accident and was in a medically induced coma for five days, during which time doctors performed 11 different surgeries to alleviate massive internal bleeding and brain trauma. The incident left him with frequent migraines, an increasingly reticent disposition and a dependence on Doxepin. No longer able to perform the formerly mindless tasks at his job as a real estate broker, the burden of supporting the family fell to the boys’ mother, who began working weekends as a housecleaner in addition to her job as a stylist.

Once, when Green Bean was a freshman, he had punched a classmate in the stomach so hard he vomited after the boy had asked Green Bean what was wrong with his dad. Word quickly got around Rio High, and it wasn’t long before the only people Green Bean spoke to on a daily basis were the other members of Dialed Krue: Ollie, Shayne, JJ and Harry. They had all met at Post in sixth grade, and they had been riding there every day after school for the last five years.

Legend had it that JJ’s cousin, Flare, had scooped the first shovelful of dirt at Post more than 25 years prior. The spot had initially consisted of a single jump on a slight downhill, gradually evolving into a set, then an entire line, until eventually it had assumed its current form: a labyrinthine brown square sprouting from the middle of an empty lot across the street from the local post office. For years, a local developer who had conditionally agreed to leave the jumps untouched had owned the land, but now, in anticipation of the arrival of an organic grocery chain, the developer had announced that the entire lot would be leveled. After the news broke, riders from all over the state had come to the city council’s open forum, pleading for a chance to start a petition or fundraise a counteroffer. Magazines ran stories. Pro riders from around the world flew in to film segments. Forty-person jam sessions became a regular occurrence. And yet, as the day drew nearer, the death of Post began to take on the brutal weight of reality. Rumor had it that the winning bid for the lot had been more than half a million dollars.

* * * * * *

Chuck’s father, Daniel, started Ramirez Rentals when Chuck was a boy. The original rental fleet had consisted of four push-mowers, two 50-horsepower utility tractors and a single 10-ton dump trailer. When his father died in 2002, Chuck had taken over the company, and under his guidance Ramirez Rentals grew to be the largest equipment company in Salinas County. Then the recession happened. And then Janice had asked for a divorce. Or had it been the other way around? Chuck sighed. It was not a period of his life that he cared to revisit if he could help it. And anyway, after reducing his fleet and downsizing to a smaller, shabbier office building, Chuck had just had his first profitable quarter in more than a year. He had a bitchin’ new Harley to show for it, and, as luck would have it, a bulldozer job that weekend just down the street from where his new girlfriend, Leah, lived. Something about a vigilante bike park—quick work. He would bring the dozer up tomorrow, a day early, to give himself time to prep and then make a surprise entrance at Leah’s.

On the phone, Bernie mentioned more than once how many people would be there to watch the place go down. “A big send-off,” he called it. But it wasn’t like there was an official schedule to adhere to. Chuck figured if he got cracking early enough, he’d get the whole place to the ground before the punk kids were even out of bed.

* * * * * *

The day before The Official Last Day was a Saturday. Green Bean and the Krue had made plans to meet up and ride at 9 a.m., and when they rolled up to Post, there were already a handful of riders taking laps through the morning fog, their silhouettes bleeding into the gray sky around them.

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“Yo, check it,” Shayne said, pointing to a slender rider whose bright-blue helmet bore the words “Red Bull.” “B-Rad is here.”

“Whaaaat! I thought that dude was shooting for the new 2-Bit video in Egypt.”

“Yo, I heard he manualed down a pyramid.”

“No way, dude. You’re not even supposed to touch those things. It’s, like, Egyptian law.”

“Red Bull probably just bought Egypt, dude. They can do whatever they want.”

“True that. B-Rad probably got flown in here on a private helicopter and ate caviar the whole way. Check it out, his filmer has a Red camera.”

Green Bean kept his eyes locked on B-Rad the whole time, keeping a mental inventory of his line. No-hander. Tabletop. Barspin. All of it flawless and casual—a warm-up run. Still, it woke something up inside of Green Bean. He grabbed his bike and started jogging to the top of the roll-in. Deep breath—drop in. No-hander: clean takeoff, let go of the bars. Keep them pointed straight ahead. Then grab. Land. Tabletop: Use every ounce of momentum. Boost it, contort the bike. Flatten it out. Land. Barspin: Keep your speed! Right hand flicks to the left, left hand releasing, watch the rotation. C’mon, c’mon, here comes the landing. Grab for the bars. Air. Slap: Rubber hits dirt, chest hits the handlebars. Airborne again, for a split second. Another impact, then, stillness.

The pure adrenaline of embarrassment took over as Green Bean dragged himself and his bike off the course and slumped against a fencepost. The Krue exchanged glances with each other as they hurried over.

“You good, dude? That was heavy.”

“Yuh,” Green Bean grunted. His body was just beginning to process the massive ache radiating through his torso.

“That’s what you get for trying to show up B-Rad, bro,” JJ said, punching him softly on the shin. The Krue mercifully dispersed. Once they were gone, Green Bean hurled his helmet across the field and then stared down at his feet, not caring to follow its trajectory. When he looked back up again, a bearded man with a crutch under his left arm stood in front of him, Green Bean’s helmet dangling from his right hand.

“Chin up, lil’ homie.” It was Boogie. He had torn his ACL on an over-rotated cork 360 almost a year ago; Green Bean hadn’t seen much of him at Post since then. Green Bean reached out and took his helmet from Boogie’s outstretched hand.

“Th-thanks, man.”

“No worries, bud. Tough to let this place go, huh?”

“Yeah. It’s like home.”

“Well, hey, just be glad you’re getting some last runs in. The doc says I’m still two weeks away from getting on a bike.”

“Shit.”

“Yeah, life’s a bitch, but what’re you gonna do? We’ve tried everything—nothing any of us can do to stop ’em now.” Boogie pulled a bottle of beer from his shirt pocket and popped it open against his crutch in one fluid motion, then clinked it against the side of Green Bean’s helmet. Green Bean looked up at Boogie, and for a moment a wave of sadness seemed to pass across the older man’s face. Two weeks from now, Green Bean realized, was Easter.

“It sucks.”

Boogie turned and began to hobble away.

“Have fun out there, homie.”

* * * * * *

When Chuck arrived at the address Bernie had sent him, he realized what his friend had meant by “a big send-off.” Kids on bikes were flying through the air in every direction, while dozens of people formed a circle around the cluster of dusty obelisks. And this was the day before! As he backed his trailer up into the adjacent empty field and began to unload the bulldozer, Chuck felt the crowd’s eyes on him and heard a faint chorus of boos. He pretended not to hear, keeping his head down as he fired up the dozer, positioned it and ran through his safety checklist: ignition. Brakes. Oil and coolant, idlers and rollers. The machine hadn’t been used in months, but Chuck knew it was ready to go; during a lull last winter, Chuck had personally overhauled all seven crawlers in his fleet.

As the sun began to sink and the air began to chill, Chuck sat in the cab of his Silverado and watched the riders flip and spin and sometimes come crashing down in explosions of dirt, the dramatic failures only serving to accentuate the grace of the successful maneuvers. It seemed like something that would take a whole lifetime to master, Chuck realized, and he wondered how those pint-sized preteen riders had possibly gotten so good.

Screw it, Chuck thought. They’ve got other places to ride anyway, right?

* * * * * *

Green Bean painfully hoisted his bike up and into the bed of Brady’s old truck. He’d had his permit for only a month, and now he felt grateful not to have to pedal the 3 miles back to his house. It still hurt to breathe. As soon as he was back in his room, Green Bean locked his door and laid himself gingerly facedown on his bed. He heard a knock and his father’s murmuring baritone from beyond the door, but said nothing. The last thing he ever wanted to bring up around his father was injury. There was a pause, followed by his father’s footsteps trailing off down the hallway.

Green Bean must have dozed off for several hours, because when he awoke, it was dark, the only light in the room emanating from his phone’s home screen.

“New Snapchat: from Ollie,” it read. He slid his finger across the screen and punched in his security code without looking, then peered down once the video had loaded. Across the screen, Ollie had written: “Yo. Scope.” The screen was mostly dark, but Green Bean was immediately able to make out the silhouette of Post. And there, parked alongside and pointed directly at the center of the first berm, was a hulking Caterpillar bulldozer.

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Green Bean sat up a little straighter on the edge of his bed and checked the time. 10:24 p.m. Life’s a bitch, but what’re you gonna do? He grabbed a jacket from his closet, slid his Vans back on and rushed down the stairs. Nothing any of us can do to stop ’em now. On his way out the door, Green Bean called out across the living room, “Later, Dad, I’m going out. Back in a few hours!”

By the time his father had turned to look, Green Bean had already grabbed his mother’s gardening gloves and some pruning shears from a planter box outside the door and tossed them into his truck through the open passenger window. By the time his father was standing, Green Bean was gone.

The building nearest Post contained several businesses, including a yoga studio and a liquor store; at the corner of the latter was a single security camera that angled toward the northwest corner of the jumps. Green Bean had parked a few blocks away from the empty field, and as he loped across it toward the bulldozer, he remembered the camera and quickly yanked his hood up around his head. Glancing over toward the building, Green Bean felt his heart rate start to blast like a techno song. Had he been in range of the camera? He didn’t think so, but still. Shit. The absence of the Krue suddenly weighed heavily on Green Bean—but no, he didn’t want them here now. His ribs still ached with every step, and his neck refused to turn more than a few degrees to the left. No, not this time. He would see them tomorrow.

It didn’t take long for Green Bean to locate a section of important-looking wires in an open exterior compartment underneath the bulldozer’s control panel. His dexterity limited by his mother’s too-small gloves, Green Bean chopped wildly with the shears until at least four of the wires were completely severed. Several others dangled, partially frayed, lilted like dehydrated plant stems. He shoved the shears back into the pocket of his jeans and then paused. He was completely alone, and the field was perfectly, oppressively, still. Post rose up into the night like a hand breaching the surface of a body of water. Green Bean pulled out his phone, opened Snapchat, and clicked a single photo of the cluster of neutered wires, then began to run.

 

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