Girl v. Boy


“Slow down!” Russ yells, running after me down the sidewalk as Betty Boop, his favorite skateboard, sees her chance and goes for it.

“I can't!” I scream, careening toward the intersection. It seemed so far off when we started, but a couple of really good kicks and a slight incline have brought me here very quickly.

“Drag your foot!” Russ yells.

“I can't!” I scream again. I'm barely balanced now. My knees are locked into the bent position Russ showed me when I boarded this rocket. If I move one iota, I'll veer into either traffic or a brick wall. I'd rather take my chances on hitting a green light at the intersection.

A cluster of school boys stops at the corner to watch. One reaches out to stop me and misses by a fraction of an inch.

Ahead of us a lady pulls her toddler out of my path. “Sorry,” I call.

Look out!” Russ's voice is fainter now.

As if I can't see the intersection looming 30—25—20 feet before me. “Stay green, stay green, stay green,” I chant at the light. Otherwise, I'll run full tilt into that city bus as it pulls out.

“Drag your foot!” Russ yells again.

The light turns yellow and terror brings the feeling back to my legs. I propel myself off the board and continue to run for a few yards. At the crosswalk, I grab a pole to slow down and tumble off the curb and into the gutter. Three lanes of traffic are revving for takeoff.

“Oh my God. Oh my God!” Russ is shrieking hysterically now, and he sounds a lot closer.

A taxi swerves to avoid me and I clamber back onto the sidewalk on my hands and knees.

“Oh my God!” Russ screams one more time as he arrives at my side.

“It's okay,” I say, reaching out to pat his pant leg. I'm touched at how concerned he is, considering we've only known each other a couple of weeks. I'm glad I gave him another chance. “Russ, I'm fine.”

He's looking not at me, but out into the intersection. “Betty!” he wails, as the bus moves past its splintered remains.

I drop my head onto the sidewalk. “I'm sorry.”

“I told you to slow down,” he says, jerking his pant cuff out of my hand.

“You sent me down a hill. I didn't know what I was doing.”

His voice drops to a whisper. “She was a limited edition Stacy Peralta board. Signed by Stacy himself.”

He darts into traffic and grabs a wheel. Stroking it with one finger, he mutters, “She's irreplaceable.”

Something tells me the same cannot be said of me.

© Yvonne Collins & Sandy Rideout