Be There To Get There
I tried to play the drums for the school band but I missed too many practices. There is always a good reason to do something else after school. Today I heard that Angel is going to fool around with some guys under the monkey bars. I thought maybe I could get in on it if she really went crazy.
It really looked like it was happening too. Jace and Steven were already across the school yard and under the climbing toy when most of us were on our way to the busses. I think a lot of us were watching Angel walking all the way across the yard. When three of the kicker guys started after her I went too.
By the time I got there Jace and Steven were acting goofy and dusting their pants off. Angel was yelling at the kickers. Before I knew what happened Angel was gone and there were about seven kickers pushing me around in a circle.
It was bad. Almost all of them live on farms like me and almost all of their parents work crap jobs at the prison. But they are built big and I am not. Shane is almost my size so he has to be the meanest too me. When I fell against him he pushed me backwards real hard and I fell against the cement base of a horse on a spring. I guess they thought I was badly hurt because they ran for the busses.
I never get used to it and that's why I go to the drive in.
My hair was pretty full of dried blood when I got home. I let myself in and I got in the shower. The water was bloody and chunks of black blood went down the drain. It's better to start crying when no one is in the house and I know no one is going to be home for hours. I got out of the shower just to see my face crying until my throat was soar. I like being so mad I can scream in the mirror at those idiot kickers. In the mirror I see myself winning like I used to with my Dad at the drive in.
I put on my work clothes and I was on my bike next to the highway. It's dangerous on the highway but there is no other way to get to the drive in. There are itchy plants that slap your hands unless you ride in the road. But there are too many cars at 5:00 o'clock.
There is the old garage with all the vans and cars over grown with vines and cottonwood. Sometimes I think I could live in one of the vans if I ran away. Finally the Drive in. There is the screen way back there and facing this way.
There is not much left of the ticket booth by the road and I can ride right over the chain they put up to stop people from coming in. Each parking place has a metal pole where the speakers used to attach. There is also a little hill for the front of every car. They are great for jumping. And there is my ramp.
I've been working on my ramp whenever I can for months. I got most of the boards to build it off of the ticket booth and I brought my parent's shovel to make a pile of dirt. I used to take the shovel home every day but now I leave it here. I almost had a bad accident carrying it on my bike. Dad doesn't live with us now and Mom doesn't ever think about the tools.
The dirt part of the ramp took a very long time to build because the rain would melt it. Lately I started covering it with boards. I thought I would never be able to get the boards to stay hooked on the front of the metal catwalk that runs across the front of the huge screen. The metal catwalk is eight feet high. So I had to buy big open eye screws and screw them into the ends of the boards. I hooked the open part of the screws on the metal rail of the catwalk and it is like a hinge that lets me lay the other end of the boards on my dirt mound. Today I spent the whole time making the dirt supported boards match up with the hinged boards.
Just as it was getting dark I rode up the ramp part of the way. I do it every day before I go home. But today I could go all the way up.
I'm pretty good at rolling down backwards but I guess I am not used to doing it this far because I went over the side and got a mouth full of dirt. So I got the shovel and I was mad when I couldn't jump the bumps on my way out. The shovel was bouncing all over the place when I went passed the ticket booth, then the garage and all the way across the baseball fields in the schoolyard.
Mom was home from the college where she works as a custodian. It was dark so she got all over me until I remembered the gash on the back of my head. Then it was almost worse because she was poking and cleaning in the most painful possible way. She fixed macaroni and cheese with big chunks of hamburger in it and we ate while we watched Roseanne reruns. I never tell her about the kickers anymore because there is nothing she can do about it. She went to the school a few times when I was in sixth and seventh grade but that just made it worse. Now I have a plan that will fix everything.
Later that night I remember Mom waking me up and telling me to put my things in the dishwasher so I got up and brushed my teeth and put my clothes in the bin. Before I knew it the sun woke me and Mom hadn't wakened me in time to get to the bus. The kickers were going to think they scared me off the bus but there was nothing I could do. So I jumped on my bike and I beat the bus to school by a long shot. I had time to visit the art teacher in his room. He was worried about the kickers too. They never want to work and they get mad when they get bad grades. He said I shouldn't hang around with them because I am not like them. But all our parents know each other from when they were kids. Back then they all worked on their parent's farms. Back then their parents hated the farm work but now when we meet at the prison picnic they all talk about the old days like it was the best time of their lives. All of our parents could have gone to the college in town but they didn't plan ahead very well I guess.
Every time I try to talk to any of the kickers I always think they are going to remember how we used to play together when we were little. Even now I think they might like me again when I hear them talking outside. So I told Mr. Broome I would see him later and I went straight to the kicker area under the covered walkway by the portable buildings. Right away they started calling me fag.
I was trying to ask them why they keep calling me that. I reminded them that I was trying to be with Angel just like they were the day before. But now Shane was acting like he was defending Angels honor saying. "You got something to say about her." "You think she wants something from you, you fag." He was pushing me so I pushed him back. Then he head butted me in the nose and there was blood all over my shirt.
I was so mad I was swinging at all of them, when people were all around us and the shop teacher came out and started acting like I was the one who started it. He wouldn't let me go so I twisted myself loose and ran in the back door of the school and out the front to my bike. I am used to unlocking it fast but I was really nervous and blood was dripping on everything. I left the chain and took off through the baseball fields. I took a look and could see the campus security car pulling out of the school driveway. When I got to the highway I looked again and it seemed like almost every kid in the school was pointing at me when I turned the corner.
There was almost no one on the road so I was on the middle line all the way to the garage. That's where the security officer caught up with me and I turned and laid down skidding almost under the fence next to an abandoned van. I climbed under and pulled my bike under the fence. It got scratched pretty badly but then I could ride between the overgrown cars and trucks through the whole parking lot.
My hands were getting pretty scratched up when I heard assistant principal Holly calling my name. There were quit a few cars on the access road next to the garage and Ms. Holly was standing next to her open door calling "Anthony. Anthony." She knows me. When my mom tried to help me it was Ms. Holly who talked to me a few times. But she couldn't do jack.
I found my way around the fence and I left the whole bunch of cars on the other side of the garage. By the time I was back on the highway I was thinking about my plan. This was the perfect time for me to use my ramp.
It seems like a stupid time to notice that my tires sound like crunching cereal on the rocks, but that's what I'm thinking about. Then I think about how fast I have to go to make it the whole way up my ramp.
When I was little my Dad used to take me to the drive in and he told me I could do anything. He said I have to believe it first. My Dad laughed more than he ever did the time I told him, "You have to be there to get there." People shhhhhhhed us because Dad was laughing so loud. He said it over and over. "You have to be there to get there." He said I am very clever.
That's when I told him that someday I would feel like the movies all the time. And that's when I started to think of the ramp.
My tires spun on the chain and I shot passed the ticket booth. I jumped all the way over every other parking hill and hit the ramp much faster than I ever did. Lots of dirt fell off the sides and I was up there.
I could hear the cars turning in behind me when I felt the hinged boards bending under my tires. The cars were honking their horns and someone was yelling at me when my front tire became air born. As I reached the huge white screen I remembered how my Dad cried when ET made the little boy's bike fly up in the sky.
I was up for a long time, then I fell a short distance and landed in soft grass. The sky was so blue that it looked like water. The car sounds were like music. It was still car sounds but the tires thumping over the bumps sounded like drums and the horns and people's voices were patched together into an echoing musical sound.
When I had a chance to think for a second I could tell that I was on a hill and there were bike trails as far as I could see. Off in the distance I could see a group of guys and girls doing long jumps from hill to hill on their bikes. Some of them were riding right up onto some giant oak tree branches that reached all the way to the ground. When they saw me they started toward me as fast as they could. They were laughing and I could tell they were really happy to see me. They were yelling, "Say good-bye. Look behind you! Tell them your all right! Say good-bye!!!"
When I finally understood what they were saying I turned around and there was a large rectangle as big as the screen of the drive-in. It was fuzzy on the edges and it was getting smaller very quickly. When I stood up I could see all the cars and people running toward me. The moment I stood they all fell over each other backwards trying to run away. I said, "I'm all right." And everyone ran further back as car alarms went on and police sirens sounded. More squad cars were turning into the parking lot and the first police car stopped short when he saw me and the cars behind him crashed into each other. I said what the kids told me to say, "I'm all right!" Then I could see Ms. Holly coming closer saying, "Anthony, How are you doing this? Your face is as big as the whole screen."
That's when the bicycle kids came sliding all around me repeating, "Say something good so they can tell your family or jump back through right now." I could see that the screen was now only as big as a large store window and it would be gone in seconds. So I said, "Tell Mom I'm all right and I love her." Just before the screen disappeared I yelled to Ms Holly, "You have to be here to get here."