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Alex Jackson: SWA
By Pat Flynn
University of Queensland PressCopyright © 2002 Pat Flynn
All rights reserved.
Alex Jackson pushed off, felt the rush as he dropped down the smooth concrete bank, and knew once more that all was right with the world. The cool morning air whipped back his blonde hair, and his knees straightened as the concrete levelled out, acting like the accelerator of a hotted-up Torana. He was across the width of the skatepark faster than a Blink 182 song, and as he went over the top of a 2-metre ramp he pulled a manual along the thin path that ran parallel to the drop. He held the wheelie for 5 metres until he rolled back in down the ramp.
At seven in the morning most boarders were sleeping off yesterday's bruises, so Alex and his mate, Casey Marshall, had the Beeton skatepark to themselves. Casey was taking a break from skating the vert ramp and was playing with his latest toy — a Sony digital camera — filming Alex for a skating video he was putting together. In a few minutes Alex would return the favour and become cameraman.
Picking up speed Alex headed for the bank on the west side of the park. As he approached the transition he quickly spun the board 180 degrees and went fakie up the steep incline. He transferred all his weight to his left foot the split second he got to the top, which allowed him to sit in a tail-stall on the metal coping. He rested there for a few seconds, getting ready for the trick that would secure his place on the video — a boardslide down the steep rail connected to the funbox. Of course, when you are in a skating video with Casey Marshall, even a boardslide down a 3-metre rail makes you nothing more than a supporting actor.
Alex reminded himself not to think. Last year when his mind was on other things, he had a series of stacks that left him with an almost permanent headache. But all that had changed. For one thing, there were no longer any girls in his life. Well, there was his mum, of course, his sister, Sam, and his friend, Sarah Sceney — but no girls. None who made his heart almost jump out of his chest and his knees shaky. None who kissed him on the mouth while waiting for the train, then took off to Italy before there could be a sequel. None who emailed him every Friday except for the last three — when she had bagged him without an explanation. She's probably hooked up with some Italian guy, Alex had decided glumly. Nah, he had no distractions now, and he was skating better than ever.
He leant onto his right foot and dropped back in. Even though it was early morning the January sun warmed his back beneath his baggy white T-shirt. This was the perfect end to the summer holidays. They had started with Alex and his best mate, Jimmy Homan, learning how to surf at the Sunshine Coast. He had shared some quality time with his dad, otherwise known as Chief, down at the Logan City Boxing Club. About a thousand push-ups and punches later, Alex even managed to find some muscles in his arms and chest. And he'd grown three centimetres. He was still small for a 14-year-old, but at least he was now taller than his 12-year-old sister — by the length of a bee's antennae. It would have been the best holiday ever except for ...
As he reached the top of the funbox Alex bent down and prepared to ollie. He'd been hesitant with boardslides after he nearly killed himself on this same rail last year, but practising on the flat grind bars had given him confidence. Casey had also thrown him some useful advice. "Commitment is the key," he said. "I've seen fear hurt a lot of people."
Alex tried to remember the first part and forget the second. He twisted his hips 90 degrees backside so the underside of the deck landed on the rail — and he nailed it — sliding down like there was no tomorrow. Of course if it went wrong there probably wouldn't be a tomorrow (well, not one he'd remember), but if he pulled it off he'd skate right into video history.
A face flashed across his line of vision. At the time he hardly noticed, as he was focused on the ground flying up at him at the speed of a Pentium 20. Bang! He landed hard. He bent his knees to absorb the shock, and he almost had it nailed. However, he didn't straighten the board out properly so his balance was skewed, and by trying to hold it as long as possible for the video, he didn't run off when he had the chance. There was only one thing he could do: bail.
For a split second his right arm thought about breaking the fall, but skateboarding instinct took over. Any boarder knows that putting a hand down means six weeks of having kids decorate your cast. Alex took the concrete on his hip and shoulder, did two side rolls and skipped back to his feet. He was hacked that he'd missed the trick, but at least he was getting better at falling onto concrete.
"Don't worry," said Casey, still looking through the camera as Alex limped over. "I can send that one to Funniest Home Videos; probably win a fortune."
"You're funny," said Alex. "Turn that thing off now."
"Not yet. I just want to see your reaction."
"Does it look like I'm chucking a spaz?"
"Not that reaction. This reaction."
Alex wondered what the hell he was talking about.
"Hello Alex," a girl's voice said out of nowhere.
Alex jerked his head around but could see nothing.
"We shared a few good times in the AV room at school. Remember me?"
What is this? This is your life?
Suddenly, a body popped up from behind the embankment. A very good-looking body.
"Thought we'd surprise you," said Casey.
Alex stood there, his mouth catching flies.
"Well, aren't you going to say hi to an old friend?" the girl said.
"Hi Becky," Alex said meekly.
Casey turned the camera off and laughed. "This video is going to win an Academy Award!"
If Casey wasn't such a good mate, Alex would have been tempted to drop his stupid video camera down the vert ramp.CHAPTER 2
Amazing Italian facts according to Becky Tonella:
Teenagers zoom around frenetic Italian streets on motorscooters wearing only T-shirts and hair for protection. Becky sneaks on the back of her friend's bike when her mum's not looking.
They keep the heads of saints in jars.
People eat dinner at 9.30 pm. Before dinner, instead of watching television everybody strolls around the town square. The young ladies dress in black mini-skirts and walk white poodles and the young men yellout "Bella" (beautiful).
Becky could speak Italian almost fluently, even though she had lived there only eight months.
Becky Tonella's not so amazing Italian facts:
Becky was going back to Italy. Soon. Today was the only day they would spend together.
Alex was trying hard to be happy. Becky was back, live in the flesh. Her jet-black hair had grown long, and she wore it out so it fell halfway down her back. Alex touched her, to make sure she was real, and she took his hand and smiled. A beautiful, happy smile, not the sad smile she used to give. She talked much more than Alex remembered, and there were no awkward, fingernail-staring silences between them like there once were. She waved her spare hand around as she gabbed about Italy, her relatives, even her dad. He should be out of jail in six months, she said. But through all of this, anagging thought was at the back of Alex's mind. Becky was going back to Italy. Soon.
"When are you coming back to live?" he asked over lunch at his house.
"Let's enjoy today," said Becky.
"I am. I just want to know when."
"Don't know. Mum's got a job in Italy now, and Nonna and Nonno said we can stay as long as we like."
"Don't you miss your dad?"
"Of course. I write to him twice a week. But Mum still hasn't forgiven him."
"It's not like he killed anyone."
"Try and tell Mum that."
Becky's dad was a lawyer who had been caught stealing his clients' money. After he was convicted, Becky moved to Logan City, where she went to school at St Joseph's. Through a combination of trickery and good fortune, Alex managed to go out with her. Not long after, however, she went to live in Italy with her grandparents.
"Hey Becky," said Sam, walking in with her best friend and neighbour, Mandy Lee, "what are Italian guys like?"
"Are they cuter than Beeton guys?" asked Mandy. "It wouldn't be hard."
Becky laughed. "They are cute. You should see them ski down the mountain, legs flexing ..."
"That'll do," said Alex.
"But even so," continued Becky giving Alex a dirty look for interrupting, "they're not nearly as cool as some Aussie guys. One especially."
"I find that hard to believe," said Sam.
After lunch Alex and Becky took a bus to the Logan Hyperdome. They both had about 5 bucks and Becky suggested they split up for 15 minutes and buy each other a present.
"Something to remind us of today," Becky said.
Alex thought about buying Becky a miniature skateboard but he ended up getting her a necklace. It was a clear purple stone in the shape of a heart on a sterling silver chain. It actually cost $50, and Alex almost cleaned out his savings account when he withdrew the money from the ATM. When he gave it to Becky she planted a kiss right on his lips and immediately slipped it on.
Becky led Alex to an instant photo booth outside of Kmart. They squeezed in and Becky directed them into different poses and positions. There was only a second or two between photos and in most they looked like stunned rabbits. One, though, of Becky sitting on Alex's lap, smiling at him while he looked into the camera, turned out nice. She put the photo inside the frame she had bought and gave it to Alex, telling him never to forget her. He said he didn't need a photo for that.
Soon it was time to go, and reality hit them along with a blast of hot air as they waited outside for their buses. Becky was going to the city, Alex home to Beeton.
There didn't seem much to say. They would keep emailing, of course. Becky would send over an Italian skateboarding magazine, so Alex could see what tricks they could pull over there. Alex would say hi to Jimmy Homan and Sarah Sceney for her.
"Will you miss me?" said Becky, turning towards him.
"Maybe?" she said, putting her arms around Alex's neck. "What sort of answer is that?"
"Maybe I will and maybe I won't."
Becky leant in close, their noses almost touching.
"If you want a kiss you'd better say you'll miss me."
"I'll miss you."
Alex was surprised he remembered how to kiss. It had been along time since he'd practised, but he had two advantages:
1. He was kissing the same girl as last time — the girl who'd taught him everything he knew about kissing, which wasn't all that much but right now seemed enough.
2. He'd visualised that kiss every night since. A teacher once told him that the brain can't differentiate between imagination and real life, which is why mental imagery is so effective for learning skills such as skateboarding. And kissing.
Mental imagery can be unreliable, however. It depends on what you notice at the time. That night, as Alex tried to replay every moment of the kiss, he realised he didn't notice all that much. He was aware of Becky's hand rubbing circles on his lower back. He remembered her mouth slightly widen as their lips touched. And the next thing he knew she was on the bus. Alex tried to drift back to the kiss, but Becky sitting by the window, waving goodbye, kept playing over and over in his head.CHAPTER 3
At the skatepark, when Casey and Alex were ripping it up everyone skated well. If Casey nailed a kickflip on the ramp, then some beginner would land his first ever kickflip on the flat. Good events led to other good events. Unfortunately, it was the same when bad things happened. Becky's leaving sparked a chain reaction of the negative kind.
The Jacksons were robbed. It was right before the school year started while the family was on a day trip to Mt Tamborine. The thief smashed Alex's bedroom window to get in and took everything of value in the house. The only thing Alex had of value was his skateboard, but luckily he'd taken this with him in case he found some concrete in the rainforest. He had his CD player stolen, but it didn't work too well anyway, so getting a new one from the insurance was a bonus. Alex's mum, however, was devastated. Her white diamond bracelet that had been passed down through four generations was gone.
"It's irreplaceable," said Sharon quietly as she buried her head in Chief's huge shoulder.
"I'll ask the guys down the gym to keep their ears to the ground," he replied. "We might be able to track it down. Usually stolen jewellery ends up in pawn shops."
Chief knew about these things. When he was young he hadn't always been on the right side of the law.
"Jeff, this wouldn't happen if we lived in a decent suburb," said Sharon, quickly turning from sad to mad. "There are break-ins every night, drug dealers on street corners. It's time we cut our losses."
Jeff was Chief's real name, though only Sharon used it.
"Let's shift to the beach," said Sam. "I can get a tan and check out the surfers."
"We're not moving anywhere," said Chief. "This place has been good to us. One event doesn't a bad life make."
"Speak much?" said Sam.
Sharon didn't tell Sam to mind her manners like she usually did. She was in her own world, staring out of the broken window.
* * *
After that day things were tense in the Jackson household. You could hear Chief and Sharon talking in muffled voices late at night, which wasn't at all like Chief as he got up at 5 am to work out. Alex couldn't hear much of what they were saying, but one time he heard his mum say something about "growing up in a safe environment", and Chief reply with "we're as safe as houses".
Not the best analogy, Alex thought.
"I bet you five bucks we move by Easter," Sam said to Alex. "What Mum wants, she gets."
"We can't afford to move," Alex replied. "Mum does all right, but Dad gets paid bugger all."
"What do you think they're fighting about, stupid? Mum wants Dad to give up the job at the gym and find a better one."
Chief not training the boys? Alex couldn't believe it. "Don't call me stupid, stupid."
In a few weeks the talking had stopped but the tension remained. Newspapers were left around the house opened at the Employment section. There were brochures from TAFE cluttering up the kitchen bench. One of them described a course that trained you to be a security guard. Alex tried to imagine Chief standing outside a bank with a gun and a uniform. The only uniform Chief ever wore was shorts, singlet, and a tattoo of a crossed pair of boxing gloves on his arm. The only weapon he needed was his fists.
One night over dinner Chief said that he had an announcement to make. Sharon looked interested. He had been made an offer, he said. Sharon looked excited. There was a Queensland Junior Boxing team travelling to Russia and he had been asked to be the coach. They'd be away for five weeks. He wouldn't make much money, but it was an all-expenses-paid trip. One of the boys from his club, Ben Wilson, had been asked to go. He's a real good boy, Chief said. Sharon looked down at her food. She didn't look up for a long time.CHAPTER 4
Year 9 Is Gay
As soon as Mr Graham had finished explaining the English oral — which was to design your own radio program and present it to the class either live or on a tape — Billy Johnstone had his hand up.
"Are we allowed to use a dictaphone to record the radio program?" he asked.
"Yes Billy, you may."
"So we can use a dictaphone?"
Zane Beard yelled out a question. "Are we being marked on our diction, sir?"
"Of course," said Mr Graham.
"This assignment scares the dickens out of me," Zane continued. "Would you be able to dictate exactly what I have to do?"
Alex sighed. This prank was funny the first five times they pulled it, but it was starting to get old. Small giggles spread around the room.
"It's 3–2 to Beard," Peter Callaghan whispered to Alex and Jimmy.
"I'll tell you what I'll do," said Mr Graham to Zane. "I'll DICtate it to both you and Billy at lunchtime. You can meet me here at 12.45."
It took the boys a few seconds to realise they'd been given a detention. "Awww, what for, sir? I didn't do nuthin'!" Billy said.
"I know you didn't, Billy, but being a DICtator, I insist that you and Zane come back at lunch, where I will perform a DIChotomy on you. Oh, by the way, DIChotomy means to split into two. And make sure you bring your DICtionaries with you, as I want you to look up the word DICtum, and write out its meaning one hundred times."
Excerpted from Alex Jackson: SWA by Pat Flynn. Copyright © 2002 Pat Flynn. Excerpted by permission of University of Queensland Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
Also by Pat Flynn,
Chapter 1 – She's Back,
Chapter 2 – She's Gone,
Chapter 3 – Downer,
Chapter 4 – Year 9 Is Gay,
Chapter 5 – Go Home, Pig!,
Chapter 6 – Girl Problems,
Chapter 7 – Sicko Analysis,
Chapter 8 – No Frills,
Chapter 9 – The Party,
Chapter 10 – Becky,
Chapter 11 – Gossip and Lies,
Chapter 12 – Weeds,
Chapter 13 – Turning Rebel,
Chapter 14 – Jimmy Nose What He's Doing. Does Alex?,
Chapter 15 – SWA,
Chapter 16 – Bad Dreams,
Chapter 17 – Bad News,
Chapter 18 – The Nightmare Continues,
Chapter 19 – Interrogated by Letch,
Chapter 20 – Initiation,
Chapter 21 – Busted,
Chapter 22 – Fighting Chief,
Chapter 23 – Slammed,
Chapter 24 – Moving to the Beach?,
Chapter 25 – Skateboarding Presentation: the Sequel,
Chapter 26 – Phone Call,
Chapter 27 – Skatey Video,