He rides because it's cool. Jumps the curb in front of the house, board spinning three-sixty under his feet so the wheels are back on the concrete when he comes down. He revels in the four seconds he's weightless.

Getting air: he says.

He's got no chest. His pectorals are in the same plane as his navel. Eats five meals a day. Hair too long in front, short in back. Wears a shirt that says "Hurley," really loud. Shorts full of pockets. Nothing in 'um.

Spent his last buck at Baskin Robbins. Chocolate Mousse Fudge.

Stole a six-pack from the refrigerator in the garage. Shotgunned two back behind the grammar school with his friend Marty. They got drunk and puked on the street.

Once he backed Dad's vette out of the garage. It's gonna be his someday.

Lump on his arm from where he took the dare. Rode down the metal slide at the playground. Musta been going forty when he realized the angle was bad. Board augured into the sand. He jumped and hit the ground wrong.

Pain is not an issue. Fear is the issue. Has the shirt. No Fear. Takes the halfpipe in SJ without crash gear.

But he won't sit down and talk to her. Tongue tied. Nothing to say. He's gotta fly when she's around. Little rooster. He doesn't know what to say to her so when he knocks on the door and she sees who it is, she runs and asks daddy to get it.

So, I'm looking down at this mook asking for my daughter, conjuring my best bear-like growl.

But I can't get too far. I see it in his face. Get too brave, get too hurt. Get too shy, get too wrecked. Gotta crush that's screwing things up. Don't know which way is up. Knows what he's supposed to be, doesn't know how to get there.

I shrug, can't growl when she says she's not coming. See him counting atoms in the concrete.

So he does what he can. Takes the jump going too slow. Takes the lumps. Hopes she sees him from the window.

"You gotta talk to that boy," I tell my kid. "He's gonna kill himself in our driveway."

"He's hopeless, Dad," she tells me, and I know she's right. Girls get it faster than boys. Boys never grow up.

Because when my daughter speaks I hear a girl from down the street. I feel the wrench in my chest. Stuff you can't get rid of no matter how fast you go. Wind in my hair when I launched at the wrong angle. Went home, wrist broke. She wasn't even looking.

Little rooster flapping useless wings.

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