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Head Over Heels
an SAT/ACT vocabulary novel
  

January 13: Rico’s Birthday

All of Rico’s chirping, shoulder-punching, baggie-clothed,,hair-gelled friends showed up over an hour early for his party. I know this wasn’t out of fealty toward Rico, but just because of the Luke cameo. This freaked out my mom, who naïvely expects her life to stay within the strictures of her Daily Planner. I solved her dilemma by breaking out that Old Faithful of male distractions: PlayStation.

This satiated them for a good forty-five minutes. I stood there, listening to them chatter. They’re at that age where girls are starting to become the thing, which means bravado is of utmost importance.

By the time they started getting restive, Mom was ready to begin the party. Rico had told her repeatedly that the key to the party was brevity. The only elements he sanctioned were an ice cream cake (nothing written on it), gift unwrapping, and music (all songs preapproved). It was the first time I’d ever been to a party where the birthday person was able to successfully proscribe the singing of “Happy Birthday.”

Toward the completion of the gift unwrapping, the boys were already rhapsodizing about Luke. He was five minutes late, then ten, then twenty. I went from being slightly irritated to internally haranguing him for his negligence. You promised. You owe me. These kids look up to you. At around 7:40, Rico walked up to me, and his hapless expression was enough to break your heart in half. “What’s going on? You weren’t kidding when you said he would show . . . right?”

“No . . . no . . . be patient,” I said. That’s when the foreboding sense of dread kicked in. Would he not come? If this was a hoax, if he was so callous that he would set me up for this big of a fall, then this was it—his final, most unforgivable transgression. I heard a scratching sound that made my ears perk up like a rabbit’s at the snap of a twig. “Hey, wait a second,” I said. But my brother and his pubescent munchkin buddies were a step ahead of me, clustered against the living room window.

“Dude!” one of them yelled. “That’s so hardcore!”

The whole raucous throng of thirteen-year-olds scrambled outside, laughing and crying, “He’s amazing!” His arrival couldn’t have been timelier. I knew Luke planned it that way, for the same reason the Rolling Stones never show up at the time printed on the ticket stub. Own the crowd. I bounded the stairs three at a time and set up shop beneath my bedroom window.

He had a whole course set up. It was circumscribed by the grass on two sides, the garage on the other, and Luke’s rusted-out pickup truck parked at the end of the driveway. Inside was a labyrinthine skating course with a ramp thingy, pylons and this triangular-shaped metal bar like a staircase balustrade. He was wearing earphones, tuned out to things worldly, flipping up and back on the ramp, delineating the shape of a “U.”

I was more impressed by his temerity. Skateboarding, the way he did it, looked like a surefire excursion to the hospital. But it was like walking to him. Luke took his Walkman off and carved out figure eights. I reached down and—my face concealed by my half-drawn Venetian blinds—opened my window. A gale of cold air swept across my face. Luke jumped onto the opened tailgate and started wiggling around on the bed of the truck. But the crunch of his wheels was soon drowned out by the roar from his rollicking legion of fans. Luke flipped his board up into his hand, and with the other hand, pulled his earphones from his ears.

Luke lifted off. My mouth involuntarily opened into an “O” shape.

“And then you’ve got your grind tricks. Grinding’s fun because you get the sense of gliding through the air in slo mo, like this . . .”

“All right, now, Rico gets to do the first trick!”

Rico slapped his board onto the ground and got a running start. He glided on it for a few feet, pushing once, and then did some sort of strained jumpy thing. “Yeah!” Luke yelled. “Nice move! Now everybody else join in!”

They all cascaded onto the driveway and started cavorting around on their skateboards, like a swarm of contented bees. Luke unleashed a big smile in the general direction of the house. I pulled away from the window. What could I do? You had to give props where props were due. That was quite a coup he’d pulled off.

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