In Skater's Time

by Rick Beck

Chapter 18

The Surfer

I didn't see Ralph for the next week, and I hadn't seen him for a long time, before I saw him the week before. I figured that he was doing OK, and he didn't need a free meal, because I told him my parents would feed him any time he came to the house at dinner time.

These were the busy months at work. People were picnicking and buying all kinds of canned goods. At least one day a week, I unloaded trucks and stocked shelves for seven or eight straight hours.

As I knew it would be, Monday was a long hard day, and I didn't think about anything but work. I started before seven, and I was done at three thirty. I dropped my skateboard, and I headed for the house. I needed a nap.

Skip's Chevy was parked in front of my house, and he was back to leaning his back against it, while he stared at my house.

"Am I glad to see you," Skip said. "I thought I'd need to go home alone. My parents are spending the week at their place in Ensenada," Skip said. "We can go to my house, and we can go surfing tomorrow. You haven't seen Zuma. We'll cruise Malibu, maybe we'll see a movie star or two. The place is crawling with famous people."

"Didn't anyone tell you that I'm a working man?" I asked. "I can't just take the day off."

"Oh, man, I've been waiting for over a week to get my board in the water, and I wasn't going without you. I drove all the way over here, and you're going to turn me down. Quit your job. Take the day off. You've got to go."

Skip sounded desperate.

"Cool your jets. I'm off tomorrow. I put up all the canned goods today," I said.

"Cool," he said.

"I need a shower. I need to get something to wear. I've been working all day."

"Sounds serious. I could use a shower."

Just before five, with me sweating, even after taking a shower with Skip, after we went around the world a couple of times, I hastily jotted a note to my parents, before Skip, me, and my surfboard made a quick getaway.

Mom & Dad,

I've gone surfing with my friend Skip. I may be staying over at his house this evening. Don't wait up for me. I won't be late for work in the morning, Dad.

Your son,



I sent a message to my parents. All was well on the western front. Z, the son who refused to use his great grandfather's name, was OK. His feet were firmly planted on the ground, and while I'd never be over Free, I'd been able to set him aside long enough to get back into the game.

The last pages of my journal are filled with Free. The best way I'm able, I have written about who Free was to me, and how he changed my life in the few months that we were together. I wanted to close the door on him, as soon as he picked the navy over me, but his decision wasn't about me. It wasn't about our love. The navy was about Free's future, and how could I not help my precious love to go as far as I could help him go.

The hardest thing I've ever done, was to watch Free leave me. I am certain that a kid who never had a chance of succeeding, has found a way to succeed. He's happy. I'm happy for him. He's the first person on my mind each morning, and he's the last person that crosses my mind each night.

Yes, I still sleep with his pillow in my arms. Like the memory of Free, his smell is weakening its grip on me. The pain that has torn at my insides for months now, has weakened too. Work is no longer the only thing I have to secure me to this place. The urge to cut and run, find a new place, has gone.

I really like this place. I have found a place at Hitchcock's market. No, Mr. Hitchcock and I haven't talked about my long silence. He was sure he'd done something wrong. He was sure he was about to leave the best stock clerk he'd had. Brenda took the time to sit down with him and explain Free and me. No, a man of a certain age doesn't understand love between men, but he doesn't need to understand it. He accepted Brenda's explanation of what had taken place.

Mr. Hitchcock was relieved that he hadn't done something that made it impossible for me to continue working at Hitchcock's Market. He continues watching me, when I ring up a sale for things I get for my lunch. While sitting on a five gallon can of plaster, eating my purchases, Mr. Hitchcock makes the trip back to where I'd eating, handing me the register receipt showing his owner's discount, and he hands me back most of the money I put into the register.

He's a good man. I told him that this is the best job I've ever had, which is technically true, since I never did anything before but mow lawns and deliver papers, but it's reassuring to him. My father stops to pick me up from work a couple days a week, and I can hear him and Mr. Hitchcock talking about what is going on in the world around them. I get the impression, they don't feel that the changes taking place are for the better, but politicians are going to do what politicians do, and as long as the people go along with it, they are home free.

There is the matter of Skip. I didn't have the time to write about Free, until after he left. I was too tired to write for the first couple of months, and then when I had the time to write, I couldn't write. Gradually, after he was gone, I finally sat down to write about him while memories were fresh.

Skip drove into my life in a 1972 Impala, with a long board strapped to his roof. Sitting there in MacDonald's parking lot, with Skip standing over me, my heart fluttered for the second time in my life. Skip was hot and handsome.

With 'Gordo sitting next to me, and making the introduction, this red-headed didn't get away. My first lover introduced me to my third lover. No, my heart never fluttered over Gordo. Yes, I felt something a kin to love for him, because he offered me something no one else ever had. Even before I tried to follow him on my skateboard, Gordo seemed too wild, too out of control, to risk falling in love with him. I had no death wish, and I didn't want to see anyone die.

Skip was easy to love, but as I was holding a live flame burning in my heart, Skip was in a quest to find an old love, Chet, who had gone to Hollywood to become a star, because everyone knew he'd go to Hollywood and become a star, after he apparently failed to achieve stardom, and he'd return to where he was from to wait tables in a restaurant. None of that mattered to Skip. He intended to find Chet, make love to him, and Chet wouldn't be able to leave him, once he got a gander and the older and more mature Skippy.

Yes, Skip and I did something besides make love. On my next day off, Skip strapped my short board next to his long board, and we went to Huntington Beach, where he'd cut his teeth on a long board. It was a long drive, but the excitement over finally being able to get up on my surfboard overwhelmed me.

The Beach Boys had been singing to me about surfing for as far back as my memory went. I could feel the surf, and see myself on a surfboard, all those years ago. Surfing wasn't exactly what I did the day Skip took me to Huntington. The surf was mild, 'Perfect for you to ride your first wave, Z," Skip told me.

I'm sure the Pacific Ocean was a little light on water, once we left, just before dark that day. I'd drank all I could, and spit out the rest. I did get up on my board. As Preacher told me, my board would never fail me, but it also didn't want to hold me for most of the day.

Skip was a patient teacher. He gave me the same instruction for the nineteenth or twentieth time, when I was finally up on my board for more than five seconds, riding my first wave for maybe twenty seconds. I was so excited, I fell off, when if I'd done what Skip told me to do, I could have ridden longer.

From little acorns, mighty oaks grow. After that humble start, and day of frustration, Skip kept coming back to take me surfing. He lived in Rancho Santa Fee, which was half way to L.A. from where I lived, and he'd take me to another beach along the coast between Rancho Santa Fee and L.A.

Today, I'm a surfer. Sitting on the board Preacher sold me for peanuts, feeling the undulating water under me, is the forerunner for why surfer's wait.

Preacher told me some things that he knew I didn't understand at the time. He told me to remember what he was about to tell me, because the words were truly inspired by GOD. I did listen, but I didn't write them down. I wasn't a surfer. I didn't know if I ever would be a surfer, but once I became one, I recalled his words, and I wrote them down.

I'd gone back to see about his offer for a lesson at San Onofre. Once I'd surfed San Onofre, I had no interest in going back, and I forgot about Preacher's offer, but while I was there, Preacher took me to one side, and he spoke to me like some ancient guru, explaining the meaning of life to a student.

"Z, surfing is the doorway to infinity. The perfect wave is an illusion, until you're on it. If you remember nothing else I tell you, remember this. It's your ticket to infinity, where time and space don't exist."

He spoke in a whisper. This was a message for no one but me.

"Z, Once you catch your wave, feel your board under you. Feel the wave propel you, this is what you do. At that time, It won't happen often, you'll see the curl developing as you charge along the front of that force of nature. At first, you aren't sure what you are seeing, but the real deal takes shape all around you, ahead of you. Once you enter, are inside that space, finding just the right spot on your board, allow that curl to almost swallow you, you'll be in the bosom of the curl," Preacher said with mystic awe. "If you are truly in the curl, You'll feel the spray. The curl will seem to consume you, as you become one with the wave. You'll feel no fear. You'll feel no connection to earthly constraints. Time itself has lost all meaning, as you ride that wave. It becomes almost too overwhelming to comprehend that a mere mortal is tempting the awesome power of fate, and once you do, you'll be free."

I did what Preacher told me to do. I caught a wave at Zuma. I saw the curl develop in front of me. I surfed into it without fear. It was like Preacher described it to me, except I didn't become Free, I only thought about him at times like that.

The End

In Skater's Time

A Rick Beck Story

Edited by: ijk

I rushed to get where I am, neither remembering how I got here, nor where I was before I started.

Now, I'm not sure where to go next. Maybe if I went slower, I'd have a better idea of who I really am.


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