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You Can't Be Careful On A Skateboard (standard:adventure, 2655 words)
Author: G.H. HaddenAdded: Nov 25 2007Views/Reads: 1949/1130Story vote: 0.00 (0 votes)
A 13-year-old bright eyed and bushy haired marvel of energy named Burke has never felt so alive in his whole life until now that he realizes he’s in fact hurtling headlong down Oak Hill Street to his own death—-suicide by skateboard!
 



YOU CAN'T BE CAREFUL ON A SKATEBOARD 

BY G.H. Hadden 

August 5th 1985, an unlucky day for thirteen-year-old Burke, is turning
out to be a scorcher of a day in The Valley.  “So hot, the Devil's 
jealous!” his dad always says, but the fun in the sun is over.  The 
race is on, and he's running for his very life! 

Burke wish it were all somehow just a bad dream, that if he ran hard
enough and the pounding in his chest grew fast enough—-to the point 
where his legs would simply lock up in cramps and his lungs would be 
paralyzed, miraculously unable to continue the automatic reflex of 
taking another breath, then he would simply wake up in a sweat, 
shaking, scared and wet...but safe and sound in his bed. 

But no such luck...and if his mind doubted the REALITY of it all, he had
only to look back and see the ferocity and determination on the faces 
of those big kids chasing him. 

THEY'RE PISSED!!! 

They're legs are like pistons.  They're like four tenacious greyhounds
chasing the rabbit, and gaining too with each stride. 

And of course he knows why they're so pissed—-and it isn't fair...cause
he knows better then to pick a fight with kids whose fathers work the 
hard long swing shifts in the mine just to get the chance at a couple 
extra bucks more an hour, whose fathers were tough and sometimes mean 
and their moods swung as wildly as their shifts did. 

Yesir, coal mining in West Virginia (or anywheres else for that matter)
is a tough business these days—-and truth be told, Burke really had 
nothing to do with it at all.  It was all about his father—-who HE was 
and WHAT he is.  Cause that's how it goes in small Appalachian coal 
towns like Berkshire Lick; in a town where his dad is apt to tell you 
”A little Reaganomics has a long way to go.” and ”Round here, the go-go 
‘80s means pack your kit an' go.” 

Round here, everyone knows everyone else, and sometimes grudges borne
deep below ground surface on the playground. 

That's where the chase started: on the playground of Berkshire Middle
School at the basketball courts, and it's now making its way down Oak 
Hill Street fast.  The mountain ahead, where his friends are sure to 
be, is Burke's only refuge.  It's neutral ground, wild and free of 
prejudice. 

It's getting toward mid Saturday afternoon, when the sun casts long and
cruel dog-days-of-summer shadows on everything.  Anything not in shadow 
is golden and green, hence the name Green Valley given to the fertile 
holler.   And if anyone atop the craggy sloping escarpment of tangle 
brush and broken rocks known as Bald Eagle Knob—-anyone perched about 
600 feet above the old Company houses in the low end of town—-if ANYONE 
at all were watching this boys' footrace play itself out down Oak Hill 
Street (if maybe Shawn, Gray and Dale were already on the summit doing 
just that—-peeping down on them with the binocks and rooting for their 
buddy Burke all the way), then the yardstick by which they'd measure 
progress to the T intersection with Jezebel Mine Road would be marked 
off in houses. 

“Lil' Pink Houses”, was how the faint radio voice of John Cougar
Mellencamp put it.  Except of course, these houses weren't pink, they 
were all Company gray—-or maybe more precisely, coal dust off-white. 

The houses of Oak Hill Street were almost unchanged since Granddaddy's
stories of the yellow-dog days of long hot summers past.  They dated 
from the 1920s, when everything in Berkshire Lick was Company owned and 
operated—-from the General Store to the Savings and Loan.  The Virginia 
& Allegheny built these houses to replace older boarding houses like 
the ones in The Bottoms. 

“A concession to the union for the hard-working families of the minors.”
his Granddaddy once told him. “They come about after the marchin‘ and 
fightin' at Blair Mountain, an' all the bloody disturbance in Mingo 


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