The Fiction

Salmon Upstream

From the Summer, 2017, issue 

(No. 39)

Illustration by Matthew Daley
Matthew Daley

First sunny day we’ve had since school let out—it’s been rain, drizzle, and spit since grad—and the skate park’s packed. Ray, Jimmy, Kyle, everyone’s there, which is probably why the scooter kids are staying away for once. Shaping up to be a sick sesh. Been working on this frontside feeble, just know I’m gonna get it today. But alls I can think is, Where the hell is Silas?

“Girlfriend,” Kyle says. Then he sees the look on my face. “Aw, Melvin’s jealous!” he shouts, as he throws down and lines up the flat bar, laughter rolling like his wheels on the pavement.

Silas is not from New Waterford. He just showed up one day in Grade 10. I saw him putting his board in his locker and practically ran over to him.

“Dude, you skate?” I asked.

“No,” he grinned.

Silas’s mom’s a prof—she got a job at the university, so they ended up here. They chose to live in New Waterford. Who does that? Why not Sydney? Or Northside?

“Dunno,” Silas shrugged. “Mom liked it here.”

They’ve got a sweet house. Right on the cliff. O.K., back a bit—it’s not gonna tumble into the ocean next big storm.

I’m there all the time, ’cause Silas practically has the whole basement to himself. We talk skating, watch skate vids, look at photos and videos we’ve shot. In and out of the basement I’m always hoping to say hi to Silas’s younger sister, Sara. Hi is pretty well all I’ve managed so far.

Silas’s parents are split up, like mine. Seems his mom’s doing better than my mom, though, with the big house and all their stuff. Mom and I live in a little one storey in New Vic; it’s nice, but it’s little.

In the fall, Silas is heading to university. Halifax. For science or something. I dunno what I’m doing. Sticking around here for a bit? I could head to Halifax, I guess. Visit Silas. Skate their wicked skate park. But I like living on the island. I don’t think too much of leaving. Anyway, I’ll figure it out. I’ve got all summer.

I was twelve when I started skating. I tried other sports—did soccer and baseball, a bit of hockey—but never got into any of them. There was an older kid on my street who skated and one day I was like, That’s what I wanna do. Mom was cool about it. Got me my first board and pads and helmet and all the shit I was supposed to wear but never did. Dad didn’t say much, but hell, he was out west by then already and didn’t have too much to do with us anymore. Has even less to do with us now.

I was shit at first, but at least I could balance. Pushed mongo until that same kid on my street was all, Dude, no. Gave me some old Big Brothers, Thrashers, and other skate mags. Told me to look up Bob’s Trick Tips on-line. Showed me where my feet should go. Then I started watching all the vids, snuck those skate mags into school. Some teachers let me read them in class during reading periods, but most said, No, put that away. Teachers, parents—they see skateboards, they think graffiti, drugs. Vandalism. Swearing and shit. But you never hear of a team of skaters raping a girl. Whole football team sings about rape and everyone’s just, They’re good guys. They’ve got a bright future. Boys will be boys! But I’m pushing up Plummer Avenue or wherever and people are all, That guy’s trouble, and all I’m doing is heading to the skate park. It’s bullshit. Bottom line for any skater, rich, poor, hungry, full, on drugs, anything? Bottom line is skating. That’s all we care about. Which is why I’m all, The fuck?, when Silas didn’t show up yesterday. I mean, what else is better than skating?

Next day, me and Silas meet up at the skate park. It’s cloudy and cool. Windy.

“Yesterday was better,” is all I say to him.

Silas shrugs then runs up the ramp, drops in, and ollies the two-way. I like Silas’s style, but it definitely had to grow on me. You watch him at first, he looks slow and lazy. Then, outta nowhere, he lipslides the flat bar. Silas can go faster and get higher than any of us. Dude should seriously be sponsored.

Kyle shows up. There’s high-fives. Kyle’s loud. After every trick he doesn’t get—which is most of them—he swears or screams or throws his board. Poor bastard needs new wheels, so even his board’s loud.

“Missed a sick sesh yesterday,” Kyle says to Silas. Silas looks right through Kyle. He does this. As if Kyle, as if no one’s there. Like he’s just seeing his next trick and not Kyle trying to take the piss. Fuck, it was awesome when we were in school. Nothing deflated the meathead hockey guys faster. They’d start in, calling us druggies or whatever and Silas would just walk by them like they weren’t there. Walk right through them if he could. Ollie over their fat, empty heads.

But Kyle’s not one of those meatheads. Kyle’s something else. Kyle smokes a lot of pot and sells drugs on occasion and wears this grungy old green toque, even in summer, and talks a lot of bullshit about bullshit. He says he’s on his way out west but I say he’s on his way to burnout. Dude’s not even twenty and already he’s got a patchy old-man beard, stained nicotine brown around his mouth and nose. Like he’s someone’s gramp. Silas hates him. I just don’t care. You get used to weird people in town. Not too many of us, so you get used to them or you get out.

I’m itching to get back on my board but Kyle won’t let it go.

“She must have some sweet little pussy to make you forget about skating,” he says.

I watch Silas. He gets up all slow and lazy like he always moves. His eyes are hidden under his hair and eyebrows. Looks like he’s gonna punch the guy, but instead Silas just turns to Kyle and says, “Game of skate?” I nearly die. Fucking guy. skate: Call a trick. Miss the trick, get a letter. First guy to spell “skate” loses, and Kyle always loses. So this is how Silas is gonna win. Not yelling or punching. Just by being the better skater.

It’s koti weekend. King of the Island. The local skate shop—Skate the Whole Island—puts on this contest each summer. You get a team together and do all these tricks for points. You film the tricks and make a video. Team with the most points wins.

I think we’ve got a good chance this year. We’ve got Silas, and Drew’s home for a few weeks from out west. Kyle’s always good to do the crazy shit—eat a raw fish, chug a slushy, that kinda thing. Jimmy’s gotten about a foot taller since last year. Looks eighteen but is only fourteen, so it’s like he’s still getting used to his body. Heavy on the board but light on his feet. Shit, even I can hippie jump a picnic table and last year that trick was worth thirty points.

This all depends on Silas’s camera and Silas isn’t here yet. I’ve been trying hard not to bug him about it—I mean, he’s already said yes—but I keep worrying he’s gonna bail. Then Silas pulls up in his mom’s car. He’s not alone. Three get outta the car—Silas and Sara and another girl. We’re all staring, so I stop staring.

“Silas’s bae,” I hear Jimmy say.

How does he know? Doesn’t matter. What matters is I see Silas pop the trunk of the car and pull out two skateboards. He hands one to the girl who isn’t Sara and she grabs it and heads toward us.

Girls come to the park all the time to hang out—girlfriends and wannabe girlfriends. They grab a board once in a while to goof around. But until today, I’ve never seen a girl bring her own board. A couple of the boys start laughing and I turn and glare at them—give them a fire-eyed Silas stare. They stop laughing but keep grinning as Silas adds his backpack to the pile of bags under the roll in.

“This is Breagh,” Silas says, not really to anyone, so it seems he’s just saying it to the roll in.

“Bree,” says Breagh, and I stop myself from saying, “Like the cheese.” I’m guessing Bree doesn’t want to hear that. Instead I nod and mumble my name. The boys say nothing—just go off and skate. I’m staring at her board. She sees me looking and flips it over to show me the graphic: a map of Nova Scotia, the whole province, from Yarmouth to Meat Cove, floating in turquoise, stretched along the length of the board.

“It’s Nova Scotia,” I say. I don’t say anything else ’cause I feel like that alone sounded stupid, but Bree just laughs.

“Where can I sit?” Sara asks. I look around. Of course there’s no benches or chairs or picnic tables. The closest spot to sit is on the other side of the fence, near the walking track. Whoever builds skate parks, I guess they never think skaters wanna sit on a bench or need shade or even water. There’s stadium seats at every football field and basketball court and baseball diamond but all we get is broken glass and a gate they forget to unlock even in the summer. Here, Sara, sit on this lovely spot of pavement. Just lemme brush aside this broken beer bottle. Make sure you don’t sit in the weeds over there. It’s full of used condoms.

“We sometimes sit up there,” I say, pointing to the top of the roll in. Right then Kyle hits the roll in and does a kickflip to fakie.

“Yeah?” says Sara skeptically. She looks around. “That tree over there,” she points to a big maple on the other side of the fence. “That looks all right.”

By now everyone else is skating. Even Bree. All I wanna do is watch her. She’s pushing back and forth—nothing fancy. Just a few flat ground tricks. But still. A girl is skating in NDub and it’s fucking awesome. No wonder Silas has been M.I.A. these past few weeks.

With Bree skating and Sara reading a book under that maple tree, I kinda forget where I am for a sec. Then Drew floats a giant frontside flip off the two-way and the “Yeeeoo”s from the boys wake me up. I slappy noseslide the box, joining the boys and Bree.

Eventually we take a break and gather round the roll in. Even Sara joins us. She and Bree clamber up the ramp and sit at the top.

“We still don’t have a team name for koti,” Silas says.

There’s some lame ideas—Coywolves, Super Duper, Party Boyz—nothing sounds good. We’re tired. For those who have suppers cooked for them, it’s past suppertime. We’re hungry. We’re always hungry. We need to stop and go eat but we hate stopping. There’s still an hour or so of sunlight. If only skating fuelled our bellies like it fuels the rest of our bodies.

“Salmon,” Sara says suddenly.

I look at her. So does Silas. So do some of the boys. Kyle laughs.

“Like the fish?” he says.

“Yeah, like the fucking fish,” Sara says. “The way you skate? I was watching. Up those stairs, up the ramp, over that bar, and even over all the Tim Hortons litter. Up and over everything. Like salmon going upstream. Against the current. Nothing gonna stop you, not even gravity.”

“I like it,” Bree says quickly. I see Silas nodding.

My dad, when he still lived here, he’d go fishing. Mom would always bug him to take me and one time he did. Took me to Margaree to catch salmon. He’d catch them but give me his rod and I’d reel them in. When we got home he told Mom I’d caught ’em all. We cleaned them and cooked them for supper. We were all happy that night, even Mom and Dad. One of the last times I remember us all being happy together.

“Salmon,” Ray says.

“NDub salmon,” Jimmy says.

We laugh. It’s kinda funny. And since none of us have any better ideas, it sticks.

Saturday morning, I’m just a coupla blocks from the park when my phone buzzes. Not once but over and over. Phone’s in my hand but I can see the boys at the park. They start shouting. Both ramps—the roll in and the bank—are flipped upside down. Both ramps! Just last night we were skating them. Just last night! I start shaking.

“The fuck,” I say. “The fuck!”

“Who the fuck?” Drew says.

“Who fucking does this?”

“One of the other teams,” Jimmy says.

“No way,” I say. “They wouldn’t. You know that.”

It had to be big guys. And a lot of them. Those are heavy fucking ramps. And the noise they woulda made going over? No one noticed? All the houses around here and no one called the cops? What were they thinking? That us skaters would do this to our own park? That we’re vandals? That we deserve this just ’cause we skate?

Silas pulls up in his mom’s car and out he gets with Bree and Sara.

“Can’t flip concrete,” he says. It’s true. If the ramps were concrete instead of shitty plastic and metal this couldn’t have happened. But they’d rather spend money on washrooms for cruise-ship tourists, on splash pads and playgrounds for toddlers. Teenagers can fuck right off.

“Anyone call anyone?” I ask.

Ray nods.

“Called the number on the sign and left a message.”

I look at the sign. I’ve looked at it a million times. It’s from Parks and Rec and lists park rules. Wear a helmet. No skating after dark. Rules no one follows. The sign is covered in graffiti and stickers, is burned and melted in one corner.

“I’ll get Mom to call,” Sara says.

“She’s in the garden,” Silas says.

“Gimme the keys,” Sara says.

I hear Silas mutter, “barely sixteen” and “licence,” but then he hands Sara the keys.

We stand around holding our boards. It’s as if we’ve forgotten how to skate. I stare at the upside down ramps and it feels like I’m upside down.

“We could just skate street,” Silas finally says. “I mean, we were gonna anyway.”

“I just really wanted to start here,” I say.

“What’s it matter where we start?” Silas asks.

Last night, all I kept picturing was us opening the koti envelope here, at our park, not somewhere else. But I don’t tell Silas ’cause if it wasn’t for Bree, I woulda said it to him last night. I look at Bree who’s looking at her phone. She looks at me, then looks at Silas.

“This park’s no Coxheath,” she says, meaning the concrete skate park by Riverview High that, I hate to admit, is a million times better than this one.

“Fuck that park,” I say. “We’re NDub boys.”

Bree’s eyes widen but she doesn’t say anything. She just looks down again at her phone. Instead, it’s Silas who’s looking at me with that dead-eyed stare he usually reserves for assholes. But I go on.

“I mean, we got the team together weeks ago and no one said anything about doing this anywhere else or with anyone else.”

Kyle laughs then and says, “Yeah. No girls allowed.”

Shit. Kyle’s agreeing with me.

“You know what?” says Silas. “Fuck koti.”

He picks up his board and shoulders his backpack. He’s not looking at any of us anymore. He just walks away. Walks out of the park and away from all of us. Bree follows. She glances back and catches my eye and waves her middle finger at me.

“Great,” Jimmy finally says. “There goes the camera.”

Around eleven a Parks and Rec truck shows up with Sara following behind on a bike. I’m the only one left at the park—Kyle and the rest took off after Silas and Bree. Two men get outta the truck and come over to look at the ramps. They circle them, shaking their heads.

“No way we can flip these without the crane,” one says. The other nods and looks at me.

“Musta taken a lot of guys to do this,” he says.

“Yeah,” I mutter. I’m sitting, leaning against the fence, rubbing my phone on my pants. Sara sits beside me and we watch the guys go back to their truck and make phone calls.

“I passed by Silas and Bree,” she says.


“Silas wasn’t happy.”


“You don’t look happy either.”

“Fuck,” I say, and bang my head against the fence. The fence rattles then stops.

“Mom wouldn’t let me drive back. She was mad I drove home but she still made the call. She was all, ‘This is Dr. Healey and I work at the university. As a concerned citizen of New Waterford, blah, blah.’ It was awesome. But then she told me not to drive the car again ’til I have my licence.”

I look at her. Sara’s a bit sweaty from biking here and a few of her blond hairs are stuck to her forehead. Her cheeks are red. She even smells a bit sweaty, a musky smell mixed up with that fruity scent most girls have. I realize I like the musky smell way more than the fruity smell and how Sara smells and looks is enough to make me forget about koti and Silas and Bree and those upside down ramps. But just for a sec.

The koti envelope’s at my feet, still unopened. What’s the point? It’s past eleven. We’ve lost hours. No doubt the Glace Bay or Sydney teams have filmed at least a dozen tricks by now. Sara picks up the envelope, reads, “Do no open until Saturday morning,” then holds it up to my face. I shrug. She starts to open the envelope and I tell her to wait. I get my phone and start filming as she rips it open and pulls out the challenge book—a black Duo-tang with eight pages inside. This moment is usually the best moment. Sara opens the Duo-tang and Skate the Whole Island stickers fall to the ground. I stop filming. I look at the stickers, look at the upside down ramps, and sigh.

“Can I have a sticker?” she asks.

“Sure. Whatever.”

“Melvin—” Sara starts, then stops. “Do you have a pen?”

I scrounge through my backpack, find a pen, and hand it to her. Sara turns to the first page of the book and under Team Name writes in big, black letters: salmon.

“Dude, look. You’re salmon. Remember what I said? They’ll fix the ramps. Silas is downtown at Davis. Go find him. Go salmon it up.”

“I dunno if he wants me there.”

I say this, but I’m standing up. Sara stands up, too.

“I dunno either. But he told me where he was going and knew where I was going. So.”

She hands me the challenge book and I put it in my backpack. I want to hug her. Then I do. And Sara hugs me back. I feel two wants then, to hug Sara all day in the warm July sun and to skate with Silas.

“Will you come?” I ask as we leave the park.

“Nah. But I’ll find you later. I’m gonna head to the beach.”

There aren’t too many spots to skate street in New Waterford, which is why we tend to stick to the park or go to Sydney. But Davis is a decent spot. There’s a gazebo with a chill three-set and this monument with a miner on top that looks cool in our shots. Plus, William Davis, the guy the spot’s named after, was a badass. Him and a bunch of miners were all ‘Fuck this’ about how shit their jobs were and went on strike and Davis got shot and killed in the process. Now ’cause of him we have a day off school in June.

One time I was sitting there waiting for Silas and I went up to the monument and read all the names of the guys who were killed in this huge mine explosion in 1917. Over sixty guys, torn up, crushed. Beside each guy’s name is the age he was when he died. Some of those guys were my age or younger. Imagine being seventeen, or even fourteen, working miles under the ocean and then—kaboom. Some of those guys probably never even kissed a girl, let alone fucked one. Died virgins.

I told that to Silas when he showed up and he laughed and shook his head. Then he looked up at the top of the monument and said, “Most towns have kings or queens or prime minsters or memorials for war dead. But New Waterford’s got a statue of a miner.”

When I get to Davis, Silas and a coupla the boys are skating the gazebo. I join them. I pull the challenge book outta my backpack and the boys grab it and pass it around. Silas comes over and starts leafing through the pages.

“Look, man, I’m sorry. It’s just, koti—,” I start, but Silas shakes his head.

“It’s just a game,” he says. “It’s not worth going crazy.”

“I guess.”

“Also, you are not in Bree’s good books.”

“I’ll apologize.”


“Where’s Bree at?” I ask.

“Gone to the beach with Sara.”

“It’s cool watching her skate,” I say.

“Yeah. It is.”

“And Kyle?”

“Bree told him to go fuck himself.”

“Bree’s all right.” I smile.

“Yeah,” Silas says, and he almost smiles, too.

Then we sit on the steps of the gazebo and start divvying up challenges.

Saturday night the boys go camping and Silas and I edit footy at his house. Bree and Sara join us and we get talking about skaters we like and show the girls some of our favourite videos.

“Bree skates,” Sara says. “Other girls must skate, right?”

Bree’s nodding. So’s Silas.

“Yeah, of course,” I say.

“So how come all these videos only have guys in them?”

“Didn’t you notice the girl in that Dylan Rieder part?” Bree asks.

“The one stripping and arching her naked back? The headless gal with the pointy little tits? Classy,” says Sara. “What’s the point of her exactly?”

“The point is that skating’s just as douchey as all the other sports,” Bree says.

“I thought we were better,” I mutter.

“But there’s Kyle,” Bree says. “And guys like Kyle—” Bree shakes her head.

“Guys like Kyle,” Silas says, “would rather see naked girls in their skate vids than girls on skateboards.”

“Better to jerk off to,” says Bree.

“So why do it?” Sara asks Bree. “Why skate?”

Bree shrugs.

“Why do anything? It’s fun, right?”

She looks at me and Silas. We nod.

“They have fun—why can’t we? What, we’re not allowed ’cause skating’s for boys? Fuck that. Everything should be for everyone. Plus, if no girl does it, no girl will ever do it, right?”

“Right,” Sara says. “And guys like Kyle fucking hate that. Like girls skating takes the fun outta it or something. They don’t want the naked girl to be all, you know, ‘I’m gonna put on a hoodie and grab a board and join you.’ ’Cause what if she’s actually better than the dude?”

“His dick might fall off if that happens!” Bree says.

The girls bump fists and laugh. Silas searches on-line for another clip and instead of working on the koti video like we should, we end up watching girls skate.

None of us have slept much, but as Sunday evening gets closer and the shadows get longer and the air finally gets cooler, we’re still at the park skating. One of the challenges is to order a pizza to a skate spot, so Silas makes the call, then we text Bree and Sara to come join us. The girls show up with water and chips and cookies, and we all stop for not even ten minutes, that’s how much we wanna keep skating. We’re stoked. The team’s at about a thousand points.

Skating’s humbling—after ten years I’m still learning. Before this weekend, I’d never landed a blunt to nose blunt. But ’cause it’s worth thirty points we all give it a shot. Boom, Silas lands it, but we don’t get footy and he can’t get it again. I hand Silas his camera and give it a go. I can’t get my weight right over the board. Come close to throwing it over the fence.

“One more,” I say.

One more. How many one mores have we all promised? One more before I go get some water. One more before dark. One more ’cause I’m starving and exhausted. One more and I’ll land it.

“One more.”

But it’s probably eight more before I finally get it. The boys clap and cheer.

“You film it?” I practically yell at Silas.

He plays back the footy on his camera and we gather round him to watch. There it is—there I am—landing that goddamned trick.

“Salmon!” I shout.

We hear Kyle before he’s even at the park—those shitty loud wheels of his that sound like he’s riding on cobblestones. Bree says “ugh” or “fuck” or possibly both.

“Yeah, pizza,” Kyle says, and without asking he starts opening pizza boxes, looking for leftover slices. All he finds are crusts and one sad, dried out cheese slice. He nibbles at the slice, then tosses it into the middle of the park, nearly hitting Ray as he’s landing a nosegrind.

I wanna ignore Kyle. But he’s the kinda guy who’ll just get louder and more in your face until you’re yelling and he’s laughing.

“How many points you boys at?” he asks.

Ray and Jimmy look at me and I look at Silas.

“Gotta add it up,” Silas says.

“Boys in Glace Bay, they’re close to twelve hundred.”

“Well,” I say. “Good for them.”

“You skating with the Bay boys now?” Drew asks.

“Nah. Was at the bowl this afternoon and asked. You guys know I’m an NDub boy. One of NDub’s finest.”

Kyle looks around the park.

“Got the ramps back up?” he asks.

It’s a question we don’t need to answer ’cause the answer’s obvious. Still, he skates around the bank and roll in, like he’s inspecting them. Sara and Bree are sitting on top of the roll in. Sara pulls her knees in closer to her chest. Bree looks toward Silas, but Silas is watching Kyle like a dog watching a stranger in its yard.

“So, you got girls on the team but you kick me off,” Kyle says.

“Kyle,” I say. “You here to help us or just talk shit?”

“Kyle always talks shit,” Silas says.

Kyle laughs.

“You boys’ll miss me when I head out to Fort Mac,” he says. “Dubs’ll get boring right quick.”

“Look, Kyle,” I say. “We’ve got just a few hours left for koti. Either help us or fuck off.”

“I say he fucks off now,” Bree suddenly says.

Her face is red and getting redder. Everyone in the park gets quiet. No one’s skating. Feels like the quietest the park’s ever been. Then Kyle throws down, starts skating back and forth between the roll in and the quarter pipe, back and forth, back and forth, getting closer and closer to Bree and Sara. Finally Bree gets up and jumps off the ramp. Sara follows. The two of them come over to where Silas and I are standing. We’re all watching Kyle, who’s trying to land these huge frontside airs. Except he keeps kicking his board away and yelling, like he’s doing it on purpose.

Sometimes, I feel kinda bad for Kyle. I know where he lives and how shitty his house is—one of those rotten company houses that you’d swear is abandoned until you realize it’s not. It’s how a lot of people live in NDub. Silas doesn’t really know, ’cause he’s from away. Some people here, they wanna set those houses on fire. Some do. So I can’t hate Kyle. But I wish he’d calm down and help us out. He can be a douche but he’s crazy and that comes in handy for some tricks. I’m ready to say this to Silas, convince him to give Kyle another chance, but suddenly Kyle stops and says, “Ramps seem good. I figured they’d be way more fucked up, the way we flipped ’em over.”

“We?” I say.

Kyle stops skating and lights a cigarette.

“We got bored Friday night. Me and some boys from Sydney. Were drinking and thought it’d be funny.”

Why’s he saying this? What the fuck? I look at the other boys and the looks on their faces: cold. Pale and cold and dead. No one’s saying anything. No one can say anything.

“How did you—?”

I have to say something ’cause I swear I’m about to black out.


“Dunno. They were heavy.”

Kyle looks at me and I glare at him.

“Fuck, Mel, it was a joke.”

He laughs.

“But you knew it’s koti weekend!” I manage.

“Don’t blame me, Mel. It was Silas put the idea in my head.”

I don’t know what I’m hearing anymore. I look at Silas. Silas says nothing. He just goes and leans against the fence. He doesn’t even look at me. He’s looking at Bree, though, and I can’t stand it.

“Kyle,” I say. “What did Silas fucking say?”

Kyle’s laughing.

“We were talking about koti last week and Silas said he didn’t care.”

“That’s not what I said, Kyle,” Silas says.

“What did you say, Silas?” I ask.

Silas sighs.

“I said I was bummed I hadta take time off work ’cause I need the money for school. And then I mighta said I was glad this was the last koti I’d do, ’cause it’s a lot of work for not much, Mel. So Kyle’s genius idea to fix shit was to flip the fucking ramps.”

Without thinking I grab my board and throw it at Silas. It smashes into the fence pole beside him and bounces off, landing with a clatter and crack on the pavement.

In all the years I’ve known Silas, all the times we’ve been hassled by everyone about skating, Silas has been the calm one, chill as fuck, getting me to calm down. So I can’t believe Silas is coming after me until he’s actually on me, right on top of me. He doesn’t hit me—he just leaps on me and we both fall to the ground and start rolling around. We’re more wrestling than fighting, pushing and pulling, yanking each other’s shirts, trying to grip the ground with our feet and slipping in the grit instead. I hear Kyle laughing. Even the other boys are laughing, and we both realize right then how pathetic we look, so we stop and just lie there in a tangle of arms and legs.

Sara breaks us up even though there’s not much to break up. She’s yelling both our names and swearing.

“That was a lame-ass fight,” Kyle says.

It was. As soon as Silas was on me, the fight just went outta me. I look at Silas and he’s looking at me and it’s him that says it first.


I nod.

Silas stands up and holds out his hand. I grab it and he pulls me up. My hands are scrapped from gravel and glass and my knee hurts. I go to my board and pick it up. It’s chipped, but still together. It’ll be tough to skate, so I’m a bit pissed at myself for fucking throwing it.

“Hey,” Bree says and we all look at her. “Throwing a board. Isn’t that worth ten points?”

I nod.

“Yeah. It is.”

“Cool.” Bree says, as she holds up Silas’s camera. “’Cause I got footy.”

We don’t win koti. We come in third, which isn’t bad considering the late start and all the fuck ups and fucking Kyle. The team from Sydney gets first. They always get first. But next year—I have a feeling it’ll be our year.

We get some stickers and T-shirts and a gift certificate. I give my T-shirt to Sara. The boys tell me and Silas to split the gift certificate, ’cause we edited the video, but Silas gives it to me. Sunday, I didn’t even know if Silas would wanna finish the video. We were leaving the park and I said to him, “I still wanna finish it, but I can do it on my own.”

Silas went to hand me his camera and stopped.

“I’ll help,” he said.

We may not have won, but I’m stoked on the video we put together.

Sara’s wearing the T-shirt when I see her at the skate park a week later. She’s cut the sleeves a bit to make it fit her more and her arms look tanned and good. Since koti all I can think about is Sara—more than skating sometimes.

My board’s new, so I’m taking it easy. I watch Sara sit under the big maple and eventually I stop skating and go over and sit beside her.

“Hi,” she says, putting a bookmark in her book.

“Hi,” I say.



I can’t look at her but I can smell her. That sweaty, fruity smell that gets me going. I gotta calm down, so I look at the park and the train tracks and the town and all the company houses, some rotten, some fixed up and pretty, and, way in the distance, the ocean, blue ’til it blends with the sky.

“Bree says it’s not too hard. Skating. Just need to learn and practise. Balance. Not be too afraid. Mom said she’d get me a board for my birthday. I don’t wanna be another girl who watches the boys. But—” she pauses and she’s looking at me and I still can’t look at her.

“I need someone to show me.”

She doesn’t quite ask, but I know she’s asking. Then I realize, Silas leaving, well, it’s not so awful, maybe. Sara will be here for at least another year. Shit changes, I guess. Sometimes you can do something about it, but mostly you can’t. You can only deal.

“Yeah, I could show you.”

And then, even though it’s hard to say, I say, “I’d like to.”

“I’d like you to, too,” Sara says.

Nicole Dixon lives on Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia. Her first book is the short-story collection High-Water Mark. Last updated summer, 2017.
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