Skatepark Mouth

By Alex Dermody

I sat on the Colonel’s couch with my mouth wide open, watching a documentary on tropical birds to pass the time. I remember feeling smart. Like a scientist, or a used car salesman. My plan, it was working. I was so close to cool I could taste it. 

A familiar voice shouted from inside my mouth: “Bruce!” shouted the voice. “Yo, Bruce!” 

I grabbed the magnifying glass and walked to the bathroom. Once in front of the mirror, I fish-hooked my index finger, pulled open my right cheek, and held the magnifying glass to my mouth. The fifteen tiny skateboarders skating my back right molar like an empty swimming pool immediately came into view. A few sat around the rim of my molar, legs dangling, laughing, smoking cigarettes. But most were skating. Grinding. Nailing nose stalls, aerial grabs, tail whips. 

The South Side Crew…the coolest kids in school…skating in my mouth. 

Seated on a shrunken park bench, beanie perfectly askew, the crew’s leader, Wayne, shouted through a megaphone: “How you doing, Bruce?” 

To keep from squishing the cool kids, I always kept my tongue pressed to the opposite side of my mouth. And I never brought my teeth completely together. “Do pre goo, Way,” I said with a shrug. “How uh skate oday?” 

Wayne nodded a cool kid nod. “Honestly? Pretty rad. J-Bone just nailed this crazy invert off your second molar back into your first molar.” He dipped a thumb at the kid smoking a cigarette next to him. “And Fat Don got it all on video.”

“Ell yea, hat’s rad,” I said. 

Wayne shifted his toothpick from the left side of his mouth to the right. “Sorry to interrupt your show, bro. But, me and the guys, we wanna talk to you.” 

“Ure, Way. Wah poppin’?” 

The other skaters paused their tail sliding and nose grabbing. They circled around Wayne and the bench, familiar and warm faces looking up at me.

“These last few months,” Wayne continued, “well, they’ve been unbelievable. Your back molars, they’re so much fun to skate. They’re challenging, but weirdly rewarding. And you’re such a great dude. You’re never a sponger or a squid. You just invite us over, shrink us down to the size of ants using your dad’s army weapons, and let us skate your mouth.” 

I had to fight from blushing. “Ude, all ood. O orries.” 

A hand behind the bench grabbed the megaphone from Wayne. “We thought you were a narc on the first day of school,” said Carter, one of the least cool kids in the crew. “But you’re not a narc. You’re actually mad chill.” 

Fat Don knocked the hat off Carter’s head, snatched the megaphone from his hand. “Saturday is J-Bone’s birthday,” said Fat Don, attention back on me. “You should come through. Old man Terry drained his pool and left town for the weekend.” 

Wayne grabbed the megaphone. “We just thought it would be nice to actually hangout. Tucker’s mom is making a cake. Danny’s dad let him snag beer from their back fridge. It’s gonna be dope. And we got you a gift. To say thanks.” Wayne wrestled Carter’s board from his hands. “Time to learn to skate, just like you always wanted.” 

Time froze. My hypothesis was no longer a hypothesis! I didn’t need to dye my hair. I didn’t need to change my clothes. I didn’t need to do any of the things I did at the other schools. All I had to do was give the cool kids a reason to like me. All I had to do was be myself. An invitation to a Southside party was like your coolness bar mitzvah: you had arrived. But that wasn’t all. They also wanted to teach me to skate. They got me a board. Standing there in the bathroom, I went from Bruce the new kid to Bruce the cool kid in an instant. 

Adrenaline throbbed throughout my body. Instinct kicked in. Mind whirling, I shouted, “I’ll be there!” 

A slight crunch between my teeth. Almost like sand. But not as hard. 

I stood still, looking at my closed mouth in the mirror. I glanced at the magnifying glass in my hand. Then back at myself in the mirror. I thought about the crunch. The crunch made everything clear. 

It was at this moment I heard the front door open, close. The Colonel, having just arrived home from base, was calling my name. He opened the bathroom door, still dressed in digital camouflage. I noticed his face seemed serious. 

“Bruce,” said the Colonel. “Today I received word that I’ve been placed on an emergency assignment in Arizona. We leave tomorrow morning. Now, I know we just got settled here in Florida. But I don’t want to hear any lip about this move.” The Colonel paused, carefully choosing his words. “You’ll meet new friends in Phoenix.” 

A sudden calm settled over me. The tropical birds chirped peacefully from the living room TV. It was an interesting moment, mostly because I believed my dad. I now had a strategy for starting over. I would do just fine in Phoenix. I knew it. 

I turned on the sink. I sucked some water into my mouth, swished it all around and spit without thinking twice. “No problem, sir,” I said. “I’m getting pretty good at being the new kid. I’ll go pack.”


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