Demolition Skateboard Derby
by Mark Williams
“Hey, man!” I shout to the scraggy-bearded kid
who whizzes by me on his skateboard. “Wait!”
I yell as a second kid whizzes past, too. Strolling
through the park on this pleasant autumn evening,
it’s not that I feel the need to feel valued, it’s that
I feel the need to let the young men know I once had value,
which, if I’m honest, is another way of saying,
If they know I once had value, maybe they’ll think I still do.
Apparently, I feel the need to feel valued after all.
“Have you guys ever played demolition skateboard derby?”
I call out beside the duck pond.
In the late 1940s, a bored California surfer,
staring out at flat waves, invented the skateboard.
By the early 60s, skateboards had travelled across America
to southern Indiana, where I played demolition
skateboard derby in my driveway with my friends.
But before I have a chance to inform the two young men
of my brave, value-filled history of skateboarding,
they spin around, stamp their back heels down,
and catch their flying skateboards in their hands—
their skill giving me pause to consider,
Maybe my demolition skateboard derby days
will fail to inform them of my value.
About the time I was doing battle on my Roller Derby
Deluxe wood skateboard from Sears, Curt Holtz and I
thought it would be great fun to have a BB gun fight.
Taking cover behind trees in the woods near our houses,
I fired my Daisy lever-action Red Ryder at Curt
until I didn’t. “Curt, don’t shoot! I’m out of ammo!”
I pleaded, stepping from behind a tree, dropping
my Daisy, and raising both arms in surrender.
Curt stepped out, smiled, and shot me in the elbow.
“Have you guys ever been in a gunfight?”
I should have asked the two skateboarders,
considering the first kid’s answer,
“Demo derby? Sure, usually when we’re high.”
In 1850, beekeeper, substitute teacher, Augustinian friar,
and father of modern genetics, Gregor Mendel,
failed the oral exam to become a certified high school teacher.
In 1856, he failed again. “My time will come,”
he told a friend. Three decades after Mendel’s death,
upon rediscovery of his pea plant experiments,
But I’m thinking more in terms of
I could use a shot of recognition right now, when I say,
“Well, back in the 60s, we played demo derby, too.”
(It seems I call it demo derby now.)
“I wondered if kids are still doing it.”
“Oh, us kids are doing it alright! Aren’t we, bro?”
the second kid says, giving Bro a fist bump.
“And we’re doing demo derby, too!”
(Repeat fist bump. Begin laughter.)
To live without experiencing some shame and blushes
of admiration would surely be a wretched life,
“Hey, man. Jump on,” Bro says,
giving his skateboard a kick
and rolling it to me.
Mark Williams's poems have appeared in The Hudson Review, The Southern Review, Rattle, Nimrod, The American Journal of Poetry, New Ohio Review, and the anthology, New Poetry From the Midwest. Finishing Line Press published his chapbook, Happiness, in 2015. His fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in Indiana Review, Drunk Monkeys, and the anthologies, American Fiction and Boom Project: Voices of a Generation. He lives in Evansville, Indiana, where he seldom skateboards. This is his second appearance in Jokes Review.