James- the man in the three piece suit, couldn’t believe what he was hearing. He stuffed a finger under his collar & loosened the top button. It had suddenly become hot & stifling. The man sitting across from him was Steven Marsden. Steven Marsden was his boss at the accounting firm where he worked. Well, at least he had been his boss. Steven Marsden had just given him the bad news. He had been ‘let go.‘ He fumbled for words.“Isn’t there any other way?! I could work less hours… something?” Steven Mardsen fidgeted with a pen on his desk & looked away & out the window. The city spread out beneath them some 12 stories below. Buses looked small from this height & yellow taxis flitted & flew between them. He turned his gaze back to the man sitting across from him. This was a part of the job that really turned his stomach. Letting people go & laying them off was almost as uncomfortable for him as it was for them. Almost. He brushed a hand across his well-fed belly & had a momentary pang of ease. At least he was going to continue eating well.
Uncomfortable silence. Averted gazes. Perspiration. Steven Marsden rearranged a few files on his desk & mustered up his courage. “ No James. The board asked us to downsize & make certain cuts in administration & personnel. You’ve been here for the shortest length of time.“ James couldn’t believe what he was hearing. “Sir, I’ve worked for this company almost ten years! Ten years!” Steven Marsden was adamant. He wished James well. There was nothing he could do. He dismissed him & added that James would have to clear out his desk by days end. He walked slowly back into his office, mind reeling. “Jesus! It’s a good thing Julie left with the kids!” His ex-wife had remarried & he spent a great deal of time looking at the silver framed photographs of his family. It was as though his life had stopped. He was in some obscene ‘holding pattern’. His living room felt like a tomb. Old memories. Dusty shelves. Scrapbooks of images… reflecting broken pieces of himself.
He fell back into his big black leather chair in his office & tried to form a plan. Nothing. He needed a drink… but– then again– he always needed a drink. It made the long nights possible. It made the clock & its hours forget him. As far as he was concerned, Steven Marsden didn’t know how he felt. He didn’t care. “Damn!“ His job was all he had. He threw a few things into a box and –avoiding the eyes of his co-workers–sidled out of the office & into the elevator. Later that night, he drank deeply. He awoke in a cloud. His head throbbed & he bumped around the house. He realized he didn’t have coffee or anything to take away his headache. Looking over at a side table, he saw a half litre bottle of Dewars. He grabbed his jacket & left the house. Walking towards a store, he saw children playing with their parents nearby. He looked away. He heard the clickity-clack of wheels behind him & turned, just as a few skateboarders approached. They were dressed in torn up jeans & colorful tennis shoes. He stepped aside, they nodded & flew past him. He walked on as they disappeared around a corner.
The sun was bright & he wanted some coffee. He idly wondered about his own children. He hadn’t seen them in a week & missed them. Funny thing. He missed the noise, radios & bickering. He missed his boy, leaving his toys on the driveway. He missed his daughters books laying everywhere. After they moved out, these had been the things he was glad they had taken with them. Yet the longer they were gone, the more he missed these small things. These are the things that made them who they were. He walked on & purchased some coffee & Tylenol from a 7-11. Slowly making his way home, he heard a strange swooshing sound coming from behind an ornate block wall. He stopped & heard voices & laughter. He peered through an opening in the blocks at the top. The skateboarders that had passed him earlier, were inside the yard. He recognized them & they were standing & rolling around inside an empty swimming pool!
He walked back around to the front of the property & quickly saw that it was a home that was on the market. The ‘For Sale’ sign hung over the dry grass lawn. He walked back. The skateboarders seemed oblivious & they hadn’t seen him. He coughed politely & they turned in panic. He waved & smiled. “May I watch?” he asked, taking a seat on a small brick ledge. The skateboarders seemed alarmed but nodded. “You the owner or something?” The tallest one of them asked, looking over at him & grinning. “No. Not me. I just heard you & peeked in. I saw you & couldn’t believe it.” He took a sip of coffee & watched as one of them pushed in & rolled right up to the top & over the chrome light fixture. He found himself grinning… He watched the skateboarders for a long while. They seemed so happy. One of them said that he was “Stoked!” He asked them what it meant. The tall skater explained that skating gave them a feeling that they couldn’t get anyplace else. He turned to take a run inside the pool & stated, “Stoke is what makes life worth living.”
James wandered home after awhile. He thought about what he had seen that day. He thought about his children, his situation, his drinking. He had things that he loved to do, but he hadn’t done them in a long time. He walked into the kitchen & automatically reached for a glass & some ice. The bottle of Dewars mocked him. He turned on his heel. Maybe it was time. He had been living in the past & it had consumed him. Maybe, by losing his job, he could start a whole new chapter… He went to sleep sober that night . He thought of the skaters & the message he had heard. Stoke. He couldn’t ride a skateboard, but he would find those things he loved to do & start doing them again. Before sleep took him, he knew that life would be better. He thought it funny, the things one can learn from a bunch of kids riding around on toys. Thanks to Rhino for the image of Tyco. Skate- Ozzie