Author: Tom B. Stone, a.k.a. Nola Thacker, a.k.a. D.E. Athkins
Cover Artist: Barry Jackson
Summary: “Dead Man’s Curve Is Scary Enough…”
Who’s the new hot dog on Skateboard Hill? He’s the only thrasher who can take Dead Man’s Curve alive. Skate and Vickie are determined to meet him – he may be their only chance to beat obnoxious Eddie Hoover in the upcoming skateboarding contest. But if the phantom boarder gives the secret of his awesome moves, will Skate and Vickie have to take the ultimate wipeout in return?
This book is just soooo 90s, but not in an obnoxious completely dated period piece kind of way. The Skeleton is by far the most prolific and noticeable monster of the Graveyard School series, by far the easiest to get a commission of, but the reveal is pretty much obvious during the climax when you remember what the goddamn title is. That said, you come for the Skeleton, you stay for Vickie Wheilson in all her tie-dye, headstrong, neon glory.
[Wing: This sounds like the under 16 version of drag racing, right down to the Dead Man’s Curve, and therefore I am predisposed to love it. That description of Vickie only cements the deal. As long as I don’t think too hard about the real author, I’m excited. Let’s do this!]
Ryan “Skate” McGraw wipes out on Dead Man’s Curve for the umpteenth time and crashes into a tombstone on the edge of Graveyard Hill. His cousin Victoria “Vickie” Wheilson tells him to get up. But before we go further, let me share with you all the first description of Vickie’s wardrobe.
She was dressed in ripped jeans, an enormous purple sweatshirt, wrist guards as battered as [Skate’s], scuffed orange high-tops decorated with Day Glo magic marker and a neon green helmet.
Skate winced. He was wearing ripped jeans and a sweatshirt and helmet and sneakers too. But his sweatshirt was gray, his helmet was plain white, and his sneakers were black.
Then Skate realized that Vickie was holding two skateboards, hers (most recently painted purple, red, and neon green) and his.
So Skate is bleh, Vickie is like a walking neon sign and that is amazing. And for added measure, here’s a lovely commission by the talented death-g-reaper of tumblr.
[Wing: Okay, that is AMAZING. I love her.]
Skate is relieved his board is in one piece while Vickie offers her helpful commentary about how Skate previously said he wasn’t going to try Dead Man’s Curve again, and it’s clear he still can’t “do” it. After all, no one’s ever made it down Dead Man’s Curve alive. Vickie assures, and I mean genuinely tries to assure him, there are plenty of other tricks and skills Skate can master. [Wing: Vickie is a delightful friend.] Skate dismisses this, claiming “Anyone can ollie a trashcan,” which Vickie takes offense to because SHE can ollie a trashcan, Mr. Man!
Skate has spent many days at Graveyard School wistfully staring out the classroom windows at Skateboard Hill and Dead’s Man Curve, wondering if Graveyard Hill was the source of the Curve’s nickname or if someone had truly died on the Curve. No one knows. The graveyard is old enough that no one goes to visit the graves that adorn it, and many of the tombs are so worn the names are gone. There’s even talk of a fabled grave which glows during the night. Lately, Skate has grown restless with the skating tricks and skills he has, and is dead set on mastering Dead Man’s Curve on his quest to someday get skateboarding recognized as a sport worthy of the Olympics. Ah to be young and have goals. [Wing: That is truly adorable. As bland as his clothes are, I am starting to like him as well.] As Skate and Vickie prepare to skate down the hill for home, they stop and hear the sound of someone else boarding nearby. The two cousins don’t see anyone, and with night fast approaching decide not to wait around. While trying to keep up with Skate, Vickie tries to ignore the feeling that someone’s watching them. Had she turned around, she’d know she was right.
The following school morning, Skate rides his board up Graveyard School’s front steps, and almost has his board taken away by Vice Principal Lucre. Lucre addresses Skate by his forbidden first name and thinks Skate is preparing to board down the school hallway. Skate has often contemplated such a feat, feeling the hallways are prime for excellent boarding. But no, and in a somewhat impressive moment Skate seems to stare down Lucre in order to avoid handing over his beloved. Lucre’s the first one to look away, simply deciding to “overlook it” this time. Damn Skate, you hardcore. We also get a little callback, to a previous time when Lucre ended a school announcement with “Remember boys and girls, I am your friend!”
Skate had once been moved to say after a Lucre announcement “He must be hard up for friends.”
Since Skate seldom spoke, that remark had made him almost as famous as his skateboard had.
But not quite.
In class, Skate’s attention is pulled once more towards Skateboard Hill and Dead Man’s Curve, and the narration reveals when his obsession with mastering the Curve began. The previous summer, Skate spent weeks mentally preparing himself for his first attempt to conquer the Curve. It did not end well. To quote the lovely Miss Bitters, “Everything was so nice until one day it all went horribly wrong!” Skate broke his collarbone and spread a coating of half his skin over the Curve. The worst feeling of all was believing he’d failed his skateboard, who’d never done him wrong before. His parents, understandably, flipped when they saw how battered Skate was and locked away his skateboard until his injuries healed. [Wing: Gross and wonderful and I kind of love him for how he feels about failing his skateboard. That is freaking adorable.]
Skate’s called back to reality when the intercom requests his presence in the front office. Professional lackey Roy Carnes eggs Skate to tell him what he did, but Skate doesn’t answer. Maybe Lucre changed his mind about confiscating Skate’s board! Skate is greeted by office manager Mr. Kinderbane, whose face scrunches up as if Skate trailed dog shit into the office. Turns out Skate’s not in trouble, his mom needs him to come straight home because his sister’s babysitter has to leave early. Skate is like “I can’t!” and Kinderbane asks if he’d like to use the office phone and argue with his mother. Skate says no, Kinderbane says “Yeah that’s what I thought.” Walking back into class and still ignoring Roy, Skate settles back into his seat and for a moment believes he sees someone boarding on Dead Man’s Curve.
That afternoon, Vickie makes her way to Skate’s house on her board and unintentionally draws the attention of the school’s hot dog, Eddie Hoover. Eddies gives boarding a bad name, and it pisses Skate and Vickie off, especially Vickie. A show-off and a bully, as thick as he is mean, he blows through skateboards and never makes the effort to fix or take care of them since he gets his parents to buy him new ones. Recognizing Eddie is faster than her, Vickie hopes to outmaneuver him as he chases her down a block infested with little kids fresh out of school. Kids on their bikes, kids playing games, kids drawing on the sidewalk with chalk, it’s a veritable obstacle course for Vickie and Eddie. And although Vickie usually never speeds through this block, she wants to get away from Eddie. Eddie, who is constantly shoving Vickie and trying to make her fall.
When Vickie attempts to elbow Eddie off her tail, he gets angry and tries to make her crash into two toddlers on their bicycles. Eddie deliberately swerves into Vickie’s path and pushes her in front of the kids with his fists. Between the kids and a thorny rose bush, Vickie is forced to take a crazy gambit and, for the first time ever, successfully jumps over a fire hydrant. Unfortunately, Vickie can hear angry parents behind her, and Eddie gleefully gives them her full name as she speeds down the block. Douche. Vickie loses control of her board, crashing into Skate’s lawn and taking the rearview mirror off a car in the process. Landing in front of Skate and his little sister Christine, Vickie excitedly declares she jumped the hydrant for the first time ever before getting into why she hates Eddie so much.
“I could beat him with one foot tied behind my back. I could beat him blindfolded!”
Skate gave Vickie a look. He liked Vickie. But she often boasted about things she couldn’t do. Like now.
On the other hand sometimes she wasn’t just bragging.
Retiring in the kitchen, the three cousins enjoy frothy mugs of Flightjuice (the choice of skateboard champions), and Vickie ominously wishes for Eddie to get it good someday. Then we get this cute exchange.
Skate said, “You jumped the hydrant.”
Vickie looked at Skate. Skate looked at Vickie.
She grinned and took a big drink of Flightjuice. “Hah!” She said. “You told me I wasn’t ready.”
Skate rolled his eyes. But he grinned back. Then he said, “I’ll be glad when Eddie gets it too.”
I love when they include cute shit like this. Moments that don’t really advance the plot but focus a little on how the kids act towards each other.
The next school morning, Vickie runs into Eddie with faithful toady Roy at the top of the school steps. Think of a much more nasty Bulk and Skull from “Power Rangers,” and you’ve got Eddie and Roy. Eddie does a less-then-flattering imitation of Vickie by flailing his arms around and saying he can jump a fire hydrant like an imbecile.
“Hey, Eddie,” she said. “You are a fire hydrant. That’s why dogs are always following you around.”
Eddie’s little mean eyes got littler and meaner. “Oh, yeah?”
“Yeah,” said Vickie, “And you couldn’t have made it over that fire hydrant anyway.”
“Oh, yeah?” repeated Eddie.
“Careful, Eddie. You’re gonna use up all your vocabulary words.”
Vickie sort of regrets that one thinking Eddie’s gonna kill her when Maria Medina, Stacey Carter, and puke perfect Polly Hannah run up to Vickie wanting her to to tell them about “it.” Vickie’s all cool about jumping the hydrant and says it’s not a big deal since Skate can do it too, but Polly asks “Since when can Skate make it down Dead Man’s Curve without busting his ass?” Vickie double takes and both parties ask what the hell is the other talking about. Vickie is told some third graders witnessed a skateboarder on Dead Man’s Curve the previous afternoon, and whoever it was successfully made it down in one piece. Vickie is horrified. Polly rubs it in that now Skate nor Vickie will ever be the first person to make it down the Curve alive.
Vickie is more worried about how Skate will react when he finds out, and wouldn’t you know Eddie and Roy are the first ones to see Skate come to school. Eddie’s all “Congratulations!” and professes his admiration to Skate for “successfully” finishing Dead Man’s Curve. Vickie tries to get Skate’s attention but Skate demands to know what Eddie means. Eddies then goes “Oh so you’re NOT the guy who made it down Dead Man’s Curve yesterday? Whoopsie daisy!” Roy finds this hysterical, and Eddie and Roy and their group of friends leave a humiliated Skate standing outside the school while they laugh their asses off. Skate is stewing in regret and jealousy. In a moment of humility, Skate thinks to himself he knows he isn’t the best skater, he still has much to learn, and he’s never actually hated or envied someone for being better than him.
“Maybe it’s not true,” said Vickie. “I hate Eddie.”
“That helps,” said Skate. He wanted to be left alone.
He hated Eddie too. Worse, he hated whoever had beat him down Dead Man’s Curve.
He’d never envied anyone for being better than he was. He knew he had a lot to learn.
But he would ave given anything to be the first.
After school, Skate and Vickie hang around Dead Man’s Curve waiting to meet the guy everyone’s talking about. Well, Skate wants to meet him. Vickie wants to leave, because it’s getting later and later and no one’s coming. Vickie wonders if maybe the skater who completed the curve may in fact be a *gulp* ghost. She hypothesizes that this guy was a kid who died trying to master Dead Man’s Curve, hence the “dead man” in the name, and his restless spirit got stirred up because of Skate and Vickie hanging around his grave too much or because he wants to do something horrible to them. He might even be the guy buried in the glow-in-the-dark grave. [Wing: Vickie, I feel you have escalated quickly to GHOST SKATER TRYING TO HURT US.] Skate offers his argument that this “vert dog” (yes Skate calls him that) may actually be a famous high school or even college-aged skater who’s come to Grove Hill to practice craft in secret. Both cousins are skeptical of the other’s idea when Vickie realizes they aren’t alone again. A ghostly figure jumps from behind a grave and grabs Vickie by her ankles. As Skate tries to save Vickie from the supposed ghost, it and another so-called apparition start to laugh and pull of their sheets to reveal themselves as Eddie and Roy. Hooting and hollering over Vickie’s cries of “Ghost!” the two meatheads laugh at Vickie as she silently boards down the hill with Skate behind her Eddie and Roy continue the teasing the next day at school. Maria tries to comfort Vickie while Vickie’s not in the mood for Polly Hannah’s bullshit, and does not take kindly to Skate asking if she really does believe in ghosts.
Returning to Skateboard Hill the following day, Skate is dismayed to see Eddie and Roy got there first. While Skate admits to himself Eddie isn’t as bad a skater as he thought, he’s horrified when he recognizes Eddie’s new board. This new board is pretty much top of the line, state of the art in terms of skateboarding mechanics, a one of a kind jewel in terms of engineering. Skate remembered seeing the board on display at the sporting goods store in the mall. The clerk let Skate try the board on a small practice run in the store. It was like the board was a literal extension of Skate’s body. But the price was ridiculous, so Skate had to say goodbye, and must now witness it under the feet of his mortal enemy. Sickening.
Eddie catches sight of Skate before he can leave, and takes the opportunity to gloat about his new board. Vickie shows up, and is less than impressed by Eddie’s gear. Eddie says Skate’s too afraid to try out Eddie’s board, and Vickie loses herself trying to defend Skate against their hated foe. Surprisingly, Skate declares he could beat Eddie’s board like it was nothing, shocking everyone there, including Skate. After Vickie announces Skate will be the first person to make it down Dead Man’s Curve on a real board, Eddie proposes a race down the curve between him and Skate. Winner gets both boards. [Wing: Wait, what, just a day or so ago, no one believed anyone could skate it! Now that someone has allegedly made it (and none of the people involved in this bet have actually seen someone make it down the curve, they’re all keen to try it with high stakes? Again, this has escalated quickly! Pretty true for adrenaline-seeking kids, though.] Skate tries to bluff Eddie by asking if now’s a good time, and just when it seems Eddie will back down, Vickie asks if he’s chicken. That’s all Eddie needs to propose they do the race on Halloween night, under a full moon. Because of course the next full moon would be on Halloween. [Wing: Full moons are super convenient that way. Also, needs more werewolves.] Skate quickly agrees before Vickie adds more fuel to the fire.
“Boy is Eddie gonna be sorry,” said Vickie. “You’re going to take him out, Skate. I mean, take him totally out. He’s gonna be road hamburger. Wheel meat. He’ll be doing a Mr. Wilson all the way home.”
Skate looked at his cousin. “Vickie.”
“You talk too much.”
To his surprise, Vickie nodded.
Vickie asks if Skate thinks he can’t beat Eddie Hoover, and tries to hide how much she wants him to answer no problem. But Skate admits while he does think he can beat Eddie, he can’t beat Dead Man’s Curve. Vickie asserts he just needs more practice, but Skate believes he needs to find the boarder everyone’s talking about. Vickie promises they will, but for the rest of the evening is disturbingly silent.
At the mall the next day, Vickie’s checking out the sporting goods store and the hole in the display where Eddie’s board used to be. Running into Stacey and Maria, Vickie’s shocked that every kid in their class has heard about Eddie and Skate’s upcoming Halloween duel. [Wing: UM. Why so surprised? Eddie is a talker, and gossip obviously spreads fast in school.] Stacey and Maria are genuinely sure Skate can beat Eddie, but Vickie’s not as confident as they sound remembering practice the previous day. Vickie’s anxiety is coming from guilt, and is determined to find the phantom boarder so he can coach Skate because she knows she got him into the mess, and if Skate loses it’ll be her fault. To that end, Vickie finds the third grader who saw the boarder in action and grills her for more details. There were several other kids and a soccer coach who saw the boarder, but in terms of physical appearance all Vickie can get is that the boarder was really tall and skinny. Gee I wonder why.
Skate and Vickie are about to leave Skateboard Hill for the evening when Skate hears someone behind him and assumes it’s Eddie. It’s not.
It was a tall, skinny guy dressed in faded jeans and an enormous, patched denim shirt that flapped in the wind. His funky old boots were planted on a gleaming jet-black board with a row of extremely realistic flames painted on the sides.
Skate saw it all in a glance.
And realized immediately that it was the mystery thrasher.
Instinctively, he dropped one foot off the board and dragged to a stop.
The guy powered to a stop in a stand-up slide.
To put that last part in context, from the pictures I’ve seen a stand-up slide is NOT a move you do on a downward road.
Skate, and Vickie who is further down the hill, practically shit themselves when they realize who this guy is. As Skate sees himself reflected in the boarder’s midnight-black shades, the skater introduces himself as Marrow. [Wing: I am DYING.] BEN Marrow. Skate is shocked when he realizes Ben doesn’t have any safety equipment on, which is either an incredibly confident or incredibly stupid thing to do. The idea of crashing in such a state makes Skate openly wince.
Skate wanted to die riding his skateboard, sure. Someday. But he wanted to go clean.
Skate I know you’re dedicated to your craft but Jesus. [Wing: Meanwhile, I am delighted by his dedication and youthful disregard for death. I kind of love you right now, Skate!]
Anyway, Skate tries to break the ice by complimenting Ben’s board. Ben claims it’s out of this world, but not for everyone. Seeing Vickie coming up the hill, Skate quickly asks Ben about him accomplishing Dead Man’s Curve and says he can’t do it. Skate gets the sense Ben finds this funny, but asks if Ben can teach him to make it down the Curve in one piece. Vickie shows up and starts to give Ben the complete rundown of events, but Skate cuts her off and tells Ben about what happens if Skate loses. Ben says they can work out a deal. Skate quickly tells him he’s not giving up his board, but Ben points out Skate already kind of has and questions what’s the loss of one more board? Vickie acknowledges there’s no reason for Skate to win if he’ll lose his board anyway. Ben admittedly finds the idea of a skateboard for a skateboard to be a rather tepid concept for a high stakes prize, and asks what else Skate can offer. Skate says all he has is his board, which Ben finds disappointing and boards off, telling Skate to think it over for the next time they meet.
The shine is definitely off the helmet in this situation, and Vickie’s no longer impressed by Ben Marrow. While Vickie thinks it was better for Skate to not answer, Skate is convinced Ben’s an excellent boarder while Vickie just thinks he’s weird. She then gets rather philosophical on the concept of “Weird.”
But weird isn’t bad, she argued with herself the rest of the way home. So he’s a little rude, a little strange. He’s good. People probably think I’m weird. They probably think Skate’s weird.
Weird isn’t bad. Weird is just weird.
I’m sorry but isn’t there a law or something about this amount of self-awareness in a kid’s horror book? Because if there is bless Stone/Thacker/Athkins for breaking it. [Wing: AGAIN, ADORABLE. I don’t know what to do with an author making these kids both self-aware and utterly charming.]
Two more days go by and Skate’s attitude starts to sour the more he practices. And fails. Vickie’s chipperness especially is rubbing him the wrong way the longer he can’t find Ben again. Skate also realizes he hasn’t seen Eddie practicing on Skateboard Hill in forever, and wonders where exactly he’s been going to get ready for the Halloween race. Skate’s following wipe out is pretty bad, even for him, and he gets some “constructive” criticism.
“Part of the trick is knowing how to fall. You do make it look hard.”
Skates eyes flew open. He sat up.
Ben Marrow was squatting on the road next him.
“It’s you,” said Skate.
Marrow smiled, “In the flesh,” he answered. His smile grew wider. [Wing: NOPE.]
Skate quickly starts pouring his heart out to Ben, who finds the whole situation with Eddie amusing in a way that throws Skate through a slight loop. What kind of boarder wouldn’t be scared of the idea of losing their board? Anyway, Skate says he’ll give Ben whatever he wants besides his board. Ben assures Skate his teaching will pass on to Skate the complete and total knowledge of everything skateboarding related, an entire lifetime of lessons. In exchange for-
Vickie starts coming up the hill and Skate hastily asks Ben what he wants. Ben says he wants Skate to give him-
Vickie calls out and for the first time Ben’s amused visage drops and he gets annoyed. Skate can hear the bones in Ben’s neck crack as he turns to face Vickie. Ouch. Skate silently prays for Vickie to leave as Ben explains he’s discussing giving Skate lessons and asks if Vickie’s interested too. Vickie speaks for both her and Skate when she says “No.” Vickie is legitimately unnerved by this guy, feeling there’s definitely something off putting about him being anyway near Skate. Maybe even into “crazy” territory, she thinks. [Wing: UGH VICKIE NO. I was liking you so much.] Skate and Vickie start to argue. Vickie begs Skate to stay away from Ben, and Skate accuses her of being jealous. [Wing: Ouch, dude.] When Vickie tries “Winning isn’t everything,” Skate asks if that means it’s okay for him to lose his board and wonders if that’s the only way she can be better at him in boarding at all. Vickie left shocked speechless, Skate turns around ready to agree with whatever Ben wants, but Ben’s gone.
That’s it for Skate, and the anger and frustration from the last week boils over and he starts yelling at Vickie that this is all her fault. He says Eddie’s going to beat him and make him look like a “dwid” and it’s all because of her. Vickie can’t believe Skate is actually admitting Eddie will beat him. Vickie angrily retorts that Skate will destroy Eddie and just needs to keep practicing, but Skate says he HAS and it’s not making a difference, wondering if Eddie paid Vickie to set this all up. That’s it for Vickie, and now they’re both yelling and Vickie says Skate can blame her all he wants, like a big loser. Skate angrily boards away to look for Ben, leaving Vickie in his dust. [Wing: Painful but realistic fight between friends, especially Skate blowing up at her, whom he can trust, instead of the people he should actually yell at, including himself.]
That night Skate has a nightmare about Dead Man’s Curve, where the Curve transforms into a giant mouth, the jaws of death. He wakes up to find his little sister standing in his bedroom asking if he’s okay. Skate brings Christine back to her room and tucks her in (aww), envious of her peaceful sleep. Skate mulls over his fruitless search for Ben Marrow, finding no one under that last name listed in the phone book or at the high school. Skate fears he’s doomed. The kids at school aren’t any help either. Three days before Halloween and they’re still talking about the McGraw V Hoover Halloween Throwdown. Eddie and his cronies are taking every chance they get to demoralize Skate. Skate tries to ignore them, just like he’s ignoring Vickie and Vickie’s ignoring him and them and absolutely NO ONE is talking to Polly Hannah, it’s madness!
Another evening spent practicing and falling on Dead Man’s Curve, Skate walks down past the graveyard again wondering where Eddie’s been practicing and why he seems so calm. Night begins to fall and the evening air grows chilly. Skate’s not impressed until someone pulls him into the graveyard! AAAAHHH!! Oh but wait it’s just Vickie. But what’s that? She’s not speaking to Skate right now? Well she was, but now she’s come back and admits she did get Skate into this mess so she’ll help him find Ben Marrow even though she finds it odd that there’s not trace of anyone with that name in the entire town. Skate repeats his early idea, that Ben is “A famous bizotic vert dog” practicing new moves under a cover of anonymity. [Wing: The use of slang in this book is killing me with laughter.] Vickie still doesn’t buy it, no matter how eccentric Ben is. Vickie repeats HER idea that Ben actually came from Graveyard Hill, so now it’s Skate’s turn to say Vickie’s crazy. [Wing: UGH SKATE NOT YOU TOO.]
Here’s the logic of the situation:
Vickie: Dead Man’s Curve had to be named for someone who died.
Skate: The youngest graves come from at least the 1800s, which predate the earliest skateboarders.
Vickie: Just because he wasn’t a skateboarder when he died doesn’t mean he couldn’t take it up afterwards. [Wing: … well shit, I like this theory.]
Vickie goads Skate into checking the graveyard for a tomb with “Marrow” on it.
“Skate. He only comes out late. He’s only been seen here. He doesn’t have an address anywhere else. Know why? His address is written on one of those tombstones.”
“Hah,” Skate stared into Vickie’s eyes.
“Hah?” Vickie stared right back. Finally Skate blinked.
Skate asks if they’ll search now. Vickie shrugs since their parents will already kill them for being late. Skate says they won’t, because they’re gonna get killed in the graveyard. [Wing: So do you all believe in ghosts, just fight over whether BEN is a ghost? Or do you think there’s someone lurking in the graveyard just waiting to kill people who wander in too far?] However, Skate and Vickie’s search turns up nothing and once again they start arguing so they don’t realize they’re not alone. Skate and Vickie hope it’s Ben Marrow. It’s not. It’s BASEMENT BART! Skate and Vickie skate for their lives as Bart watches them leave, muttering “Next time” as he skulks back to the basement from whence he came.
At lunch the next day, Vickie discusses with Stacey, Maria, and Polly about the race and the graveyard search, when Vickie begins to notice something’s different about Eddie. Wondering about whether he’s got nerves of steel or if he’s too dumb to get nervous, Vickie realizes Eddie looks paler and a bit skinnier. The thought of him crashing on the Curve helps her relax. Skate enters the lunchroom and Park Addams comes up to ask what Skate has planned for the Halloween showdown. Skate doesn’t say much, and is not helped by Park’s enthusiastic belief on what a show it will be. Skate secretly hopes that maybe his house will burn down so he’ll get out of the race, but realizes that won’t work because he’d never leave his board in a burning building. Priorities, Skate. [Wing: Oh my god I am so fucking charmed and delighted right now. Damn it, Skate.]
The day before Halloween, Eddie confronts Skate and is all sure Skate will lose. Skate counters that Eddie has to make it down the Curve to win, and so far Skate has seen zero proof of Eddie being able to. At this point Eddie’s demeanor changes and Skate realizes something is wrong much like Vickie had.
Eddie pushed his face close to Skate’s. Skate had never been this close to Eddie. He’d never looked as deeply into those shallow blue eyes. The part that wasn’t blue was very red, he noticed. And Eddie’s eyes had circles under them, as if he wasn’t sleeping either. His normally pig-pink skin was pale. In spite of his pig nostrils and pig-eyes, Eddie didn’t look like himself. He didn’t look like a pig.
He looked like a sick pig.
The red flaring in Eddie’s eyes, he promises he’ll leave Skate on Dead Man’s Curve like a human skid mark. A dead man on Dead Man’s Curve.
That night, as Halloween approaches on the clock, Skate wakes up from an uncomfortable sleep just as his bedside clock strikes midnight, and sees his skateboard on the floor. Confused and believing he’d carefully put it away before going to bed, Skate is shocked when his board seems to develop a mind of its own and starts wheeling around the room in a frantic burst of energy. The board feels hot in Skate’s hands as he tries to get it under control. The board flies from Skate’s grip and floats in the air before dropping like a brick and almost crushing Skate’s fingers. Skate turns to the suddenly open window and wonders if Eddie is somehow behind this. Sore, tried, and scared, Skate climbs back into bed with his board next to him, staring at the clock and fearing what the day will bring.
Halloween evening, Mrs. McGraw cheerfully greets the trick or treaters and gushes over Christine’s tooth fairy costume. Before his mom can lose herself in an anecdote about Skate’s younger Halloween adventures, Skate leaves for Dead Man’s Curve saying he’s sleeping at Park’s house (but not mention the race of course). At Dead Man’s Curve, the sixth graders have congregated, some in costume and some not. Eddie’s sure Skate’s not coming, and Vickie asks if he’s scared. Vickie is unnerved when Eddie, somewhat hysterically, declares he’s not scared and that he’s not going to lose. He can’t lose, he asserts as he stares at the graveyard. Yeah something is definitely up with this kid. But much to Eddie’s dull surprise, Skate shows up. Skates’s shocked at how many kids showed up, even Polly Hannah!
Park steps in to establish the rules for Skate and Eddie’s duel. The one to lose all their life points first will be defeat-no wait that’s Yu-Gi-Oh. The one to lose the rose pinned to their chest first lo-no wait that’s Utena. Okay here we go. Instead of a simple race, Skate and Eddie will be given three tries each to make it down Dead Man’s Curve on their own. Whoever can successfully arrive at the finish line past by the bridge will be the winner. But if neither of them can complete the Curve on their own, then it’s a Sudden Death race to the end. [Wing: Yes, yes, a sudden death match if they fail three times to make it down. I’m sure there’s no way anything could go wrong to have them racing down after they’ve failed so often.] Vickie and Roy will establish the finish line at the bottom of the Curve. Skate loses the coin toss so he goes first, which gives Eddie the last chance to do the Curve by himself.
Of course, Skate’s unable to do the Curve and wipes out all three times. But Eddie doesn’t fare any better. Actually, Eddie practically loses his shit with each failed try, saying cryptic stuff like “That wasn’t supposed to happen” or screaming in despair. During Eddie’s last run, Skate finally admits to himself he wouldn’t actually give anything to beat Eddie, especially his board, but of course Eddie wipes out and it’s the worst of all. Arms twisted and windmilling around, as Eddie crashes Polly Hannah muses he’s dead for sure. But Eddie gets back up, and now both riders, bruised and sore, must do Sudden Death.
Skate decides not to antagonize Eddie judging from the look in his eyes. The minute Park declares “GO!” Skate and Eddie shoot off down the Curve, side by side. Amazingly, the two of them go farther down the Curve together than they ever did separately. Getting through the boulders and past the bridge, Skate’s prepared for the worst the Curve has to offer when Skate finally looks next to him and sees how horribly Eddie’s doing.
Eddie looked bad. Really bad. His mouth was open. His helmet was askew. He was punching the air with his fists. He stooped and ducked and twisted his body. He was turning into a human pretzel.
How is he doing that? Skate thought in amazement. No way he can stay on his board.
But Eddie can and does, and that’s when Skate realizes there are three boarders on Dead Man’s Curve. Yep, Ben Marrow’s back, and it seems he’s lost a little weight.
And internal org-HE’S A SKELETON OKAY HE’S A FUCKING SKELETON LIKE WE DIDN’T KNOW WHERE THIS WAS GOING IN A BOOK CALLED “THE SKELETON ON THE MOTHERFUCKING SKATEBOARD” WITH THE GUY WHOSE NAME IS A BONE MARROW PUN
JESUS TAP DANCING CHRIST
Wow where did that come from.
[Wing: I don’t know, but I am DYING over here. This is the best.]
(Ben Marrow by Jacob Chabot)
Anyway, Skate is horrified by the bony visage skating before him and Eddie. Ben laughs a soundless, horrible laugh, his teeth chattering and bones rattling as he effortlessly skates toward not Skate, but Eddie. Eddie desperately screams for Skate’s help as Ben gets closer. Ben mimics Eddie’s pleas, and as he finally grabs hold of Eddie Skate watches Eddie get smaller before his eyes. Ben’s going so fast his wheels are literally smoking. Skate realizes Ben is going to make sure Eddie wins, but Eddie will die in the process. So Skate does the only thing he can do. He saves Eddie’s life.
With every ounce of strength he had, Skate threw himself sideways. He popped a wheelie and took to the air. He crossed in front of Eddie and shoved Eddie back with all his might as he did so.
A look of surprise crossed Eddie’s face.
Skate careened into Ben Marrow.
A truly bony elbow caught him in the ribs.
And Eddie flipped backward off his board.
So now Ben has his sight set on Skate with Eddie out of the picture, but Skate dares the bony bastard to try. Repeatedly Ben tries to grab Skate as the last stretch before the finish line appears. The smell of smoke in the heated air, Skate can feel a bony hand brush his neck just as he crosses the finish line.
Behind him he heard a horrible sound, like a thousand bones being ground to dust. A cloud of bloodred smoke surrounded him as he tried to slow down. The image of Ben Marrow hovered beside him for a millisecond, the skull’s empty eyes blazing evil fire, the teeth grinding together in unearthly rage.
Then it shattered.
[Wing: This is fucking amazing.]
Skate comes to a stop in the parking lot of Graveyard School, expecting Basement Bart to show up. Instead he’s greeted by Vickie, who ecstatically declares he not only beat Eddie, but beat Ben Marrow too. Skate picks up his board and thanks it for its hard work. As Skate expects Vickie to say “I told you so” when Roy shows up with Eddie and Eddie’s board. Roy says he went to help Eddie when he saw him wipe out. The rest of the kids show up to congratulate Skate when Roy demands a rematch on Eddie’s behalf. Eddie, however, gives Skate his board, saying “This is the part of the deal I keep” and definitely confirming he DID make a deal with Marrow to win. As Eddie heads home, Roy cries for Eddie to wait up.
The kids start to depart and Park says he’ll see Skate at his house. As Skate holds Eddie’s board in his hands, he realizes the board is too hot to handle (so hot it’s starting to burn his hands) and Skate tosses it into the river beneath the bridge, a short burst of fire accompanying its descent. Vickie notices the night’s no longer cold, too. As Vickie and Skate depart, Skate waits for Vickie to say “I told you so” like she’s rightfully earned, but instead Vickie only hopes things will get back to normal. You go, girl.
Eddie stays home sick for three days, and when he comes back he laughs all the way to the principal’s office after making a third grader cry.
“Eddie’s tough,” Roy said admiringly.
ADMIRINGLY. That was deliberate. So now we know Roy is totally in love with Eddie and I do not mean that as a joke. You get that, Roy. [Wing: I mean, making a third grader cry, real tough. But I am down for their love.]
However, Eddie is avoiding Skate and Vickie, along with deciding to switch to chess from skateboarding. [Wing: WAIT WHAT.] The two cousins still practice on Skateboard Hill, but avoid Dead Man’s Curve and staying until it gets dark. Because once, just once when they stayed late again, they saw something.
Behind them, etched against the darkening sky, a skeleton on a Day-Glo neon skateboard was doing 360-degree reverse flips high in the air above the graveyard on Skateboard Hill.
And there we have our first supernatural enemy from the Graveyard School series. I kind of love that this book took place during Halloween but wasn’t ABOUT Halloween.
Stone/Thacker/Athkins clearly put effort into saying that these kids aren’t little angels, but they do stick by each other even when they do stupid things. Vickie’s rounded enough to feel guilty for putting Skate in this position and actively tries to help him instead of leaving him to fend for himself. And that Skate doesn’t believe he’s automatically hot shit for his skateboarding skills but does have general faith in his abilities. Also there’s Roy dreaming of the day he’ll become “Mr. Dr. Eddie Hoover.”
I love how Vickie kept cutting Ben Marrow off before he clearly tried to ask Skate for his soul, and the lingering ambiguity about what, exactly, went on between Ben and Eddie.
I honestly don’t think I’d ever be able to top that last part before the book ended.
Also apparently “bizotic” means “bizarre + exotic.”
[Wing: I can’t believe how much I love this book. The characters are great, the story fun, and that final race shockingly exciting. Good job, author. Good job indeed.]
A fill-in-the-blank story section.
“The Haunted Classroom.”
Weird things have been happening in our HOME ECONOMICS class. I think it may be haunted by a BIJLI. I first discovered this when my teacher, PATRICIA J. THOMPSON, turned to write on the blackboard. The lights went out. Suddenly a big SLIMY SEVERED HEAD OF SEAN SPICER appeared over the teacher’s head. My best friend, NEI RUFFINO, screamed like a HYPERACTIVE FLAMINGO. My worst enemy, JAMES ROBINSON, jumped up and started to BREAKDANCE ON HIS DESK AND VOMIT AGAINST HIS WILL. Everybody laughed, even though it was scary. Then the lights came back on. “JAMES FOR THE LOVE OF CHRIST THIS IS THE THIRD TIME THIS WEEK” our teacher shouted. “Settle down.” Our teacher turned around and much to our horror had turned into a MEGAZORD. But that didn’t prevent our teacher from giving us a ten-page homework assignment on THE DISMANTLING OF THE GENDER BINARY IN THE WORKPLACE AND HOME. And that was the scariest part of all!
(I am so going to hell it’s not funny)
- Polly Hannah’s Wardrobe: Pink skirt, pink and white shirt, pink tights, pink and white bow.
[Wing: So she’s trying to be Polly freaking Pocket.]