Sven Carter & the Trashmouth Effect
CHAPTER 1.0: < value= [All Four Limbs Are Supposed to Remain Attached, Right?] >
“SVEN, THIS IS STUPID,” WILL said for the millionth time.
And for the millionth time I ignored him.
We slowed to a stop in front of what used to be the entrance to the old Mad Skillz and Spillz Skate Park. Weeds poked up here and there through cracks in the pavement and graffiti covered nearly every surface. Plus, it smelled like burned rubber and rotten eggs. But it would do.
I yanked on the rusty, chained-up gate. Even Will wasn’t skinny enough to fit through there.
“Seriously, dude,” Will complained, “you know why they closed this place, right? About fifty kids got messed up big-time going over the Wreckinator. Remember? That high school kid fell so hard, his legs actually got driven up through his body. Everyone called him Flatfoot McStumpy after that.”
“That’s so not true,” I insisted. “His head got pushed down into his shoulders. And they didn’t call him Flatfoot McStumpy. It was Flathead McShorty.”
“Whatever. The point is it’s dangerous. Besides, it’s closed. We shouldn’t go in.”
I found a section of fence that had rusted away from its post. I pulled it back. “Doesn’t look closed to me.” I carefully lifted the item out of the milk crate attached to my bike. Then I squeezed through the fence.
“Sven,” Will moaned. “This is a really bad idea.”
I gently placed the item on the ground right in front of the Wreckinator, the biggest ramp in the place.
“Come on.” I grinned as I got my bike and wheeled it through the fence. “It’s going to be epic. Just make sure you video it, okay? We’ll probably get a billion hits on YouTube!
And when we’re YouTube celebrities, people will forget we’re the biggest losers in Schenectady. It’s called street cred. Look it up.”
I pedaled about fifty feet away and turned around, psyching myself up to make the jump. Will pulled out his phone to record my awesome stunt and started fretfully touching a metal railing over and over again with each of his fingers in turn: thumb, index finger, middle finger, ring finger, pinkie, and back again the other way. It made me anxious just watching him.
That was Will’s thing, though. He had what doctors call obsessive-compulsive disorder. OCD, for short. And it made him, well . . . a little different from most kids you might meet. When he got out of bed in the morning, he had to fold his blanket over four times, then make sure both his feet touched the floor at the same time at exactly 7:04. And then he would only leave his room after flicking the lights on and off forty-seven times.
Between that, his flaming red hair, and his immensely big hands (they were about the size of Frisbees), he kind
of stood out. At our school, standing out wasn’t something you wanted to do.
Maybe that’s what made Will my best friend—and why he’d held the spot for the last seven years. We were both weird. I met him in this thing called the OCD Lunch Bunch at school and we really clicked. He never teased me for my, um . . . unusual eating habits. And, unlike everyone else at school, I never called him “Weird Willy.”
I tried to tune out Will’s railing tapping and turned my attention back to the jump. Just before I started pedaling toward the Wreckinator, a pair of crows landed on the rim of a corroded garbage barrel about ten feet away and stared at me with their shiny black eyes. Their inky feathers were so dark, they seemed to swallow up the crisp April sunlight that fell on them. I hesitated. I remembered reading somewhere that crows were bad luck.
“Shoo!” I yelled at the birds.
They didn’t move.
“What?” I called with a shrug. “You’ve never seen
a kid jump over a three-layer wedding cake on his bike before?”
Yes, the item was a wedding cake. Not just any cake, though. It was a cake my mom baked. Which meant it ranked right up there with some of the greatest horrors the world had ever known. I preferred to call it “item” instead of “cake,” since “cake” suggested something that was edible. This item? Definitely not fit for human consumption. But really cool to jump your bike over and earn some serious Internet fame. At least that was the plan.
The crows kept staring. I stuck my tongue out at them.
Will shouted, “Dude, are you having a conversation with those birds? ’Cause that’s . . . a little odd.”
“No! I’m just trying to, you know, psych myself up for the big jump.”
I realized I was stalling. Because when I took a good look at that cake, yeah, it was pretty big. Three feet tall, at least. Not including the little plastic bride and groom perched on top.
I sucked in a big lungful of air. You can do this, I told
myself. And with one last glance at those stupid birds, I took off toward the ramp.
Wind whooshed past my ears with a low, ominous moan as I pumped my legs and picked up speed. My heart pounded against my rib cage and a drop of nervous sweat trickled down the back of my neck. Time ground to a crawl as I closed in on the Wreckinator.
With each slow second that ticked by, my fear grew, until, when I reached the foot of the ramp, the cake loomed like a hideously decorated three-story house.
My stomach lurched with the sudden change in trajectory as my tires rolled over the scarred surface of the Wreckinator, lifting me higher and higher toward the lip of the ramp. I caught a brief glimpse of Will, holding up his phone to film me from what felt like a thousand feet below. Was the air thinner up here, or was it just me forgetting to breathe altogether?
And that’s when I realized . . .
I should have stopped.
I really, really should have stopped.
But it was too late.
My wheels left the solid concrete behind and spun uselessly in the air as my bike and I tried to defy gravity just long enough to clear the cake.
At first, I thought I was going to do it.
Then I noticed that the cake still seemed awfully far away.
Then I realized I wasn’t so much flying over the cake as falling into it.
Then I knew this wasn’t going to be epic at all.
My front wheel entered the cake at the precise place where the third layer met the second. And even though my mom’s cakes had the approximate density of lead, they were no match for a kid on a bike plummeting down to Earth at face-peeling-off speeds from the top of the Wreckinator.
There was an explosion of frosting as the cake burst into a million little pieces. (Some of it might have even gotten into my mouth. YUCK!) But I couldn’t worry about that, because I still had a chance to nail the landing.
You can do this, Sven! You can do this!
Except I couldn’t.
All thanks to that stupid plastic bride and groom from the top of the cake.
They wedged themselves right into the spokes of my front wheel so that as soon as my bike made contact with the ground, it stopped dead.
But I didn’t stop.
I continued on, straight over my handlebars, over the shattered remains of the cake and on through the air. I was flying. Until a split second later, when I slammed into the ground.
Will jogged up to where I lay sprawled out on the concrete, still recording me on his phone. “Dude! Are you all right?”
Dazed, I looked up at him and blinked a few times. Normally, you’d expect a question like that to be simple—either you’re all right or you’re not all right. You know, ballpoint pen sticking out of eyeball: not all right. Eating big bowl of ice cream: all right. Crocodile jaws slamming shut on head . . . well, you get the idea.
But at that moment, I honestly had to give it some serious thought. I wasn’t dead, so that was good. No pens
or other sharp objects stuck out of either one of my eyes. And I wasn’t lying in a pool of blood.
“I think I’m okay. I guess I didn’t make it?”
Will shook his head. “Not even close.”
He reached down and grabbed my arm to help me up. “You’re right, though. This’ll get a billion hits on YouTube. Man, when you were flying through the air I thought for sure you were goi . . .”
I don’t think he actually meant to say “goi.” It’s just that was what happened to be halfway out of Will’s mouth when he lost the ability to speak.
I looked up at him. In his hand Will held something kind of flesh-colored and about the length of my arm. Which made perfect sense, since it was . . .
MY ARM!!! AND IT WASN’T ATTACHED TO MY BODY!!!