The following day, when Max came home from school, Detective Bernos was waiting for him outside the guest house on the front steps.
“Hey Max, how was school?”
The fourth grader looked up at his dad apprehensively. “Pretty good. Dad, what’s going on?”
His dad was sitting with his camera over his lap. Surveillance was the bread and butter of a private detective. More often than being called upon to solve a mystery of paramount importance, he was hired to do routine surveillance. For instance, if a person were suing workman’s comp for a debilitating injury, it would be an advantage for the defendant to acquire photos of the plaintiff bungee jumping or breakdancing. One of his most recent successes, the one for which he had this particular afternoon off, had to do with a woman who was suing the city for falling off a streetcar. After appearing in court only three days earlier outfitted with a wheelchair, neck brace, and limb in a sling, where she turned down an offer of 100 grand for her troubles, Mr. Bernos acquired video footage of the convalescent conwoman celebrating with friends on bounce night at a local club. She danced for three hours in a plethora of poses, shaking what she thought was her money maker. However, after Chaz’s video, the dastardly dancer will be more likely to receive a six month sentence than a six figure settlement.
Max eyed the camera and his Dad said, “I saw you out there riding the ramp on that skateboard. I figured maybe we could take some pictures. I bet your Mom would love to see them.”
Max’s face flushed. His Dad almost never mentioned his Mom. “For real, Dad? Ok, um, let me go change and get my board.”
Detective Bernos walked over to the ramp where Buddha sat on the topmost part of the halfpipe while Tex carved back and forth. He snapped a few pictures while approaching and Buddha said, “Man, that’s an awesome camera.”
“I’m still getting used to it. I’ve always used a Minolta Maxim. Then when Sony came out with the new digital, I bought this one so all my old lenses would fit it.”
“You don’t prefer film?”
“Oh, of course I do, but the agency does everything digitally, so you gotta change with the times. Plus, I sold my other camera on ebay so I’d have to learn this one.”
Just as they were discussing the merits of the Sony Omega camera, Max appeared clad from head to toe in pads. He had 3-sectional knee pads, elbow pads, gloves on his hands, and a very bulbous impact helmet made of purple plastic.
Buddha cracked up, “Who are you supposed to be, Neil Armstrong?”
Max’s face tightened up and he snarled, “Mrs. Cara said I had to wear these, Cueball.”
Buddha laughed and replied, “Safety first.”
“Hey, knock it off, man.” Tex shouted to Max, “Come on, Fish, let’s show ‘em what you can do.”
Max climbed up on the smallest half of the halfpipe.
Tex said, “Remember, don’t reach for the board, the board will come to you.”
Little Max, slightly unsure, put one foot on the back of the board and with one foot out on the nose, he dropped into the ramp. He surfed down the plywood awkwardly, then halfway up the big half made a mechanical 3-point turn and went back the other way with momentum slowing him to a stop in the middle. He was beaming from ear to ear with a smile that looked out of place on his normally stoic mug.
“Wow, you did really good. Sorry for needling you, Fish.”
“Don’t mention it, Chrome Dome.”
Max’s Dad was impressed even though he knew nothing about skating. “Wow, son, that was good. I would have broken my neck.”
Max turned to Tex and asked, “Hey, can I do the big side since I got all the pads on?”
“Fish, how many times have you tried the big side?”
“And how many have you not wiped out?”
“I almost made it once! Oh, come on, Tex.”
Max’s Dad looked at Tex apprehensively.
“Don’t worry Mr. Bernos, we have safety measures.”
Buddha and Tex started pulling old mattresses out from under the high side of the skate ramp and placing them on the ground behind the lower side.
“Hey, why are ya’ll putting them way back there?” Detective Bernos asked.
“Oh, um, sometimes he lands back there. But these mattresses are soft,” Buddha defended.
Detective Bernos felt very nervous as the little four foot daredevil climbed to the top of the halfpipe eight feet off the ground.
Tex caught his look and said, “He’ll be ok. Me and George have wrecked on this thing thousands of times and hardly ever get hurt bad.”
“Oh, that makes me feel better.”
Detective Bernos sat on the ground on the lower side of the ramp trying to get a good shot of what he hoped wouldn’t be his little son’s demise.
“Remember Max, don’t try to get any air, just carve it and come back down. Air will come in time.”
Max looked down the eight foot drop which seemed like a mile to the shaking skater. “OK, I can do this. Three…Two…One…” and he dropped in. The difference in speed from the low side was almost double. Instead of remaining high up on the board as he had done on the previous ride to control his speed, Max was crouched low when he hit the flat. Tex realized that Max was going way too fast to just play it safe, carve the ramp, and come back down. Playing it safe was nowhere in his plan. He had wiped out fifty straight times on the big ramp without his Dad ever taking the least interest. Today his Dad was taking pictures to send to his Mom. If the gods had a wreck planned for him, he was determined to make it a big one. As he headed up the short part at astonishing speed, he stayed crouched, and Tex knew Fish had every intension of going for air. As the board reached the top, Max grabbed it and eased into weightless space. The calm, cool cosmonaut hovered about 10 inches into naked air as he turned for the descent. While in his small patch of outer space his Dad’s Omega snapped off a rapid fire assault of pics that from his low vantage point made the boy look like a star at the X-games. Then his board met plywood and as he descended back to earth Max held his balance all the way down the arch until he reached the bowl of the ramp. The board shot out from under his feet and the boy collided with plywood headfirst. The impact had so much inertia that the shock helmet broke into a thousand pieces and the momentum bounced him right back up to his feet. The boy’s wire-frame glasses lay out in the grass where they had landed, his helmet lay in shards around his feet and all the observers held their breath as a wobbly boy finally registered what had happened.
“I DID IT! I landed it!” he screamed.
Buddha and Tex exploded with excitement.
“That was badass!”
“But he wrecked,” his father said, hesitantly.
“Yeah, AFTER he landed it. Who cares what happens after you land? He got air and landed it.”
Bernos scanned through the pictures and showed Little Max.
“I really flew!”