“Sky Blue” by Matt Farrell

Matt Farrell


That summer after high school we did nothing
of use to anyone. We stole fruit from neighborhood
trees—plums on 42nd, cherries on 35th, grapefruits
on 47th for throwing off the Sac State parking structure.
Some of us were going to college, and some of us
weren’t. We skateboarded along the flat streets
of Sacramento under the hundred-degree sun,
the kind of sun that turns ice water into heaven.
We skated on the steps behind Fremont Presbyterian
until the pastor chased us away. David was the best
among us, would do things I was too scared to do.
He landed a switch frontside flip off a nine-stair,
and if you know what that means you know
it is something to see. That night we threw a party
at David’s house—his parents didn’t care
about alcohol. For no apparent reason
a girl named Lauren led me by the hand
to the garage and stuck her tongue in my mouth.
I was thinking I’d finally stumbled onto some luck
but then she pulled away. She said God was watching.
Even here in the garage? I said, but it was clear
she’d made up her mind. So we played ping pong.
She was in the process of beating me handily
when we heard screeching tires out front,
so I told her we’d call it a draw and out we went.
In the middle of the street was a sky-blue
Toyota Camry, just like the one my parents had.
A middle-aged woman stepped out and
bent down to look under her car. Under her car
was David, not moving, his neck making
a strange angle. The woman had her fingers
forked into her hair, and she kept silently
opening and closing her mouth
like a fish. When the autopsy came back
we learned that before being run over
he’d already died of a heroin overdose, right there
in the street. Maybe he’d been looking up
at the stars as the drug gently coaxed him
to stop breathing. I still think of that woman
in the sky-blue Camry and the nights
she must have spent believing
she had killed a boy
before finding out she’d just
run over something
that was already dead.

from Rattle #64, Summer 2019


Matt Farrell: “East Sacramento was the kind of place where you had to make your own entertainment. For a teenage kid, one option was skateboarding—riding around town during the long summer days, getting to know the details of every street, running into the same neighborhood kids at the best skate spots. These kids were independent, tough, funny, angry, many of them incredible athletes but just not good at traditional team sports or interested in being yelled at by a coach. To get good at skating, you had to put in countless hours of practice, but at a certain level, what separated the great skaters from the good ones was a willingness to take real risks, risks of road rash, broken bones, concussions—helmets and pads were not worn by anyone I knew. I couldn’t make myself take those risks, but I wrote this piece for some of my boyhood friends who could.”

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