Skating Champions of the World: Roller Derby Cousins
Cousins, we were the champion roller-derby skaters of Grandma’s basement. The floor was cement. Dusty spider webs hung in the corners of the overhead beams. A monstrous octopus furnace sat hunched over and frowning in the center of the basement. Giant metal arms reached out across the ceiling in all directions. In the winter they crackled and popped as they did their job of conducting heat to the rooms above. We ignored the monster. Faster and faster we skated, round and round, bumping invisible skaters out of our way. Roller derby champions, we were invincible.
But first, the scary part. Clamber down the outside hard-pack dirt stairs, push open the creaky basement door. Walk around in darkness … try not to listen to the cockroaches and spiders creeping out of the way. Feel above your head for the string to pull that blinks on the one hanging light bulb. Catch it. Yank it. Nothing. Pull harder. Light! Shadows loom from your feet. Perfect.
Sit on the damp, dusty cement floor. Take the skate key that always hangs around your neck on a knotted shoelace. Fit the key into the skate clamps, loosen the clamps, slip on the skates, tighten the clamps. Try to stand up. Don’t laugh when your cousin lands back on her bum as her skates slip from under her. Concentrate. Place one foot solidly beneath you. Push up. Knees bent. Next foot. Suddenly there you are, full up. Quick, grab a cousin’s hand and zoom! Fly round and around, faster and faster until down you go. Another skinned up knee, a bloody elbow. Time for snack break. Grandma always has a pitcher full of fresh milk from the cow barn and a stack of graham crackers.
She scrubs the bloody parts, shakes her head and doses the raw skin with bright orange iodine. Oh, does it sting! But what a badge of courage that shouts, “roller derby queen.”