“Anchors aweigh!” Columbus squawked as the living room emptied of women.
This was the grey parrot’s usual utterance when he sensed a departure. How he knew it Toby’s family had never discerned, but perhaps there was a change in activity or tone of voices unnoticed by them. Or, could the intelligent bird understand their conversation?
Columbus had come into their lives when a marina owner on a Caribbean island had asked them to adopt a young parrot he was unable to care for. The man had named it Columbus. The bird was obtained from a small village on the Ivory Coast ending up in the ownership of the marina owner six years later. He’d had the bird for four years. By ten years of age, Columbus had acquired several hundred words in three languages. He understood numbers of things and possessed a fondness for wine corks and legos. The Toby and Ron’s boys taught Columbus to sing ‘ooh, it makes me wonder‘ from Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven–guaranteed to bring down the house.
When Ron passed away, Columbus turned 20.
A few mornings after the funeral, when Toby fed him pieces of mango, he’d stopped eating, cocked his head at her, staring with one luminous yellow eye.
“Anchors aweigh,” he’d said.
Toby was silent, stunned. “Yes, anchors aweigh.”
“Hey, man!” Sky shouted.
A blond, super-tanned boy waved to Marsh from the top of a shoot. He jumped on his board and rode it to the lip, rocketed into the air and executed a high ollie, clapped down with arms spread like wings on the concrete runway and skated to where Marsh stood. They high fived. Sky’s t-shirt and face were dripping with the sweat of exertion.
“Got a board yet?” he asked.
“Nope,” Marsh said faking a grin. “I haven’t got over to Waterboyz,” he fibbed.
He’d been there looking at the skate and surf boards and all the bright t-shirts and gear he could not afford to buy. Waterboyz was a great store started by a veteran surfer who loved youth. The owner had all kinds of classes going for kids. In an adjoining warehouse, a small skateboard course was frequented by neighborhood kids. It was always packed and the music great. Marsh so far was just an observer.
Sky skated to the other side of the park motioning for Marsh to follow him. He pulled an old skateboard from his backpack.
“Here, this is the board I learned on. Keep it until you get your own,” Sky said.
“Really?” Marsh said, thrilled. “I’ll take great care of it, man, ’till I get my own.”
“I know bro. Come on, let’s get rollin’.”
Marsh was a natural athlete. He got right in the thick of the action, made a few spectacular wipeouts but got right back at it, learning from Sky and other boys who were happy to lend advice to an initiate. Sky showed him “the ollie.”
“You have to learn the basic motion. Step on the tail to raise the nose, slide your foot toward the nose but over the bolts, jump, then come down over both sets of bolts.”
At one point Marsh achieved a little hop with the board under him.
“Sick, man,” Sky said.
“Hey! Give me a break, bro,” Marsh said, frustrated.
“No, man, that means cool!”
Skateboarding came with its own language and rules.
“You should come to the tournament next Saturday. A bunch of us are competing with boarders from all around the South. You learn a lot. And there are girls.”
“Yeah, I’ll drop by. Thanks, Sky.”
He strapped his borrowed board to his bike and headed for home. He was starving.