The Legend of Donnie Doheny

It all started with Stumpy and that stupid projector. Ernie and I played at being Indiana Jones, but Stumpy, he had to be Spielberg. When he saw this old garage-sale projector and its $25 price tag, he flipped out.

“How do I know it works?” he asked the old man hosting the sale.

The man waved us into the garage. “Come check it out.”

Stumpy hauled the contraption into the garage and plugged it in. The old man rummaged around until he found a reel. Stumpy loaded the film and flipped on the projector. The wall lit up. Images danced in the light: a young man with mop-top hair boarding, getting some serious air and doing flips and turns that defied gravity.

I saw something in the old man’s eyes. “That’s you, isn’t it?”

He nodded.

I studied the moving image again, keying in on the skateboard. “Holy cow! You’re Donnie Doheny! The Donnie Doheny!”

Stumpy and Ernie spun around, the picture of surprise and awe. Donnie Doheny was a legend. He practically invented skateboarding. No one was ever able to repeat his tricks. I got a broken collarbone trying. Stumpy dislocated a shoulder. Ernie ended up with a concussion.

“You still got that board?” I asked.

Donnie shrugged. “It’s around here somewhere.”

Three boys took off in three directions. I hit the jackpot, wrenching the board from behind some shelves. I stroked the board, felt it hum. The buzz grew as I traced the deck’s starburst pattern, sending little electric charges into my fingers. “How much?”

The old man shook his head. “Not for sale.”

I dug my money out of my pocket. “I got more at home. I’ll mow your lawn for a year. You name it, it’s yours. I gotta have this board.”

“Uh-uh. That board’s more’n you can handle, son. Trust me.”

Then a woman called from the driveway, and Donnie turned his attention to her. I clutched the board to my chest and ran.


Stumpy and Ernie caught up with me at the skate park. I sat perched on the mini ramp, the board on my lap, a big-ass grin on my face. “Took you long enough!”

They talked at once, praising my boldness, calling me a stupid thief, urging me to give the board a spin. Like I needed encouragement.

I hopped off the ramp and stood on my new board. The buzz I’d felt in my fingers flowed up my legs. I’d never felt so connected before. Go, it told me. Let’s ride.


Photo by Konstantin Sutyagin/iStock / Getty Images
Photo by Konstantin Sutyagin/iStock / Getty Images

I pushed off and rolled a long, smooth curve.


I skated the mini ramp and the quarter pipe. The board pulled me, a dog straining against its leash. Let’s GO, let me RUN.

I did.

I soared. We soared, the board and I together.

I nailed the vert, all ten feet of it, like it was the sidewalk. I flipped, I twisted, I caught big air. I was unstoppable.

“Let me try!”

“Hey, man, give us a turn!”

I stopped only long enough to spin the board beneath my feet.

We took off again, the board and I, launching into a flip. Before I knew it, I’d done two full rotations—without ever putting a hand on the board. The board should have fallen. It should have crashed to the ground during the first rotation. Instead, it stayed glued to my feet.

I tried it again. Same result. I was frickin’ Superman.

I glanced back at my friends. Do it, the board whispered. I pushed off.

Seconds later, I was sailing, effortlessly executing a Doheny twist—the very trick that once broke my collarbone. This time, I landed flawlessly. Better than flawlessly. I touched down gently, like I’d been floating instead of flying through the air.

Egged on by my friends’ hooting and hollering, pulled by the energy of the board, I tore into the half-pipe and launched into the Doheny flip, the trick that had wiped out Stumpy and Ernie. I felt the air lift me up, like wind under a plane’s wings. I turned upside down, then right side up, again, and again, and again, my hands flat at my waist, the board never leaving my feet. Then, just like with the twist, I set down feather-light.

I couldn’t tell you where I stopped and that board began, which thoughts were mine and which were the board’s. I can only tell you we sailed, we soared, we rolled, we spun. By the time the sun started to set, I had out-flipped, out-twisted, out-skated the great Donnie Doheny.

“I’m naming this one after you!” I called to Stumpy before I exploded into another trick. After landing, I skidded to a stop inches in front of my movie-obsessed friend.

Stumpy yanked the board from under my feet. I plummeted to the ground, landing hard on the cement. I tried to stand. Woozy and disoriented, I fell on my ass.

“What the f—?” The board clattered on the ground. “Frickin’ thing zapped me!”

I reached for the board. “That’s because it’s not meant for you.”

A foot landed between my hand and the board. Donnie Doheny had found us. “It’s not meant for you, either,” he said, staring daggers at me.

“How’d you know where we were?” Ernie asked.

Donnie rolled his eyes. “Where else would a trio of juvenile delinquents go with a stolen skateboard?”

He kicked the board away from me. That’s when I saw the axe in his hand. It had strange markings on the handle, like hieroglyphics. He swung the axe over his head, uttering some nonsense words.

“I should have done this a long time ago,” he said as he brought the axe down on the skateboard. The wood cracked. I crumpled at the sound, not of the splintering but of the howl that accompanied it.

My friends’ stares told me the howl had come from me.

“I told you,” Donnie Doheny said, “it’s more than you could handle.”


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