Thursday, June 10, 2021

Get Your Skates On by Christina Collins

Roller Derby starting here every Saturday 2-4pm. The poster pinned to the noticeboard read.


Lisa stopped abruptly, the words catching her eye as she raced past, already late for her spin class. She’d never heard of Roller Derby and was intrigued, as she eyed the illustration of a pair of roller skates.


Lisa's mind was taken back to her teenage years when she was one of the best roller skaters in town. She had first been given a pair for her tenth birthday. The four bold black wheels secured to adjustable sliding steel, and red leather straps that fastened over your own shoes, were all the rage.


Lisa was hooked from the moment she put them on her feet. They took a while to master but she soon became an expert. Throughout her early teens she learnt how to skate eloquently, and perform dangerous tricks that would have seen her banned from ever skating again if they had been witnessed by any adult.


The most daring involved other skaters laying on the concrete floor of the local park while she took a run and jump over them. She perfected three, but four turned out quite disastrously, and the unfortunate fourth person required some hospital treatment, and never really returned to the skating scene.


Lisa read through the details on the poster. Come along and give it a go, all welcome!


She snapped her mind back to the present, sighed and turned to continue her journey towards the main hall for her weekly exercise regime. “Don’t be ridiculous Lisa, you’re nearly fifty years old,” she mumbled to herself.


Nevertheless her mind kept going back to the poster and how much fun roller skating had been. She had progressed from the strap on skates to ones with boots attached, and finally a smart black leather pair with front and back brakes that she could only purchase from the city, were soon in her possession. She was the envy of her skating friends. She closed her eyes and could still smell the newness of the leather and the oil she used on the wheels. 


Wrist guard and helmets were unheard of, so she’d been lucky to escape with nothing more than a few cuts and bruises. She’d been appalled when inline skates came onto the scene and she’d refused to adapt to them. Life took over, and her skating days became a distant memory..


Lisa was still caught up in her thoughts the following day as she sat clutching her near cold cup of coffee between her hands.  The words on the poster were still etched on her mind, when her daughter Jade entered the large kitchen diner. 


She looked at Lisa perched on one of the breakfast bar stools, her painted eyebrows pinched together as she stroked her furrowed brow.


“You okay Mum?” She asked.


Lisa jumped, the liquid from her cup sloshed over the sides and pooled on the counter.


“Yes. love I’m fine.”


“You looked far away then,” Jade replied as she reached into the fridge to retrieve a carton of orange juice.


Lisa lowered herself down from the stool and tipped the remainder of her coffee down the sink. “Just a poster I saw at the leisure centre Yesterday got me thinking, that’s all.”

Jade turned, her aqua eyes brightened as her eyebrows raised, urging Lisa to continue.

Lisa reiterated what the poster had said and saw a look of disdain descend over Jade's face.


“Mum! You’re forty eight years old. Roller Derby, whatever that is, will be for …” She hesitated, as if deliberating on words that wouldn’t offend. “Well, younger people.”

Lisa glared at her, “Forty eight isn’t that old you know. And anyway, I have no intention of going. I just mentioned it, that's all.” Her voice defiant now, angry that Jade had almost mocked her.


“Good! Jade exclaimed. “You haven’t skated for over thirty years anyway.”


“Thank you for reminding me,” Lisa called after Jade who was already on her way back up to her bedroom.


Lisa had meant what she had said to Jade at the time. She had no intention of going along to the Roller Derby session but the longer she thought about it, the more she wanted to find out more, if only to satisfy her growing curiosity. 


The following Saturday, Lisa made her way to the sports hall, which usually catered for five aside football, badminton and basketball. She stopped before entering and peered through the small round glass window in the door. About fifteen women were gathered around a couple of balance benches at the far side of the room. 


Most sitting down, pulling on their skates. They wore colourful leg warmers over equally colourful tights, shorts and tee shirts. Their joints were protected with safety pads.

Lisa felt a rush of adrenaline and before she knew it she had pushed the large swing doors open and entered the hall.


“Hi,” a woman shouted across the room. “You here for the Roller Derby?” 


Lisa took a few tentative steps towards her.  “Well, I just came to get a bit more information really. Find out what Roller Derby is exactly?”


“I’m Katie. Come on over and I can tell you all about it.”


Lisa was surprised that Katie hadn’t given any indication that she was too old to be here, so she followed her and sat herself down on one of the benches.

“Ok, let me explain,” Katie started. “I used to play Roller Derby when I was at uni but when I came back home it didn’t appear to have reached this far West!” She laughed. “So I decided to set up my own group. We’ve been going about a month now.”


Lisa looked around the hall as some of the women started warming up by skating leisurely circuits around the cones already spread out.


Katie continued, “Roller Derby is a contact sport played by two team made up of defence players and a jammer who is the point scorer.”


A look of puzzlement crossed her face and she sensed Katie detecting her confusion and she stopped in her explanation. “I know it sounds complicated and it's hard to explain. The best thing is if you sit and watch, you’ll get the jist of it then!”


And on that she lifted the helmet to her head and strapped it tightly under her chin.


Lisa watched in amazement, the game was fast and dangerous. She realised almost at once that this was a sport for the younger generation. She envied the women who flew around the hall, fearless. She would have loved to have had a sport like this available when she was younger. 


But as she continued to watch she noticed the skating techniques could be improved. Some women were new members who tagged behind the others as they struggled to get the basics of skating. A few demonstrated their only stopping approach was crashing straight into a wall.


These women need to learn how to skate before they learn how to master Roller Derby, she thought to herself.


Katie skated skilfully over to her after the first round and came to a perfect twist stop in front of her. “Well, what do you think?” she enquired.


“It’s a little too fast paced for me to take part in,” she replied regretfully, but she found herself telling Katie all about her skating experience and how she thought the players could improve on their techniques. She was subtle and positive and was amazed with how much came flooding back to her.


“Katie looked at her in awe, “Wow, that is amazing. Would you help us, Lisa? She asked hopefully.


“I’d love to. If you have a spare pair of skates I can borrow, I’ll start right away!”


Lisa sat and pulled on a pair of short black leather boots with yellow wheels, and breaks. As she pulled the laces tightly around the hooks, her heartbeat increased, and she felt like she had fireworks exploding in her chest.  


She stood tentatively at first, concerned that she may not be as agile as she thought.

After a few wobbles, her strides became longer and the skills she’d acquired all those years ago came hurtling back. Her confidence soared and she was soon circling the track with ease.


She returned home with a flush of triumph and an elated joy of feeling needed.


“Where did you get to today?” Jade enquired as she peered through the door. “I thought we could have had lunch together.”


“Oh, I was down at the leisure centre. Just teaching the local Roller Derby team a thing or two. I’m their new coach!”


Jade pressed her fingers to her gaping mouth, her protuberant eyes like flashbulbs. “You’re What?” She managed to squeak.


“Well it seems I’m not too old after all.”


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