When I was twelve, there were only two things that mattered.
Roller-skates and Craig McNeish.
Roller-skates – because they were my ticket to a magic place of speed and grace.
Craig McNeish – because he was super cool in the way that only a twelve-year-old boy in denim can be.
So, it stands to reason that the thing that I wanted most in the world when I was twelve was not world peace or an extra viewing of The Karate Kid. No, the thing I desired above all else was a pair of boot skates.
Not the ankle high, sporty ones – speed skates, I believe they were called – I wanted the mid-calf, white- leather, lace-up ones with hot pink wheels.
I badly wanted the hot pink satin covers too, but I knew not to push my luck.
I knew if I had these roller-skates, my life would be great. Craig McNeish, would probably want to be my boyfriend, I’d start getting straight A’s and my boobs would grow so I could at least fit a trainer bra.
I wanted those skates so badly, because Saturday afternoon at the roller rink was the only place to be.
The mornings were reserved for the tiny tots. The little JonBenet Ramsey’s all decked out in their frilly pink dresses and sparkly underwear. A pedophile’s wet dream of twisting, arching pre-pubescent girls, all trying to outdo each other with leg splits, back bends and double axel jumps. The fussing mothers would herd their little darlings onto the blue plastic rink and shout at them through clenched teeth to smile. “Smile, baby. That’s riiiight. Smile.”
At one o’clock sharp, these doll babies would stagger out rink-blind into the sunlight, and it would be the turn of the pre-teens to strut their stuff on the rink.
‘RollerLand’ was the place where dreams took shape and young hearts ran free. At least they did on the soundtrack.
I needed those boot skates, for two reasons: First, I’d get to hit the smooth plastic before the rest of the hordes, giving me plenty of space to twirl and twist and show off while my schoolmates stood in line at the hire booth. Secondly, the girls with boot skates were usually pretty and rich. I wanted to be both.
I wanted those skates so badly, I did a terrible thing. I agreed to give up my bunnies.
I had been given two bunnies for my eleventh birthday. I’d really only wanted a single black and white rabbit, but it couldn’t be found. The next best thing was to give me a pair. A white one and a black one. A male and a female.
Soon I had a hundred bunnies. Of all shapes, sizes and colours. But it didn’t take long for me to discover, much to my distress, that this was no Watership Down, this was more like Caligula in a cage. The bunny hutch turned into a bloodbath. Bunnies kept appearing as if by magic. The older bunnies began eating the baby bunnies. I would be traumatised every day when I had to check on what carnage had happened over night.
Day after wretched day I would try to save the tiniest bunnies, but they would end up dying in my bedroom. One baby bunny even committed suicide. I affectionately called him ‘Saggy Baggy’ and this little scrap of fur and skin had somehow dragged himself up the side of the cardboard box I’d put him in and launched himself off my high dresser.
Despite the never-ending horror, I would perform dozens of rescue attempts every morning and afternoon, all of them ending in tears. My mother would plead in desperation for me to give the bunnies away, or sell them or send them to the local butcher, but I valiantly refused.
Until she dangled the prospect of the white boot skates in my face.
In exchange for getting rid of the bunnies, I would get my precious skates, which would instantly bestow beauty and riches upon me. I accepted her devil’s deal with a handshake and skipped off happily to say goodbye to the bunnies.
My mother was wearing dark sunglasses as she drove us to an industrial part of town where there were factories that bordered on grassy paddocks. She hoisted the cages out of the car and opened the hatches. Out scampered the bunnies, tiny ones, medium sized ones, fully grown ones. They looked like they didn’t know what to do with their freedom, so they did what they did best and started having sex. I scattered a bag of bunny food for them and jumped back in the car. My mother was already gunning the engine, looking around nervously, in case we’d been spotted. We roared off down the road.
I didn’t look back.
The next day, I had my boot skates. I replaced the white laces with some funky rainbow coloured ones and picked out my outfit for the weekend. I was going to shine on the rink, dazzle my friends and Craig McNeish with my twelve-year-old sex appeal.
It took forever for Saturday afternoon to roll around. It couldn’t come a moment too soon. I gathered up a gaggle of girlfriends and strutted into ‘RollerLand’ like one of the rich, pretty girls. I laced up my new boots in record time and glided onto the floor.
As I made my first circuit, I looked for Craig McNeish in the crowd. I spotted him fumbling around with his blue sneaker skates in the stands. I skated backwards so I could keep my eye on him. His bright red hair was stunning in the disco lights. He was wearing a double denim ensemble of jeans and jacket with a white tee shirt. As he looked up, he caught my eye and I looked away quickly.
Even though I made sure I was not looking at him, I felt him move onto the rink. I knew he’d be speed skating to catch me up, because I was wearing a ruffled mini skirt, and he would have definitely seen my boot skates, and now he’d think I was pretty and rich.
Sure enough, he slammed into me, knocking me into the sidewall hard enough that I fell over. He collapsed on top of me, all arms and legs and heavy skates denting my shinbones. I knew he liked me then because he didn’t say sorry, he just smiled and got up and skated away, leaving me breathless and bruised on the hard blue plastic floor.
The boot skates had done their job. The next weekend at the school dance, Craig and I kissed for the first time. I ran my hands through his thick red hair and counted his freckles as I lay my head on his shoulder. I may not have been rich or pretty and my chest was still cardboard thin, but he was my boyfriend and all was right with the world.
I don’t know what happened to my cherished skates. I think I gave them to the Red Cross when the ball bearings wore out. As for Craig, cheeky redheads with a penchant for denim often go looking for trouble and when he was just seventeen; he found it, in a car on a slippery corner at night.
The bunnies, for all their blood lust and incest managed to live longer than Craig. In the town where I lived there is now a serious rabbit problem that the authorities are always trying to fix. Occasionally I feel bad about having contributed to this ecological disaster, but then I realise blaming myself won’t help.
I blame my mother instead.