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Sometimes, on a Friday night, if you’re a kid and you live in the wilds of San Marcos, all you have are your friends, your skateboard, and a 7-Eleven.

Here’re four guys; we’ll call them Thomas (not Tom), Phil, Kurt, and Jason. They are thrashers. They’re wearing T-shirts, and it’s a bloody cold North County, an overcast evening, a jet and gray sky. The lot is illuminated with tall fluorescent lights — several; they are not counted. The boys are 12–14 years old. Thomas is dark, almost mulatto, part Spanish. Kurt is fair and blond. Phil is handsome, a chiseled lad; and Jason is heavy, with a kind of Beatle haircut. They are all good on their boards. Not great, but good.

The parking lot slopes just enough between the handicapped space and some 10–12 yards to the north end of the lot, the length of the 7-Eleven. Thomas has just executed a move that is downhill, an abrupt 45-degree turn in the air and a remarkable exclamation. “Benedee — cio — Del Toro!” he shouts, and it is perfectly timed with his movements. One is impressed.

Kurt follows, a tentative, modest, and straightforward downhill move, possibly to get the feel of the ground. Jason is graceful for a boy his size and moves in an extended, snaking S down the lot — say, eight yards. Phil rides the curb at the north end, a short move, seemingly pointless, but he is smiling.

The four thrashers display their pocket change to each other. It seems they have enough for two 20-ounce Coca-Colas. Inside, they purchase the Cokes. Kurt and Phil execute the transaction with the heavy, pretty, red-haired girl behind the counter then move to the magazine section. It is the muscle magazines that interest them. The titles can’t quite be made out; they are holding the magazines. Muscle, it seems. Possibly Physical or Physique. Your reporter neglects to check this fact. He is rather old and forgetful.

Thomas has enough change for a small bag of Doritos. Outside they resume thrashing, sharing the Coke (not the Doritos), and conversing.

“You wanna come over and watch Hellboy II?” This is Thomas offering.

“Yeah, I do.” Kurt.

“What about Narnia?” Phil.

“Oh, c’mon!” Thomas says this casually, hops on his board, and makes a run toward the handicapped space. A white Toyota, late model, pulls in, and a bearded man in his late 30s steps out, wearing a blue windbreaker.

Jason has not responded to the offer to watch Hellboy, as if he assumes he is not included.

The thrashers continue some moves for the next five minutes or so, none of them terribly impressive but presumably pleasurable. The new arrival enters the store and looks at the modest display of California wines. He buys a $6.99 bottle of syrah and a pack of Camel regulars. He too lingers at the magazine rack for a moment after his purchase, scans the titles and covers but picks up nothing. He leaves the store, gets in his car, and presumably heads home for dinner. It is about that time, near 7 p.m.

“Want some more pop?” This is Kurt asking Jason, extending the plastic bottle.

“No,” with a frown, as if Jason is dashing expectations because of his weight. He has already had a modest drink from Kurt’s soda earlier.

“Phil?” Thomas asks.

“I’ve got one,” he answers, displaying the bottle as he moves on the board.

“No. You wanna come over?”

“I don’t know. I guess,” he shouts over his shoulder.

All four of the youths have sent glances toward the columnist, standing there, watching them, arms folded. They certainly must wonder what this bearded old man may want. He could well be one of those men their parents and teachers warned them about: a kidnapper, a pervert of some kind (whatever it is they do). The observer may well look dangerous in some way. None of the boys displays any interest in entertaining him, impressing him. Well, maybe Thomas. He’s a bit of a showoff but a pleasant kid.

All four of the boys are in a kind of huddle, speaking quietly. No indication is given as to what they may be discussing. The huddle breaks up in laughter. A dirty joke? One of them passes gas as if to illustrate the nature of the conversation. More laughter, sharp hahs!

A fine mist, a near drizzle begins over the lot and Rancho Santa Fe Road. The temperature seems to drop. The sky is obscured with the illuminated damp, and the four young men wordlessly gather their boards, head to the south and then uphill west.

“Adios, sucker!” one of them shouts.

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