Killian Street
Published in

Killian Street

Just Roll With It

Photo by J.S. Lender © 2021

IF I TOLD YOU that I was born without a body, would you believe me? I know that it sounds crazy, but sometimes the most unbelievable stories are those that are true.

Can you imagine the look of fright on the doctors’ faces when I was born? I was nothing more than a bald head, a squishy white face, and two beady little eyes. Nothing below the neck. All those doctors and midwives just stood around my mother’s delivery bed, staring with their mouths agape, in complete silence. Until I started crying, that is. I was later told that despite my lack of a body, my scream was more piercing than the angriest of eagles and the hungriest of hyenas.

The folks at the hospital did not expect that I would live long, but I proved them all wrong. I drank milk and took naps and played with my baby toys in my nursery. My parents just treated me like any other kid. They sat me in the stroller and walked me around our neighborhood and through the parks in our city. I have been told that I was about as happy as any baby could be.

But when I got older, there were problems. When all you have is a head, people set you down places and just forget about you. Oh sure, you can call out to others for assistance, but that gets old real quick. A young man needs his independence, even if he is just a head.

* * *

The summer of 1986 was a hot one. But then again, every day is a hot one when you are just a head forced to rest on a red velvet pillow all morning, noon, and night. My folks took me to the Summer Kickoff Festival in Laguna Beach on June 1. I was 18 years old, and ready to see some things. There were fireworks, hot dogs, beer, girls in bikinis, and tan people with names like Chad and Chelsea playing volleyball on the sand.

I was having a good enough time, but when my mom knelt down in front of me with a wet napkin to clean up my face after I had enjoyed a large plate of powder sugar-coated funnel cake, that was the final straw. I waited until my mom and dad were busy watching a glassblower making a iced tea pitcher, then I made my getaway.

I nudged myself over the edge of the pillow, then over the seat of the stroller. As I felt myself plummet toward the ground, I saw the world spinning round and round, like God’s giant Ferris wheel. The thump on the side of my head didn’t hurt nearly as much as I thought it would, though. Before I knew it, I was off.

I had rolled myself around before, but only around the house, never outside. But I was going for it, because I had had enough of being babied by my folks. The boardwalk at Laguna Beach was sandy and dirty and splintery. My eyes rolled over and around and up and down, as I watched the tan folks set, serve, and spike the volleyball into their group of tan and muscular friends on the opposite side of the net. I kept rolling along, watching the homeless people drink cheap wine out of glass bottles covered with brown paper bags. Children were playing on the playground, and up above me, a group of mockingbirds were attacking a lonely black crow.

After a mile or two, I had had enough of the boardwalk, so I pounced my way down four or five steps, onto the sand. Maneuvering along the sand was more of a challenge, because every so often I would get a mouthful of it. But the ocean was beautiful and the sound of the waves was hypnotic. I made my way to where the waves were crashing, then I decided to stay in one place for a while and just watch. The setting sun was childishly orange, and the wispy clouds above it were transforming into a dark shade of purple. The sea smelled like a Hawaiian cave spilling over with the mist of a majestic waterfall.

But there was much more to see, so I kept on rolling down the shoreline. There was something sitting in the sand just ahead of me, so I crept closer and closer, to take a look. It was a glass that was tall and curvy, and full of what looked like delicious, ice cold, yellow beer. As I got closer, I smooshed my eyebrow into the side of the glass, and the ice cold condensation droplets smeared across my forehead. With my nose, I nudged the glass little by little, until it finally tipped over, spilling the beer onto the sand.

I rushed my mouth to the edge of the glass, guzzling the contents and quenching a tremendous thirst. After I had gulped down all there was to gulp, I licked the remnants of the delicious brew from my lips, and rolled a few yards away to the top of a sand dune, where the view of the hot summer day taking its last gasps of life could not have been more precious.

It was almost dark now, and a cool breeze was blowing in across the Pacific Ocean. Goosebumps were forming on my cheeks, and my eyes were watering just a little bit. But I felt warm and satisfied and relaxed, for I had finally landed where I belonged.

© J.S. Lender 2020

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J.S. Lender

J.S. Lender

fiction writer | ocean enthusiast | musician | author of four books, including Emma and the Starry Night. Blending words and waves…