Our third place winner of $25.00 is Marianne Nielsen. Congratulations!
by Marianne Nielsen
“Please, Coach,” I begged. “Give me a chance.”
Coach Kelly sighed. “I don’t know, Chris.” His eyes questioned why I wanted this so much.
“If this town had more than one team I wouldn’t bother with this one,” I said hoping I didn’t sound too arrogant. “I’d find one better suited for me.”
“The thing is we’ve been playing with one goalie since September,” Coach said. “And the Snow Dogs are doing just fine, I might add.”
“But what if your goalie gets sick or injured? You’ll need a back up, and I’m good.” I tried give him my brown puppy dog eyes. “Really I am.”
Coach chuckled. “Okay, get your equipment on. I’ll have a look at you.”
I jumped up and hugged him.
“None of that now. Let’s wait and see what happens.”
I raced home and dressed in the garage.
Thank goodness Mom had bought a house across the street from the arena. But, if she knew I was trying out for the Pee Wee competitive team, she would lock all the doors and keep me tied up in my bedroom! I knew that for sure. But if Dad were here, this is what he’d want for me.
Twenty minutes later, I hopped onto the ice.
“Chris,” Coach yelled. “Skate three laps to warm up.”
After my laps I joined the team.
“Heh, Purple Dragon,” one of the boys yelled. “What makes you think you’re good enough to try out?”
Flames spewed from the purple dragon on my jersey. Dragon Flames was the name of my old team.
“Yeah,” someone else said, and laughed.
I ignored them, and listened to the coach. I had a team to make. For Dad, and when I made it, I’d deal with Mom.
As I stood in the net and stopped the pucks, some of the boys chanted, “Miss, miss, Chris, Chris. Only in your dream will you make our team.”
A scream stuck in my throat and steam gathered inside my ears. I would prove I did belong, no matter what.
For the next hour, Coach had Bruce, the goalie, and me take on flying pucks, slides across the net , and stop and start skating backwards and forwards. Not an easy task when weighed down in 30 pounds of goalie equipment.
At the end of the practice the team knelt around the coach in a semi-circle. “We have two more practices before Christmas. And on the twenty-sixth we have a game against the River Rats.” Coach waved us off the ice. “Keep up the good work, everyone. See you tomorrow at two.”
The rest of the team headed down the ramp to the lockers. I clomped out the arena doors, and crossed the snow and ice covered street.
I changed in the garage before heading into the house.
“Hi, Mom. I’m home.”
She stepped out of her office in her running gear, her short red hair sticking straight up.
I held my nose and grinned. “Pee uuu.”
“I could say the same for you.” She returned to her desk chair. “What’ve you been up to?”
“Um, I was just at the park checking out the outdoor rink. How was your run?”
“Good,” she said. “And how was the park?”
Not wanting to answer her, I sat on the red leather chair where Mom read her manuscripts. “Mom, why did we have to move?” I played with my short curly hair.
She rolled her chair over and touched the tip of my freckled nose.
Her sad smile told it all. “Honey, you know I couldn’t stay in
Collingdale. Too many memories.”
She sniffed and wiped her eyes.
“But I miss my friends and my hockey team.” Frustration pushed up through my chest.
“I know,” Mom muttered.
Anger took over and pushed its way through my throat. “And I don’t get why you won’t let me tryout for the hockey team here.”
Mom’s body stiffened. She stood, and without a word, stormed out of her office, into her bedroom and slammed her door.
I dragged myself into my room, and fell onto my bed. The sobbing exploded from deep inside. I punched my pillow. Why? Why? Life’s not fair. The worst of it was I had no one to talk to. Mom forbade any discussion about Dad. And I missed him so much.
Two more practices before Christmas. Two more practices before I’d make the team.
“Bye, Mom,” I called out. “I’m going to the park.” I hated lying but I saw no choice.
Twenty minutes later, decked in my equipment I hit the ice.
Once again, the boys chanted, “Miss, miss, Chris, Chris. Only in your dream will you make our team.”
I didn’t miss many pucks, though. And in my dream I would make the team.
“Good practice,” Coach said as I headed out of the arena. “See you Thursday.”
My sweat soaked clothes stuck to me, and my tired legs wobbled as I crossed the street.
I pushed the garage door code. A kid in a sand coloured parka trudged across our snow covered lawn.
“Heh,” the kid called out. “I’m your neighbour, Kendall.”
“Do you have a nickname?” I asked.
“Nope. What’s your name?”
“Most people call me Chris,” I answered.
She stood a few feet from me. “I see you sneaking across to the arena.” Her eyebrows stretched up. “Are you trying out for the Snow Dogs?”
“Yep,” I said. “You sound like it’s hard to believe.”
Kendall shrugged her shoulders. “You must be a pretty good goalie. I thought the Snow Dogs were happy with Bruce.”
“So.” I shivered and needed to get out of my sweaty clothes.
“What grade are you in?” Kendall said.
“Seven. I’m starting at the Parkdale Middle School after Christmas. Listen, Kendall, I gotta go.”
I rushed into the garage and pushed the button.
“Bye, Chris” she said as the door slid past her. “See you in class.”
Two days later, I walked through the arena doors for the last practice before Christmas. Butterflies bounced around in my stomach. Today, I would make the team.
Coach put the team through another tough practice. I kept up with Bruce, and I stopped most pucks shot at me. I’d be a shoe in.
As the rest of the team skated off the ice, the chanting started again. “Miss, miss, Chris, Chris. Only in your dream will you make our team.”
“That’s enough,” Coach Kelly yelled. Then he turned to me. The butterflies had moved into my chest, ready to come out in the form of a cheer and a hug. My grin grew from ear to ear.
“Chris,” he began. “You’ve had three great practices.”
I wanted to rub my hands together. Yes! Here it comes.
“And if it were solely up to me…”
Oh, oh, this wasn’t sounding good. My smile shrunk.
“Well, the boys took a vote, and…” Coach’s eyes stared at the purple dragon on my jersey. “I’m very sorry.”
Instead of hugging him I wanted to hit him and yell, “why do you listen to a bunch of idiot boys?” But I didn’t say a word. The butterflies left, replaced by boulders. Tears appeared. I would not cry in front of Coach. I wanted to shrivel up and be flattened by the Zamboni. I needed my dad!
The coach placed his hand on my shoulder. I shrugged it off. How could this happen? First Dad, and now this. Those brainless boys had ruined everything.
Kendall stood outside the arena. I stormed past her.
“I guess you didn’t make it,” she said, catching up to me.
The tears ran down behind my mask. I punched in the garage code.
“I’m sorry,” Kendall said. “Maybe next year.”
After the door closed, I removed my equipment, and slipped on my jeans and turtleneck.
I trudged by Mom’s office. “How was the park?” she asked. “Any new friends?”
“Fine and no.” I closed my bedroom door without a sound, and dropped onto my bed. Tears poured from my eyes and pain from my heart. What would I do all winter? I’d be the laughing stock at school. Everybody would know I’d tried out and not made it. They’d make fun of the fact I’d even thought I could make the Snow Dogs.
There was a soft knock on my door. I sat up and grabbed a tissue from my bedside table.
Mom poked her head in. “You okay?”
I fidgeted with my tissue. I shook my head and my chest shuddered. Mom sat next to me and took my hand. I leaned into her. “I…I…didn’t make it.”
She squeezed my hand as if she knew what I meant. Soft sobs arose from her. “Are you crying about Dad?” I asked.
She nodded. “It’s been too hard for me to talk about him. I miss him so much and I’m still mad at him for leaving us so suddenly.”
Her pain erupted and filled the room. I wound my arms around her and we rocked. I hadn’t heard her let go of Dad since he’d died, last month.
Surrounded by pain I let go of mine, too. Together we wailed for a man we had both loved with all our heart and soul.
After using a box of tissue, Mom held my face in her hands. “I love you, my child. And I’m so sorry I stopped you from playing hockey. I didn’t want to lose you to hockey, too.”
“Let me finish,” she said. “I know you’re not going to keel over from a heart attack like your dad did. But the thought of watching you play and cheering you on seemed too hard for me. I didn’t think I could handle going back to an arena.”
“I understand,” I muttered. “You don’t have to worry, cause I won’t be playing this year, anyway.”
A small smile crept onto Mom’s face. “Honey, I knew you were sneaking over to the arena. I saw you.”
I pulled back. “You did? And you didn’t stop me?”
“I couldn’t find it in my heart to do so,” she said. “And besides, I knew if Dad were here, he would want you to tryout.”
More tears gathered. I reached out and wrapped my arms around my mom.
Two days later, on Christmas morning Mom and I sat by the tree as I ripped open the goalie stick I had asked for. Mom opened my gift to her, a framed collage of pictures of her and Dad. She smiled with tears, and reached across to hug me.
I stood and pushed on my new stick, thinking of the game I wouldn’t be playing tomorrow. I was kind of okay with that. Mom and I could now heal together.
“That must be Grandma,” Mom said, getting up to answer the phone.
Seconds later, she handed me the portable, and shrugged.
I frowned. Who would be calling me on Christmas morning?
“Hello?” I said.
“Chris, it’s Coach Kelly.”
My heart skipped a few beats and the butterflies returned. “Hi, Coach.”
“I have a favour to ask.” He paused. “Bruce is very ill and won’t be playing in tomorrow’s game.”
I held my breath.
“I’d very much like for you to be in net. How about it?”
I could hear his grin on the other end of the phone.
“Yes!” I screamed. “Thank you. Thank you. This is the best present ever. I’ll hug you tomorrow.”
“Be at the arena by four.”
“It’s a deal,” I said.
“By the way,” Coach said. “Merry Christmas.”
“Thanks, Coach. Merry Christmas to you, too.” I hung up.
“Mom,” I yelled. “I’m going to play tomorrow on the boys Pee Wee team.”
“What!” Mom marched into the living room. “The boys team?
But Christina, you’re a girl!”
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