It took them three weeks to get to me. We went to the scheduled tournaments and we played well, but there was a new energy on the team, not just on the ice but on the bench and in the dressing room. Waiting. Expectant. I didn’t know what people wanted me to say, so I just played as usual. We were on our new team bus heading back from Pic River when four of them came to me. Virgil. Ernie Jack. Louis Greene. Little Chief. They huddled around my seat while I kept my face to the window.

“You gotta go, Saul,” Virgil said.

“Don’t want to,” I said.

“That don’t matter,” Little Chief said.


“Because you got called.”

“I don’t follow.” I stared out the window as the land peeled by, humped into spectral shapes by the moonless dark.

“We all play the game wishing that someday a call will come and someone will ask us to play with the big boys,” Little Chief said. “Nobody says nothing about that. It must seem stupid on accounta we’re just Moose, but we dream it anyhow.”

“So that means what to me?” I asked.

Ernie Jack leaned over so I could look at him. He was big, wide in the upper body, so he ate up a big chunk of the darkness. He punched me on the thigh. “It means you get out,” he said. “I’m twenty-three years old. I’m working graveyard in the fucking mine and I been there since I was sixteen. I’ll be there until it kills me or I’m too fucking old. I ain’t got no out. I don’t mind that. I got Emma and I got the kids and I got the Moose until I’m too damn old for that too. But someone reached down and put lightning bolts in your legs, Saul. Someone put thunder in your wrist shot and eyes in the back of your fucking head. You were made for this game. So you gotta give this a shot for all of us who’re never gonna get out of Manitouwadge.”

“What if I don’t make it?”

“You will,” Ernie said.

“You believe that?”

“I ain’t the one that has to believe it.”

I turned to look at the triangulated shadow of the trees thrown up into the sky. I just wanted to play the game. I didn’t want to have to make a choice.

“Something big’s gonna happen to you if you stay here, Saul.” It was Little Chief. I turned to look at him and all I could see was the outline of this head like a keg.

“What’s that?” I asked.

“Well, I’m gonna wake up ten, fifteen, years from now and I’m gonna clump on down to the rink to skate and I’m gonna see you making circles on the ice with the puck. I’m gonna see you like I always seen you. Like something fucking special. And I’m gonna walk over to those boards, fifteen years down the road, all stiff and sore from lugging lumber around all day and see you there and know that it all could have been different. That I mighta been able to live some of my dream out through you. But you’re still here. So the big thing that’s gonna happen to you? I’m gonna pull you over those boards and kick the shit right outta you for wasting it. For not answering the call.”

He thumped the back of the seat, and I could feel the emotion working in him. I looked at Virgil. “What do you think?”

“I think you owe me.”

“I owe you?”


“Owe you what?”

“You owe me the game.”

“How’s that?”

“I was the one who said okay, you skate with us. My dad got you out of that school and brought you up here. But it was me who said yes for the team. I coulda said you should play bantam or midget first. But I saw what you could do and I knew that you could make this team better. If you weren’t a Moose you’d be nowhere. No one woulda seen you, hearda you, known about you. There wouldn’t be a scout knocking on the dressing room door. So, yes, Saul, I gave you the game and you owe me.”

“And if I don’t go?”

“Then I’ll think you’re a coward. That you let it beat you without even trying.”

“What if I’m not good enough?”

He laughed, and the others laughed too. “You’re a shape-shifter, Saul. We all know that. The NHL never seen a shape-shifter before. Believe me, you’ll be good enough.”

“You sure of that?”

“Like he said, I ain’t the one that has to be.”