It was late at night when I got back to Manitouwadge. I walked from the bus to the Kelly house, knocked on the door and then waited on the steps with my bag at my feet. After a minute I heard footsteps. The door opened and closed, and Virgil sat down beside me in the dark. He lit a smoke. We sat there staring at the lights of the mill.

“What happened?” he asked.

“It was for shit,” I said.

“Read about you. The Rampaging Redskin.”

“That and more,” I said. “Lots more.”

He snapped the butt away with one finger, and we watched it spin through the night and land in a rut in the road. “You ripped it up, though, didn’t you?” he asked finally. “Twenty two points in nine games.”

“Twenty three,” I said.

“Jesus, Saul. That’s a season for most guys.”

“So were the penalty minutes.”

“You had to fight back. Shit, I know that. Glad you finally learned, actually.”

“You got a spot for me on the Moose?”

“Hell, yeah. But what about the NHL? With stats like that over a full season in Major Junior, you’d be a lock to be drafted.”

“I just want to play the game, Virg. I can’t do it with all that bullshit getting in the way.”

He nodded. “So, what are you gonna do now?”

“Go to work, I guess.”

“Mines or mill. That’s all you got to pick from around here.”

“I know. It’s good enough for you.”

“You were born for more, Saul.”

“Says you.”

We sat in the dark, and there were no more words. The silence was enough. Finally, he reached out to clap me on the back. After he went in I stayed out there a while looking up at the stars. When the chill got to be too much, I picked up my bag and walked into the house to sleep.