We settled for sitting in the stands while the rink man cleaned the ice. There was a long silence and I struggled to find words to break it. Virgil sat with his hands cupped in front of his face, staring straight ahead. I understood then how hard years are to get a hold of, how elusive the life in them can be to capture and retell. I understood then too that time does not heal all wounds. I wanted to say it all in one brilliantly executed sentence, encompass all of it in a succinct, effortless rush. But I couldn’t. I was at a loss where to begin. In the end, he did it for me.

“You’re one of those kids, aren’t you? One of the ones the schools fucked up. My dad told me some of what he went through. When they said they wanted to bring you out of there, I guess I kinda knew why, even then. Knew it wasn’t all about the game.”

“I didn’t know,” I said. “Not for a long time. Not until just this past year.”


“Don’t think he had anything to do with it, really.”

He turned in his seat. “I know. I’m sorry. Crap choice of words.”

He stared down at the ice while I told him about Father Leboutilier. I told him about my family and how I’d come to be at St. Jerome’s. I told him about the rage that built in me that I had never understood and how it corroded everything, even the game. I told him about the road, the jobs, the towns, and then I told him about the booze.

“The ultimate device,” I said. “It lets you go on breathing but not really living. It lets you move but not remember. It lets you do but not feel. I don’t know why I fell into it so easily, why I lost myself so deep. I just thought I was crazy. But turns out I was just hurt, lonely, guilty, ashamed—and mostly just really, really sad.”

“Did you want to hunt that fucker down? Make him feel some of the same pain?” Virgil asked. He still couldn’t turn away from looking at the ice.

“At first, yeah. Then, the more we got into it at the centre the more I realized it was more than just him. I’d be hunting a long time if I lashed out at everyone. In the end, I learned the only one I could take care of was me.”

He turned to me finally. His cheeks were slick with tears. “Five minutes alone in a room with each of them. That’s what I’d wish for. For what they did to my dad, my mother, my grandparents, you. The fuckers.”

“I know. It still hurts. It will for a long time. But I know that now. I know that and I have ways to deal with it. Better ways than running, abandoning people, fighting, drinking.”

“Yeah? And what are those better ways?” He leaned back now and shunted so that he could half-face me.

“Come back here, for one thing. I always felt most like home here. Get a job. Work. There’s a lot of healing to be had by picking up a lunch pail. Then I thought maybe I’d shop around for a team to coach.”

He raised his eyebrows. “You’re still young. You could play. Shit, the Miners could use you.”

“They could use that other guy, Virgil. That bag of antlers with the speed and the moves. But I’m not that other guy anymore. I want to get back to the joy of the game. That’s for sure. But if I learned anything while I was at the centre, it’s that you reclaim things the most when you give them away. I want to coach. I mean, if I could get my hands on that number fifteen, I could turn him into something.”

Virgil smiled. “That’s my son. Billy. He’s eleven, almost twelve, but he’s skating with the bantams. Reminds me a lot of another speedster I once knew. He knows about you.”

“He does? How?”

“You’re a freakin’ legend, Saul. No one ever played the game like you. Every guy who was on the Moose has told their kids about you.”

“The guys are still around?”

“Not all of them. Most of them. They’re all beer-bellied and fat now. Got a basketful of kids like I do, all married up and hog-tied, but we get together for shinny late at night sometimes when the ice is free. We talk about you.”

“Think they’d want to see me?”

“We got ice tonight. Why don’t you see for yourself?”