“Lookin rough, coach,” Ray said as Chappy climbed, hung over, into shotgun Sunday morning.
Chappy slammed the door with a grunt and cranked the lid off a Thermos full of coffee and last night’s rye. The last thing he wanted to do was stand behind the bench as the Ditch Creek Lumber Cats faced off against the Little Prairie Woodsmen that morning in a lame duck consolation match for a goddamn house hockey tournament. And if he never saw Debora Clarke or the Duke fuckin Fontaine ever again, it’d be too soon.
But when he crossed the dingy lobby with his Thermos tightly tucked under his right arm there stood Duke, blocking the hall.
“What in the hell did you get up to with my wife, you pencil-dick motherfucker?” Fontaine yelled, his gravelly voice echoing down the hall. The man’s ex-wife, Debora, was the head of the Little Prairie Minor Hockey Association. She and Chappy had spent some time the evening prior, hashing things out, after a couple of the Ditch Creek boys had gotten into a scuffle outside the rink with a couple guys from Little Prairie. The matter, Chappy had been given to understand, was resolved — and then some.
Apparently, Fontaine thought differently.
“You and my wife—” the denim clad man began.
“—was in that office an awful long time after I left—”
“After she asked you to leave.”
“—and I wanna know just what the fuck you think you was doin back there?”
The crowd of gawkers had grown. Parents from other teams peered over Ray’s shoulder on one side, while players had piled out of both dressing rooms, jamming up the hall behind Fontaine. Chappy’s head was pounding. Between him and Fontaine, the smell of sour booze and BO hung heavy in the damp hallway.
“Listen, Fontaine,” he said, slow and low so Fontaine could hear him, but those craning for a piece of the action behind them would be out of luck. “You think I wanna be here anymore than you do right now? Fuck no. But we got a goddamn hockey game to get through here today.”
“You’re right,” Fontaine said. “This ain’t the time or the place. See you on the fuckin ice, Chapdick.”
The game proved to be a shitshow, rough as any Chappy’d ever seen. Score tied at 2-2 with less than a minute to go, the ref dropped the puck with both teams at full strength, Chappy prayed to whatever silent god ruled over the ice sheets of northern British Columbia for some justice.
But Chappy’s prayers fell on deaf ears.
The home team won the face off in their end. The Woodman d-man stepped out from behind the net and flipped it up through centre ice, where a cherry picker who’d snuck up on the far boards chased after it, undefended, into the Cats’ end.
“Shit,” whispered Chappy. “Shit shit shit.”
The Cats netminder dashed out of his crease towards the bouncing puck. For a moment, it looked like he might just get to it first. But then the Woodsman reached out his stick and chopped the wobbly biscuit into the open basket. The goal light flashed red. The home team went up 3-2 with five seconds on the board.
The Cats parents left the stands in disgust, while the home crowd stayed to cheer their team and jeer the losers. Chappy debated forgoing the handshake line at the end of the game in protest, but decided to suck it up and be the better team to the very end. When it came Chappy’s turn to shake hands with Fontaine, he could taste the bile rising in his throat.
“Good game,” Fontaine said through a yellow toothed grin as he extended his filthy hand. “Looks like the better team won, eh?”
“Bullshit,” Chappy hissed, squeezing Fontaine’s hand in a tight grip. Fuck it, he figured, pulling Fontaine in close. In for a penny, in for a pound. “You were right, Duke,” Chappy hissed with glee into the man’s hairy ear. “Debora, she’s a wild one, ain’t she? My dick’s as raw as a pound of ground round right now. You feel me?”
With a furious grimace, Fontaine cocked his left hand back into a fist as he pulled his right hand from Chappy’s grip.
“You Chapdick motherfucker,” Fontaine hollered as he clocked Chappy with a left hook to the jaw. He was never quite sure if he’d heard himself laugh before Fontaine got him again a solid right square to the face or not. He liked to think he did, though, before he wobbled, saw double, and hit the ice out cold.
Sheldon Birnie is a writer and beer league hockey player from Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada whose work has recently appeared or is forthcoming in Rejection Letters, BULL, X-R-A-Y Literary Magazine, Cowboy Jamboree, Exoplanet, The Wicked Library, among others. He can be found lurking online @badguybirnie