Chapter One - Anthony
"It was a dark and stormy night...." -- Charles Schultz
Well, goddammit, it was dark, anyhow. Dark enough for me to trip over the hockey sticks and other various pieces of my equipment that had found their way out the front door and into the night. Most of the contents of my hockey bag and part of the front hall closet were now littering the steps and snow-covered lawn. I cussed as I made my way through the pads and sticks and pucks, even as I was trying to avoid a concussion if I fell to the icy ground.
I sighed and looked up at the second floor bedroom window, our bedroom window, dreading what shit had hit the fan since I'd left that morning, sensing how much trouble I was in with my Josie, and looked again at the hockey equipment that defined my life, now scattered across the snow.
But I'm getting ahead of myself. My name is Anthony Vitale, and I play hockey. Well, what passes for hockey in the Central Canadian Hockey League. The Saskatoon Wolves, in particular. It's nothing that people would ever mistake for the NHL, but then again, neither am I. Having rid myself of the delusions of my youth, the ones making me the next Jeremy Roenick, Mike Modano, or God forbid, Wayne Gretzky, I settled in to life in the CCHL and did my thing; played hockey, chased after women, and drank too much beer.
I am a decent 2nd line center for our sometimes playoff-bound hockey team, racking up far too many penalty minutes to ever consistently play on the first line. And had things not happened the way they did, I’d be playing for the Chicago Blackhawks by now, as proud as anyone to wear the classic Indian head on my chest. But a knee on knee hit one night in Moosejaw took care of any future I might have had in the NHL, and no amount of rehab was going to bring me back to where I’d been before. Over time, I’ve come to terms with that, I really have. Of course, it might be part of the reason for the number of women and the amount of liquor in my life, but I wouldn’t count on it.
I was brought up to be a good little Italian boy. I was. Really. I was Scouts Canada Beaver and an altar boy, and spent much more time than I cared to at Kamloops Cathedral of the Sacred Heart. I helped out my old man at our family’s bed and breakfast, cleaning rooms and mowing lawns and carting eggplant in from the garden until I thought my hands would turn purple. No lurid past, no skeletons in my closet, just my Mom on my ass to stay out of trouble and Dad breathing down my neck to be sure I didn’t get anyone else into trouble either. So what the hell happened?
Maybe I got into the game too young. I started skating before I was three years old, and had a hockey stick in my hand less than a year later. It wasn’t long before I was playing in peewees, and Mom, bless her heart, was driving me to rinks before most people were out of bed with their morning coffee.
Soon I was spending more time on the ice than I did at home, and had more hockey bad boys to look up to that any little kid could stand. So I guess I could probably claim I was influenced by too many bad companions. Or I could say that my coaches didn't give me proper supervision, even though it wouldn't be true. Thousands of kids all across Canada start out playing hockey just like I did, and I’d bet that there aren’t very damned many that end up with their lives as screwed up as mine. But hell, there must be someone or something I can blame for the mess my life has become.
Been on the road with this gig for what, 16 years now? Almost half my life. Schlepping my shit from bus to crummy hotel room, to and from drafty past-their-prime arenas, back and forth across Canada's frozen tundra in the dead of winter. Nothing to do in those crummy hotel rooms either, but look at my beat-up roommate with his missing teeth, play poker with the married guys down the hall, or invite the more-than-willing puckbunnies up from the lobby for something warm in my bed. You spend more nights on the road than at home, most of them in fleabag motels in places like Thunder Bay, Ontario in the middle of January, and then tell me you wouldn’t have done the exact same thing. Puckbunny-wise, that is.
Ah, puckbunnies. They exist in every sport, I suppose, under different names. The girls hanging out at the ice arenas dressed for a night at the club. The bleached blondes with the surgically enhanced cleavage hovering in the hotel bars. The old-enough-to-know-better women yanking up their shirts and flashing the team bus as we leave the arenas after a game. Girls.. women, I suppose.... who know nothing more about hockey than wanting to fuck a hockey player. Women who think that a two-line pass is a come-on with two sentences and a blue line is that crap they put across their eyelids. Sometimes I felt like I was just another notch on their bedposts instead of the other way around.
And it’s not that I ever thought of myself as some kind of hockey sex god, irresistible to women. It was never that. OK, so my nose doesn’t look too bad and my teeth are all fixed and I don’t have any nasty looking scars in places that show when I’m dressed, but I’m not ever going to be posing in GQ with the hockey pretty boys of the world. If women chased after me, I just figured it was a generic fuck-the-athlete kind of attraction. It never had anything to do with me personally, or with them.
Training camp traditionally marks the beginning of puckbunny season, and that was always when my troubles began. Let’s be fair, I never slept with any of the local puckbunnies when I was home in Saskatoon. It was only on road trips, away games, cold nights in run-down motels far away from home ice. I’m not making excuses for my shitty behavior, but I’m just another hockey player taking advantage of a few willing women, I’m not Jack the fucking Ripper. And I had given them up when I met Josie. I had. All of them. I’d kept my promises, I’d walked the straight and narrow, and I’d behaved myself, all for the love of a redhead. Until now.
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Chapter One of "Eventually Yours."
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