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"Bobby Orr," short story excerpt

Saturday 4/23/22

I was a selfish asshole several ways over, and I found myself thinking about that Bobby Orr book I used to read. If we still had it, or whether I’d see it again. How it might stand up against my memories; less so of it—the book—perhaps, and more so of myself. There are portions of sheddable identity you want to retain, for everything else it would be best to outgrow. The pages told a crisp tale of accountability, of playing a larger game than hockey and saying to a future version of yourself, “I see you,” and then getting there. Rush-joining. Car-riding with better selves and halves and other players coming up through ranks where one is both teammate and coach, and this is what is meant by husband, father, parent, protector, friend, and person who learns from the same people they endeavor to reach and teach. Hockey players use the term lighting the lamp for scoring a goal. Bobby Orr lit the lamp 270 official times in his pro career. He targeted the lamp and the lighting, set them as goals of a different kind as a boy growing up in Parry Sound, Ontario. Many people will tell you that Bobby Orr was the fastest man to ever lace on hockey skates. But he had something else to catch up to beyond the opponent he was pursuing. Bobby Orr set out to catch up to Bobby Orr, and he would, or so I believed on account of how my father spoke of him. And same as that time my father’s words instilled in me a totality of faith—for a car ride, anyway—I had my first understanding that those portions you must keep don’t get to stay on—to ride along—without mounting a fight against their peripatetic tendencies.


Our oldest daughter also went to a school that was far away. She didn’t have much to take with her. “Not just the clothes on her back,” exactly, but mostly clothes. Her suitcases had long been testaments to the viability of magic. They only held so much, but her wardrobe selection appeared endless, an irony I became more cognizant of as our time, in the relationship I had known and cherished, wound down in its familiar particulars, and would now necessarily become different. Different isn’t worse. Different is different. It makes you different.


“Don’t be silly, dad,” she said the summer after she graduated high school, and I was plotting our driving route for the autumn. “We’re not driving halfway across the country when I can fly and be there in two hours.”


I told her it wouldn’t seem that long. And I’d feel better if I could help set her up. First year and all. My wife watched our exchange. Didn’t take a side. She is in part wiser than I am because she’ll sit out and observe longer, and all of those instances have added up in our near two decades together, such that she has an advantage on me, with my tendency to leap and be the first over the boards, which is something I find myself needing to do, after what I did not have, in a sense—over whom I did not have—but over which I have always felt a great loss in that fissure in my heart which happens to have a road above it. That road is closer to the sun, and belongs to this daughter I wished to transport across half a country. But realistically you could have made it seventeen solar systems instead of a fractional representation of the Republic, and I still would have pulled out the map and gassed up the car.


“You can sleep on the way,” I said. “You won’t even notice it.”