Okay. "Loading the Shaft" now exists in manuscript. 6000 words. There is more work to be done--I will have to work on what I have. What that will entail, I know not yet--exactly. Perhaps very little. We shall see. The story dictates the reality--I merely take my cue from the story and do as I must. One final excerpt for these pages. Strong.
There is an expression that hockey people will use to tell you that you have no chance in a given contest. They say that your opponent will “blow doors”—as in, blow yours off.
We were tied 6-6 with the out-of-state All-Star team, late in the third, all of those scouts in the stands. Chana had a tip-in goal. Otherwise, she couldn’t get loose, couldn’t get free. Almost every girl on that other team could skate with her. Speed becomes neutralized at a certain level. The wraparound attempts failed. Two players always seemed to have gobbled her up at once, even when it was just one.
Time and again I entered the zone and I delayed. I broke stride, I feinted, I created the time, I created the space, as defenders backed off, unsure of how I would shift next, how I would morph the latest play, feather a pass through their layers. One is best at hockey, as perhaps maybe one is best at life, when one understands the role of evanescence over the role of solidity.
They accounted for bodies, they accounted for speed; they did not account for an attacker who assailed not through familiar channels, of where everyone was, but rather where they would be, where she could move them. Speed needs speed. Anticipation requires faith. “I think you can be better than this girl if you really work at it,” Bobby had said to me. He said it, because he knew I was capable of knowing it as well. He may have also said it, because I already knew it.
All of the other goals on that stat sheet were mine. There were no assists, in the formal, bookkeeping sense of the term. In each instance, a move by an opposing player was anticipated, a puck was taken from their stick, room to create was engineered, a goalie was beaten through the legs, or on the short side where they believed not so much as three inches of space existed, but I didn’t need much, inch-wise.
Had I been Chana, in those closing seconds, behind the net, I would have tried a wraparound. But I was no more this girl, this young woman, my best friend, than I think my mother believed I was, as she ranged to the peripheries of my life, when all I wanted was for her to return, as I was told to help a friend go.
I circled out from behind the cage, I edged along a perimeter of defenders who knew, by then, not to attempt to pursue me. Instead they assumed shot-blocking positions, collapsing in front of their goalie, as I knew they would.
I faked a shot while circling into the slot, dipping my forward shoulder, creating whip in the stick; faked a shot a second time, more whip, the loading of the shaft, arms and legs of defenders lunging in directions to block a puck I had yet to fire.
I would not have to fire it, when the time came. I merely had to thread it, between skates, extended limbs, sticks flapping desperately. Shafts of wood, without a ghost of a chance.
I could execute this threading as softly as I wished, as I now thread the puck at the empty goal during my sleep routine.
I could thread it because I had created a situation in which the goalie would not even be able to see it.
And she did not, when I finally released my shot, and the puck fluttered into the back of the net.