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"Loading the Shaft", excerpt ii

Wednesday 12/25/19

Creating, of course. What else am I going to do? An excerpt from what has been composed this morning:


Goalies will tell you that the wraparound is one of the hardest plays to defend. If a goalie could strike the technique from the game, a goalie would. As this manner of effacement is impossible, goalies are tasked with mitigating the efficacy of the play, which involves the attacking forward—for rarely is a defenseman deep enough in the opponent’s end to try the tactic—emerging from behind the net, puck on stick, tucking the puck in tight, from behind, just inside the post, before the goalie can seal the space with a skate or pad.

I never saw anyone more adroit at the wraparound than Chana Brixley. Her speed, even in close quarters, when there is little opportunity to ramp up momentum, was immediate; that is, within three strides, she was at top-level velocity. Goalies would seemingly be glued to one post, neck craning over a shoulder, looking for her, as she stashed the puck into the net on the vacated side.

I’d watch her and think it was as if she was playing against air. Maybe if we were on an outdoor surface, those ponds you always get in Hans Christian Anderson stories, she’d have to contend with the wind, but in the rinks where we played, she was the wind.

You expect a mental health facility to look a certain way, a prevailing skittishness. Were it possible for there to be gray lights, you would find them here, as if each bulb were painted or draped with a muting agent. I stopped visiting my mother when she began to ask me about me, not with the pronoun of “you,” but “her.” Otherwise, she bustled. Moved lively. Bobby was Bobby and Harry was Harry, it was only me who had departed my mother’s mind, when it came to standing in front of her.

And when Chana went to visit my mother, Chana was me, she was Jos. Other people mistook us for each other, off of the ice. Some thought we were twins. Our hair was cut the same way, bobbed, without the standard hockey hair coming out the back of our helmets, which for girls meant a ponytail rather than mullet. Chana was tight with us. You thought nothing about her being at your house with your family if you were out, hanging. That mode of tight. Or visiting your mom if your mom had to be somewhere else, lending her a book by an author they both liked, bringing her a bag of sweets. She’d go if I wasn’t around or was tutoring Nathan, which was usually at his house. A doctor said I represented a localization. That my mother cared about nothing more than she cared about me, cared in a way that overrode her feelings for anything or anyone else, a feeling itself so marked that those damn circuits were overrode.

“Do you answer as me?” I asked Chana.

“I say ‘we,’ I make it about both of us. How we are doing at school, the team. I don’t have to keep visiting.”

“I want you to keep visiting,” I told her.


When he was a couple years younger, you could tell that Harry had a migraine coming on because the color would vacate his face, and if you touched the tips of his fingers, you’d feel that they were trembling, though you could not see them tremble. The migraines wrecked Harry and there were episodes that mirrored mini-seizures. He would sleep in the bed with my mom and Bobby, he could be there for days. The one time they took a trip together, without us, was to Canada, to hike some series of trails that Bobby’s grandfather had helped clear. We thought the migraines were over by then, because there hadn’t been one in at least a year, but Harry got sick. You had to put a suppository up his ass, that was all that would stop the shaking, and as I did that while we lay in the bed he usually was took to when he got sick—Bobby and my mom’s—I left my finger there, I wanted to feel him that way. I wanted to feel someone from the inside. Someone besides myself. I thought about that day, the choice I had made, after my mother had left, and I walked into Bobby’s room, without knocking, to get Nathan for his tutoring session, and they were sitting on the ground, their pants pulled down, and Nathan had my bra against himself. When I closed the door, the entire way, I didn’t slam it, I remember how hard I tried to make sure I closed it softly, so that the click of the latch was barely, if at all, perceptible. I did not think we were going to be a domestic trio, or that I was salting away allies. I felt rift. Rift once more, and now the non-blood side was covered, as was the blood.


When we were at the rink by ourselves, and we had the ice to ourselves, Chana would tell me to stand in one corner, and she would get in the corner opposite at the far end of the ice.

We fired passes across the whole of that distance. Mine, in my understanding of the term, appeared to travel: I’d watch the puck depart from the toe of my blade, to where it had ventured—slid—as part of its launching-cycle, to the heel, then bounding over the ice, eventually reaching Chana. Her passes, meanwhile, seemed to be anything but about traveling; instead, they arrived—her wrists flicked, the puck was on my stick, immediate. A journey-free route.

People said that I feathered a pass. It’s a compliment. Means you distribute the puck with a light touch, a wafting, almost. Where others use the blast of the hose, you use vapor. The pass akin to a caress. It’s not fired, shot, projectiled; it’s a kissing, like the way the puck comes by its backspin, in my sleep routine, upon its contact with the post. We were reminded, with martinet-worthy frequency, that it was our job to help Chana Brixley to leave, to not be with us for a portion of the following year, and so our solitary sessions, she and I, working hard, for hours, redoubled, quadruple-doubled, if that is a thing. Sweating, after, once more brushing back hair from forehead, beads of salt, water, visible in eyebrows, she’d say to me, “I want this so fucking much, Jos,” and I’d say I know, I absolutely get it.

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