Authors: Matt Christopher
And that’s what happened. A Bear stole the puck from Frog Alexander and all five of their men — the goalie remained at his
position — kept control of the puck. They passed it back and forth among them, evading Bud, Terry, Chuck, and Frog with quick,
Ed Courtney picked the puck up dejectedly and tossed it to the ref, while the huge room thundered with the resounding noise
of hockey sticks drumming against the boards.
Penguins 2, Bears 2.
The ref waved Pie back onto the ice. It
was a ruling that a man serving a penalty was permitted to get back into the game if the opponent scored a goal.
Ten seconds later the two-minute session was up, and Line 1 skated off the ice. Line 2 accomplished nothing, but the Bears’
Line 3 broke the tie when their center bombed one in from the blue line.
The Penguins’ Line 1 took the ice and threatened to score over a dozen times, but the Bear goalie’s fantastic saves stopped
them every time.
Going into the third period Pie had his best chance of the game to chalk up a point. He had intercepted a pass from a Bear
and was sprinting down the ice toward the Bears’ goal with not an opponent near him.
“Score, Pie! Score!” a shout rose from the stands.
He had reached the right side of the net
and was less than five feet from it. He saw the goalie crouched there like a wall, legs spread apart, the big stick on the
ice in front of him. But at his right side was a clear, wide-open space, and that was where Pie hoped to direct the shot.
He had to make his move now. He had to shift quickly to the left, sweep in front of the goalie, and shoot.
He shifted his skates, pointing them to the left in front of the crease in the direction he wanted to go. Then something happened.
His feet had turned, and so had his skates. But not far enough. The combination of oversize skates and momentum made it impossible
for Pie to turn in time, and he went crashing into the goalie.
The whistle shrilled. Disgruntled, he disentangled himself from the goalie and crawled out of the crease. He wasn’t hurt,
but he couldn’t tell whether the goalie was. The face mask hid any sign that might be on the guy’s face.
But it didn’t hide the look in the guy’s eyes, the sparks of anger shooting from them.
“I’m sorry,” Pie said apologetically.
He saw the ref pointing at him and then at the penalty box. “Charging!” the man in the striped shirt announced.
And once again Pie had to serve a one-minute sentence.
“You had it made, man!” yelled Terry. “And you blew it!”
You would have blown it too if you were in my skates,
Pie wanted to tell him.
Again the Bears used a power play to take advantage of the six men against five on the ice, and again they scored.
Pie came back on the ice filled with the determination to get that score back, and he
managed to drive a shot that missed the net by inches. He could skate reasonably well forward, backward, and to the left and
right, and he wouldn’t commit a foul or lose his balance as long as he didn’t attempt any sudden turns. But Pie knew that
he had to make fast moves to score and that those sudden turns would always be his pitfall.
The two minutes were up, and Line 2 came in. Center Rusty Carr scored with an assist by left forward Bob Taylor at 9:17 on
the clock, then scored again unassisted. Penguins 4, Bears 4.
Line 3 failed to score but played excellent defense, keeping the Bears’ third line from flashing on a single red light.
Pie, back on the ice for the second two-minute session of the period, blew another chance of scoring when Terry passed him
the puck from the corner behind the Bears’ net. Pie stopped the pass with the blade of
his stick and started to dribble closer to the net, only to be bodychecked by a Bear and have the puck stolen from him.
“Pie!” Terry yelled. “Why didn’t you shoot?”
Pie’s face turned red. He realized now that he should have shot the instant he had received Terry’s pass.
I’m glad Dad isn’t here to see this!
Fifteen seconds later the Bears’ Ed Kadola scored with an assist by his right forward. Then a Penguin blasted one in from
the blue line to tie up the score, 5 to 5.
While the second line was on the ice, Terry said to Pie, “We’re going on the ice one more time. Hope you don’t do anything
to get yourself in the sin bin.”
“You think I
to get in there?” Pie snorted.
“Well — you
as if you do,” Terry answered, bluntly.
Neither Line 2 nor Line 3 could break the tie, and Line 1 returned to the ice for its last chance. Pie remembered Terry’s
curt warning and tried his best not to commit a foul. He realized, though, that being careful didn’t help either. Once, instead
of charging toward a Bear to intercept a puck, Pie slowed down and let the man receive the pellet without trouble. Maybe,
he thought—just maybe — the man might miss the puck.
He didn’t. He hooked it neatly with his stick, passed it to a teammate, and a score followed.
“Pie!” Terry shouted at him. “Why didn’t you stop him?”
Ignoring him, Pie skated to his position, sullen and dead tired.
Man, I just can’t do a thing right,
he thought dismally.
It was Line 2 that tied up the score again, and then Line 3 that broke it, winning the game for the Penguins 7 to 6.
They shouted joyously over their victory, and their fans cheered, too. Pie hoped that the win would make Terry forget how
he had performed today. But he was sure it wouldn’t. Even though Terry ignored him completely as they headed for the locker
room, Pie knew that Terry never forgot someone else’s mistakes — only his own.
Pie put on his shoes, slung the skates over his shoulder, and walked out to the snow-packed street. The bright sun dazzled
like a diamond through the bare trees. The frigid air nipped at his cheeks like sharp teeth.
Jody and Joliette Byrd sprang from behind a bush to surprise him and laughed when he jumped.
“You crazy kids,” he said. He remembered the strange comment they had made to him in the locker room immediately after the
first period of the hockey game, and asked, “What were you guys saying about a game?”
“Our toy hockey game!” Jody replied, getting on Pie’s left side while Joliette got on Pie’s right. They both were at least
a foot shorter than he, and it embarrassed him every time they greeted him this way. Some guys had kidded him about having
these little kids as friends.
But they had one thing in common with Pie which made him care less what anybody thought. It was their mutual interest in magic.
Since the twins had found an old book on magic in their attic and had let Pie read it, all three of them had become so interested
in the subject that they had purchased new books. Jody even said that he would become a magician when he grew up.
“And I’ll be his assistant,” Joliette had promised with that teeth-flashing smile of hers.
“What about the toy hockey game?” Pie asked curiously
“Well, Jolie and I played a game last night,” Jody explained. “We named the teams the Bears and the Penguins, and I had the
Penguins. I also named each of the players after each of the guys on the Penguins’ team.”
Jody looked at him seriously. “We played and my team won 7 to 6.”
“What a coincidence,” said Pie. “That was our score!”
“Right,” Jody said. “But that isn’t all. The guys who had scored on my team were the same ones who had scored on yours — it’s
ie stared, his mouth a small round o. He had read a lot about magic. There was the entertaining kind in which a magician pulled
doves out of his coat pockets or made a person disappear in a puff of smoke.
There were also magical spells which believers thought could make rain when crops were poor.
And there was black magic, too — in which believers thought they could hurt a victim by sticking darts into a doll that they
pretended was the victim.
But this thing with the toy hockey game
was different. This was a kind of magic Pie had never read about before.
“Are you sure that all that stuff in our game really happened in yours?” he asked the twins. “Really sure?”
“Of course, we’re sure,” Jody replied emphatically. “Remember that last period when that Bear scored against you?”
Pie nodded. “When I let him take the puck because I was afraid I might plow into him and be called for a penalty.”
“Right. Well, I had you do the same thing in our game,” said Jody. “Except that I was hoping that Jolie would miss it, and
I could take it from her.”
Pie stared. “That’s exactly what I had been thinking!” he cried.
The twins’ expression matched his. “You had?” they asked in the same breath.
“Yes!” said Pie, and felt his nerves tingling.
They reached the junction opposite the
gorge and turned right on Oak, none of them saying a word during the last one hundred feet. They were immersed in the toy
hockey game, which seemed to be controlled by some kind of magical power. It wasn’t like anything the three had ever read
about before in their lives.
“I’d like to see that game,” Pie said at last. “Mind?”
“Of course not. Why don’t you come over right after you change?”
“I will,” said Pie. “And look — don’t spill a single word about this to anybody. Not even your parents. Okay?”
Joliette laughed, “Are you kidding? They wouldn’t believe it anyway! Mom thinks all that magic business is just a trick!”
“And Dad doesn’t know
to believe!” Jody added, laughing.
Pie chuckled. “I guess our parents are very much alike,” he said. “My mom and
dad used to like magic when they were kids. Now they think it’s kid stuff and pay no attention to it.”
Pie arrived home and promised the twins he’d be over in an hour or so. They lived next door, which made their visiting each
other to talk about their mutual interest — books on magic — very convenient.
“Hi, Mom,” he said as he stepped into the kitchen. “What’ve you got to eat?”
Those were the first words he always greeted her with when he returned from a grueling hockey game. Nothing ever made him
hungrier than a tough game of hockey.
“Hash browns, eggs, and bacon,” she said, and asked, “Who won?”
“We did. 7 to 6.”
He hurried to his room, took off his uniform, showered, then dressed and returned to the kitchen. His meal was ready for him.
His mother watched him gulp it down. “Where’s the fire?” she asked.
He smiled. “At Jody and Jolie’s,” he answered kiddingly.
After he finished he went over to the Byrds’ house, and the twins invited him into the small recreation room in the basement
where the toy hockey game was set up on a table. It was about eighteen inches wide and thirty-six inches long. On it stood
four-inch-high plywood figures that were maneuvered by rods protruding from the narrow ends. Clearly the figures were hockey
players, each holding a hockey stick. Goals, made of cloth, were at both ends of the “rink.”
Pie stared at it. “It looks handmade,” he observed.
“It is,” Jody replied. “There’s a name carved on the side of it. Look.”
He lifted the game and saw a crudely
carved name: SKXROT. After it was a number, 1896.
“S-K-X-R-O-T,” Pie read. “That’s a peculiar name. 1896. That must be the date this thing was made.”
“Really? Was hockey played that many years ago?” Joliette asked, incredulously.
“Oh, sure,” Pie said. “It started —” He paused and stared at the date again. “That’s sure funny,” he said half to himself.
“What is?” Jody asked.
“I’ve got a copy of the
Official Hockey Guide,
and I’m sure I read that the first official ice hockey game was played in 1896!”
“Oh, man!” Jody whistled. “Weird!”
“I — I feel shivers crawling up my back,” Joliette stammered, clasping her hands so tightly together the knuckles turned white.
Pie took hold of the knobs of each rod protruding from the ends of the game and
began pushing them back and forth, thereby manipulating the players in the slots on the rink. A twist of the knobs one way
or the other turned the players, making them hit the miniature puck.
“It’s just like games you can buy in stores,” Pie remarked. “Except this one is real old.”
“You should’ve seen it when we found it,” Jody said. “It was covered with dust.”
An inch-high wooden wall surrounded the rink. There was a box in one corner where the score was kept. The only thing the rink
lacked was a red light like the one that flashed on in a real rink when a goal was scored.
“Look at this,” Jody said, handing Pie a rolled-up piece of paper that had yellowed with age. “It was wrapped around one of
the rods with a rubber band.”
Pie unrolled it and saw a neatly printed four-line paragraph.
To whom it may concern: This hockey game is endowed with magical powers.
Beware what happens on a real rink first
Repeats here not, for fate
Promises that, as true as bubbles burst,
The magic will dissipate.
Pie read the message again, then murmured, “Hmm. This is the strangest thing I ever saw.”
“Us, too,” said Joliette. “And it is magic. We proved it.”
“I wonder if anybody else has ever played it,” Pie said.
Jody shrugged. “I don’t know. It was stuck in a far corner of the attic. I wouldn’t be surprised if we were the first.”
“Could be,” said Pie. “Well, let’s play a game.”
They sat at opposite sides of the game and began to play. Pie had difficulty manipulating
his men as rapidly as Jody did, and after ten minutes of play Jody won, 5 to 1.
During all that time Pie looked for something strange about the toy hockey game, something that would prove to him that it
definitely had magical powers. But he saw nothing, and in spite of the message that the twins had found with the game, he
began to doubt its genuineness. If he weren’t so sure that the twins were sincere believers in magic, he’d think they were
pulling his leg.