Authors: Matt Christopher
Pie’s jaws slackened. He had come over with hopes of playing with their toy hockey game.
“I suppose you guys won’t have time to play a game of hockey since you have those posters to work on,” he said.
“Oh, yes, we have!” Joliette cried, dropping her pencil. “These don’t have to be in till next Thursday!”
Pie looked at her, then at Jody. He hadn’t particularly considered her as his opponent. He had considered Jody.
“Well, ah …” he stammered, embarrassed. “Only two can play the game at the same time. Why don’t you work on your poster, Jolie,
while Jody and I play?”
Grudgingly, she agreed. “Okay. I understand perfectly. I’m a girl, and you prefer playing with a boy. It’s perfectly logical
— to a boy, I guess.”
She took up her pencil again and continued to work on the poster, showing only the least bit of disappointment.
Pie laughed. “You can play the winner,” he said.
He and Jody went over to the table where the hockey game was set up, selected their sides, and started to play. An old clock
on a shelf beside them served as a timer.
“Three periods, twelve minutes each,” Pie said. “Just like a real game.”
They started to play. Within three minutes Jody scored a goal. Pie tied it up, and the game continued with each scoring twice
before the period was over.
“Have you picked out yourself in the game?” Jody asked.
“That right wingman,” Pie pointed. “I think he’s doing better than I could, though.” He paused, then said seriously, “Jody,
do you really think I’ll be playing like he is at our game next Saturday?”
“No,” Jody said. “I think this game works
only when we play it the day before the real game. That’s the way it’s been working out anyway.”
“Then playing now doesn’t mean anything?”
“I don’t think so. But I’m not really sure, Pie. We can only wait and see.”
“Well, if it does, playing this game might help me,” Pie said, thoughtfully. “If it doesn’t, at least we’ve had a lot of fun.”
“How can it help you?” Jody asked.
“I’m slow on the ice,” Pie confessed, then chuckled. “Haven’t you heard Terry Mason? He broadcasts it like a radio announcer.”
“Yes, I heard him.” Jody scowled. “He gives me a pain.”
Pie shrugged. “He’s right in a lot of ways, though. I am slow, but it’s not all my fault. It’s my skates. They’re too big.
They used to belong to my brother, Pat.”
He didn’t mind confiding that information to Jody. Jody wouldn’t tell a soul.
Suddenly he saw a movement from the corner of his left eye. He turned abruptly and looked at the window above the shelf where
the clock stood. The curtains were partly drawn, letting in daylight.
A face was there, and a pair of large, inquisitive eyes was staring down at them.
uickly the face disappeared, but not before Pie had recognized it. He looked wide-eyed at Jody
“Did you see who that was?”
“Yes. Terry Mason.” Angrily Jody ran over to the curtains and snapped them shut. “Man, he’s got nerve.”
“Wonder if he heard us talking.”
“Probably. Did you see that grin on his face? He seemed to be getting a kick out of what he heard.”
They finished the game, Pie winning by
two goals. He took a five-minute breather before squaring off against Joliette.
He beat her by one point.
“You’re almost better than Jody,” he said frankly.
She shrugged. “Even though we’re twins,” she said, “I firmly believe that I’m inclined to be more athletic than he is.”
“Oh, sure,” Jody said.
Pie thanked them for letting him play and then left. He saw Terry outside, packing snowballs and throwing them at a tree.
Clinging close to his feet was his faithful cat, Tipper.
“Hi, Pie,” Terry greeted, grinning. “Quite a hockey game the twins have, isn’t it?”
Pie frowned. How much did Terry hear, anyway?
“What do you mean?”
“Well, it’s magic, isn’t it? Each player on
your team represents one of us on the Penguins. Right?”
Pie let a smile curve his lips.
The best way to handle Terry Mason,
is to agree with him.
“If you say so,” he said.
“How many goals did you score? I mean
— not the whole team.”
“Two,” Pie answered.
Terry scooped up a handful of snow, packed it into a firm ball, and pegged it at the tree again.
Right in the middle of its trunk.
“And you think that game will be just like the game we’re playing Saturday?”
Terry looked at him. “I thought that’s what you guys said.”
“You stuck your nose close enough to the window, but not your ears,” Pie declared.
it’ll be like the game Saturday. We’re not sure.”
Terry’s ears reddened as Pie, a wide grin on his face, headed for home. Let the smarty-pants believe what he wants to. He’ll
probably get so confused he won’t know whether or not to believe that the twins’ hockey game is really magic.
During the rest of the week he wondered, too, if the real game on Saturday morning would turn out to be like the one he had
played with Jody. It hardly seemed likely. The last two real games were like the ones the twins had played on their toy game
the Friday nights before the actual matches. It would seem that the pattern would remain the same.
On Friday afternoon, just after he had arrived home from school, there was a knock on the door. Pie answered it. It was Jody
Byrd, looking as excited as if he had just seen a flying saucer.
“Hi, Pie! Coming over for a game of hockey?”
Pie considered. “I don’t think I will, Jody,” he confessed. “It might be like our game tomorrow, and I don’t think I’d like
to know beforehand how it goes. You know.”
“Oh, okay. Anyway, Jolie and I have our posters done, and we made a discovery.”
Pie’s eyebrows arched. “What discovery?”
“We figured out what S-K-X-R-O-T really is,” Jody said proudly. “Remember Merlin the magician in the story of King Arthur?”
Pie’s forehead knitted. “Yes.”
“Well, in the alphabet, six letters to the right of each letter in Merlin’s name spells S-K-X-R-0-T!”
Pie stared. “How’d you discover that?”
“By experimenting,” Jody explained. “Jolie helped me, of course. We figured it must be
a code, so we wrote the alphabet on two separate sheets of paper, then put one under the other, passing it along underneath
each letter to see if S-K-X-R-O-T would spell out a word we were familiar with. Sure enough it came up with Merlin. And both
of us have read about him in the King Arthur books.”
“Then Merlin the magician must Ve been a real person,” said Pie, feeling goosebumps on his arms.
“Must’ve,” said Jody. “Well, see you tomorrow, Pie.”
Jody left, and Pie was in the act of closing the door when he spotted a familiar figure across the street.
seems to be around a lot lately when you least expect him.
And Pie saw as he looked harder that the confused look was still on Terry’s face, too.
He smiled as he closed the door.
The game at 9:00 on Saturday morning
was against the Seals, a team wearing blue uniforms with white trim. As he skated around the ice to warm up for the game,
Pie looked at the stands for the familiar faces of the twins. He saw them finally, waved, and they waved back.
Wonder how their game turned out?
And I wonder how I played?
He pushed the thoughts out of his mind as a skater whisked past him, spun halfway around, and skated backward, facing him.
Their eyes met and held. This time not even a flicker of a smile spoiled the waxlike features of Terry’s face.
Near the corner of the rink Terry spun halfway around again and continued skating frontward.
He doesn’t believe in magic, so he doesn’t know what to think about me, the twins, or their toy hockey game.
Now that I’ve got him guessing maybe
he’ll lay off me,
But I’d better not count on it.
Face-off time rolled around, and the first lines of both teams got in position on the ice. Terry centered against Corky Jones,
a boy shorter than Terry, but muscular and fast.
The whistle shrilled, the puck was dropped, and the centers’ sticks clattered against the ice for possession of the puck.
The rubber disk took a severe battering, then skittered across the ice into Penguin territory. Bud Rooney hooked it with the
blade of his stick, whisked around, and started back up the ice. Pie, moving slowly in the neutral zone toward his own blue
line, waited for the puck to cross into Seal territory.
Challenged by a Seal who came upon him suddenly from behind, Bud snapped the puck. Pie sprinted across the blue line in an
effort to get in front of it, and
the whistle pulled him up short.
“You were offside, Pennelli!” Terry yelled.
Pie blushed. That was stupid, he admitted. He had misjudged the speed of the puck and had caused a violation by crossing the
blue line before the puck had.
The face-off was at the Penguin end of the rink between Frog and a Seal wingman. The Seal got control of the puck, passed
it to another Seal, who caught it and bolted for the Penguin net. Pie lunged forward, sprinting as hard as he could to get
between the goal and the oncoming Seal.
Suddenly his left skate twisted and his ankle gave way, throwing him off balance. He fell, skidded on the ice, and a player
in a black uniform toppled over him.
A storming “You idiot!” identified the skater. It was Terry.
Terry clambered to his feet, his eyes blazing
hot. Behind him a cry of jubilation had exploded, and Pie could see sticks rising in the air like spears as the Seals celebrated
their first goal.
“I’m sorry,” Pie apologized. “My ankle gave way.”
“Your ankle!” Terry scoffed. “You know what’s the matter with you? You haven’t learned how to keep your balance yet, and you’re
trying to cut corners going eighty miles an hour! Well, you can’t do that, Pie! You have to learn to keep your balance first!”
“C’mon, you guys!” yelled Coach Hayes. “Off the ice!”
Line 1 skated off, and Line 2 skated on. Pie, tired and sweaty, avoided the coach’s eyes as he climbed over the wall and sat
Terry had no business talking to me like that,
Not on the ice in front of all that crowd. Not anywhere.
One of these days I’m going to surprise him,
Pie promised himself.
I’ll break every one of his teeth.
The fault was in his skates, of course.
But if I told that to Terry,
he’d laugh and say that that excuse was worse than none.
He watched Line 2 and then Line 3 do their stuff, and helped in the cheering when Butch Morrison, Line 3’s center for the
Penguins, knocked in a goal to knot the score.
Back on the ice went Line 1, and this time Pie tried his best not to cut corners sharply and risk a spill. But after a while
he realized that he might as well have stayed off the ice as stick rigidly to that rule. Playing hockey
skating as fast as you could, stopping as quickly as you could, and cutting corners as sharply as possible. There was no
other way to play the game and play it well. Fall or not, that was the way he was going to play it.
Terry, he told himself, could lump it.
An offside violation was called on Chuck Billings. And on the face-off in neutral territory Bud got the pass and shot it to
Terry. Terry dribbled the puck up the ice, across the blue line, and into Seals’ territory. He was suddenly trapped by two
Seals who came swooping down at him from different directions.
He tried to pass the puck between them to Bud Rooney, but one of the Seals stopped it with his skate. The puck skidded to
the side, and Pie, speeding down the ice near the boards, cut in and snared it. Pulling the puck safely toward him, he put
on a burst of speed and carried it down the ice toward the Seals’ goal.
From ten feet away he shot.
“Why didn’t you pass it, Pie?” Bud Rooney cried.
There, on the other side of the crease, Pie saw the wingman in the open.
Pie skated around the back of the net, coming up behind Bud. “Sorry, Bud,” he said.
“Sure,” Bud grumbled.
“Come on, you guys! Move! Move!” yelled Coach Hayes.
Too late, both Pie and Bud saw the fast breakaway the Seals had made. Two of them had the puck up the ice, and the only Penguin
on their tails was Terry Mason.
A quick pass to the wingman on the left, then a pass back to the wingman on the right. Then —
Pie slowed down as he reached the net, and as the center made a sharp turn in front of the crease and skated up to him, Pie
found himself face to face with Terry.
“If you want to rest why don’t you get off
the ice?” Terry growled. “Those guys had the puck halfway up the ice while you were still yakking with Bud.”
“I just told him that I was sorry I didn’t pass to him,” said Pie. “What’s wrong with that?”
Thirty seconds later a Seal stole the puck from Pie, sped alone down the ice, and belted it past Ed Courtney’s left shoulder
for a goal.
Pie looked on, stunned.
ff the ice!” yelled the coach. “Pronto!”
Pie sprinted off, pulled up sharply near the boards, and stepped over the wall. As the other members of Line 1 skated off
the ice, Line 2 scrambled on.
“That Seal surprise you, Pie?” Coach Hayes asked.
Pie, his chest heaving with each inhaled breath, nodded. He expected a lecture from the coach about the play, but Coach Hayes
said nothing more.
There was nothing to say, anyway,
The Seal just stole that puck from me and took off. That’s all there was to it. The guy was just lucky he had open ice ahead
of him. A thing like that doesn’t happen often.