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Authors: Ashley Stanton

Icing

BOOK: Icing
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Icing

 

By Ashley Stanton

Copyright © 2013

Kyle

Days working fast food for the summer were drawing to a close.  Kyle was now the manager of the taco outlet in his home town of Buffalo NY.  It was a spot to make some money before college and his role as manager would look good on applications.  He would be filling them out at college when seeking part-time work.   It was a decent spot with terra cotta walls and orange stools up against the tables.  The black and white tile floor was clean.  He knew this because he was the one who spruced things up around the place.

The menu was simple.  The service was from the counter only.  The Super Burrito was the house special.  It came with your choice of tortilla with beef or chicken.  It was joined by refried beans and a lot of gloppy cheese. Add-ons from veggies to guacamole could be thrown in too.  Patrons covered the mountainous feast with all sorts of tear inducing hot sauces.  A group of drunken guys would bet on who could tolerate the most heat. 

He worked the night shift.  It was busiest because after the bars closed the patrons were looking for a bite.  It was late because last call in Buffalo was 4 am. They swayed in and ordered more than they could eat and probably would not remember the next day.

“Closing up.  Register is closed and you guys have to hit the road so I can get out of here.”

“We’re going Kyle.  Have a good one man.” The words were slurred but friendly.  They never noticed the tip jar.

It was only a few bucks but needed to help out with tuition and spending money.  His parents both held full-time jobs and they worked hard.  His passion for the ice was a costly expense which they never complained about.  They always supported their son and he loved being at the rink.  They were up at 5 am on weekends to bring him to the club.  There was a game every Saturday or Sunday afternoon.  This was in addition to playing on the varsity high school team.

His parents dutifully drove him to practice and games.  The club was only a short drive away.  It was a country club of sorts for permanent members who enjoyed all of the little perks like the heated fancy clubhouse with views of the rinks.  They ate off a lavish menu and drank coffee and cocktails.  The Caldwell’s paid the non-membership price and gathered in the bleachers.  It was protected with a roof and walls but frigid.  Coffee from a thermos and foil covered sandwiches, usually bologna and cheese, kept their bellies full.

The rinks were shared by figure skaters.  Kyle noticed the young female variety.  Their costumes glittered and they danced around like butterflies.

The monthly fee at the club bought him ice time and an opportunity for league play.  It was the equipment that really depleted the Caldwell’s bank account. They were naïve when Kyle was younger and just starting out, but quickly realized there was more to it than just a stick and some skates.

It started with the bag which had to be roomy to carry all of the gear. This would set them back about $20 second hand.  If they were to spring for a new one they would be looking at double the price easily.  It was to their advantage that many youngsters would buy this stuff brand new and decide that hockey just wasn’t their sport.  In Buffalo, a city that loved its ice sports due to the cold weather and close proximity to Canada, they had a lot of second hand equipment for sale.  Rummage sales and thrift stores were the place to shop for cost conscious Mrs. Caldwell.

Next came the stick which started out wooden and had arrived at some composite version.  Kyle spent many hours over the hot stove heating the blade of the stick to form it into a customized shape.  The house was never burned down.  It only smelled a little and it worked.  He had to have a couple of these which came to about $200 or more.  The cash registers in the Caldwell’s brains chimed when they heard one snap during play.  You can’t play without a stick so it just added to the tally.

Kyle had to be safe so there was a lot of gear to buy.  He had endured years of dental work and braces which necessitated a mouth guard.  This was not always successful as illustrated by the toothless grins flashed by the pros. It was another $20.  Shoulder pads, shin guards, gloves and elbow pads added a couple of hundred bucks. Call it what you want, supporter, jock, shock absorber or cup, it matters.  Mrs. Caldwell could pick one up online for less than $20.  After all, she hoped Kyle would present her with grandchildren someday.  It was worth the cost.  

Skates were an investment which ranged between two a
nd five hundred bucks.  The book would last a while but Kyle was always sharpening and replacing the blades.  He usually brought them into the local sharpener who would also stretch the boots if necessary.  He usually took care of this himself at home with a sharpening stone received in his Christmas stocking.  These were high performance vehicles, built for speed and performance like a race car.  He treated them as such.

Despite all of the safety equipment injuries occurred.  Thanks to Dad’s insurance through work it was mostly taken care of.  It was Kyle’s chin that saw the most injuries.  He had been to the hospital three times to stitch it together.  The doctor’s pulled his parents aside after the third mishap to question them about possible child abuse.

Finally, to finish the out- fit he would need Hockey pants and a couple of workout jerseys. Finally came team jerseys that were special ordered to announce his name – CALDWELL.  This cost more money, but at this point it mattered little.

Then there were the little things like pucks and tape.  An item paid for with money Kyle put aside for such extras.  His wage was about $12/hour so it was manageable.  He usually bought this stuff by the case.  Cheaper that way.

****

Home in Buffalo, NY was only a couple of blocks away on a tree lined street.  The trees were less than in
the days before as they had been chopped down due to Dutch elm disease.  It was a quiet time for Kyle.  He was alone to dream of his days ahead of him at college, pretty girls, and hockey.  Always hockey.

“Hey!” He would greet the occasional neighbor as he made his way home.

“Hey Kyle.  Good night at work?” Say hi to your folks and you take care.”  It was short and sweet.  Neighborly.

“Good, thanks.  Just glad it’s over and I can get some sleep.  Aye know how it goes.” He quickly spoke without interrupting his pace.

Kyle was liked by neighbors, teachers, coaches and peers.  He was well spoken and displayed manners his Dad had taught him by example.  Mr. Caldwell respected people and saved the best for his wife. It was how Kyle learned to treat women and they noticed it!

He was a good looking kid.  Not over manicured.  It announced that he was just too busy for that stuff.  His hair was dark brown almost black.  He had grown it to his shoulders a couple of times but it was usually kept close and worry free.  His complexion was clear and showed a couple of freckles when the sun shined.  He was always a little rosy.  Looking like he had just run a mile or two.  Brown eyes like mud puddles were always shining and clear.

He stood about 6’ 1”.  His father was a tall man, about two inches taller than Kyle and his Mom was a petite 5’3”.  Of course his athleticism showed.  He was built solid with a wasp waist.  He had nice legs that popped with muscles developed as he endured countless training drills on the ice.  He had big feet which were usually covered with a pair of sneakers.  Kyle dressed casual but always fit in with his attire.  He didn’t care much about it.  It was cute in a way.

Buffalo was a great city to be a kid in, but Kyle often heard it was best to escape before adulthood kicked in.  He loved it.  They had the Sabres, good food, four seasons and the Peace Bridge leading to Canada.  There were snow days off from school and that was his city.  His parents lived there.  He continued his walk down Admiral Road.

He arrived home.  Door unlocked, as it always was.  He was quiet as he carefully walked the stairs to his room.  His mother said she was never in a deep sleep until Kyle and his three siblings were safely home.  He was surely the final Caldwell in.  His Mom could snooze peacefully.

The house was a three story brick structure.  He bunked with his older brother Keith who was away at college so he had the third floor bedroom to himself.  His sisters Bree and Juliet were in their own rooms below.  His parents tucked away in the master.  It was the only home he had ever known.  It was comfortable and testament to the hard work of his middle-class family.

“Good morning sweetie.” Mrs. Caldwell gently nudged her son as he sat sleepy eyed at the breakfast table.  It was one of his favorite places to be, tucked away in a nook.

“Hey mom.  Is Dad home with something to eat yet?  I’m starved and I’m meeting the guys outside of school at about noon.  We’re going to Mark’s for the day to play some hoops and stuff. Sound O.K.?   She just smiled.

They waited for Mr. Caldwell who went to church early on Sunday mornings.  He always brought home bagels or doughnuts.  The table was set and the kitchen spotless as though a fairy Came in and waved her magic wand.  Mom never asked nor received thanks.  She didn’t mind.  The sisters would file in as they woke and together they would sip freshly defrosted O.J. while they waited.  Sundays in the summer were free and easy days. The kids slept in and planned the day themselves.  The lawn had been mowed and rooms clean enough so it was their day to enjoy.  To be kids.

“How is Janey?  Is she gonna be at Marks house?  She’s so hot for you.  You guys should just get on with it.”

Kyle ignored the comment from Juliet.  She was a year his junior and seemed to know too much.  He loved his sister but hated the gossipy nature of girls her age. O.K., he was a little embarrassed too.  He was private in this way.

Dad came in with his tie loosened and doughnuts in hand.  “Good morning champ.  Got you a couple of maple bars.  Be sure to have a couple.  What’s in store for the day? I’m going to trim the bushes if anyone wants to join me.”

He had no takers.  The front bushes were his job about twice a year.  He loved the electric clippers.  Perhaps too much as displayed by the results.  Mrs. Caldwell would complain but forgot about it quickly and the bushes would fill in.

“Thanks for the doughnuts Dad.  I’ve gotta bounce if I’m gonna meet the guys.  Love you both!”

Kyle was on his road bike and off to school.  It was about two miles away.  A good ride to brush off the cobwebs.

“Yo Kyle” Mark and the rest of the crew were waiting by the field behind the school.

“Am I late?  Just finished breakfast.  Sunday thing – you know.  My parents love tradition especially since I’m leaving soon.  Not long before I’m free!

“All girls with their own rooms – no parents. It’s gonna be amazing.”  Mark added back.

Sure Kyle loved home and his family but craved the freedom awaiting him in a small college town.  For today his focus was on Mark’s fun yard with a concrete slab and a hoop to play some ball.  The girls would come along too, Janey in particular.

“You made it Kyle!” Janey was already there with her sinewy body and brown hair. 

She was cute and a fun girl to be around.  He would make sure this wouldn’t be a long affair or a long distance one.  School was awaiting with all it would entail.  Fun was the order of the day and he would make the most of the long summer days as they slipped into fall.

This was how it was with Kyle.  Flirting was natural and he was well sought after but avoided a serious entanglement. Wasn’t it something you felt the moment you laid eyes on the “right one”?  He had yet to feel it.  Maybe someday.

****

 

Kyle was a good student.  He did not get straight A’s but was comfortably in the “B” range.  Respectable in light of his hockey commitments.  His parents supported his athletic pursuits but made in clear that there was life after hockey.  It was a longshot he would make it professionally and the threat of injury was ever-present.  Business presented itself as a good back-up.  He was good with numbers and liked it over words.  It was a worthy career path to follow.

His applications looked great.  He had worked since he turned 16 and his time was filled with other extra-curricula’s and volunteer work.  His parents knew this would come in handy someday so they directed him.  It was valuable to be well rounded. He was in choir his freshman year in high- school and had a bit part in the annual musical.  It only lasted for a year though, as hockey took up too much time.  He always liked it.  A beautiful voice was very calming to him.

He had choices to make based on a school with a good business program and hockey as well.  He preferred division I for the latter.  It had to be away from home, at least a couple of hours by car.  The town had to feel right.  He would know it.  He would get some scholarship money from hockey but no full ride.  His parents made just a bit too much money with their two incomes to qualify for federal aid, so price was a part of the decision making process.

Kyle and his Dad made car trips throughout the Northeast and the Midwest.  They hit about 15 campuses and shared easy banter as they travelled, sometimes lost.  They ate a lot of food that was not served at home.  Mrs. Caldwell packed lunches but they were quickly consumed.  They tired of grease laden curly fries and hotdogs.   There was one really good candy shop along the way and they got a sack full of goodies. 

The campuses were of a mind numbing variety.  The visits were educations.  Some were liberal in nature and even provided a dormitory dedicated to those choosing a vegetarian lifestyle.  The tour guide wore his hair on the longish side and smelled of Patchouli.  Perhaps he missed his shower that morning.  Some Universities were located in big cities.  Kyle was street savvy but he wasn’t quite ready to make this sort of jump.  Safety was an issue although he liked the idea of living in a big city.  Perhaps play on an NHL team in a major market.  Again, maybe someday.  

BOOK: Icing
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