Read There's a Shark in My Hockey Pool Online

Authors: Dave Belisle

Tags: #comedy, #hockey, #humour, #sports comedy, #hockey pool

There's a Shark in My Hockey Pool (3 page)

BOOK: There's a Shark in My Hockey Pool
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Realizing his constricted breathing and the
white-knuckled grip he had on the rolled-up Hockey Bible were
related, Derek relaxed and slowly unfurled the sports tabloid. He
spread it out on the desktop. Reaching over to the stack of
magazines, he snatched one off the top, quickly rolled it up and
winged it across the room. The pages of Adverse Advertising flapped
with a crisp ripple before their free flight crashed against the
far wall. Artie shuffled nervously from one leg to the other in the
doorway, hoping this was only a one-trade-mag tirade.

"I'll move onto the good news?"

"It's gotta be great at this point."

"Cooper is letting our rent slide this
month."

"Hallelujah," Derek said. "Uh-oh. That means
I'd better take him to the Leafs game Wednesday."

Season tickets to the Leafs was a bargaining
chip that came in handy when wooing prospective clients. The past
few years however, they had been more effective keeping the wolf,
building manager, Nelson Cooper, from the door.

"Don't mind, do ya?"

"Go, Leafs, go," Artie said with a shrug of
the shoulders.

Artie returned to his desk in the outer
office area. Derek eased back in his chair with a worried look. He
gazed at the Niemann-like print. A nondescript Montreal Canadien
was hooking a similarly nameless Maple Leaf from behind. The artist
had captured the fire-wagon flare with each brush stroke of the
Canadien player garbed in the Club de Hockey bleu, blanc et rouge.
Meanwhile, the Maple Leaf's pristine white with navy blue trim home
sweater was the rest of the country's flag, caught in a gale and
sure to blow away from the not-quite flying frenchman at any
second. The colors splashed into each other. The figures were
recognizable ... yet strangely foreign.

Here he was, a hockey player, in advertising.
Players hope their careers have been eye-catching enough to garner
lucrative marketing endorsements. Marcotte found himself at the
other end of the spectrum. With little or no name recognition, he
couldn't go straight to the marquee. Instead, he had to hang out
his shingle like every other advertising schlep.

At least he had Artie. Thank God for that.
Artie had seen the cracks, but had decided to ride out the storm
with Derek. A big black Vancouver rain cloud continued hanging over
their office.

Derek returned home each night ... to Helen.
Quiet, unassuming ... she'd gone beneath the surface repair, behind
the drywall, and nursed him back to health with her plastering
care. Helen's bedside manner had quickly enveloped the other rooms
of the house. He reminded himself almost daily she was a blessing
in disguise. But what exactly was she when the mask came off? When
convenience begged compassion? After eight years, her mind still
had many unprobed lobes for him. Marriage, children, RRSP's ...
these were all conversational items that the magic of common law
simply swept under the carpet.

Their relationship was rife with renovations.
Your basic fixer-upper. She got him to where he was going, safe and
sound, watered and fed. For good or bad, he was stuck with the
stucco queen.

The psychological ramifications hit home
harder every day. At work and at home, Derek Marcotte at 32, was
restoring his own Sistine Chapel while standing on his head. All
the more laborious ... when working with chapstick.

 

... 2 ...

A pair of boys wristed a sponge rubber hockey
puck back and forth along the quiet street in front of the
fifteen-story, post-war building. One boy aimed for the parked
two-door Shove-Pet beside the other boy, some fifty yards distant.
The other boy returned fire upon a Pontiaque LeMensa to the right
of the first boy. In this game of "park the puck", the first one to
hit their target three times would win. Adults peeking out of
windows never watched the game long enough to realize their
vehicles were under siege.

Inside apartment #714, the Leafs fluttered
across the TV screen. The room's homey decor was modest,
contemporary and embossed with a woman's touch. A model spitfire
waited for clearance to take-off from atop a bookcase. The bookcase
contained several history books that were outnumbered by text after
text of medical information. A pompous bust of Winston Churchill
made for an indignant bookend. Derek leaned forward in the
Lazy-boy, wolfing down his meal. Helen entered the room with a
glass of milk and placed it on the coffee table in front of him.
Her actions were mechanical. Like clockwork, she still blocked his
view of the TV during instant replays.

"Thanks."

"Can I get you anything else?"

"How 'bout a coupla goals for the Leafs?"

Helen paused to watch the action. She'd lived
with Derek for nearly a decade and was still never sure when he was
being serious or sarcastic. She treaded water in these situations,
waiting for some life-saving cord of reality to be thrown her way.
There was none coming. Derek spoke a different tongue when a hockey
game was on. His dialogue was fired out in short, staccato
syllables ... so as not to step on the announcer's
play-by-play.

The problem was that she was never sure which
team Toronto was. Sometimes they wore blue, sometimes white. But
the other team often wore white as well.

"What's the score?" she asked finally.

"4-2, Hartford."

Her brow furrowed at this trivial
revelation.

"Hartford has a team?"

"Yeah, the Whalers. They're named after a
bunch of anti-Greenpeacers."

Derek didn't see Helen frown. He was
engrossed in a fight that had broken out. The Leaf and Whaler
exchanged haymakers as they twirled in circles. Half of the blows
glanced off helmets while the others missed wildly. The fans'
cheering turned to boos, signalling the fight was over. The
linesmen ushered the two combatants to the penalty box. With one
arm clutching their respective assailants, the officials used the
other to slick back their mussed hair. They tucked their zebra
sweaters neatly back into place. Their eyes danced with worry.

"Those poor animals," Helen said.

"What? The whales or the two guys duking it
out?"

"Both."

She sat down on the sofa and pulled a
Thimble-Ware magazine from the nearby rack. Derek watched her
carefully. She had a way of capsulizing a situation, while standing
aloof with little or no interest. Helen wasn't a true hockey fan
like the hard-boiled, hot stove league cookie. The sport was
entertainment caught in bed with business, with everybody wondering
what the next week, month or year would bring. To her it would
always be just a game. But she tried. She made the effort, and it
was times like these, he admired her. When was the last time he'd
taken her out? He thought hard.

She returned his gaze. Caught spying, he
grinned sheepishly.

"What?" she asked, knowing full well.

His smile echoed hers and he quickly turned
his attention back to the game, before he started something he
couldn't finish. He wanted to watch the rest of the game.

 

... 3 ...

 

Artie sat at his desk, going through the
mail. Derek stood nearby in front of a filing cabinet, looking
through a folder.

"Hey. Lookee here," Artie said.

"Whatcha got?"

"An R.F.P. from Quick Pucks."

"No shit."

Quick Pucks was the legalized gambling
venture set up by the federal government for Ontario hockey fans.
Derek closed the folder and tossed it on top of the filing cabinet.
It joined a heap of several others. He came closer and looked over
Artie's shoulder.

"Those guys have the best scam in town. Where
else can you sit on the edge of your seat for only a buck?"

"The deadline for presentations is next
week," Artie said. He poured over the information quickly, checking
both sides of the paper, looking for helpful hints the client
sometimes left hidden between the lines.

Derek turned and walked slowly away from the
desk, his right hand massaging his chin.

"Y'know Artie. I've been thinking that maybe
May-Ja-Look has been going about this the wrong way."

"Oh?"

Artie was standing still but his brain was
back-pedaling like crazy. Whenever Derek started talking about the
company in the third person, there were usually grandiose visions
afoot.

Marcotte began the return trip on his pacing
oval. He pounded his fist into his palm.

"Shit, yeah. Eight years and this company is
still scraping by. I think it's time for a change."

"Uh ... what kind of change did you have in
mind?"

"Personnel, of course."

"But I thought ... what we had ... was good
enough." Artie spoke haltingly. He double-checked his desk to make
sure it was clean. But it always was. Folders were stacked neatly
to one side. All pens and pencils were accounted for in a Leafs
mug, ink and lead down. No paper clips had escaped their magnetic
holder. He reached across the desk to align the stapler with the
edge of the computer.

Derek gripped the edge of Artie's desk with
both hands and leaned forward into Artie's face. Artie looked at
Derek's hands. The knuckles were whitening and Artie suddenly
pictured Derek's hands wrapped around his neck instead of the hard
oak.

"What we had ... we still have ... and it's
not getting the job done."

"But ... but ..." Artie stammered, searching
for a straw, any straw to grasp. But he was back-pedaling without a
rear view mirror.

"It's always been the two of us. You, me ..
and May-Ja-Look. Well, not any more."

Artie stood up to escape the interrogating
stare of Derek. Now he was out of pit row and into the pacing oval
... with serious engine problems. He felt like he'd been kicked in
the balls. One lap and the yellow flag was already out in the
Magnesia Malt 500.

"Gee, I always thought I was pulling my
weight. I never said I was a marketing maven. I ... I've been
meaning to learn another software package."

"Mass produced ideas are not going to get us
off the beaten track," Derek said. We've got to make a clean break.
A fresh start, a new beginning. Let's not be generic. Let's think
genesis."

Artie pulled off to the side of the office.
He was a wreck. You think you know somebody for nine years ... and
they toss you aside like a hubcap after a blowout.

"I wish we could have talked about this."

"We are." Derek waited with his hands on his
hips.

"Well ... you sound like you've already made
up your mind." Artie almost snapped the words at Derek. He looked
around desperately. Where was that tow truck?

"As a matter of fact ..." Derek said.

"I didn't see this coming," Artie
interrupted. "All I've wanted is what's best for the firm."

"And that's precisely what adding a member
will do for us. Make us better."

"Adding?" Artie looked for a chair. The candy
apple-red antacid tow truck had arrived and was hauling the ton of
twisted steel tension off his back.

"Hey. On our budget we can't exactly
multiply. But if we get this contract we'll be on easy street."

Artie settled back in his seat. His mouth was
dry but his armpits were drenched. He mopped his furrowed brow. It
was no longer a mogul run for beads of perspiration. His pull-over
sweater and casual slacks no longer felt like they were made of
asbestos. He felt good, if he didn't look it.

"Uh, yeah ... sure. Sounds great."

"We'll get ourselves a consultant who can
make our marketing magic really jump out of the hat," Derek said.
He stopped and slowly looked Artie up and down.

"Are you feeling okay? You look like
shit."

"It's 11:00 and I haven't had my coffee yet.
Any particular agency you had in mind?"

"This looks like a job for Bellwether."

 

... 4 ...

 

The red metal flag waved goodbye to Sylvie
Desjardins as she released the parking meter's knob after
depositing a looney. An attractive woman of 29 with nary a worry of
30, she glanced back at her white LeMazze 2X-OOH sports car before
stealing a quick look each way down Sheppard. It looked safe
enough. There were no car thieves hiding behind mailboxes or
peeking out from alleyways. But there were no good Samaritans
waving back either, motioning her to go on about her business, that
they'd keep an eye on her car.

Toronto was still new to Sylvie. She was wise
to the red flags of big city life however, since she'd been old
enough to apply rouge. Sylvie was from Montreal. Her father owned a
chain of restaurants there and was also a minor share-holder with
Mulesin breweries. She'd been well fed and the beer money meant
private schools and all the perks. Choosing a career in marketing
had thrilled her father ... until she told him she wanted to see
more of the country. That was yesterday. She wondered if her dad
had eaten yet ... after drinking something stronger than Mulesin
Dry.

Sylvie looked up at the short, squat building
and slung her handbag over her shoulder. She took a deep breath,
walked up the steps and pulled the door open.

 

... 5 ...

 

Massaging his temple with one hand, Derek
poured over Sylvie's resume. She sat in a chair across the desk
from him, trading glances out the window with an occasional peek at
him. Crossing her legs, Sylvie checked the hem line of her skirt.
She recalled a freshman course in business school that had dabbled
in body language. It preached a knee-high location favorably
blended professionalism with friendship. She could never remember
if it was while standing or sitting. Her calves would convince the
confused.

Derek looked up from the resume.

"I need someone who is quick on their feet.
Capable of sure-fire proposals. Someone who thinks with their hands
... while they talk with them."

BOOK: There's a Shark in My Hockey Pool
2.82Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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