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 (5 page)

BOOK: There's a Shark in My Hockey Pool
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Derek's left leg twitched. His toes wiggled,
trying to calm his suddenly wide awake knee. But like any arthritic
joint signalling a change in the weather, it was busy battening
down the hatches. Marcotte's knee would have taken a break however
-- pain notwithstanding -- for one swift, solid, soccer-style kick
in Erskine's pants. Derek would have to unclench his teeth to
speak, lest the Herculean hothead see how his latest dig had set
off an avalanche of angry, red, raw nerves.

"When do we meet with Muldowney?"

"Tomorrow at noon ... at Grizzlies."

Derek hung up the phone. He threw the dartgun
at the bull's eye, shattering it against Erskine's glib and glossy
paper face.

 

... 9 ...

 

Grizzlies was a dream come true for
hibernating hackers. The owner of the Grizzly Bear's Indoor Golf
Course was a Jack Nicklaus fanatic. He'd stopped just short
however, of infringing on Nicklaus' more popular trademarked
moniker, Golden Bear. He did have a shooter bearing that name
however, in the bar above the basement-bound golf course.

Marcotte stood off to the side, his back to
the protective curtain separating the ever-changing, photographic
fairway from the rest of the layout at Grizzlies. A video projector
overhead flashed the sand traps and water hazards of a remote
Waikiki 18-hole course on the screen facing Bradley Muldowney. The
Quick Pucks boss squinted at the lava- scourged mountain slope to
the right of the fairway.

Derek couldn't help smirking. This wasn't
golf. The time spent walking between shots, mentally preparing for
the next swing, was gone. The green -- however undulating it was --
was tamed by the same putt at the end of each hole ... on a
four-foot by 15-foot scrap of bright green artificial turf. The
putt could be made with a pool cue.

The predicament facing Muldowney was a dogleg
right hole -- well-stocked with sand traps. A squirrel darted along
the side of the fairway. Derek wondered if the computer software
took into account the beaning of the little critter. Muldowney
reared back like a fisherman losing his balance while standing in a
boat. The one wood smacked the ball off the large projection
screen. The real ball fell to the ground, bouncing meekly, while
it's video-enhanced twin soared into a cumulonimbus cyberspace. The
ball bounded along the right side of the fairway before coming to a
stop. Eliminated were the nasty, grassy lies, cart paths and
puddles that Derek's drives always seemed to find. The squirrel was
gone too. He'd long since concluded the golf balls were not
gargantuan vanilla acorns.

"Hook! Hook! Fore!"

Muldowney looked around and winked. Derek and
Erskine stood a few feet apart, two club lengths behind
Muldowney.

"Heh, heh ... force of habit."

He put the head cover back on the club.
Another force of habit, Derek thought. The clubs weren't going
anywhere.

"I wanted both of you," said Muldowney, "...
and now I can only have one? What's to stop me from calling up my
third choice ... Manderville?"

"Well, now," said Victor. "Our hockey game
will show you just how determined we are to work for Quick
Pucks."

"Just 'cause I'm playin' like shit doesn't
mean you have to keep feedin' it to me."

"Seriously, Bradley," said Victor. "A game
would make a superb marketing tool. Great exposure for Quick Pucks.
We'd look after all the details, of course."

Muldowney paused to look over his clubs. He
selected a seven iron and bent over to tee up the ball. He wiggled
into his stance. The green on the screen was 140 yards distant with
the pin placement on the far left. Brilliant sunshine splashed the
course. A light left-to-right breeze unfurled the red flag marking
the hole. It waved at them, mocking them of their own crude
subterranean surroundings.

"You can swing your side of the deal, Derek?"
Muldowney asked.

Derek nodded.

"Y'know ... as a crown corporation, I can't
be pissin' on my own patio ..."

Derek's next action surprised even himself.
He reached into his pocket and pulled out a looney. He would stick
his neck out on this one. The squirrel on the screen had survived.
But there were no nearby trees for Derek to duck behind. He
presented the coin in the palm of his not-too-shaky right hand.

"Flip for it?"

Muldowney grinned at Marcotte's offer.

"I like your style, kid."

He motioned for Derek to put the coin
away.

"Okay," said Muldowney. "You two go ahead.
Keep me posted. But if I hear of any problems -- anything -- I'm
bringing in Manderville."

Muldowney turned back to his ball. He
unleashed it into the screen with a "don't mess with me" wallop.
The trees along the side of the fairway flashed past as the camera
chased the ball in flight.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Moosomin or Moose Jaw?

 

 

 

... 1 ...

 

Marcotte's Uncle Bart lost his laundromat in
a card game in 1954 when his ace-high club flush fell to another
flush on the fifth-card-tie-breaker rule. Uncle Bart told the tale
much the same way home-run hitters talk about long foul balls, or
fisherman whose lines had been snapped by whoppers. Derek mulled
this over as he eased his '67 Apache TP fastback past the row of
scotch pines that lined his parents' driveway. Mr. & Mrs.
Marcotte lived in a white bungalow in the blue-collar, residential
neighborhood. A pair of garbage cans hugged the corner of the
house.

Muffled shouts from the kitchen rattled off
these aluminum-coated, eavesdropping receptacles before Derek was
in the house five minutes.

"You wanna run that by me again?" asked his
father. Ray Marcotte was a stocky, unshaven man in his fifties.
He'd had his own auto repair shop on Dundas for fifteen years. He
bought out the previous owner, Clive Macgregor, after working side
by side for another twelve years prior to that. Putting in ten hour
days, six days a week, the elder Marcotte had been tacking up and
pulling down Toronto Maple Leaf calendars to the oily back wall
since George Armstrong was captain.

That meant there had been little time left
for Derek. The only real quality time they'd spent together was
Sundays at the races. They'd drive around the province in their
battered Fjord Damn-Tough pickup to different horse tracks. Each
road trip they'd pretend to be hauling a different race horse
behind them. Ray never seemed to mind what name Derek came up with,
so long as the horse wasn't a filly. Ray drew the line when it came
to boys day out.

Less time together meant less squabbles to
tend to, as far as Ray was concerned. He'd rather work his way
around gaskets and piston rings. They didn't talk back. Anything in
a car that wasn't in line ... a solid rap with a ball-peen hammer
always worked wonders.

But Ray didn't totally shirk his
responsibilities as a father. His wife of thirty-four years, Irene,
was a barometer of sorts. He'd met her at a diner in York, on a
trip to buy a rebuilt 289. She served him a slice of pecan pie and
he stole a look into her cheerful, starry eyes. He knew there would
be fair weather ahead for them.

Derek was born two years later. The boy
bungee-jumped through childhood as do most only children. He was
either being spoiled rotten or disciplined fiercely ... Irene with
chocolate kisses and Ray with the belt. The clouding over of
Irene's eyes usually meant it was time for Ray to lower the
boom.

Wringing her hands in a dish cloth, Irene was
posted faithfully in the background.

Derek sat at the table, spinning the salt
shaker. He didn't have to look up to see his mother's distress
signal. The first lecture from his father in six years was seconds
away.

"You're gonna play a hockey game to decide a
contract? Shit, this twentieth century marketing crap has been
going downhill ever since the Edsel."

"And I've been strapped in that Edsel for
eight years, Pop. Don't you see? This is my best shot. I can't work
with Erskine. I'd rather take my chances ... and this is the way
it's got to be."

"Son, we're not at Woodbine with a coupla
bucks to put on some nag. Did everything I say when you were
growing up rattle off that goalpost head of yours?"

"Easy, Ray," said Irene.

Ray turned to her. It was rare for her to
utter a word during these family flare-ups. Ray looked upon these
the same as he would changing a flat tire. The women were to stand
silently in the background. Any advice was one word too many. He
was on a roll and didn't want to be sidetracked.

"What? He's put his business on the table
like some kinda poker chip and I shouldn't yell at him?"

Ray leaned over and clasped Derek's right
hand with both of his meaty, grease-stained paws and shook it
exaggeratedly. A crazy grin crossed Ray's face.

"Congratulations, m'boy. You're gonna do
great ... just great." The grin turned to the smarmy charm of a
used car salesman whose sold so many lemons his eyes are squinting
from the juice. "So what if this guy's kicked your butt all over
hell's half-acre since you went into business?"

"Ray ..." said Irene.

Her role as mediator had always been a minor
one. But her one or two-word replies were usually able to turn the
heat down a notch. Ray's blood pressure however, remained
unaffected.

Derek looked to his father.

"I guess this means you can't loan me some
money then?"

Ray pointed to the back door.

"Out! Get out!"

 

... 2 ...

 

"Right this way," the secretary said,
ushering Derek and Artie into the executive board room at
Herculean.

A long, power-polished, burgundy-coloured,
mahogany table anchored the rectangular room. An overhead video
projector flashed a computer-generated map of Canada onto a 6' x 8'
screen behind the head of the table.

"Well, well ... do come in."

Erskine strode confidently across the room
and stopped ten feet before them. A handshake was the farthest
thing from either of their minds. Erskine gestured for them to take
their places at the opposite side of the table from the only other
person in the room, Walter Bittman.

Bittman was Erskine's resident computer
hacker and he looked up meekly from the screen of the portable
model in front of him. A lap dog with a laptop.

Artie unpacked his own laptop, hoping the
vast difference in memory space and other missing bells and
whistles wasn't too obvious. A couple of minutes later, Artie
looked up from the semi-high resolution screen and nodded to Derek
that they could begin.

"Let's do it," Derek said to Erskine.

Victor withdrew a ball point pen and slowly
extended it into a two-foot long pointer. He aimed it at the
provinces projected onto the screen. He'd spared no expense and was
enjoying every minute of it.

"In establishing the geographic context of
the draft, I'm sure you'll agree that choosing cities and towns
would have been too exhausting a process, while picking provinces
would have eliminated the sport of it. Therefore, for the sake of
argument, we'll use the political map of the country. 295 zones to
divide amongst us. Er ... don't feel you have to visit every one.
That's highly unlikely with the game only a month away and your
being limited to ... bus travel, I presume. Alright then. Once you
pick a zone, you have exclusive rights to the players found within.
As we go along, Bittman here, will put his color graphics in
motion. You have three minutes to make your selections. We'll draft
150 zones today and finish up tomorrow. Your zones will be white,
mine red."

Erskine turned to Artie.

"Bittman will provide you with copies of each
of our drafting zones when we're finished."

Bittman smiled smugly at the mention of his
name.

Derek shook his head at Erskine.

"Thanks, but we'll keep our own record. Gerry
had nothing on you when it comes to gerrymandering."

Erskine shrugged. "It's there if you want it.
The game will be April 30. That gives us two months to organize our
teams. Go ahead. Seize the day."

"Scarborough Centre," Derek said.

"Ah. Your home turf. Well, guess who's coming
to dinner. Scarborough East."

Derek grimaced. There goes the
neighborhood.

 

... 3 ...

 

You can tell a lot about a man by the way he
drafts players in a hockey pool.

There's the "Cram". He's the guy who stays up
all night studying the stats.

There's always a "Long Shot Lover" in the
house. He's so sure he has the supreme dark horse, i.e., the rookie
who's going to turn the league on its ear. More often than not, his
flash in the pan is back-burnered to the minors before
Christmas.

"Mr. Marquee" draws his players from the
nightly highlight reels on the sports shows. The player may only
score five goals a year, but if most of the goals wind up on the 11
p.m. replays, he could be a legitimate third rounder for Mr.
Marquee.

"Stand Pat" is the poolie who keeps picking
the same players over and over, hoping this is the year they catch
fire.

"Gramps'" draft list is chock-full of players
over thirty. His "fine wine" theory is abruptly shattered when
another debilitating injury proves that aging players mature like
peanut brittle.

It's easy to pick out the person at a hockey
draft who hasn't done his homework. He's the poker face staring out
of a manhole cover into the fast-approaching high beams of a snow
plow. A face like that is rare. Most Canadians understand the finer
points of scoring statistics. I.e., in the spring of 1993, being
the leading scorer for Ottawa is like being the best reggae band in
Yellowknife.

Reading the hockey scoring summaries each
morning carries the joy and agony of the births and obituaries
columns respectively. Players who notch three points or more are
exalted, while those who don't even show up in the penalty minute
section are presumed dead.

BOOK: There's a Shark in My Hockey Pool
10.96Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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