Authors: W. C. Mack
“I see,” Mrs. Bosko said, watching Wendy climb the stairs.
And suddenly I saw too. Eddie Bosko had a weakness.
His kryptonite … was Wendy.
The next morning, I practically jumped out of bed the second I heard Mum coming down the hallway. “I’m up!” I called out to her, before she even had a chance to tap on my door.
“A feather could knock me over,” she said, whatever that meant.
I zipped into the shower, humming to myself. All it took was one afternoon, just one stinking tutoring session, and everything had turned around for me. Math was kind of making some sense
Eddie Bosko was quite possibly at my mercy (well, Wendy’s anyway). And in unrelated but good news, I’d known the answer to Big Danny Donlin’s trivia question the night before.
Big Danny asked, “What position did Gordie Howe play?”
Easy peasy. The same position as me, which was right wing. And if he’d asked, I also could have told him that Gordie scored more than 800 goals in his career. Eight hundred and one, to be precise.
When I was out of the shower, I threw on my sweats and
met Mum downstairs. My bag was already packed and waiting by the front door. My stomach was growling for bacon, eggs and hash browns. Luckily, toast and yogurt could work too, and I smiled all the way through breakfast.
On the way to practice, Mum and I listened to the news Well, she listened to it while I daydreamed about starting for the Canucks.
He shoots, he scores!
“You’re in an awfully good mood,” Mum said.
“I know,” I told her.
“It’s nice to see you back to normal.”
It was nice to feel that way, too.
In the locker room, I put on my gear while Kenny and Jason talked about a movie I’d never seen.
After a couple of minutes, Eddie Bosko walked into the room.
“Uh, hey,” he said, dropping his bag next to mine. “How’s it going?”
“Fine.” I had him right where I wanted him!
He unzipped his bag and pulled out his shoulder pads. “So, I was thinking we could meet up again on Monday.”
I glanced up and saw both Kenny and Jason staring at us.
“To study?” I asked, nice and clearly, so they wouldn’t get the wrong idea. It wasn’t like we were friends.
“Well, yeah. I was thinking we could go over some fractions and stuff.”
“Monday could work,” I said, with a shrug, then decided to test my theory. “Why don’t we meet at your place?”
Eddie Bosko shook his head. “Probably better at yours.”
“Why?” I asked, casually, like it didn’t matter. I had the power for once, and I was loving it!
“I just think your house is set up better for studying. My brother would get in the way.”
“So would my sister,” I told him.
“Do you think so?” he asked, and by the hope in his voice, I knew I had him.
I pretended to think. “Actually, I think she’s got volleyball practice on Monday, so maybe we’ll be okay.”
Eddie Bosko licked his lips and actually looked nervous. “Now that I’m thinking about it, Tuesday might work better. That way my brother can drop me off.”
“But I thought you said —”
“Definitely Tuesday,” he told me.
“Sure,” I said. Now I knew what Godzilla felt like, messing with all the tiny humans. Who was in charge now?
When we got out onto the ice, I was feeling stronger, faster and better than ever. I guess it was adrenaline that had me skating harder than anyone else.
“Nice work, McDonald,” Coach O’Neal said.
When he put out the cones and we took turns weaving in and out of them with the puck, finishing up with a shot on goal, I scored every time. Eddie Bosko missed twice.
I knew I shouldn’t have been happy about that, but I couldn’t help it.
“Man, you’re on fire today,” Kenny said, slapping me on the back.
“Your Mum must have put an extra something in the cereal this morning.”
“Yeah, like steroids,” Matt said, laughing. “I can’t believe you beat Bosko on the laps.”
Neither could I. And things went just as well for me at school. At least until Math class, that is.
James picked up the homework assignments, and when I dug in my bag I realized I hadn’t even thought about my Math homework the night before. The stuff Eddie Bosko and I had done was just random questions for practise. Mr. Holloway had assigned something totally different!
James stood next to my desk, waiting as I shook my head.
“You didn’t do it?” he asked.
“You must be crazy,” he said, moving to collect Danielle Borthwick’s paper.
I watched as even Kenny turned in the assignment.
“Mr. McDonald,” Mr. Holloway said, from the front of the class. “Will you join me at the board?”
I got up from my seat and walked toward him. Please, let it be a word problem. I know what to do. Just ignore all the extra stuff and focus on the numbers.
Kenny covered his eyes and shook his head, like he knew I was doomed, but there was a chance I wasn’t. It was entirely possible that I could answer whatever question was coming my way, and the whole class would be shocked.
Mr. Holloway most of all.
Please, let it be a word problem
I stood at the board and waited while Mr. Holloway read a question. About fractions.
Why did it have to be fractions?
“Could you please repeat it?” I asked, when he was done.
“That depends on whether you are simply stalling, Mr. McDonald.”
“No,” I told him. “I just want to make sure I got all the info.”
“The what?” he asked, frowning.
“Sorry. I meant the information.”
“Thank you. This is not the place for jargon, slang or abbreviations.”
“I know,” I sighed. It also wasn’t the place for me to wow anybody. Obviously.
I thought about one of the questions I’d done with Eddie the day before. It was about the number of hot dog buns, hamburger buns, patties and dogs for a summer barbecue. Even though part of me had wanted to solve the problem the way Mum did, by cutting the extra dogs in half and putting them in the hamburger buns, I knew that wasn’t a Math solution. Just like I knew the jumbled bunch of numbers Mr. Holloway had given me couldn’t be figured out like a word problem.
I glanced over my shoulder at Eddie Bosko, who nodded, like he was encouraging me. Encouraging me to do what, though? What did I know about stupid fractions? I turned back to the board and tried to work my way through the question, but none of it was making sense. Even worse, whenever I started to write something on the board, Mr. Holloway would make a “tsk” noise that had me reaching for the eraser.
After three minutes that felt like three hours, he finally let me go back to my seat.
“Too bad they don’t make Math steroids,” Kenny whispered.
For the rest of class, I did my best to concentrate, but
my best still wasn’t enough. Was Math ever going to be easy? I stared out the window and wished I was on the ice, knowing the rink was the only place things ever really went my way.
* * *
At the end of the day, Kenny and I walked home together.
“Rough day, eh?” he asked.
“Mr. Holloway kind of has it in for you, doesn’t he?”
“It sure feels like it. He’s always making me go up to the board and everything.”
“How did it go with Bosko yesterday?”
“Fine,” I told him. “We worked on word problems and it was really helping, but —”
“Mr. Holloway asked about fractions,” Kenny said.
“Exactly. I don’t know how I’m ever going to learn all this stuff.”
“I wish all I had to do was play hockey.”
“That would be awesome!”
“I’ve been practising shots against the garage and stuff. You know, trying to get better.”
“That’s cool,” I told him. And it was. Kenny needed all the help he could get.
“I’m excited about the game this weekend.”
“Me too,” I said.
“I won’t be starting, but you have a good chance, don’t you think?”
“I hope so.” I didn’t want to say anything to jinx it, but I’d been working out a plan to guarantee starting and I was pretty sure it would work.
“The way you were playing this morning, I think you’re in.”
“Thanks, Kenny.” Between my hard work and my secret plan, I figured he was right. And I loved thinking about it.
* * *
At dinner that night, Mum brought up something I had no interest in thinking
talking about. But I had no choice.
“So, parent-teacher interviews are next week,” she said.
“Yup,” I told her.
“Yes, they are.” Sometimes it seemed like everyone cared way too much about grammar.
“Monday night. Is there anything I need to know up front?” she asked. She was probably remembering all the other times she’d gone and been disappointed by what my teachers had to say.
“I don’t think so,” I told her.
“Any teachers you particularly want me to see?”
“Uh, not that I can think of.” But I could think of one she should avoid. Maybe Mr. Holloway would catch laryngitis over the weekend and have to stay home. Maybe he’d get stuck in an elevator. For a week.
Anything was possible, right?
If Mr. Holloway wasn’t there, Mum could just talk to my English teacher, which would be good, and Socials with Mr. Marshall would be okay, too. If she finished off with a chat about my P.E. class, the whole thing could actually be totally fine. And with that, I found myself hoping that for once in my life, parent-teacher interviews might be a breeze.
But what I should have prepared for was a hurricane.
By the time game day rolled around on Saturday, I’d missed one of Big Danny Donlin’s questions.
When he asked which NHL team the first woman had played for, I figured it was a trick question.
. Girls in the NHL?
But it turned out that a woman called Manon Rhéaume had tended goal in a couple of exhibition games for the Tampa Bay Lightning, and won a silver medal for women’s hockey at the Olympics.
I had to admit, that was pretty cool. Awesome, actually.
I was learning a lot from my studying, like what city the very first NHL game was played in. My first guess was Toronto, but then I thought it might be Ottawa. It turned out to be Montreal.
I also read about some stuff I already knew, like who was considered the best defenseman ever.
Bobby Orr. No doubt about it.
And if Big Danny Donlin ever asked which team had won the most Stanley Cups?
I knew it was the Canadiens.
I could hardly wait until the last day of the contest, when it would be my turn to call in and claim the big prize. My first live Canucks game. My shot from centre ice.
I was getting closer to the dream every day.
* * *
“Ready?” Dad asked, poking his head into my room, where I’d just finished packing my gear for the game.
“Definitely,” I said, smiling. “I think we’re going to win this one.” My secret plan was going into effect that very morning. That meant Eddie Bosko was going down in flames while I was the star of the game. I couldn’t wait.
“I hope so,” he said, carrying the bag for me.
“What if we go undefeated this year?” I asked, following him down the stairs and into the dining room.
Mum had made French toast, which wasn’t a favourite of mine, but still made the top twenty.
“Isn’t this your first game?” Wendy asked, rolling her eyes. She was reading some goofy romance book and eating half a grapefruit. Gross, on both counts.
“So?” I asked.
“Don’t get ahead of yourself, Nugget.” She stuck her nose back in her book.
I stared at her for a second, knowing something was wrong, but not quite sure what it was. And then it hit me. She was still in her pyjamas!
“You aren’t coming to watch?” I asked. Wendy was supposed to show up and throw Eddie’s game off! She was supposed to smile and wink, or whatever it was girls did, so the gorilla would turn into a monkey on the ice. I was counting on it.
“Come on, Wendy,” Dad called out from the kitchen.
“Family time,” Mum said, reaching down to squeeze my sister’s shoulders.
“But I’m reading,” she whined.
“I’m pretty sure you can read at the rink,” Mum said.
“Yeah, right.” My laugh sounded panicked, which I was. I needed her to be there! “You won’t be able to keep your eyes off the game.”
“Give me a break,” Wendy said, laughing.
“I’m serious,” I told her, trying to build the excitement. “McDonald fakes left, then right! He’s going for it, fans! He’s lining up the puck for a wicked slapshot. Here it comes, here it comes. He shoots, he scores!”
“We’ll see about that,” she said. “Give me a couple of minutes to get dressed, okay?”
Yes! Eddie Bosko was toast! I counted my lucky stars that the plan was still a go and as we waited for Wendy out in the van, I remembered the flounder look on Bosko’s face when he met my sister.
It was going to be so cool to watch him go down the tubes.
On the drive to the rink, I sat in the back with Wendy, who told me the whole plot of the book she was reading, like I cared. I pretended to be interested, knowing she was my golden ticket to greatness. My plan was perfect.
Or so I thought.
* * *
When I got to the locker room, most of the guys were already dressed and hanging around, talking. I pulled on my gear and sat next to Kenny on one of the benches.
“I wonder who Coach decided to start,” he said, quietly, tilting his head at Eddie Bosko and raising his eyebrows at me.
“I don’t know,” I told him, thinking about all the effort
I’d put in at our practices. It should be me. Then again, if Eddie started, that just meant his downfall would happen early in the game. And that was okay with me, too.
Eddie Bosko glanced over and gave me a quick nod, so I nodded back, but didn’t say anything. I felt a tiny bit guilty. He’d actually helped me with Math and I’d returned the favour by plotting his destruction on the ice. But, as he loved to remind me, he was getting
to help me, and that didn’t make us friends.
“Okay, guys, are we ready?” Coach O’Neal asked, clapping his hands to get our attention.
“Yes,” a few of us said.
Coach’s eyes moved over each of us, slowly. “What is this, a kindergarten class?” He shook his head. “Let’s try that again. Are you ready?”
“Yes!” we shouted, raising our sticks in the air like we were going into battle, which we were.
“That’s better. You guys had me scared for a second, there.” He checked his clipboard. “Okay, I want McDaniel, Bechter, Simpson, Chen and McDonald up first.”
I smiled. I was starting, which meant my hard work had paid off! I glanced at Eddie Bosko, who was concentrating on taping his stick. Or pretending to, anyway.
That guilty feeling nudged me again. There was a part of me that actually felt sorry for him. After all, he had a new uniform, new teammates and the brand new experience of starting on the bench.
I shook it off. The other part of me was too excited to worry about anyone else. The season was starting, and it was going to be the best one ever!
I thumped Kenny on the back as we left the locker room and headed out to the ice.
“Awesome,” he said, elbowing me back. “Starting right wing. You did it.”
“So will you,” I told him. “Guaranteed he’ll play you first period.”
“I hope so,” Kenny said. “My granny’s here.”
I remembered her from a couple of games last season. She looked like a granny, but she acted like a fan. She even yelled at the ref and made me kind of glad my own granny lived in Burnaby.
We had a few minutes before the game started, so me and the rest of the guys warmed up on the ice. I skated some laps, checking out the Bayview Turtles at the same time. The opposing team was about as intimidating as their name. Most of the guys were average size, except for a couple of smaller ones.
Small, but bigger than me, of course.
“I thought the Tykes played on Sundays,” one of them called out to me as I skated past.
I ignored him.
“What is he, a second grader?”
“He’s probably somebody’s kid brother,” another guy said.
“Yeah, like a mascot.”
I’d heard it all before, year after year.
Wait until they saw my slapshot, though. That would stop them cold. And when my stupid growth spurt finally happened, I’d never have to listen to the “short” stuff again.
?” one of the Turtles asked.
“Geez! Hercules, maybe?”
I didn’t have to turn around to know who they were talking about. I’d thought practically the same thing when I first saw our giant.
“Oh, man. That’s Eddie Bosko,” one of the guys groaned.
“I thought we didn’t have to play him for a couple of weeks.”
“Looks like the Cougars brought in a ringer,” one of the guys sighed.
I skated away, already tired of hearing it.
was the one they should have been worried about, the one who was going to skate circles around them.
I took some practice shots and was happy when every single one went in.
The buzzer sounded and it was game time!
We got into position and I found myself face to face with Sean Sanders. He glanced at me, and I growled back.
I could tell from his expression that he remembered me from last season. I’d shoulder-checked him more than once. He let out a slow breath and I smiled to myself.
I was small, but he was scared.
Mum would say that shouldn’t have made me feel good, but it did. Even though he wasn’t looking at me anymore, I stared him down for a few more seconds, until the ref dropped the puck.
Jeremy took possession and passed to Colin, who took off toward the net. The kid covering me was left at centre ice and he probably didn’t even know I was gone until I was halfway to the net. All I heard was a cheering crowd, the scrape of blades against the ice and my own breathing.
Come on, Colin!
I felt more alive than I did anywhere else.
Colin looked like he was going for the shot, so I lined myself up in case the goalie deflected it. I crouched, ready to spring into action if the puck came anywhere near me.
And it did!
Colin’s shot bounced off the post and raced toward me. I clipped it with my stick, so it would drop back to the ice, then skated toward the goal. I first faked a shot, then zipped around the back of the net. I knew the goalie would have a hard time seeing me behind him, so I took my time, playing with the puck while the crowd shouted for me to shoot. One of the Turtles made some choppy moves toward me with his stick, but I made a tight turn around the left side of the net.
The goalie was still looking right!
In one quick move, I whipped the puck into the corner of the net.
The first goal of the season was mine!
All of the Cougars skated up to me, cheering and punching me in the arm.
“Nice one, Nugget!”
“Way to go, man!”
I was super excited and proud of myself, but I didn’t let on that it was a big deal. I just skated back toward the centre line, prepared to either protect our goal or steal the puck.
Four minutes into the game, Colin scored with a beautiful shot that went right through the goalie’s legs. Just after the six minute mark, the Turtles managed to get one in, and then I scored again!
At seven minutes, Coach O’Neal called a time out.
And that’s when it all fell apart.