June 8, 2014

Life Imitates Art, Part 2

I recently posted how real life events mirrored what I wrote in my first hockey romance, On the Surface. A Chicago Blackhawk got sick of the crap a fan was giving him in the penalty box, so he squirted some water at him. In my book, Tim was a Blackhawk who got angry at a heckler and threw a water bottle at him. Isn't it weird? I wrote that scene over a year ago and here, it happens in real life.

I decided to share the scene with those who haven't bought or read the book yet. This is from Chapter 2.

Tim shouldn’t have been surprised when no one recognized him during breakfast at the hotel restaurant. Hockey wasn’t venerated on the West Coast as much as it was in the east and in Canada, and San Diego loved their Padres and Chargers. He didn’t mind. It was actually a refreshing change. In Chicago, the Blackhawks were like royalty. It was rare that Tim went out in public without being recognized. He’d never really minded that much, but he had to admit it was nice to be able to finish a meal in a restaurant without being asked for an autograph.
After tipping generously, he left the Marriott and grabbed a taxi. The seats were torn and taped, and despite the little air freshener that hung from the rearview mirror, it had that distinctive taxi smell—musty leather, stale food, spilled coffee, cheap cologne and a side of body odor.
“Where to?” the cabby said, turning on the meter. Tim noted the name on the ID card, Umberto Garcia.
“The Cadillac dealership off 163. Here’s the address.” Tim handed him a MapQuest printout. Their destination was about half an hour away. Today he was getting himself a fully loaded Escalade SUV.
Garcia studied the printout. “No problem.” The cabby pulled out into traffic. “Late night last night?” the cabby asked.
Catching a glimpse of himself in the rearview mirror, Tim winced. His eyes were redder than the glass of V-8 he’d downed earlier. He’d had so much on his mind, sleep had eluded him until the early morning hours. He had so much to prove and not nearly as much confidence as he would have liked. Usually the extreme physicality of his job wore him out, but training camp didn’t start for two months. The workout on the stationary bike yesterday hadn’t been nearly hard enough to knock him out at bedtime. He also had a personal appearance today, his first as a Barracuda, and he was nervous. And angry that he was nervous. What mattered was how well he played hockey, not how many fans wanted to meet him.
“No. I just didn’t sleep well,” Tim answered.The cabby accelerated as they got onto the freeway. "I thought the Marriott had good beds."
“It’s not the bed. I just have a lot on my plate.”
“Don’t we all. Me, I got a thirteen-year-old daughter who thinks she’s seventeen. Looks like it too, when she puts on makeup.”
Tim nodded. “Makes you want to go buy a shotgun, huh?”
“You got that right.” Garcia met his eye in the rearview mirror. “What’s your biggest problem, man?”
Tim chuckled. “Where do I start?” He propped an ankle on his knee. “I got…transferred here from Chicago. So I’m one of the new guys on the block.”
“But there’s more than one new guy.”
“Yes. A good buddy of mine came here too, actually.”
“So that doesn’t sound like that big of a problemo. Next?”
“Management took a chance on me and are expecting a lot.”
“Can you do what they’re expecting?”
Tim shrugged. “I’m not as young as I used to be.” Garcia's eyes flicked to the mirror. "What are you? Thirty? Jesus. Cut yourself a break."
“Thirty-three. But in my line of work, thirty is practically over the hill.”
As they passed by Balboa Park and the San Diego Zoo, Garcia asked the forty thousand dollar question. “What’s your line of work?”
“I play hockey.”
Garcia twisted his head to glance back. “No shit! Pro hockey, of course. That explains the Barracuda hat.”
“Are you a fan?”
“Sorry. No. Baseball’s my game.”
“Yeah.” Tim touched the brim of his cap. “I’m a Barracuda.”
Garcia chuckled as he tapped the steering wheel with his thumb. “No shit. You’re a pro. So when you said transferred, you really meant traded.”
“What’s your name, man? People sometimes ask what famous people I’ve driven and I’d like to add your name to the list.”
“Tim Hollander. I play right wing. I’m a forward.”
“That’s offense, right?”
Tim laughed. So did Garcia.
“Hell, I told you baseball’s my game.”
“Yeah, forwards are offense.”
They continued on the 163 through a large interchange. The signs said they were in Mission Valley now.Tim relaxed,knowing this guy wasn't going to hassle him about his performance last season or ask about Bottlegate. They talked some more. Garcia was easy to talk to. Part of the job, Tim figured. Cabbies were probably a lot like bartenders, but with wheels. Oddly, the more they talked, the more Tim felt like unloading and he ended up telling Garcia about Bottlegate anyway.
“Wait a second,” Garcia said. “Let me get this straight. The guy actually said that your daughter was better off dead than having a father like you?”
“Yes,” Tim said. The Philly fan had actually said much more than that while Tim had sat in the penalty box. He hadn’t shut up for a full minute, criticizing Tim’s play, or lack thereof, and eventually getting personal.
“What an asshole.”
“Thing is, my daughter had died only a few weeks before that.”
“She died?
“Yeah. Leukemia.”
“Shit, man.” Garcia met Tim’s gaze briefly in the rearview mirror. “I’m sorry to hear that. Really sorry. That’s fucked.”
“Thanks.” Tim gave him the tight-lipped smile he always did when people offered their sympathy.
A few moments passed. “You know what, man? I admire your restraint. I probably would have done a lot more than hit him with a water bottle. I’d probably have killed the guy.”
“I wanted to. Believe me.”
By this time, they were exiting the freeway.
“Well, Tim—can I call you Tim?”
Tim waved a hand.
“Tim, I have feeling things are going to turn around for you,” Garcia said. “I think you’re a determined guy and whatever you put your mind to, you’re gonna do. When’s the season start?”
“Regular season starts in early September.”
“Well, tell you what. You train like hell and you do whatever you have to do to become part of that team, because I’ll be watching that first game. You’re gonna hit a grand slam, or whatever it is in hockey.”
“A hat trick. That’s three goals in one game.”
“A hat trick, then. I’ll be rooting for you.” They pulled up in front of the dealership.

Tim pulled a hundred out of his wallet to pay the fifty-three dollar charge. He also made note of the cab number for later. “Thanks a lot for the vote of confidence. It means a lot. Keep the change.”

Photo credit: Theron W. Henderson

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