Winter Dreams (the Continuing Adventures of Rick Miller)
Sequel to Summer Dreams
Rick Miller was sitting alone in a booth at The Red Top Restaurant. The year was 1969 and it was a cold, windy December morning in the Canadian Prairies. He had just arrived as his geography class at Maplewood Collegiate ended. It only took him a few minutes to walk across the street from the high school to the restaurant. He lit up a Rothmans cigarette and began to daydream about Sasha, his former summer love. He had to admit that he missed her now that all was said and done, but he was beginning a new chapter of his life. Shirley, the waitress approached his booth.
“What will it be today Rick, the usual?”
“Yep, my favorite. Hot chocolate,” Rick answered with a smile.
Rick figured that Shirley was in her mid-forties. She had gained a bit of weight over the years but was still relatively attractive for someone her age. Rick noticed that Shirley had a short pinky finger on her right hand. The finger must have been amputated but Rick didn’t allow his curiosity over-ride his impeccable good manners. He had never asked Shirley about what happened to her finger.
Rick’s high school was just across the street from The Red Top. Just as Shirley brought Rick his hot chocolate someone walked in the door of the restaurant. The new customer was a very thin young man roughly Rick’s age. He had long, dirty, unkempt strawberry blond hair. He stopped in front of Rick’s booth and asked if he could join him. Rick was a little surprised as had never seen this fellow before, but he motioned for him to sit down.
“Thanks for letting me join you, man. My name is Peyton Ramparts. I have a spare this period and felt like I needed a cup of java. I was up until two in the morning last night. My band had a really bitchin’ good practise.”
Peyton wore a long black coat with gold striping on the side. It looked like he could have stolen it from Jimi Hendrix.
“What’s your band’s name?” Rick asked.
“Winter Dreams,” Peyton answered. “Hey man can I bum a smoke off you?”
“Yeah, no problem. I hope you like Rothmans. I smoke whatever brand my dad is smoking at the time.”
Peyton started to laugh as he pulled out a cigarette from Rick’s pack.
“How did you come up with the name Winter Dreams for your band?”
“I can’t remember for sure. A guy from my band came up with it during a break from practise. We were all passing around a joint at the time while looking out the living room window. All I remember is watching a heavy snowfall. Then Pick said, “This is sort of like a winter dream and Chevy said that it sounded like a great name for our band.”
Rick was just about ready to ask Peyton another question when both boys felt a sudden rush of cold air breeze through the restaurant. They both looked towards the door and saw a young attractive female come through the door.
“Sorry I’m late Peyton. I had to ask Mr. Pearce for an extension on my research paper for history class. Who’s your friend?”the girl asked.
“I don’t know his name yet. We just met a few minutes ago. Peyton reached across the table to shake Rick’s hand. “Sorry I should have introduced myself first. I’m Peyton Ramparts.”
“And I’m Rick Miller.”
“Let me introduce you to my girlfriend, Sabrina Davis,” Peyton said as Sabrina slid right next to him on the booth.
“I think I’ve seen you at school Rick. You’re in grade twelve aren’t you? I hear people talking about you in the halls all the time. You’re the Cougars star goalie,” Sabrina said brushing some snow off her navy blue coat.
“I don’t know if I’m a star but I try to play my best for the team,” Rick responded with true humility.
Peyton was already starting to feel comfortable with Rick. He felt that he could trust Rick and be real with him. Rick was sensing the same thing about Peyton. They both had the feeling that they could be honest with one another.
“So how did your meeting with Mr. Pearce go? Is he going to give you an extension on your homework assignment?”
“Yeah, no problem. I told him about my grandmother moving into our house and that she needed me to do things for her. I told Mr. Pearce that my extra duties were causing me to get behind in my studies.”
“What did he say about that?” Rick asked as he put his cup of hot chocolate back on the table. He was starting to feel right at home with Peyton and Sabrina.
“Oh, he said that he understood and would give me an extra week to work on my paper. He said that there was a time in his life when his mother was very sick and he needed to help her out a lot. Of course, it also helps that I’m very cute. All the girls in my class have noticed the way that Mr. Pearce looks at us. He definitely has a thing going for young high school chicks,” Sabrina answered with a chuckle.
“You sure know how to play him,” Peyton said with a bit of admiration. He always felt that Sabrina was smarter than him. She certainly got much better grades in school than he did. Peyton had very little interest in school. He attended the minimum of his required courses basically to keep his parents off his case and to be with Sabrina.
“Rick, do you know that Peyton is in a band. He plays lead guitar as well as writing some original material for the band. His group is called Winter Dreams and one day they are going to make it big. Record a single and an album. The whole nine yards,” Sabrina said proudly.
“We’re not as great as Sabrina says, but we’re not bad for a group that’s only been together for three months. We’re playing a gig tonight at Maplewood Community Center. Why don’t you drop by and check us out, Rick?”
“I wouldn’t miss it for the world. It’s been a blast meeting you guys, but I have to get back to the school for my American History class.” Rick said as he put on his white down filled parka and got ready for a biting rush of cold winter air.
After his last class of the afternoon was over Rick headed home. It was about a three block walk from Maplewood Collegiate to his home. There was a light snowfall. While the snowflakes landed on the branches of the trees Rick revelled in the beauty of the winter scene. The sun was shining brightly and this added to Rick’s aesthetic joy. He loved the snow and he loved the winter season, He even liked the crunching sound that his boots made when they pressed down into the snow on the sidewalk.
As it was a Friday with the weekend to look forward to, Rick had a spontaneous idea. He would walk to the neighborhood library and look for something to read when he got some free time on the weekend. Very few people knew how much Rick loved books and libraries. It was just a few blocks out of his way to the local branch of The Winnipeg Public Library.
When Rick arrived at the library he stomped his feet on the red carpet at the entrance. He was careful not to bring any snow into the library. As soon as he stepped inside Rick was overtaken by the captivating scent of books. He had very acute sensory perceptions. These senses would either produce a positive or negative emotional response in Rick. The special odor that one encountered only in libraries always gave Rick’s spirits a lift.
He had developed am interest in a wide variety of topics. The subjects that Rick liked to explore included history, literature, politics and psychology. His pattern was to study a specific topic for about a month at a time. Over the summer months Rick had become engrossed in the topic of current political, social and cultural changes that were presently taking place in The United States. He devoured the pages of the new underground magazine, Rolling Stone. Rick not only found the stories to be fascinating. He loved the look and smell of Rolling Stone. It was a magazine that looked and smelled like a newspaper.
As Rick entered the main foray of the library he was greeted by Denise Carr the librarian. Rick had been to this branch of the library so many times that Denise knew Rick by name.
“So what are we looking for today Rick?” the attractive thirty-five-year-old brunette asked.
Rick answered in a distracted manner, “I’m not sure yet. I’ll probably be checking out the new releases. I want to see if I can find anything on the cultural revolution happening in the States.”
“You’re such an intellectual, Rick. I’ll have a look myself to see what I can come up with,” Denise said.
It didn’t take Rick long to find the case that contained the new releases. Over the summer Rick had read a variety of books both fiction and non-fiction. Although Rick was on the university entrance track at Maplewood Collegiate he would often be intrigued by what the students in the general course stream were reading as part of their prescribed curriculum. Rick discovered that he liked the novels in the general course better than he liked his university entrance novels. Classic novels like The Catcher in the Rye, 1984, Animal Farm and Brave New World intrigued him. As far as non fiction choices went Rick was drawn to any books that dealt with the burgeoning nineteen-sixties counter culture.
As Rick checked out the new releases he found a book written by one of his favorite authors, Norman Mailer. He eagerly picked up Mailer’s new book, The Armies of the Night.
As Rick moved onto the regular book stacks he noticed that he had lost track of the time. He realized that he would be late for supper if he didn’t leave the library soon.
Rick looked up to check the time on the library’s clock. It read 5:03 PM. Rick put on his parka and black toque and headed out the front door of the library. The wind was strong and it felt to Rick that it must be at least twenty below zero. He pulled out a cigarette from the side pocket of his parka and attempted to light it with a pack of matches, As the wind was high Rick moved close to the wall of the library and tried cupping his hands around the cigarette and matches, It took Rick three tries to successfully light his Rothman’s cigarette.
It was already dark outside when Rick left the library. He knew that he would have to keep up a quick pace to keep warm on his five block walk to his parents’ house. The street lights were already turned on and Rick liked how they reflected off the snowbanks next to the sidewalk. He also enjoyed the crunching sound that his winter boots made as they pushed into the snow.
When Rick arrived at his house he saw his father sitting on his favorite sofa while reading the paper. He heard his mother calling from the kitchen. “Supper’s ready. Move to the dining room.”
Rick and his dad immediately walked towards the dining room. They both knew how frustrated Mrs. Miller could get if her family waited too long before they got up for their meals. Rick’s mother was in her early fifties and still retained an attractive figure. She continued to wear her dark brown hair long as that was what her husband wanted. Rick was the eldest of the Miller children. He had a younger brother named David and an even younger sister called Beth.
As the family passed the turkey, stuffing, potatoes and peas down the line Rick was deep in thought. When he passed a bowl of peas over to his father he was reminded of the dreadful experience he had over the summer working at his dad’s printing plant. His father had tried to help Rick out by hiring him as summer help. Who knows? If things had worked out for Rick, he might still be working at the printing plant today.
Unfortunately, that’s not how things played out. Rick was just not cut out to be a blue collar, factory worker. He was not well coordinated and had great difficulty performing most manual labor tasks especially those that required fine motor skills. No matter what tasks his foreman assigned to him Rick could not get the hang of it and performed poorly on these jobs. Rick worked with a small crew of other young adults who laughed at Rick while he struggled with his assignments. They told him that they could train a monkey to do his job. After three frustrating and humiliating days on the job Rick told his father that he was quitting his job. He told his dad why he was resigning and apologized if he had embarrassed his father. His dad was very understanding and was not really surprised by Rick’s decision to resign his position.
After his family had finished supper Rick told them about his plans for the evening.
“I met two very interesting people today, a couple named Peyton and Sabrina. Peyton plays guitar in a local rock band and I was invited to see them play tonight at Maplewood Community Center. The doors open at 7:30 PM so I have to leave right now to make it there on time.”
His parents told him that they hoped he would have a good time this evening. They were pleased to hear that Rick had made some new friends as Rick didn’t socialize very much. They often worried about the amount of time Rick spent on his studies at school and hockey obligations. His parents were becoming concerned that Rick might one day crash under the pressure.
Rick walked the five blocks to Maplewood Community Center. As he was in good physical condition from playing hockey he was able to keep up a fast pace. When he arrived he saw that there was already a crowd of about ten people waiting for the doors to open. Rick thought that Peyton’s band, Winter Dreams must be very popular.
When the doors to the club opened even more people had arrived to see the band. Many young people were already lighting up their first cigarette of the evening. The houselights were still up while Winter Dreams set up their equipment. While checking how his Gibson Les Paul guitar sounded plugged into his Marshall amplifier Peyton turned around to see Rick in the audience. He waved at Rick and said, “Hey man. Glad you could make it. Sabrina’s helping set up the canteen.”
‘Thanks for inviting me. I love to hear live bands. I’ll go over to the canteen area and say ‘hello’ to Sabrina.
After a few minutes Peyton gave a thumbs up sign to the community club custodian. This was the signal to dim the house lights. Within seconds the community club’s halls, walls and floors reverberated with the heavily amplified sounds emanating from the band’s Marshall amplifiers. Winter Dreams lead vocalist sounded the sensual moan that opened Whole Lotta Love, the first track on the second LP released by Led Zeppelin. Winter Dreams lead singer Vance Chessler was blessed with the same physical attractiveness and sexual appeal of Led Zeppelin’s front man, Robert Plant. He also possessed a voice that was eerily close to Plant’s. Peyton was a very proficient lead guitarist and had easily mastered the basic guitar riff to Whole Lotta Love. Some of the audience were already dancing or otherwise moving their bodies in rhythm with the pounding repetitious beat that was greatly enhanced by the deep thundering notes played by bassist Chevy Raines. The group’s drummer, Pick Harding tried hard to pound out the sonorous beat maintained by his hero, drummer John Bonham of Led Zeppelin.
For many of the students of Maplewood Collegiate the weekly canteens were the highlight of their weekends. There would sometimes be a house party or two to attend after the community center closed down at 11:30 PM. Some of the attendees would imbibe a couple of drinks and maybe share a joint before the canteen opened.
This evening was no exception. One young male was already intoxicated when he arrived at the community center. As he staggered backwards he almost knocked over a burly looking fellow who greatly took exception to this action. The big, heavy-set dude landed a perfect shot to the chin of the inebriated teenager who had bumped into him. The altercation ended right there as the victim of the assault was too drunk to get up and defend himself.
Vance Chessler stepped up to his mic stand and said, “Thank you so much people. We’ve had a blast playing for you guys tonight and we only have time for one more song. What do you people want to hear?”
An attractive big breasted blonde wearing a blue and white striped tee-shirt and skin tight jeans yelled out, “Play ‘Gloria’”
“Ah, an oldie but a goodie. A wise choice my sweet young thing,” said Vance. “’Gloria’ it shall be and because you guys have been so good to Winter Dreams tonight, Peyton’s going to play a fantastic guitar solo that will be included in this song.”
When the band finished playing ‘Gloria’, the small but crowded and sweaty audience began clapping their hands, whistling, stomping their feet and screaming, “More! More!” Vance looked exhausted, but he turned around to the band to check if they could do one more song. They nodded their consent.
“You are too kind, but if it is okay with the custodian we’ll do one more song.” Vance looked at Jack, the heavy set custodian who yelled, “Go ahead guys. Five minutes longer isn’t going to kill me.”
Vance said, “You know guys, around 1965-66, there was a show band that we really loved called Paul Revere and the Raiders. We’d like to do their first big hit, ‘Louie, Louie.”
With that Peyton hit the first three chords to start the band off. Despite the fact that the hour was growing late the kids took to the dance floor with wild abandon each doing their own thing while perspiring profusely. A line of boys stood up a few feet from the band wishing that they were one of the guys performing on stage.
When the song was over Peyton picked up a towel to dry off his perspiration and walked towards Rick,
“Well, what did you think of my band?”
“You guys are fantastic,” Rick said.
“Thanks. I’ll make you an offer you can’t refuse. What if you help Jack with sweeping and carrying the trash outside? After the band is finished packing up our gear we’ll all go over to my place and have a few beers.”
“You’ve got yourself a deal. Thanks a lot, man.”
The band had two vehicles to load up their equipment. Chevy Kurtain, of course, had a Chevy van from which his name was derived. Peyton Ramparts had borrowed his dad’s white Ford Galaxie. Rick helped load most of the group’s gear into the van. The remainder of the musical equipment was loaded into the back seat and trunk of the white Ford Galaxie.
Rick rode shotgun along with Peyton.
“Wow, I had no idea you could play guitar like that,” Rick said. “Your band really put the crowd over tonight.”
“Thanks man. I was getting good vibes from the audience too,” Peyton said. “It always feels good when you feel rewarded for your work. I mean Winter Dreams has been practising two to three times a week for the last three months. Our sound is really coming together. We’re hoping to record a record soon as soon as I finish writing some original material for the band. Vance and I usually team up to write the songs. The stuff we’ve come up with already sounds pretty good.”
“How are you going to get your music recorded?” Peyton asked.
“Chevy’s dad works at CKRC radio station. He has made some good connections with the deejays. One of them said he would see if we could do some recording at the radio station.”
The boys noticed that it had started snowing heavily and that the wind had really picked up.
“I was listening to the radio at home and the forecast warned of a possible blizzard this weekend,” Rick said.
“It’s starting to look like the station’s weather predictions were right,” Peyton said. “I’m just glad that the bad weather held off until after our gig.”
Peyton had the windshield wipers going at their fastest speed, but his visibility was still poor. Rick enjoyed the winter season, even the snowstorms. He actually liked shovelling snow at his house. Rick loved to watch the snow pouring down under the amber glow of the street lamps.
Within ten minutes Peyton’s car and Chevy’s van made it to Peyton’s place. Rick helped Peyton unload his car. He noticed that it was presently very cold with the added wind chill. His fingers were starting to freeze. The band had to be very careful unloading their gear as the ground underneath them was now quite slick. Ice patches were covered by the new snowfall and it was impossible to predict where you the slippery spots were.
As the boys finished loading the last of their equipment into Peyton’s house, a red Buick parked in front of the house and several people started getting out of the large car. Among the passengers Rick could see his neighbor, Misty.
When Rick and the band arrived at Peyton’s place they headed down to his parent’s finished rec room. They were greeted at the door by Peyton’s parents, Stan and Ruth Ramparts. Peyton’s parents were very cool people. They got married at a very young age. Both smoked marijuana. Stan and Ruth were both very proud of their son and were very supportive of his musical aspirations. They were unlike most parents as they actually listened when young people talked to them. They were actually happy that Peyton’s group and his friends liked to practise and hang out at their place. They reasoned that this way they knew what Peyton was up to most of the time.
Every successful band has fans, groupies and hangers- on and Winter Dreams were no exception. Young people felt that they were hipper and higher up on the social scale if they were considered to be intimates of a well known popular band.
Misty arrived with a car load of the privileged Winter Dreams insiders. To Misty being cool was everything and she always needed to be where the action was.
Both beer and weed were in abundance at this after gig party. These post concert get gatherings somewhat resembled the press conferences that professional athletes would have after they played a game. Many of the group’s friends and followers would comment on the highlights of the bands performance and would ask questions about particular song choices.
Misty sat cross legged on a beige colored carpet and turned her head to look at Rick who was looking very relaxed sitting on a burgundy sofa.
She was very surprised to see Rick here, but thought about her last contact with him. About a month ago she was taking the bus home when she spotted Rick seated about halfway down the length of the bus. Misty asked Rick if she could sit in the open seat beside him. Rick was also surprised to run into Misty and felt rather honored that she wanted to sit beside him. She was felt bad for both Rick and her sister, Sasha when they broke up, but she had to admit to herself that she now found Rick to be very attractive. Rick and Misty had a really friendly, enjoyable conversation during their bus ride home.
It didn’t take Misty long to make a move on Rick. She got up and jumped into a small space between Rick and another chick.
Rick was a little startled by his sudden proximity to Misty, but he tried to look cool.
“Misty, I haven’t seen you since the bus ride. How’s it going?”
“I’m alright. It’s so great to see you here. Who told you about the party?” Misty asked.
“Peyton and Sabrina invited me.”
“Wow! How do you know Peyton and Sabrina?”
“I didn’t know them until this morning. Peyton asked me if he could join me for a coffee at The Red Top. A few minutes later Sabrina joined us and they ended up inviting me to the canteen tonight. I didn’t see you there. Did you get to see the Peyton’s band?”
‘Unfortunately I didn’t. Jim and I had planned to go earlier in the week but he phoned me from The St. Vital Hotel and told me that he was going to stay at the bar for awhile and party with his buddies from work. When he finally got to my place he was drunk and we had a big fight. We ended up breaking up and by that time I was upset and figured it was too late to come see the band any way. Shortly after Jim left my place I got a call from Sabrina. She said that she was expecting to see me at canteen and was worried that something had happened to me. I told her what happened with me and Jim. Sabrina said it would do me good to come to the party after the gig. So I called up my friend Carol and I asked her if she wanted to go. She said she did and that she’d give me a ride to the party. So that’s how I got here. How did you get here?”
“I helped the band take out their gear after the gig and Peyton gave me a ride here,” Rick answered.
“You are always surprising me. You didn’t see me but I was at the library this afternoon and saw you browsing the stacks. I saw you leave with a big pile of books. I was browsing for books in the stack behind you and looked through an opening. I was able to see some of the books you’d selected. You had Norman Mailer’s new book, The Armies of the Night, Steal This Book by Abbie Hoffman and a couple of other books about SDS and the Weathermen,” Misty said. moving so close to Rick that their bodies were squished together. “I didn’t know that you were such an intellectual and that you were so interested in American politics.”
Rick laughed and was enjoying having Misty so close to him. He too found her very attractive. He loved the scent of patchouli that Misty was wearing. “Well, what can I say Misty. The cat’s out of the bag now. Yeah, I read a lot. Mostly because I really don’t have much of a social life.”
“Not that many people know that I read a lot too. As I just found out you and I have very similar interests. Look, Rick I really want to get to know you a lot better. Why don’t I give you a call tomorrow? Maybe we can go out for lunch. Right now let me introduce you to some people at the party. I’d say let’s go talk to Peyton and Sabrinam, but it looks like they are holding court right now.
Rick really enjoyed the rest of the evening, He thought that several of Misty’s friends were really cool. People kept going over to Peyton’s record collection and put on their favorite albums. The record that got the most play was Led Zeppelin II. Although the music critics of rock journalism didn’t give the album very positive reviews, the people attending the party seemed to love it. The new Led Zeppelin LP got by far the most plays. Rick especially enjoyed the songs, Heartbreaker and Bring it on Home. As Rick smoked one of his Old Port Colts he thought about how much his social life had picked up in one day. He agreed to have lunch with Misty at The Red Top Restaurant. He was so excited about it and the way his whole day had played out that he knew he wouldn’t get much sleep tonight, but being only eighteen years old Rick knew he’d still feel great in the morning.
After the party ended Rick and Misty got a ride home from Misty’s friend Carol. Misty actually kissed Rick goodnight which surprised, but pleased him no end.
Rick was right. He didn’t get home until near 3:00 AM but he only managed a couple of hours sleep until he needed to get up to ready himself for hockey practise. This was Rick’s third year playing for The St. Vital Cougars. He didn’t play very well during last year’s play off run and he still felt bad about it. Last season Rick felt more stressed than a seventeen- year- old should have to be.
.He had a very demanding coach who expected his team to win every game even if it was only an exhibition contest. Coach Reynolds would often yell at his players when they made a mistake or didn’t play up to his expectations. Rick often took the brunt of his coach’s wrath as he was the Cougar’s number one goalie and was often blamed if his team lost a game. Rick would burn with shame and humiliation whenever he was publicly called out by his coach. Rick had a very sensitive temperament and would be upset for days after a loss. He never questioned his coach or his tactics. The truth was that Coach Reynolds terrified him and he would have quit the team if he wasn’t so afraid of what the coach would do to him as a consequence. The amazing thing was that the majority of the team remained loyal to him in spite of the emotional abuse. The one thing that could not be denied was that Coach Reynolds always produced a competitive hockey team.
After his short nap Rick poured himself a cup of Tim Horton’s coffee. He took a quick shower, packed his duffle bag and got into his old Ford. In less than twenty minutes he arrived at The St. Vital Arena. As soon as he got his head through the front doors Rick caught the bracing smell of ice and an indoor hockey arena. He always found the odor exhilarating and it immediately forced Rick to take on the identity of Rick Miller, the St. Vital Cougars star goalie. In an indoor hockey arena Rick could forget that he was just a kid who was taking four years to complete high school or someone who could not hold down a factory job. Here he was famous and was a force to be reckoned with. It was somewhat similar to Clark Kent changing his clothes in a phone booth to emerge as Superman.
It had not always been this way. Four years ago he had a coach in midget hockey that Rick didn’t particularly care for. His former coach Whit Chandler would always blame his team’s losses on Rick’s poor performance in goal. Whit told Rick that he let in far too many soft goals.
Whit wanted his team to capture a play-off spot and couldn’t see how this goal would be achieved with Rick’s continuing substandard performance. The coach had a Plan B. Without Rick’s knowledge Whit had asked one of the team’s defensemen if he would replace Rick in goal for the next game. The defenseman, Nick Robertson told his coach that he was up to the challenge. Nick had played goal in scrub games and figured that he wouldn’t have much difficulty playing goal in an organized hockey game.
During the first period Nick made a couple of good saves. This caused him to become over confident and become a bit of a show off. As a result, Nick would stray way too far out of his net and this tactic caused the Cougar’s opponents to score two quick goals. A few minutes later Nick bobbled a long easy shot from center ice and the Cougars were now down three goals. Whit had seen enough. His experiment had ended in disaster. The Cougar’s own fans were now heckling Nick and were calling for the coach to put Rick in goal. Some of the fans were even throwing their garbage at Nick. Nick truly looked relieved when Whit signalled for him to leave the goal to be replaced by Rick. Rick played competently enough during the rest of the game and the Cougars managed to finish the game with a 3-3 tie.
The next day Coach Whit Chandler called Coach Ray Reynolds, the coach of the juvenile division. Whit was aware of Reynold’s reputation for leading his teams to the top of their division. Although he didn’t particularly like the juvenile’s coach, Whit respected his success and was willing to ask for Reynold’s help.
“Hi, Ray. This is Whit Chandler. How are you?”
“Good. To what do I owe this honor?” Coach Reynolds asked in his usual gruff voice.
“I need your advice Ray. I don’t know what to do about my goaltending situation,” Whit said.
“Yeah, if I was you I’d be feeling the heat too. I was at your game last night and saw that you tried using a different goalie.”
“Man, that turned out to be a disaster, but I was desperate. Rick Miller just hasn’t been cutting it as our goalie. What would you do if you were in my shoes?”
“I agree with you that Rick Miller has far too many weaknesses as a goalie, but I like the kid. He has guts. I watched another one of your games in which Miller took a powerful slap shot to the shoulder. It must have hurt like hell, but Miller sucked it up and stayed in the game. That indicates to me that Rick is a real man. If I was you, Chandler, I’d stick with Miller in goal. The kid needs some help though. I’ll tell you what I’m willing to do for you. If you can book some ice time at the St. Vital arena, I’d be willing to teach Rick some new skills. I’ll also bring along my number one goalie, Brent Peterson to help show Miller some techniques that he has mastered.”
“Consider it done. I really appreciate this Ray. I owe you a few drinks for this one. I’ll phone the arena right now to book some ice time.”
After hockey practice was over, Rick called Misty.
“Hey, are we still on for lunch today?” Rick asked.
“You bet,” Misty answered. “Where shall we go?”
“I really like the chili and fries at The Red Top.”
“And I love their burgers and onion rings. So, we finally agree on something,” Misty teased.
“Yeah, miracles still do happen, I guess,” Rick said with a chuckle. “So, we’ll leave right now. I’m getting hungry after a gruelling hockey practice. Just meet me at my car.”
“Just what I always wanted. A man who takes charge,” Misty said.
In under five minutes the two neighbors arrived at The Red Top Restaurant. They were greeted by one of the weekend staff.
“What can I get for you guys? Do you want a menu?”
The waitress’s name was Marlene. She also attended Maplewood Collegiate. She was in Misty’s chemistry class. Many of the students at Maplewood held part time jobs in the evenings or on the weekend. Rick had passed Marlene in the halls several times. Rick found Marlene to be attractive, but he wouldn’t put her in the same league with Misty.
“Hi, Marlene. I’ll have chili, fries and a hot chocolate. And what will you order Misty?”
“I’ll have a Red Top burger, some onion rings and a Coke.”
“I’ll get your hot chocolate and Coke right away.” Marlene said.
“So does Sasha know that we’re having lunch together?” Rick asked.
“Oh yeah. I told her this morning at breakfast. She’s cool with it. She just started seeing this guy called Cole. He’s not as good looking as you Rick, but he’s very intelligent like you are. I think Cole might be a socialist or even a communist. He looks like one too. He is tall, skinny and has a black goatee and if I remember correctly he wore a badge on his sweater that said Young Socialist Party of Canada. Cole brought over some books for Sasha to read. One was Chairman Mao’s Little Red Book. Sasha hasn’t shown much interest in politics before, but I think she’ll read his literature just because she likes Cole so much.”
“Well, I’m happy for her. I hope Sasha’s found herself a nice guy. And I’m relieved to hear that she’s not upset about us having lunch together,” Rick said.
“No, there’s no need to worry Rick. Sasha’s over you.”
“So, Rick. How was your practice this morning?”
“It went very well. I am actually enjoying playing hockey for probably the first time in my life,” Rick answered.
“How long have you been playing hockey?”
Before Rick could answer Marlene had brought over Rick’s hot chocolate and Misty’s Coke. The sun shone brightly through the window highlighting the beauty of Misty’s face. Misty appeared so ravishing to Rick that he found it hard to focus on his answer to her question.
“Since I was seven years old,” Rick managed to get out.
“And you haven’t liked playing hockey until now?” Misty asked looking baffled.
“It’s what you call the power of peer pressure. My teammates wouldn’t let me quit. I was the only kid who wasn’t afraid of getting hit by the puck so I was the only goalie they had,” Rick explained.
“So what’s changed it for you this year?”
“There are several reasons. For one thing we have a different coach this year. Our former coach developed heart trouble and his doctor ordered him to quit coaching hockey. So now we have a new coach, Brad Keenan. He goes to university and he’s a really cool guy. He’s taken most of the pressure right off me. Plus, I’m the oldest guy on the team this year and the younger guys look up to me.”
“Wow, I never would have dreamed I’d be having lunch with a jock,” Mindy said.
This made Rick laugh. “Yes, but a very enlightened jock.”
“I always wanted a guy with a good sense of humour,” Misty said, starting to laugh.
Whit Chandler was only able to procure a 10:30 PM ice time slot for Rick’s crash course in goaltending. Throughout his whole career Rick had never had a coach teach him how to play goal. All he got from them was criticism of his performance. On Wednesday, December 5, 1967 this suddenly changed. As promised Coach Reynolds brought along his number one goalie Brent Peterson.
Coach Reynolds told Whit Chandler to stay in the stands and just observe as he and Brent taught Rick. To start off Coach Reynolds sent Brent to the net. He asked Rick to closely observe Brent’s posture and how he always kept his goal stick flat on the ice. Next Brent demonstrated how he cut down the angles. Brent showed Rick how to stop different kinds of shots. High shots, low shots, slapshots and wrist shots were all included in Rick’s crash course in the art and science of goaltending. Coach Reynolds put Rick in goal to practise what he’d just watched Brent do. When the one hour session was over, Rick was completely exhausted. He was so tired that it took him a long time to take his equipment off. Brent walked up to Rick and sat right beside him on the bench in the dressing room.
“I just want to tell you that you did real well out there tonight, but we still have a lot of work to do. Coach Reynolds will book the ice time again for sometime next week. In the mean time I’m going to give you some homework.” Brent handed Rick a copy of Lloyd Percival’s hockey handbook. He told Rick to read and study the chapter on goaltending and to start practising some of the suggested exercises on his own.
Rick attended and participated in two more private training sessions with Brent Peterson and Coach Reynolds. Rick had absorbed a lot of new strategies to help his individual play. On a Thursday night following his last practice Rick saw his newly acquired skills start to pay off. The Cougars were playing a team from the north end of the city. The Cougar’s opponents were ranked very close to the Cougars in the league standings. Northwood’s strategy for the game was to intimidate the Cougars with a punishing physical confrontation. The Northwood Raiders did everything in their power to engage the Cougar players into fights. They hacked, slashed, tripped and tried every illegal tactic to draw the Cougars off their game. The Cougars were a relatively small hockey team that was not known for aggressive play on the ice. The Cougars really had only one player that was a scoring threat and a Raiders player managed to engage him in a fight during the first period that led to his expulsion from the game.
By the start of the second period Northwood had the Cougars on the run. The smaller team was by now totally intimidated and their one scoring threat was out of the game. The Cougars now did not believe that they could win this game. Their revised goal was to get out of this arena alive. The game officials appeared to have been bought off by the Northwood Raiders. They refused to call penalties on even the most egregious infractions. Several of the Cougars white road jerseys now displayed blood stains.
Amazingly after all this mayhem the game was still scoreless going into the third period. The reason was the outstanding play of Rick Miller in goal. Rick stopped shots from every conceivable angle including three breakaways. This heroic effort by the Cougars goalie caused Northwood to become frustrated and dispirited. It was as if Rick’s superb play had drained the fight right out of the Raiders.
The Cougars capitalized on some late game lackadaisical play by Northwood and sored two quick goals. With time running out the Raider’s coach chose to pull their goalie in order to acquire a sixth attacker. This strategy backfired when the Cougars scored an empty net insurance goal.
At the final buzzer the Cougar players left the bench and mobbed Rick. They knew who won the game for them.
More customers came, ate and left at The Red Top but Rick and Misty didn’t take any notice of them.
“I’m sorry that I haven’t come over to visit you and your family, but I thought that I should hang low for awhile until the break[-up between Sasha and I had time to blow over,” Rick said.
By this time Marlene had brought over Rick and Misty’s food. Misty took a small bite out of her Red Top burger and smiled at Rick.
“Man, this burger tastes great. How’s your chili Rick?”
“It tastes really good too. They always serve great food here,” Rick answered.
“Yeah, I hoped you would drop over at my place for a visit. I really admire how you handled yourself at the rock festival. That showed real character. I was very proud of my dad too. My respect for him went up about two hundred per cent,” Misty said.
“I really like Lloyd. He loves you a lot.”
“I know that now,”
“How have you been after that bad acid trip and your concussion?”
“Well, I was kind of shook up for awhile, but looking back at it today I think that the experience did me some good,” Misty answered.
“How’s that?” Rick asked.
“I think it taught me to use more discretion when it comes to what drugs I put in my body. I think my split with Jim wised me up a bit too. From now on I’m going to use a lot more discretion in the guys that I date. I need someone who will really care about me, not just want to get me wasted and take me to bed.”
“You’ve come a long way my friend,” Rick said.
“Well, I think I made a good decision going out for lunch with you. We’ve only been here for a little while and yet I feel like I’ve known you all my life. I was starting to think that I would never be able to have an intelligent conversation with a guy until today,” Misty said.
Rick thought he could see tears well up in Misty’s eyes.
“You know what I feel like doing after lunch?” Misty asked after lighting up her DuMaurier cigarette.
“No, what would you like to do next Misty?” Rick asked.
“Look out the window. Can you see how beautiful it is outside? It’s not too cold and it’s snowing lightly. We could walk over to Cornation Park and check out the library. I want to see if they have the latest issue of Rolling Stone,” Misty said tapping the ash off her cigarette.
“Rolling Stone? That’s my favorite magazine. I think every book I’ve read lately I heard about through Rolling Stone. I always read their record reviews to check if there are any good LPs I should buy. Going for a walk sounds like a great idea. We’ll go as soon as we finish our cigarettes. I’m going to leave Marlene a tip,” Rick said.
“I’ll need to see the bill to see how much my burger, onion rings and Coke came to,” Misty said.
“You won’t need to check the bill. Lunch is on me. I don’t get out much these days and I don’t get to take a beautiful young woman out every day,”
Misty blushed and thanked Rick.
Rick and Misty said goodbye to Marlene as they put on their winter clothing. The sun was shining brightly and the snow was falling gently. Misty tied a bright red scarf around her neck. She was wearing a forest green parka that caused Rick to realize that Christmas would soon be upon them.
Misty offered her right hand to Rick after she put on her red finger gloves. The happy couple held hands and started walking down St. Mary’s Road. After a few minutes had passed Misty put her arm around Rick’s waist. A black car pulled up beside them and a scruffy looking young man rolled down his window and said, “You work fast Misty. It didn’t take you long to get over me now did it?”
“Ah, shut up Jim, you greaser,” Mindy shot back.
“Hey man. Be careful you don’t catch anything from your new girlfriend. Believe me she’s been around.” After saying this Jim pulled away and drove down the street.
Misty turned red and started to cry. Rick held her body tightly and wiped the tears from her eyes with a Kleenex.
“Let’s walk back to the Red Top, Rick. I want you to drive me home. I think I want to be alone for the rest of the day,” Misty said. She was wiping her eyes with some tissue that Rick gave her.
“Sometimes it helps to talk things out with someone. You can’t let an asshole like Jim wreck your day,” Rick said giving Misty a hug.
“You don’t know the half of it Rick. I still want you to take me home, but let’s just drive around for awhile,” Misty said.
“Where do you want to go?”
“Let’s drive by Memorial Park. I’d like to see how it looks in the winter time.”
They got into Rick’s old Ford and headed downtown.
“I don’t want to lose you Rick but there are some things that I need to tell you.”
“Like what? I’m a good listener and I don’t plan on dumping you anytime soon,” Rick said.
This made Misty laugh. “Now you got me laughing and crying at the same time. Are you proud of yourself?”
“It’s good to hear you laugh. I think we’re going to be okay.”
“You have no idea how much I want that to be true,” Misty sighed.
It was starting to get a bit dark and cloudy so Rick turned on his lights. He kept the windshield wipers going as the snow continued to fall.
“Are you warm enough? I can turn the heat up.”
“No. I feel warm enough.” Misty said.
“Can you handle it if I tell you my true story?”
“I’ve got pretty broad shoulders. Yes, I can handle it. Where would you like to start?”
“I’ll start by telling you that I have a serious medical disorder called schizo-affective disorder. At least that’s how my doctors have diagnosed me.” Misty said.
“I don’t think I’ve heard of that one. What are the symptoms?”
“The most serious symptom is both auditory and visual hallucinations.”
“How often does this happen to you?”
“Fortunately, not as much as it used to. Since my bad trip this summer I’ve started seeing a psychiatrist and he has prescribed medications for me that greatly reduce my positive symptoms,” Misty explained.
“Positive symptoms? How can they be positive?”
“That’s just what the medical profession calls them. Positive means something that is added on that doesn’t usually exist in a normal person. Positive symptoms include both hallucinations and delusions.”
“That sounds scary,”
“Believe me. It is. You have no idea Rick” Misty said.
“How do you cope?”
“Well, you’re the only person I’ve told this to outside of my family.”
“I feel bad for you, but that information is not going to make me run away,” Rick said.
“There’s one other thing Rick. I’ve been with a lot of guys and have had many short term relationships none of which have really worked out. In that sense what Jim was telling you was true. I have been around and I probably have a reputation, but I’m not carrying any STDs. I’ve had medical tests lately that show I don’t have any. What I really want now is a relationship without any sex.”
Rick laughed. “That’s fine with me as long as I can still hold your hand and hug and kiss you.”
“Of course you can,” Misty began to cry.