‘How about you, Tamara?” Keith asked. “I don’t know anything about you yet.”
“Well, I just moved in with my grandmother,” Tamara answered.
“You mean Brenda Dawson? I’ve talked to her many times. She’s a really nice lady. She is still known as the pet rescue lady in the neighborhood. Brenda always has at least two stray animals that she keeps until she can find good homes for them. Where were you living before you moved in with your grandma?” Keith asked.
“I was living with my boyfriend, Blake Edwards in Orlando, Florida, not too far from the Everglades,” Tamara answered.
“Where’s Blake living now?”
“He’s in Manitoba right now getting free room and board in The Headingly Correctional Facility. He originally moved to Winnipeg with me and got himself a bachelor suite on Furby Street. After living there for only two days Blake tried to rob a Chinese restaurant two blocks away. The truth is that Blake is not a very smart criminal. It only took the cops about an hour to arrest him,” Tamara answered.
“When is he going to be released from jail?” Keith asked grabbing another corned beef sandwich.
“They’ll probably keep him for a few months as Blake gets into trouble with the law a lot. I think that Blake made a poor choice when he decided to be a career outlaw. The truth is that he is not very good at it, but he hasn’t figured that out yet.”
“Are you in love with Blake?” Keith asked as Tamara took a sip from her glass of water.
“It’s hard to say. I don’t really know what love is. If you are talking about a physical, chemical attraction to Blake, yeah, it’s there. I don’t approve of his lifestyle though. I wish he’d grow up, get a job and have some positive direction for his life.”
“It sounds like you want a quality life. How did you end up moving to Winnipeg?”
“That was Marilyn’s idea. She’s my stepmother. She didn’t want me living that close to the Everglades. Marilyn is worried that it’s too dangerous a location for me. About a month ago, she was watching tv and saw a story about a nine foot Burmese python that wandered into one of our neighbor’s yard in Orlando. The snake had eaten their dog. Marilyn phoned Brenda, my grandmother, and asked if I could live with her for awhile until I found a place of my own in Winnipeg. Marilyn didn’t know that Blake was coming to Winnipeg with me.”
After Rick Miller was released from the hospital, Brad Keenan gave him a phone call. “So what did you decide about playing hockey this year Rick?”
“I’m going to take the recommended three weeks off, Coach and then will play it by ear from there,” Rick answered.
“Are you sure that you shouldn’t just take the rest of the season off?” Brad asked.
“No. I don’t want to do that Coach. We still have a good chance of making a run for the playoffs this season.
“Yes, we do,” the coach said. “I’m just hoping that the rest of the team puts their full support behind Miles Meyers during the next three weeks or however long your recovery takes. They don’t seem to have much confidence in Miles right now.”
“I wouldn’t worry about it Coach. I’ll be coming to watch all the games. While I’m there, I’ll encourage the players to backup Miles. In fact, I’ll insist upon it. I’ll also be in the dressing room between periods to give Miles advice if he starts to struggle,” Rick said.
“I knew that I could count on you Rick. You are definitely a team player.”
Eric Coswell skated over to the Cougars bench to pass on the pep talk that Rick Miller had just given him. He then skated back to take his position on defense. Eric was the best defenseman on the Cougars roster and he was absolutely fearless when it came to protecting Rick in goal.
Shortly after the puck was dropped to start the second period Eric’s determination and courage were put to the test. During the first intermission Jeff Hadley, the Norberry Knight’s coach had given one of his power forwards, Glenn Davison, a special assignment. Jeff asked Glenn to meet him in the washroom for a private conversation.
“Look Glenn, I didn’t want to say this in front of your teammates, but I want you to do something for me during the second period.”
“Sure. What do you want me to do, coach?” Glenn asked as he adjusted his elbow pads.
“Glenn you’re a smart enough player to see what happened out there in the first period. We badly out played the Cougars. We had the puck in their end the majority of the time and out shot them eleven to four. We should be winning this game by at least two goals, maybe three. The only reason we’re not winning this game is Maplewood’s goalie, Rick Miller. He’s made some incredible saves during the first period and that is why the game is still scoreless. As soon as you get a chance, I want you to take a run at him. I want to see Rick Miller hit so hard that he has to be taken out of the game. At the very least I want to see Miller so shaken up that it will throw him off for the rest of the game,” Jeff said trying to speak quietly so that his other players wouldn’t here what he told Glen. The Knight’s coach knew that there were a few bleeding hearts on his team that would not approve of so unsportsman like a game strategy.
“No problem coach. I’ll take Miller out of the game. I know that their defenseman, Eric Coswell will go after me as soon as I crash into Miller,” Glenn said.
“I know he will, but you’re the team’s enforcer. I expect you to punch Coswell out in the ensuing fight. I want to send the Cougars a powerful message. We can’t allow a weak team like Maplewood beat us this early in the season. I want our team to win the city championship,” Jeff said pounding his fist into his other hand for emphasis.
Chapter One Hundred Eighty-Six:
After suiting up for his dive John Richards descended into the depths of Lake Okanagan. He travelled a long way down before he saw anything. John was both startled and grossed out to see a dismembered bloody arm drifting towards him. Common sense told John that he should head back to the lake’s surface. He dismissed the thought as he felt that if it was possible to save the two diver’s lives he should make that attempt. He drifted down quite a distance further when the underwater caverns of Rattlesnake Island came into view.
John could see an adult size Ogopogo coming out of one of the cavern’s openings. The creature was carrying one of the divers between his jaws. John could see the stump of the diver’s missing arm. The Ogopogo stared at John and for some unknown reason released the injured diver from its mouth. It proceeded to turn around and swim away from John and the diver. John knew that this was his opportunity to rescue the diver. He called to the ship from the communication device in his helmet.
“Does anyone up their copy?”
“Yes, we copy,” Blake answered.
“I’ve found one of the divers and he is seriously injured. If I can get him to the surface there may still be a chance that we can save his life I’m going to grab a hold of him and I need you guys to bring us up immediately. I also spotted an Ogopogo. He is gone now and may have disappeared into one of the cavern openings. I don’t know how much time I’ve got until the creature reappears.”
“Don’t worry John we are bringing you up as we speak,” answered Blake.
One day in August Rick walked to the Canada Employment Center to see if he could get some help finding a job. He was two credits short from attaining his high school diploma and realized that with this small amount of course work he would need to at least, get a part time job. At this time he did not think that he would return to playing hockey for another season. Last year had been much too stressful for him and now he would have a lot of free time on his hands. Rick felt that he would need to get a job to keep his parents happy.
As he entered the employment center Rick was nervous. He had worked one summer at his dad’s printing plant and had a very negative experience while working there. Rick did not yet realize that he lacked the manual dexterity, fine motor skills and spatial reasoning required for most factory jobs.
Rick walked up to the reception desk and was told to pull a number out of a machine. He was directed to take a seat in the waiting room and wait until his number was called.
Rick found an empty seat and took a look around the main floor of the employment center. It was a very drab place that rendered a rather depressing mood. After waiting approximately fifteen minutes Rick heard his name called and was greeted by a young attractive female who asked him to take a seat in her work area. The employment counsellor did not have a closed in office. Her office space was separated from her co-workers by grey rectangular partitions. This arrangement didn’t give the client any feeling of privacy as one could hear what people in other sectioned off work areas were saying.
The employment counsellor shook hands with Rick and said, “Hello Richard, my name is Arlene Johnson. What can I do for you today?”
“You can just call me Rick. I’m here to find a job.”
“What kind of work are you looking for?”
“I’m not sure,” Rick answered. “I don’t know what kinds of work are available to me.”
“Well, that all depends upon your education and work experience.”
“I’ve got my grade 11 and I’m just two credits shy of my high school diploma. I worked at my dad’s printing plant one summer and I used to have a paper route.
“Do you like working with your hands Rick?”
“Not very much. I’m not very good with my hands.”
“I have to be honest with you. Most of the jobs you could apply for require a grade twelve education and manual dexterity or fine motor skills. We occasionally get referrals from employers for manual labor jobs, but I don’t have any referrals right now,” Arlene said.
“Rick was now feeling very uncomfortable. “So I guess you really don’t have anything for me today?”
“Not really. What do you do in your spare time?”
“I play hockey, watch tv, listen to music and read.”
“But you don’t do much work with your hands?”
“No, not really, but I read a lot,” Rick said feeling insulted.
“Listen Rick. Can I be blunt?”
“Yeah,” Rick replied feeling annoyed.
“You need to get your high school diploma and you need to take up a hobby where you have to use your hands. After you do that come back and see me.”
“Thank you for your time,” Rick said as he got up to leave Arlene’s work area. When he got outside Rick lit up a smoke and said to himself, “So that’s that. I’ll go back to school to get my two credits and I’ll play hockey for one more year.”
Both Rick and Misty started yelling, “Hey man, stop! What are you trying to do?”
“Leave me alone. I’m going to jump,” the man answered.
“Let’s talk a bit first,” Misty said.
“Talk about what?” the man asked.
“About anything. Misty and I have been looking for someone interesting to talk to.” Rick answered.
“I’m not an interesting person and anyway you’ve got each other to talk to,” the man said.
“Let me be the judge of that. How about the three of us go to the Sals and get a cup of coffee? It’s starting to get chilly out here.” Rick said.
“I don’t even have enough money for a coffee, man and I just smoked my last cigarette,”
“What’s your name?” Misty asked.
“Norman or just Norm.”
“Hi, I’m Misty and this is my boyfriend, Rick.”
“Like I said, I haven’t got enough money to so the Sals and I’m kind of busy here.”
“Okay. I’ll tell you what. You come down from the railing and I’ll pay for your coffee and anything else you want to eat. Don’t worry about cigarettes. I just opened a new pack. How about it?” Rick asked.
“Well, I guess I could have my last coffee and cigarette before I leave this world.” Norm answered.
“That’s great. I’ll give you a smoke right now,” Rick said.
When they got back the Salisbury House, Norm ordered a Big Nip, and order of fries and a coffee.
“Thanks guys. I haven’t had anything to eat yet today. My dad kicked me out at around ten this morning,” Norm said.
“So what have you been doing all day to keep warm?” Misty asked.
“I’ve been riding the bus. My dad bought me a monthly bus pass before I got the boot,” Norm said. “I don’t know what to do or where to go. Two months ago my mom kicked me out of her place.”
“Don’t worry we’ll figure something out,” Misty said.
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.