Miles Myers excused himself and ran to the dressing room bathroom. Without a second to spare he made it to the washroom just in time to vomit into the toilet. Miles knew that this was not a case of the flu. It was pregame nerves. At the exact moment that Miles ran to the bathroom Rick Miller entered the dressing room. He could hear Miles vomiting.
Rick was wearing his Maplewood Cougars hoodie. He turned towards his coach, Brad Keenan and said,
“Can I have a private talk with Miles when he comes out of the washroom? “
“Of course, Rick. Miles is very nervous about tonight’s game. I don’t think that he has much confidence in himself. Hopefully, you can settle him down,” Brad said.
Miles left the bathroom still wiping small chunks of vomit from his lips. When he saw Rick his face reddened from embarrassment. Coach Brad Keenan left the dressing room to give his two goalies some privacy. Rick and Miles both took a seat on the bench next to each other.
“I don’t want to screw up tonight, Rick. There’s so much riding on this game,” Miles said.
“Listen Miles. Coach Keenan wouldn’t have you on his team if he didn’t think you are a competent goaltender. I saw how well you played in one of our exhibition games,” Rick said putting a hand on Miles shoulder.
“Now I want you to look at me. Straight in the eyes. I know you can do this. It is within your power to play even better than you did in that exhibition game. You just need to relax and get focused. I want you to try some mental imagery for a few minutes. I want you to imagine making some key saves in tonight’s game. I need you to see yourself blocking shots from every conceivable angle. Get a clear visual picture of the whole team surrounding you and congratulating you at the end of the game,” Rick said excitedly.
He was now standing up and pacing around the dressing room.
“You are going to be a game changer in a few minutes Miles.”
“Does this visual imagery stuff really work?” Miles asked
“You bet it does. I do it before every game. Now you try.”
Miles closed his eyes and began to imagine himself making outstanding saves.
“This is going to be your night Miles. This could be a turning point in your career. After tonight’s game, the team is going to know they have an opportunity to win every time you play a game,” Rick said.
Within a few minutes the rest of the Maplewood Cougars entered the home team’s dressing room. As soon as most of the players were dressed, Coach Keenan asked two of his rookie forwards, Steve Hayes and Rod Langlois to go to the ice warm up Miles.
Sam had been burning the candle at both ends. His ambition to write novels was almost equal to his desire to become a great lead guitarist. To date, he had self published two science fiction novels. He used the Amazon platform to sell his books and was enjoying moderately good sales. Unfortunately, he required other sources of revenue to pay his bills. He got a part-time job teaching creative writing one night a week at a local community college. The rest of his income came from his cut from his band’s performances at various bars in Manhattan. With these three streams of income, Sam could usually just squeak by paying his monthly bills each month.
Sam Bradley lived in a small bachelor’s apartment in East Manhattan. He had been fortunate to find an apartment complex that had rent control. Even with this advantage, Sam was often hard-pressed to stay afloat financially and because of this, he was almost constantly stressed out.
Sam worked hard at all his endeavours. He was not a naturally gifted musician, so he practised his guitar playing daily for at least two hours. He applied an equal amount of dedication to his writing and did an admirable amount of preparation for his creative writing classes.
To add to his issues with stress and anxiety, Sam was becoming chronically fatigued. One night during one of the Raccoons’ breaks, Sam told his bass player Glenn Williams about his exhaustion. Glenn was very willing to help as they were also close friends. Glenn offered Sam a couple of little white pills. Sam asked what they were and Glenn informed him that they were Dexedrine tablets.
Glenn Williams also had to work hard as he had to pay his ex-wife a hefty amount of alimony and child support. He had to hold down a full-time job is IT technician. The small amount of money he made as the bass player for the Raccoons allowed him a little bit of spending money for himself.
Two months ago, Glenn went to see his family doctor and complained about excessive daytime sleepiness. His doctor recommended that Glenn try taking Dexedrine to see if that would help boost his energy levels. It worked like a charm and within a couple of days Glenn was totally dependent on stimulants to get them through his long days.
The Rocky Raccoons basically played classic rock and as they worked hard as a unit over the last few years, they had become very good. The Raccoons were famous in the bars of East Manhattan. They knew their audiences well and what they wanted to hear.
What was popular varied somewhat depending upon which bar they were working, but they had built up a standard set of universal favourites. The Rocky Raccoons found they could never go wrong with songs like You Shook Me All Night Long by AC/DC and Crazy Train by Ozzy Osbourne. Other sure crowd pleasers included songs such as American Woman by the Guess Who and Taking Care of Business by Bachman Turner Overdrive. They learned these two songs from their rhythm guitar player, Kevin Watts who was a transplanted Canadian born and raised in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.
Sam and Keith would sit down and write some original material whenever they got the chance and some times the band performed a couple of the original compositions during their performances.
The Rocky Raccoons were so popular that they had a group of fans who actually followed the band from bar to bar across East Manhattan. The Raccoons’ followers where nowhere near the size of the Grateful Dead’s famous Deadheads, but for a local band they had an impressive number of followers, both male and female. A couple of their female fans were groupies. The Raccoons’ groupies besides providing the band with the obvious favours and benefits were valuable for another reason. Two of their groupies also serviced the world famous bands when they played concerts in New York.
Alicia and Trixie would always put in a plug for the Rocky Raccoons when they talked to the famous musicians and bands. They would also speak with the band’s managers and promoters and encourage them to book the Raccoons as an opening act on the bands’ concert tours.
Occasionally, a well-known manager or promoter would drop by a local New York bar to see if the Rocky Raccoons were as good as Alicia and Trixie them out to be.
Joel Jenkins was not having a very good day. The morning started off badly when Joel first opened his eyes. The first thing that he saw was that his alarm clock radio read 7:50 AM. Joel was supposed to start his new job at 7:00 AM. Being late on his first day on the job was not going to make a good impression on Joel’s new employer. Joel was very fortunate to have been hired for this job. Ian, his sponsor in NA got him the job at Sam’s Salvage Services. Sam Bradley was also being sponsored by Ian. This was not an opportunity the Joel didn’t wanted to lose.
Joel was given the alarm clock by Ian as a gift when his sponsor informed him that he was able to get him the job at Sam’s Salvage Services. Joel thought that he had set the alarm clock correctly the night before. Obviously, he had not. The alarm clock was a newer, state-of-the-art timekeeper that included all the latest bells and whistles. He could even set it to wake him up to the sound of his favourite CD. The problem was that Joel had a difficult time with modern technology, mostly because he didn’t own any modern technology. At present, Joel didn’t even own a PC, a laptop, a cell phone or even a tablet. For the last three years Joel had spent all his money on drugs. He’d been clean for almost six months but couldn’t apply for work until he had completed both his detox and rehabilitation programs. He was fired from his last job when his substance abuse severely affected his job performance and on numerous occasions his ability to show up for work at all.
Joel had to come up with a damage control plan fast. Ian had given Joel, Sam’s cell phone number. Joel called Sam right away to let him know what was up. He let Sam know that he was late and was calling a taxi to take him to work. Sam told Joel that he was presently driving a truck in downtown Manhattan and due to the heavy traffic would probably be stuck in that location for likely up to half an hour. Sam told Joel to have the cab drop him off near the First National Bank.
Sam Bradley was a bit of an entrepreneur. He got into the salvage business after his brother-in-law agreed to let him have his old Ford pickup truck if Sam agreed to pay him $200 as soon as he made some money in his new enterprise.
Sam had a very checkered job history with a backlog of bad references from his past employers. This being the case, Sam felt he had to become a self-employed entrepreneur out of necessity.
Sam had a very check your job history with a backlog of bad references from past employers. This being the case, Sam felt he had no choice but to become self-employed entrepreneur
Sam Bradley was a very creative man. He was an artist a broad range of interests. He loved the arts and had taken a stab at most forms of artistic expression including outdoor photography, sculpture and pottery. He found out that he was not particularly talented in all of his artistic pursuits, but Sam had the attitude the one didn’t know if they had an aptitude for something unless they had given it an honest concerted effort.
Through his efforts Sam discovered that he was more than skillful in the areas of writing and music. He became skilled enough on guitar to play in a local band called Rocky Raccoon. That’s where his problem with addictions began.
On a sunny Saturday afternoon, Mark Kennedy woke up to the sound of his parents having an animated conversation about Donald Trump. Mark’s father, Michael Kennedy was a die- hard supporter of the controversial Republican candidate. He was an obese, but physically strong construction worker. He had been the shop steward for his union local for a long time, but over the past two years he had become disheartened with the lack of power of his local union to improve the wages and working conditions of his fellow construction workers. At the last local union meeting that he attended, the workers national representative was pushing hard to encourage the union’s local membership to vote for Hillary Clinton and the Democrats in the upcoming presidential election. Not all workers, including Mark Kennedy were impressed. Several members had taken notice of the recent campaign speeches by Donald Trump and many were beginning to think of him as the politician most likely to aid their cause.
His wife, Laura Kennedy was a strong woman. Some may even have described her as being a fierce woman. Laura hated Donald Trump’s guts and her perception of how the Republican presidential candidate mistreated women. As Mark was in the process of greeting the morning, he overheard the heated political discussion going on between his parents.
Mark could care less about politics, Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton. He needed to call his friends right after breakfast as Mark wanted to invite his buddies out for a game of touch football. Mark was a big fan of the Oakland Raiders and his favorite player was the Raiders quarterback, Derek Carr. Mark usually played quarterback during Saturday’s traditional touch football game. When he was making a long pass mark Mark would imagine that he was the real Derek Carr in the process of leading his team to a fourth-quarter comeback.
Mark joined his family for a bowl of Apple Cinnamon Cheerios.
“So, what are you going to do today?” his father asked.
“After breakfast I’m going to call up some of my friends to organize a touch football game,” Mark answered.
“Are you going to play quarterback again this week?” Michael Kennedy asked.
“That’s my plan,” Mark replied.
“Can you throw passes like Brett Favre?” his father asked.
“No. Brett Favre is retired. I want to play like Derek Carr,” Mark answered.
“That’s okay. That Raider kid is pretty good. I’ve got admit,” Mark’s dad responded.
After he helped his mother do the dishes Mark went to his room and started making the necessary phone calls.
After his father gave Mark a ride to the local school grounds that included a football field complete with two sets of both goal posts at each end zone. After he got out of the car Mark saw to his two best friends, Curly and Red throwing a football around.
Both Curly and Red came by their nicknames honestly. Curly was obese but his long thick brown curly hair was his most prominent feature. Red was a tall, skinny kid who suffered from a serious case of acne. He was glad that his nickname, Red, was a description of his mullet styled. shoulder length, fiery red hair. Red’s family ancestry was Irish. When he got old enough to grow a beard it was almost certainly going to be a flaming red color as well.
Within the next ten minutes, nine other boys arrived. These kids were all grade six students at Birchwood Elementary. Once the members of the two teams were selected, Mark’s team won the coin toss and elected to be the receiving team for the first half of the game. Mark was unanimously chosen to be the starting quarterback for his squad.
The first play that Mark called in the huddle was a down and out pass pattern to the right. Red was lined up as a tight end on the right side of the line of scrimmage.
It had rained heavily the night before and the field was still damp and slippery. As Mark backpedalled and tried to get himself into a comfortable throwing stance, he slipped on the grass just as he let go of the football while attempting to pass to his intended receiver, Red.
The football floated high over Red’s head and landed somewhere in a bushy area to the right of the football field. Red volunteered to search for the football in the brush. He was starting to get all scratched up from the thorn bushes that were prevalent in the bushy outskirts on the right side of the football field. A few feet away Red could see the overthrown football. It was neatly enmeshed in the grasp of a thick bush.
As Red took a few steps in the direction of the object of the search, he also spotted what appeared to be part of an animal’s leg protruding from the thicket. The part of the leg that was visible was pearly white in color, approximately a foot-long and looked bumpy and scaly. This sight of this frightening apparition almost instantly froze the blood in Red’s veins. He was unable to move even though he desperately wanted to run away as far as possible from the object that was causing him this terror was burning inside him.
After a few minutes, he heard Mark calling for him.
“Red, are you okay in there? Did you find the football?”
There wasn’t any response to Mark’s questions. Curly came up behind Mark.
“Ah, Red’s probably just taking a leak in the bushes,” Curly said.
“No. I don’t think so,” Mark responded. “Red’s been in there too long and it’s getting me worried. I’m going in. Are you coming with me, Curly?”
“Why not? Red’s probably just hasn’t found the football yet,” he answered.
A few other boys overheard Curly and Mark talking and offered their assistance to find out what was going on with Red. As soon as the boys pushed through the thorn bushes, they were stopped in their tracks. They couldn’t believe that they were seeing. They saw Red crying as he fell to his knees. He yelled out, “Help!”
Harold slid back in his Lazy Boy chair. He let out a big sigh.
“You sure like to ask the heavy duty questions don’t you? “The simple answer is ‘yes’. I have believed in God since I was a little child. My family didn’t go to church, but our public school teachers would read to us every morning from a book of Bible stories for children. The book contained modified, paraphrased accounts of famous Bible stories such as Noah and the ark and David and Goliath.
“As little children we lived near the Red River and hung out at the river bank. On a Friday or Saturday night we would often have a wiener roast and discuss the Bible stories that are teachers had read us during the past week. A recurring topic was the future of our own our eternal destinies. The kids in our little gang who gave their parents and teachers a lot of trouble surmised that their eternal fate was almost certainly to be tortured endlessly in hell. You also need to remember that in those days there was only one depiction of the abode of eternal damnation.”
“What was that representation?” Whisper asked.
“The fiery furnace. Your body would burn forever in a state of eternal torment. This, of course, had the predictable effect upon a child’s mind and emotions,” Harold answered.
“That sounds horrible, Harold. Were you given an alternative?” Whisper asked.
“Yes. If you were a model citizen and did everything your parents and teachers told you to do and didn’t say any bad swears, you’d likely end up in heaven with Jesus after you died,” Harold answered while looking longingly at the cannabis pipe sitting comfortably in the ceramic ashtray.
“When you were little boy did you believe this?” Whisper asked.
“Absolutely. Nobody told us anything different. Even if our parents didn’t attend church, they found this teaching to be an effective tool when it came to keeping your kids in line.”
“Now that you’re an adult you still don’t believe the same thing, do you, Harold?” Whisper asked as she reached over to pass the pipe to Harold.
“I still believe in God, but I absolutely think that I was taught the wrong message about God’s character,” Harold answered while gratefully taking the pipe from Whisper.
“So that means you’re still a believer? Whisper asked.
“With all my heart,” Harold responded, “Despite what some of my Christian brothers and sisters may think about my present spiritual condition.”
“Why in the world would your Christian friends doubt your sincerity?” Whisper asked.
Harold hesitated for a few seconds while he picked up Whisper’s marijuana lighter, lit up the bowl of cannabis and took three deep puffs off the swirly ceramic pipe.
Episode Ten: On Monday afternoon Whisper was browsing on Harold’s computer when she found Harold’s Spotify playlists. She noticed that one of the playlists was titled as gospel. On Sunday evening Whisper located Harold’s iTunes audiobook downloads. She was cognizant of how many of Harold’s … Continue reading Whisper Episode Ten
Coach Brad Keenan got to the St. Vital Arena about ten minutes after Hadley arrived. He, too, needed to deliver a powerful, inspirational speech to his team. Two of his top players, injured goalie, Rick Miller and suspended defenseman, Eric Coswell would not be playing tonight. The Maplewood Cougars were not only going to miss the incredible skill set of his two top players, but also their maturity and leadership abilities. He knew that his team would not be approaching tonight’s game with a strong sense of confidence. They had all seen how their backup goalie, Miles Myers had performed in yesterday morning’s practice. They watched dejectedly as Miles let in one soft goal after another.
Brad recalled how he became so exasperated that he did something that he very rarely did. He called out one of his players publicly. Brad remembered his exact words as he verbally stripped down his young, relatively inexperienced, second string goaltender.
“Do you have any idea how much is riding on tomorrow night’s game? We desperately need a win. I know you’re not Rick Miller, but the team is counting on you to step up to the plate and make everyone forget that we don’t have the services of Rick Miller tomorrow.”
As soon as the team finished practice and arrived back at the dressing room, Brad asked Miles if he could have a word with him in the coach’s office.
“I’m sorry I yelled at you, Miles. It’s not your fault that Rick Miller won’t be able to play tomorrow. To tell you the truth, I’ve been under a ton of stress lately and this morning I let it get the best of me. I just ask that you give the team your best effort tomorrow night.”
“Thanks Coach. I know I played shitty this morning. I’ve been under a lot of stress myself. Besides knowing that I need to replace Ricky, my dad has really been on my case. You see, I bought a used car that I fell in love with yesterday. My dad was not impressed that I used up a good chunk of my college tuition savings to pay for the car. Don’t worry coach. I’m going to play my best game ever tomorrow.”