(Note: The following is part of a piece of fiction I've been working on here and there, the opening section of a longer work that I'll excerpt now and then when the mood strikes. It will ramble and meander, delving deeply into the little stuff of characters' lives, and overall it may seem like it doesn't have much of a point to it, but that's kind of my point.)
Jeffrey Dunn's father, Herman Dunn, drove the zamboni at Pete Peter's Centennial Arena Monday to Saturday during the winter, cleaning the ice between shifts of the pee-wee and midget and Junior B hockey games, and in the summer he cut the field over at Hawksley's baseball diamond three times a week, making sure that the grass wasn't too high way out there in the outfield. Hated hockey, hated baseball, Herman Dunn did. Jeffrey knew this for a fact because Papa always came home in the winter rubbing his hands, red from the cold, and in the summer he always came home rubbing his neck, red from the heat, looking even redder compared to the all-white Niagara Parks and Rec shirt he had to wear every day, and he'd never watch hockey on TV or listen to baseball on the radio, even if the Leafs or the Jays were in a pretty good playoff hunt. Sometimes he'd sigh and look over at Jeffrey lazing around on the couch and say: "You keep on doing that. That's why they all call it 'work' and not 'fucking around with your friends and then lazing around on the couch', I guess."
Jeffrey never could figure out what that was supposed to mean, but angry or sad, happy or tired, he liked the sound of Papa's voice all the same, no matter what he was grumbling or grinning about. Like the ice you jangled around in a glass just before the Coke was poured in, Papa's voice was. Sweet beneath the clanking, or something like that. Jeffrey also could never get why, if Papa hated sports so much, the two of them could sit there in the cold of the arena under those tiny old heaters hanging from the ceiling that never seemed to heat much of anything, and watch the game go whatever which way it wanted to go, and Papa always seemed to know exactly what was going to happen with each player on both teams on every shift. Like he wasn't watching the game for the first time like everybody else sitting beside him and freezing around him, but instead was seeing it all again after he'd already watched the highlights on SportsDesk on TSN the night before.
"Watch seventeen, the Hurtzel kid," he'd say. "He's gonna make like he's gonna pass, but he don't pass the puck in the third period, almost never, not when they're down two, three goals." And Hurtzel wouldn't pass the puck, he'd try to score, even from a weird angle way out past the blue line, out where nobody good ever shot the puck unless they were trying to ice it and kill time for a line shift.
Or they'd be sitting on the faded green bleachers out under the yellow sun on a bright August afternoon watching ladies' softball, Papa chugging a Molson down in big gulps as it stayed safe and cosy tucked inside of those foam coasters, kind of like it was hidden, because you really weren't supposed to drink at the ball park, it being public, and especially with Papa being a public employee, which probably make it worse, and Jeffrey would be drinking a 7-Up, never a Sprite, though he liked both, only 7-Up he liked better, he didn't know why, sipping it slowly to make the drink last unlike Papa, who would drink three or four beers but would only buy Jeffrey one pop, and Papa could tell you which pitcher would throw like a girl and which was halfway decent for a chick, considering it was, you know, softball, and not the real thing. He could tell you which batter most likely had celluite creeping down her thighs due to the awkward way she stood beside the plate, or who couldn't make it from first to second in time because her boobs were too big for running. "Can't run with boobs like that," he'd say. "Not my rule. Nature's." One day while watching another boring ladies' softball game Jeffrey just flat out asked him how he seemed to know so much.
"About what?" Papa said.
"About baseball," Jeffrey said. "About hockey. "
Papa turned away from the game and looked down at his son. He wasn't a thoughtful man, Jeffrey thought, because he sometimes forgot about birthdays or Christmas cards, but he thought about stuff a lot. He could even tell when Papa was thinking real hard by the way his eyes got all glassy, like he was trying to focus on something real far off. He'd wipe his nose and scratch his stubble and stifle a Molson beer burp before it could sneak its way out, which meant he was most definitely serious. Usually the burps just flowed like music from a tape deck.
"You see enough shit," Papa said, "and sooner or later you can just smell what stinks and what don't. Simple as that."