So, Coach Andrew Interrogates Me

I mean, come on coach, you know what it’s like, when you’re on the ice and you’re all hopped up and ready to go. You used to play too. And my dad played football and hockey for a bit when he was growing up. You should hear some of the things they’d say to each other then. He’s told me. Like some messed up shit. Like when we drive home after games, he says things to me, too. About how I need to move my feet more and keep my head up, and about how you’ve gotta dominate the enemy. Fuck ‘em. Get in their heads, ya know? That’s just part of the game. Chirping. Talking. Blowing kisses. Like, I get it, I understand what was so bad. But, I mean, come on coach, I’m sure it’s not the first time he’s heard that word. We listen to rap in the locker room, don’t we? 

Okay, so anyways, what happened was, it was the third period. We were down—you know that—and you kept yelling about “cycling the puck” and “taking the body” and all that, and we were in their zone. I was right next to where it happened. Buck and Devin were both on the guy, their D, trying to cough up the puck. And I was there waiting near the dot for the puck. And that’s when their center—the kid that got offended—skated up to me and boxed me out. Coach, you’ve heard it all before, I bet even you have had some crazy shit called at you. I’m sorry, but you know what I mean. We all talk trash. There’s no limit, really. You’ve heard, and probably even said, some crazy stuff. In that game, the kid that’s all offended, said some of the nastiest shit to me, coach. Like fucked with my head, coach. Remember you said you got to outsmart and out-win the opponent? That’s part of it, isn’t? 

So, anyways, it’s nothing like what my dad told me about playing football in his day. The stuff they said to each other would get them kicked off the team now. That kid had it coming. You saw the way he fucking tried to slew foot Buck? And the way he was slashing Devin? I mean, the kid had it coming to him if you think about it. I mean, I still don’t approve, really. Okay, like I understand how it’s messed up. But I didn’t say it, okay? You gotta believe me. You can’t believe Buck. That guy lies about everything. But, listen, okay, here’s exactly what happened. Coach, no twisting here, just straight up honest, okay? I don’t want to get anyone in more trouble. I mean, I think that kid is a crybaby, but whatever. You know he calls his friends that. I mean, it’s about fairness, isn’t? So, anyways, like I said, Buck and Devin are in the corner picking for the puck between the D’s feet. They’re pushing and shoving, and having a good tussle, when the kid shows up next to me. He stick-checks me but I don’t care. I know the puck will cough up the boards to our D—it’s angles and geometry. 

So the kid is next to me, acting all tough. I give a good push to move him out, give myself room to get to the boards when the puck squirts free. Just playing hockey. And you were yelling, remember? I’m pushing him, and he’s pushing me, and the puck breaks free. Their D gets it free from Buck and Devin. Their D is taking it up the middle. I move to check him, but he dodges me. That’s when, as Devin is going by, he hooks the back of the kid’s knee, which I admit was a cheap shot, maybe not uncalled for, but still. The kid falls on his back, and Devin skates by and over his shoulder he says it. I don’t want to say it, coach, and you know what he said. I mean, a Black kid playing hockey, you know what he said. I’m sure that’s not the first time, but I know it’s wrong. Devin skates by. And the kid, he looks okay. He got back up. The play continued. 

Look I’d be upset too, but calling the parents and causing all this? We really can’t play in the finals next week because someone said a word to someone else? Now, I know coach, that was wrong. I tried to help the kid back up, you saw that. You were annoyed—weren’t you?— by how long I stood over him to make sure he was okay. You yelled at me to get off the ice. Even my dad was pissed at me after the game. He talked at me the whole way home after the game, saying I was weak and that I should play whistle to whistle and all that. About how when he played football you didn’t stop. You destroyed the other team, because at that point they weren’t humans but the opponent. You know coach, I think about that sometimes, about the other team just being another team. So, my dad yelled at me, coach, said I was weak, said I was going to be weak when I grow up and enter the real world. Stuff like that, he said, happens all the time, and I’ve got to get used to it, you know? Coach, you know how it is. I’m not bad, okay coach, I didn’t do it. It was Devin, I was just there.

Photo Credit: Matthieu Pétiard via Unsplash

About the author

Benjamin Murray is a graduate of Eastern Washington University’s MFA program and an advisor for Transformation Tuesday, a poetry and performance event with a focus on marginalized voices. He enjoys roaming the woods of the PNW for Sasquatch and kayaking rivers. His work has been published or is forthcoming in Arkana, Cobalt, Rock & Sling, Pamplemousse, Sweet Tree Review, Stone Coast Review, River River, and Construction Literary Magazine. He can be found online on Facebook and Instagram.

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