Winter Dreams Revised Eps. 15-20

Episode 15:

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 Cougars’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 scored 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 had won the game for them.

Episode 16:

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 wanting 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.
 

Episode 17:

“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 Coronation 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 come 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 to his and wiped the tears from her eyes with a Kleenex.

 

Episode 18:

“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 done 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.

 

 

Episode Nineteen:

In under twenty minutes Rick and Misty arrived at Memorial Park. Misty couldn’t wait to get out of the car and have a look around.

“Look Rick. The park looks beautiful in the winter.”

“I can see that. Today’s snowfall makes it look even better. I love how the branches of the trees look when they’re covered by snow and the amber street lights reflect off them. There is so much in nature that we just don’t appreciate,” Rick said.

“Let’s walk through the park and go over the Osborne Bridge,” Misty suggested.

“Sounds good to me. Let’s do it,” Rick answered.

As he held Misty’s hand as they started to cross the bridge, Rick realized that this was the way he felt when he first met Sasha. This was definitely better than getting drunk or stoned. No feeling could compare to being in love.

The couple stopped walking when they were about half way across the bridge. Misty pointed out the beauty of the gnarled, snow covered branches of the trees on the river bank.

“This is a beautiful scene,” Rick agreed. If I had my sketch book with me I would start drawing what is right before our eyes,” Rick said.

“You’re an artist, too?” Misty asked with surprise.

“Yes, actually I’m pretty good at it. I mostly draw pictures of cartoon characters from Looney Tunes. Some of the little kids on our block like them,” Rick said.

“That’s another thing that we have in common. I like to draw too, mostly pictures of animals. I especially like to draw pictures of horses,” Misty said.

“That’s great. We should arrange a time when we both have our sketch books and do some drawing together,” Rick suggested. “Look Misty, there’s a Salisbury House just across the bridge. Could I buy you a coffee or a hot chocolate?”

“You bet,” Misty answered.

As soon as they arrived Rick found them a booth at the Salisbury House. When they got their winter clothing off, an attractive young waitress asked them for their order. Misty wanted a hot chocolate with marshmallows and Rick asked for a coffee.

The lights always seemed bright at a Salisbury House restaurant. The couple didn’t really notice but the Osborne Sals started to fill up with customers. As a result, all the ongoing conversations greatly raised the noise level.

Rick said, “You will need to speak up a little bit. I have trouble hearing in crowded places.”

“Why is that?” Misty asked.

“When I was a little boy I had a lot of ear infections. My doctor later told me that the infections probably reduced my ability to hear out of my left ear.”

“That’s too bad. I’ll speak more loudly for you.”

“I would appreciate that,” Rick said.

“Rick, did you hear the rumour going around that I was hospitalized in a psychiatric ward when I was living in California?”

Episode Twenty:

“Yeah, I heard something about that,” Rick answered.

“Well, it’s true, but the story has been greatly exaggerated. I spent about two weeks in a psychiatric rehabilitation facility in San Francisco. I was there basically for observation so that the doctors could make a diagnosis,” Misty explained.

“So, what did the doctors come up with?” Rick asked.

“At that time they told me it was manic depression. My psychiatrist in Winnipeg changed the diagnosis to schizo-affective disorder.”

“Yeah, I remember you telling me about that. Do you need to take medication?’

“Yes, lithium. For a long time, I wasn’t really taking it. I just lied to my doctor and my parents telling them that I was taking the lithium regularly. I got busted when they eventually took a blood test. The test showed that there was no trace of lithium in my body.”

“Why didn’t you take your medication?”

“Because it made me feel worse. To be more precise I didn’t feel any emotions at all when I first started taking it. Plus, it was making me gain weight.”

“So, do you take lithium now?” Rick asked.

“No. My new psychiatrist in Winnipeg put me on chlorpromazine after he changed my diagnosis to schizo-affective disorder,” Misty answered.

The restaurant was starting to get very smoky. It appeared that most of the customers were puffing hard on their cigarettes while they sucked back the strong Salisbury House coffee. The smoke in the air was starting to make Rick’s eyes water.”

“Let’s go back to Memorial Park. It’s getting too smoky in here for me,” said Rick.

Rick and Misty started walking back across the Osborne bridge. Misty thought she saw the shadowy figure of a man trying to climb up on the railings of the bridge.

Rick said, “It looks like that guy is going to try to jump over the bridge.”fantasy-132

Revised Edition of Winter Dreams Eps. 11-15

Episode 11:

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 starting 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 up the pain 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 and pay for 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.”

Episode 12:

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 and another one was The Communist Manifesto.  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.”

Episode 13:

“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.

Episode 14:

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, slap-shots 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 really 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.

Episode 15:

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 scored 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 had won the game for them.

Episode 16:goalie-1

REVISED EDITION OF CHAOS Eps. 1-13

Chaos, A Novel by Ken David Stewart

Episode One:

On April 16, 2016 Harold Peyton turned sixty-five. He was troubled by the realization that he was now officially a senior citizen. His beloved wife, Camilla had passed away on this very date April 16, 2006. Harold remained living in their old house that had done without renovations and repairs for at least a decade. Although a friend had encouraged him to find a new place to live, Roger was too deeply overwhelmed by grief to change his living arrangements. His stepson, Jeff, had even asked Harold to come and stay with him and his family. Harold didn’t want to impose upon him and he didn’t want Jeff to know that he had started drinking alcohol again. He had eleven years of sobriety to his credit before he relapsed back into his disease of addiction. Harold started drinking again a few days after his wife’s funeral.

On a Friday morning Harold walked by the local Manitoba Liquor Commission. He had just finished going to the post office to mail in thank you notes to all the people who sent their condolences.

As soon as Harold opened the door to the liquor store and literally walked across the red carpet, Roger felt right at home. It was as if the last eleven years of his life had never happened. Harold decided to take a tour of the liquor store to check out all the different kind of alcohol on display. After about twenty minutes of exploring the store Harold decided upon the largest bottle of Jack Daniels that he could find. He walked out of the liquor store without the slightest feelings of guilt and shame.

Episode 2:

Harold had now been retired for five years. He had been a high school English teacher for twenty-seven years. He was now receiving a CPP pension, a retired teachers pension and was about to start receiving Old Age Security Benefits.

Harold only returned to drinking alcohol for one year after his wife’s passing. After the one year was over Harold returned to his old Alcoholics Anonymous group and was welcomed back with open arms.

When he turned sixty-five Harold realized that he had to get back on his feet. One year of indulging in self-pity and substance abuse was long enough. As he gradually accumulated more sobriety his once brilliant mind had started to function again and he became very introspective. He began thinking about what he was going to do with the rest of his life.

After all, Harold was only in his mid sixties. He realized that he could possibly have twenty more years in store for himself.

Harold had kept physically fit before his drinking got out of control. He got back in the habit of going for a forty-five -minute bike ride each day. He also worked out at Shapes, his local gym, at least three times per week. When he started going back to Shapes he started with performing a resistance training circuit. Within a few months Harold was looking significantly better. By means of his weight training program Harold was starting to regain most of his youthful muscle definition. He was still approximately seventy pounds overweight according to his doctor’s Body Mass Index chart.

A good part of the problem was that Harold could not get himself motivated to learn how to cook healthy meals. While Harold was alive his wife did the majority of the cooking. The only type of cooking that Harold enjoyed was barbequing using an old circular shaped charcoal barbeque. He was afraid of using the newer gas powered grills. Harold would barbeque hot dogs, hamburgers and steak practically every day during the summer. Occasionally he would put on his parka and barbeque outside during the winter months.

After Janine died, Harold had to learn to fend for himself. He realized that he would have to eat something so he started to think of all the meals he could prepare for himself without having to cook. One morning Harold sat down and made a list of all the meals that he could make on his own. The list that Harold came up with included toast, various types of sandwiches, dry breakfast cereals, large bars of cheese, pizza pops, raw pepperoni sticks, hot dogs, raw fruits and vegetables. Spam and assorted canned foods.

Episode 3 of Chaos:

To Harold’s delight and with the help of drinking Valentus coffee, going for daily bike rides and going for regular workouts at Shapes gym, he was able to get his weight down to two-hundred thirty-five pounds. About a year ago Harold went to his doctor for a complete physical and weighed in at three hundred ten pounds. This was a turning point for Harold. He had been avoiding looking at himself in the mirror for quite some time now. Harold felt too much shame to see his reflection in the mirror. Although his present weight was still above his ideal weight according to the body mass index chart that his doctor showed him, Harold felt much better about himself. He could now look at himself in the mirror without fear of embarrassment. In fact, Harold thought that he now looked good. Not only had he lost a great deal of body fat he had regained a significant amount of muscle mass. Harold was now very proud of himself. With hard work he had achieved a major life goal. He now had a spring in his step when he went out in public.

Episode 4 of Chaos

Although he was officially retired Harold had not stopped working completely. He continued to work three to four days per week as a substitute teacher. Harold enjoyed substitute teaching much more than full time teaching, as he now didn’t have extra work to take home with him in the evenings. Substitute teaching also got him out of the house several times per week. This helped alleviate Harold’s loneliness as it gave him somewhat of a social life as he had an opportunity to visit with other teachers during prep periods and at lunch times.

Fortunately, Harold was rarely bored. He had developed several hobbies during his teaching career and he now had more time to devote to them. Harold also picked up a couple of new hobbies after he retired. He had always enjoyed learning new things and developing new skills.

He had truly loved his late wife Janine and believed that he could never again love a woman as much as he had loved her. Even so, he missed having female companionship. During one of his church’s weekly Bible studies Harold had met an attractive lady in her mid forties named Roxanne. They both felt a mutual attraction to each other and were soon going out for coffee after the Bible study had ended.

Episode 5 of Chaos:

Harold had a regular morning routine. On weekdays he would turn on his phone and wait for a call from the school division giving him a substitute teaching assignment for the day. Harold did not really want to accept an assignment today. He had just finished a three- day assignment teaching English at Murdoch MacKay Collegiate. Harold had a good time teaching there as the class was reading and discussing F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel, The Great Gatsby. Although Harold had thoroughly enjoyed his time at Murdoch MacKay, he was getting older and felt like he needed a day off.

He also felt guilty when he spent too many days away from his writing. Harold wrote fiction novels as a hobby and found that the writing process was very therapeutic for him. He decided that he would decline any teaching assignments for today and would spend the day working on his current work in progress, a novel titled Winter Dreams.

Harold’s morning routine seldom varied. He would get up and boil some water for his Valentus coffee. Harold would then fill up a large glass with water. The glass that he used to wash down his medications was actually a large holder for flowers, like a vase, that he had purchased at Dollarama.

As he got older Harold appeared to be taking more and more medications. He had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder when he was in his late teens. His psychiatrist prescribed a cocktail of antidepressants. While drinking his coffee and taking his meds Harold would listen to one of his many Holy Bible audiobooks.

Harold had been a Christian since his late twenties. When he first got saved he was really just buying fire insurance. Harold simply did not want to go to hell. For almost three decades he really didn’t have an intimate relationship with the Lord. When Harold was in his early fifties he was introduced to Charismatic and Pentecostal theology through a co-worker. Since then he had been baptised in the Holy Spirit and received some of the spiritual gifts, notably prophetic visions and words of knowledge.

Episode 6:

After Harold finished his devotion time, he returned to his writing by checking out his recent chapter of Winter Dreams. He would look for anywhere that editing was needed and started to think where he would take the story’s plot from here. Harold had also made up a separate Word document where he would list his ideas for potential future scenes.

While Harold had just started his next chapter, he heard a lot of noise emanating from outside his house. He got up from his black office chair and looked out his living room window.

There was still snow on the ground and Harold could see a burly man push a young female out of white Ford 250 truck. The driver appeared to be in his early thirties and looked very intimidating.The next thing to be tossed out of the truck was a large blue hockey duffle bag. It landed on the snow and ice covered ground with a loud thump.

Harold opened his front door when he heard the driver yelling obscenities at the girl. As the white truck pulled away Harold put on his Kodiak snow boots and stepped outside his house. He needed to see if the young woman needed any assistance. Harold helped the girl to her feet. She looked up at Harold, thanked him and began to cry. The young lady was wearing only a grey hoodie sweatshirt and a well worn pair of blue jeans. Her hair was black and scraggly and the tears pouring out of her eyes caused her mascara to run. She was shivering from the cold.

“Would you like to come inside to warm up and join me for coffee or hot chocolate?”

He helped the girl through the door. The young lady was feeling sore from being pushed out of the truck and landing on the hard ice and snow covered street. She was still shivering as it was unusually cold today and the girl didn’t have a winter coat to put on. Harold brought her duffle bag in. The bag was quite heavy but despite being sixty-five years old Harold was still very strong. He noticed a slight hint of body odor emanating from the girl. What really struck him was the thinness of the young lady’s face and her general emaciated presentation.

Episode 7:

Roger noticed that the girl had several piercings, one through her left eyebrow and two piercings in her nose.

As it was rather warm in Harold’s house, the young female took off her dirty grey hooded sweatshirt. Underneath she was wearing a black mid riff tee-shirt with Black Flag printed on it. Harold noticed that she also had a belly button piercing. She starting pulling off her black boots revealing two different colored striped socks.

“I should introduce myself. My name is Harold, Harold Peytoon. Would you like a cup of coffee or some hot chocolate?” Harold asked his guest. He thought that the girl would be attractive if she didn’t look so dishevelled and improved her personal hygiene.

“Oh, that would be awesome sir. I would actually prefer a hot chocolate if it’s not too much trouble for you.”

“That’s not a problem. By the way, what’s your name?” Harold asked

“My real name is Janine Jackson, but my street name is Streak. I also use a few aliases whenever I need to.”

“I’m pleased to meet you, Janine. Oh, by the way you don’t need to call me ‘sir’. Just Harold will be fine.”

Episode 8:

“Did you see that guy push me out of the truck and throw my duffel bag in the snow?” Janine asked.

“Yes, are you alright?” Harold asked with evident concern in his voice.

“Yes, I think so. Tony pushed me pretty hard out of the truck . I’ll probably be sore for awhile and have some nasty bruises,” Janine answered after taking a sip of her hot chocolate.

“That’s probably true. Look, I know its none of my business, so you don’t have to tell me your story,” Roger said.

“No, that’s not a problem,” Janine said. “You let me in your house, Harold, and maybe saved my life, so I should be honest enough to tell you what all went down. First, I need to give you some background information about myself. My real name is Janine Jackson, but I’m known by several aliases as you’re likely to find out. I’m twenty-two years old and I’m essentially homeless right now,” Janine said as she stretched out and made herself more comfortable on Roger’s well worn orange and yellow patterned couch. Harold sat in his brown Lazy Boy chair and smoked his pipe as he listened to Janine’s story.

“It sounds like you are having a very rough time of it right now,” Harold stated.

“Actually, my whole life has been a rough time, man. My father left when I was two years old, so I never really knew him. My mom and dad got married too young and the only reason that they got married was because Mom was pregnant with me. My parents never really wanted me. I was an accident.”

Episode 9:

“Wow. That must really hurt,” Harold said as he tried to light his pipe.

“Yeah, I guess it does, but I’m tough. I can live through a lot and I still am. Every day’s a struggle. I’ve never really had anyone I could trust in my life.” Janine’s eyes started to tear up.

“So what happened after your dad left?” Harold asked while passing a box of Kleenex over to Janine.

“The only way my mother knew how to cope was to turn to the bottle. Mom also got stoned on weed a lot. She also took several kinds of benzos and antidepressants that she got from her doctor. Mom was always good at scamming her doctors.”

“How could your mother look after you while she was so impaired?” Harold asked.

“She couldn’t take proper care of me, my brother or my sister. That’s why Child and Family Services took all her kids away and placed us all in different foster homes,” Janine answered and then drank a bit of her hot chocolate. “You sure make a good cup of hot chocolate, Harold. This is delicious.”

 

“It’s Tim Horton’s, dear. Only the best for you.”

Episode 10:

“You have a very nice home, Harold. It’s a little cluttered and could use some cleaning, but, then again, this house is quite small,” Janine said. “I noticed that you have four bookshelves and possibly a couple of hundred books.”

“Actually, I have a lot more books than that. My eyesight is not as good as it used to be so I now purchase all my books in the Kindle format. That way I can adjust the fonts and the brightness levels so that reading the text is comfortable for me,” Harold explained.

“You certainly are a well read man,” Janine observed.

“For sure. I’ve been that way since I was a kid. I also like listening to audiobooks when my eyes need a break.”

“You are right, though. This house is a bit too small, but it was even more cramped when my wife was still alive. We accumulated a lot of stuff over the years. I still haven’t given away much of Camilla’s belongings. I get too emotional when I’m around her stuff.”

“I’m sorry to hear that your wife passed away. How long has it been now?”

“Over a year and seven months.”

“Are you over your grief now?” Janine asked moving a little closer to the front of the couch. Harold was a little uncomfortable with how Janine made him feel. He wished that less of her skin was exposed. As much as he hated to admit it to himself, Harold did find this strange young woman in his house to be somewhat attractive. It couldn’t be a sexual attraction. That was ludicrous. After all, Harold was sixty-five years old and this girl was only twenty-two. He was not a dirty old man. Harold had not even been sexually active with Camilla during her last few years as she was too exhausted from her cancer treatments to have sexual relations with him. There was something else going on.

“Are you still grieving, Harold?” Janine asked.

“Yes, but it’s getting better with time. At certain times of the day I still get very sad and will start weeping. Sometimes an old song that we both loved will be playing on the internet and that will stir up a deep sadness within me. Camilla and I had a very happy marriage. I can’t say that we did a lot of exciting things together. We didn’t do much travelling as we didn’t have much money. Camilla was not healthy enough to work, so we mostly relied upon my income. As we both liked our creature comforts and I have several hobbies, we ran up a lot of debt. I had to take out a second mortgage on this house. This caused a great deal of stress in our lives, but we both enjoyed each other’s company in a quiet sort of way.”

Episode 11:

Harold got up from his easy chair and walked up to his living room window to look outside. He continued to talk to Janine with his back toward her.

“I’ll be up front with you Janine. I’m an alcoholic in recovery. I’ve only been sober a little past a year now. I got sober in Alcoholics Anonymous and recently received my one year of sobriety pin.” Harold didn’t know why he was sharing such personal information with a stranger.

“Can I use your washroom, Harold? I need to pee.”

“Sure, the washroom is just upstairs, the first door on your right.”

Harold now had a couple of minutes to collect his thoughts and started to realize how bizarre this situation was. He had just invited a complete stranger into his home and was talking to her as if she was an old friend.

When Janine came back downstairs, and entered Harold’s small living room, it was obvious that she had tried to clean herself up. She had washed her face and her mascara was no longer running. Her freshly shampooed hair brought a very sweet aroma into the room.

“I know all about addiction myself, Harold.I’m hooked on crystal meth. I’ve also been diagnosed as having BPD.” Janine said matter-of-factly.

“What’s BPD?” Harold asked. “I may have read something about it.”

“It’s a psychiatric disorder known as borderline personality disorder. It makes me act really crazy at times. I just thought that I’d warn you,” Janine said.

Harold turned his head toward Janine and looked her squarely in the eyes, “I’m shocked that you would tell me that.”

“Don’t be. I’m very straight up with people,” Janine replied.

“Do you have a place to live right now?” Harold asked.

“Not really. I’ve kind of been homeless for the last couple of months. I just sort of couch surf.” Roger looked at all Janine’s’s piercings and wondered if their installation caused her a lot of pain. Janine’ midriff T-shirt was sleeveless and Harold observed a pentagram tattoo on Janine’s right shoulder.

“What does couch surfing mean? Harold asked.

Janine smiled and laughed, “It means that I stay for short periods of time, usually a few days, at other people’s places and usually sleep on the couch, or sometimes I sleep in my own sleeping bag.”

Episode 12:

“It sounds like you’re living a very unstable life right now,” Harold observed. “How did you get addicted to crystal meth and opiates?”

“It all started in high school. I think I was around fifteen years old at the time. Crystal meth and opiates are not the first drugs I ever tried. I’m no angel. When I was twelve my friends and I started smoking marijuana and drinking alcohol. Sometimes we’d even steal some of our parents’ prescription drugs.

Then, at a party I met another girl and got into a physical fight with her. During the fight she pushed me down the stairs leading to the first floor of the house. I fell all the way down the stairs until I landed on my back in the stair well. I lied there and don’t remember how long I remained unconscious. When I finally ‘came to,’ I was lying on a hospital bed. I could see a doctor and a nurse standing over me.

When he could see that I had regained consciousness, the doctor began to speak to me. He was an older man, probably in his mid-forties. His hair was short and was a salt-and-pepper color. He wore dark rimmed glasses.”

‘You are very lucky girl,” he said. “You took a very bad fall and could have been seriously injured. There are a lot of nasty contusions on your shoulders and back, but there doesn’t appear to be any paralysis or permanent injury to your back or spine. I will be sending you for some x-rays just to be on the safe side. How is your pain?’

“I tried to move and let out a scream of pain. ‘Very bad,’ I told the doctor. He took out a prescription and wrote me a prescription for OxyContin. As soon as I took my first OxyContin I felt wonderful. The pain was still there, but I felt like I was floating on a cloud. I didn’t have a worry in the world. From that point on I was an opiate addict,” Janine said in way of explanation. “Harold, do you mind if I go outside for a smoke. A cigarette might help me to calm down.”

“No. go right ahead. Do you like dogs?” Harold asked.

“I love dogs,” Janine answered.

“My old dog Buddy is in the backyard. He’s a very old black Labrador retriever, but he still enjoys going for a walk. Would you be able to take Buddy for a walk while you are having your smoke break?”

“Absolutely. I’d love to. I didn’t know that you owned a dog, Harold. I could hear some barking outside, but I assumed it was a neighbor’s dog,” Janine replied.

“After your walk you can bring Buddy in the house. He is a little shy of people he doesn’t know, but after you’ve spent a bit of time with him, he’ll love you. Especially, if you take him for a walk,” Harold said getting out of his Lazy Boy chair.

“You don’t need to get up. I’ll find Buddy on my own and I’ll take him for a walk,” Janine said.

“Buddy’s leash is hanging up on a nail on the back door,” Harold said settling back down into his easy chair. Janine grabbed the chained leash and opened the back door. Buddy looked up at her and began to bark. Janine had owned a dog when she was living with her aunt and was very good at handling shy dogs. She found a box of dog treats on top of Harold’s refrigerator. Janine took a few treats out of the box to give to Buddy. She slowly walked up to the old black lab, spoke very gently to him and gave him a treat. Buddy took the treat very readily and Janine didn’t have any problem attaching the dog’s leash. Buddy wagged his tail to indicate that he was more than ready to go on a walk with Janine.

Episode 13:

As Roger watched Janine walk out the back door with Buddy he started to feel very confused. For a long time now Harold’s emotional life had been shut down. He was barely able to feel anything as he was trying desperately to bury his pain deep inside himself.

Harold tried to keep himself distracted by filling his day with his hobbies and his part time job. He would go out to do substitute teaching assignments about three days per week on average. He paid for a subscription with a company called Sub Alert. Harold would receive a phone call whenever a new substitute teaching job was available. Harold had the option of accepting or declining the assignment. He preferred to work with middle years and high school students. Harold became very popular with most of his students mainly because he was very cool for a man for his age. He had long white hair tied in a ponytail and dressed casually. Harold would either where a hockey jersey or a tee-shirt with a rock band’s logo covered by an unbuttoned denim shirt.

Harold looked forward to all his teaching gigs. He consistently had the attitude that he was going to make it a fun day for both himself and his students and it usually was.

Episode 14:

About thirty seconds after Janine closed the back door behind her and took Buddy for a walk, Harold’s phone rang. It was a call from Sub Alert, a private company that phoned Harold whenever a new substitute teaching assignment was available.Image51

The Piledriver Part Seven

 

high toll on his health. By his tenth year in professional wrestling Al Sharp had broken nearly every bone in his body and had suffered several concussions. Early on, in order to cope with his physical pain, Al turned to drugs both legal and illegal. For the pain of his physical injuries he took Tylenol three with codeine and later graduated to Percocet. The wrestler said a few doctors in every city were very willing to prescribe all kinds of drugs for them including steroids.

 

The fact was that most wrestlers used drugs. The painkillers became an absolute necessity. Even if the wrestler played it right, did not intentionally try to injure you, professional wrestling was painful by its very nature. It’s true that wrestlers learn all the tricks to avoid serious injury, but accidents still happen. Every wrestler is going to have an off night once in a while. Also, the ring mat itself is very unforgiving.

 

Within his first month of being a professional wrestler Al was already a drug addict. His alcoholism came a couple of years later. In some ways a life or a professional wrestlers is similar to that of a rock star. They both of sex and drugs in common but not rock ‘n roll. I take that back. The wrestlers all have entrance songs that are rock and roll.

 

Steroids entered the picture for Al in his fifteenth year of pro wrestling. In his early career, appearing to be out of shape and overweight was common for wrestlers. There were one or two bodybuilders in the business but they were somewhat of a novelty. Al felt the pressure to start pumping iron and take steroids in order to prolong his career and to compete with the younger wrestlers.

 

Matt met Mike at the entrance to Al’s warehouse gym.

 

Al was busy training some rookie wrestling prospects as Matt and Mike entered the gym. “Can I help you guys?” asked Al. “Yeah, hi, I’m Mike and this is my friend Matt. We were invited to come here by Blue Hair and Orange Hair.”

The Pile Driver Part Six

 

substitute teaching. This summer he is going to be applying for permanent teaching positions in the whole state.” With the positive influences he will get from his principals, Mike will be sure to land a full-time teaching position.”

 

“I don’t know. I haven’t thought that far ahead.” Mike responded.

 

“What is wrong with being a full-time teacher Mike?” asked Courtney

 

“There’s nothing wrong with teaching as a profession. I’m just not sure it’s a fit for me,” replied Mike.

 

Courtney gives an exasperated sigh, “Then what is your perfect fit Mike?”

 

“I don’t know. I’m still looking looking for it,” answered Mike.

 

This conversation did not make for a very pleasant evening of socializing. In fact the atmosphere was quite tense. You could cut the tension with a knife.

 

When his afternoon substitute teaching assignment was over, Mike went to the wrestling school with Matt.

 

Al Sharp’s Wrestling School was located in a warehouse in the industrial area of the city. Al’s facility was also used by a boxing club and a martial arts school. Al made some extra money by renting out the facility to the managers of the boxing and martial art clubs. Al had been in the wrestling business since he was in his early twenties His father was a professional wrestler and Al was always interested in his dad’s line of work.

 

Al asked his father if he could get him started in the wrestling business. His dad told him that he could break Al in as a referee. After a few months of being a referee, Al felt that he had what it took to be a professional wrestler. Al learned the trade quickly and he had all the lumber to be a successful wrestler. He was a strong athlete and had good camera skills. Al made it to being a mid-card wrestler and was a mid-card attraction for about twenty years.

 

As Al’s body started to age he found the wrestling life was taking a 

The Pile Driver Part Five

“It’s like twenty-seven high power vacuum cleaners pointed out you sucking out every last ounce of your energy,” Mike explained.

“It’s amazing that you still have the energy to go to the gym after school,”stated Courtney sarcastically.

“Not really. Although you’re exhausted after a day with the kids, it’s also hard to come down. Once the kids adrenaline kicks in so does yours. Not to mention that you’re pretty frustrated by trying to maintain control all day.”

“Well Mike if you still the energy to work out, you have the energy to go out on a date with me and our friends.”

Mike replied, “They’re really more your friends. Jessica is okay, but I get a headache listening to Rodney.”

“What’s wrong with Rodney?” asked Courtney.

“Rodney is probably one of most boring people I’ve met in my life. I hate pseudo-intellectuals.”

“Let me tell you Mike. It’s no bundle of joy listening to your friends either. Although they want to do is talk about mixed martial arts fighting, wrestling,their cars and video games.”

“Well, at least my friends have hobbies other than reading and watching documentaries,” retorted Mike.

“I’m not going to argue about this Mike. We have a date for tonight and you’re not going to jam out on it. Not only that, you’re going to have fun too.”

When Mike and Courtney arrive at the Golden Spider, Rodney and Jessica are already there and have ordered their drinks.

Rodney looks right at Mike and asks Mike. “When are you going to get a real job Mike? Get some direction in your life?”

“I’m only twenty-three years old Rodney. I don’t have my whole life planned out for me like you do.”

With that, Rodney laughed and said, “Ah Ha! We have a free spirit among us.”

“Don’t worry about Mike, Rodney. This is going to be his last year of

The Wrestler Part Four

 

Ditto,” replied Matt.

 

After Mike and Matt finished their workout gym Mike gets a phone call from his girlfriend Courtney on his cell phone. “Mike, don’t forget our date tonight. We got a double date set up Kyle and Jessica at the Spider Club lounge tonight.”

 

“Oh, man, I forgot all about it,Courtney”. I got up feeling tired tonight, Babe. Is there any chance we could postpone the date for tonight?”

 

 

‘Not a chance! Case closed,” replied Courtney. “Our favorite new girl band, Sick of Sarah is playing at The Golden Spider tonight. They are only booked for a one night engagement.”

 

“Sick of Sarah? Have I heard of them?”

 

“Yes, you have. Remember a couple of weeks ago we were checking out some new bands on Frostwire?”

 

“I think I remember, we downloaded about seven bands new songs that night. I’ll need to check them out on Frostwire again.”

 

“You won’t need to do that Mike. We’re going to see Sick of Sarah tonight.” said Courtney in a firm tone of voice.

 

“Well I guess or that means there’s no getting out of the date right?” asked Mike. Mike didn’t need to hear Courtney’s answer.

 

“What’s making you so tired anyway Mike?” You’re only 22 years old.”

 

“Subbing for one thing. If you were a sub teacher you would know what I’m talking about. All the calls I’ve gotten for the last two weeks of Blue River Junior High.”

 

“What’s so hard about junior high? asked Courtney.

 

“Well, just picture this scene Courtney. You’re alone in a room for five hours with a group of high-energy kids whose hormones are running wild.”

 

Courtney laughed at Mike’s answer.