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.
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.
“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.
“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.
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?”
“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.”