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Members Posts: 54 Joined: 13-December 17 Member ID: 2939 Rep: 2 pts
(A Dan Dan Story, Part 1 of ??)
There are three boys standing in the away team rink bench of Solar4America. They're in various states of preparedness -- some missing their stockings, one missing most of his chest protector, another systematically taping up a bundle of beat-up sticks. There are more boys on the ice. It doesn't seem like team practice so much as some kind of clinic or a set of tryouts -- there are people in the stands there to watch, most of them grim-faced 40-something year-old men with various team jackets on and small notepads in-hand or smart phones set to record. The boy biting his lip and taping up sticks is Daniel Daniil, an unusual prospect although perhaps not to look at him.
He glances up as a small-time blog crew hustles towards the bench, and grimaces.
"Don't look now, but your bent-over arse is going to be Deadspin front page in a minute," he says to the boy on his left fiddling with the blade of his left skate.
He stands up abruptly and turns to see what Dan's talking about, before rolling his eyes. "Yo those are some Facebook fanpage motherfuckers, don't give me a heart attack like that."
"As if Deadspin would be here covering some sort of C-League Juniors showcase," the third says, more than trace amounts of bitterness laced through his words.
He seems older than the other two, although that impression carries more in his demeanor and body language than it does in his appearance. Everyone at the arena on skates seems well under 25 to look at them.
He doesn't even bother to spend the effort the other two have to acknowledge the media team's approach. His concentration seems dedicated to the task of taping together the section of his chest protector that's fallen off from a weak padding joint.
"Mark's right," Skates says. "We'd be lucky to have Fear The Fin interns sniffing around this place, let alone actual coverage."
"Our shit sure stinks enough to give someone a real noseful," Mark grins, looking away from what he's doing momentarily.
"You really think nobody cares about how well we skate here today?" Dan asks, keeping his tone mild.
"I'm just saying," Mark shrugs, looking at Dan. "This isn't the AHL. This isn't even the ECHL. The only people who care about this are the ones looking to fill their shitty podunk stadiums with their shitty podunk fans, who in the end would much rather see two lugheads punch each other in the face than a sweet top shelf snipe."
Dan frowns, slightly, despite himself.
"Just know your market, Dan Dan," Mark continues after a minute, punching Dan in the arm. "That's all I'm trying to say."
Mark pulls on a dark colored jersey and plucks the stick Dan was taping out of Dan's hands with a wink and no thanks before skating out onto the ice. Skates sits down with a sigh next to Dan before knocking shoulders with him.
"Don't let Mark get to you," he says.
"He's not," Dan says, and knows the lie is pretty obvious. "Just different perspectives on it all, I guess."
"I still don't really understand why you're not trying for the big leagues buddy," Skates says, tying up his laces. "You don't need to bottom feed, not with moves like you've got."
"No questions Charlie, remember?" Dan grins, the smile not really reaching the rest of his face.
"No questions, just couch," Charlie grouses, but it's good-natured. "And Playstation. And your terrible Austrlaian condiments and terrible Australian sense of fucking humor."
"I have an amazing sense of humor, thanks," Dan complains, elbowing Charlie in the ribs before handing him his stick.
"Hurry up," Charlie says before skating onto the ice. "I don't think they'll wait, not even for a big-name talent like you."
"Hysterical," Dan calls after him, finishing his own stick. "You're so fucking funny it hurts."
"Hi," comes a hesitant voice from the edge of the bench box. "Are you one of the prospects? Do you have a minute to answer some questions?"
Dan struggles to get his off-white jersey over his head, tries to put on his best, most winsome smile. "Sorry darling, I have to get on the ice."
"Just a few questions," the girl insists, pulling her camera-phone wielding cohort in closer with her. "I'll make them super short."
"I really don't want to cause a splash -- the coaches here aren't looking for people who like attention, you know?" Dan tries to explain, feeling himself get a little annoyed as on-edge as the try-out and Mark's earlier comments have now made him.
"Oh," the girl persists, pushing further along the edge of the box and her tape-recorder closer into to Dan's personal space. "You're Australian? Where'd you learn to play hockey? They don't really have that over there do they?"
"Well you see, when I was but five years of age," Dan starts, realizing he's being an ass but almost unable to help himself. "Out in the bush of Queensland, I was bitten by the highly toxic lampona murina spider, on both hands, and instead of causing them to fall off as white-tailed spider bites are known to do -- I awoke a week later from a fever state suddenly blessed with incredible visual acuity and puck-handling skills unlike anything ever seen anywhere else in the Land of Oz."
The crew blinks at him, before the girl manages a: "Wait... really?"
"No, of fucking course not really," Dan says conversationally, swinging his legs over the gate and getting himself on to the ice. "I played lots of street hockey, and then participated in a local ice hockey program, of which there are plenty in Australia, until my skills got decent enough to start training here in America. With Nathan Walker on the Capitals, you'd think people would start realizing we've seen ice and skates before."
Dan doesn't wait for her to recover before skating away.
He supposes he really shouldn't be surprised when the girl's rather well-written but largely unflattering blog article gets picked up by other, larger, and more relevant news aggregates within the next few days (including a Deadspin mention, Dan almost chokes on his cereal when he reads that). The title includes Spider-Man mention, which Dan should be even less surprised at; it makes him feel ashamed, if he's being honest, that he'd been a brat to the reporter. Charlie has his job outside of hockey, Dan should be spending less time watching tv in his underclothes and finding one himself, and that girl had just been doing hers.
Dan's on Charlie's couch in his boxers watching reruns of Clarissa Explains It All on TVLand eating the last bowl of Coco Puffs when Charlie finally gets home from his night shift at the diner.
"You heard anything from scouts yet?" he asks, toeing off his grease-stained sneakers by the door to the apartment.
"No," Dan answers around a mouthful of food. "Only been a day, though."
"Yeah, I know," Charlie says, failing to keep defeat out of his voice.
Dan knows Charlie has been trying to get paid for his hockey for a while now, how Dan met the guy after all -- trying to see if the AIHL would pay him a decent stipend to play for one of their teams, a former CHL star and all. It hadn't panned out, but Dan had gotten his contact info, and Charlie had been nothing but kind and supportive when he'd basically given him no warning and no explanation while all but demanding to sleep on his sofa to try and make a few local AA hockey league try-outs in the area.
Charlie's been trying for something close to six years, Dan figures. He's twenty-six in two months. Charlie's probably never going to play hockey for money, but it's not Dan's job or right to tell his friend that.
"Come beat me at 3v3 on 'Chel," Dan offers.
"Did you eat the last of the fucking cereal," Charlie counters, actually sounding genuinely annoyed.
"I saved you a few spoonfuls," Dan says, grinning. "And I have enough cash saved up for wings and nachos, if you want."
The last perks up Charlie enough to have him grudgingly join Dan on the couch and pick-up a controller. They both get so tangled up in video games that neither thinks about real life for a while.
The phone rings -- it's early in the morning, way too early for Dan to be answering phones, but Charlie's at work again, so he steels himself, rolls out of bed, and grabs at the receiver until he can actually maneuver it towards his ear.
"Hello?" Dan says, his voice rough from sleep.
"Hi, do I have the right -- were you at the SMJHL-sponsored Regional Showcase in San Jose last Saturday?"
"Yeah," Dan answers dumbly, because -- well. He was.
"Right, so you still want to play hockey, kid?"
Dan blinks, rubbing at his eyes.
"Yeah?" he manages, parroting himself.
"The SMJHL has a combine in a few weeks, I showed a guy tape of you from the showcase and he wants to you skate for them there. March XXth to the XXth, flight leaves from Mineta, it and the hotel roomshare for the week paid for by the organization itself. You up for it?"
Dan sits up in bed, still not entirely convinced this isn't a dream. "Yeah," he says for a third time, grimacing, before correcting. "I mean -- yes, Sir. Absolutely, no problem."
"Fantastic," the voice on the other end says, the sarcasm palpable.
"Wait," Dan suddenly thinks to say. This is, after all, Charlie's home. Charlie's phone. "Did you, uh, mean me? I mean, my name's Daniel Daniil, my roommate -- who's phone this is -- is Charles DiMarco, he was at the try-out as well --"
"No, Dan, I mean you -- doesn't take much to realize you're talking to the "Australian Spiderman On Ice" who's, and I quote: "about as slick with words as a Vegemite skidmark.""
"You read that, did you," Dan sighs.
"Pretty decent writing for an otherwise trashy blog," the mystery voice says. "I'll have my assistant drop everything off."
"Just for me?" Dan feels himself clumsily trying to clarify. "Not for Charlie too?"
"Just for you," the man says. "Sorry, nothing I can do about that."
And with that, he hangs up.
Dan spends a good amount of time staring at the phone before dropping it on the floor and looking at the wall instead.
"Shit," he says to an empty room.
Dan decides not to tell Charlie.
He says, instead, that his Mom is going to be in the country and insisted he go visit her, bought him plane tickets and everything.
Charlie is happy for him, supportive -- he's always been anxious that Dan was a run-away, and Dan feels kind of like an absolute shit for taking advantage of that uncertainty.
Dan has to pack his gear, and if Charlie notices, he doesn't say anything.
Charlie insists on driving him to the airport, saying he's going to miss a diner shift, but he doesn't mind. Dan doesn't have the words to refuse him. Dan thinks Charlie suspects he might not be coming back, and Dan -- well. If this combine doesn't pan out, maybe it'd be best for him to find a different couch to crash on for a while anyway.
"Good luck," Charlie says, hugging Dan to him close as Dan clutches his ticket tightly in his hands.
"With what?" Dan asks helplessly, not sure what else to say.
"With hockey," Charlie grins. "With your family. Whatever it is that's really tying you up."
"Thanks," Dan manages. "I owe you."
"Fuck off with that shit," Charlie shrugs. "You don't owe me anything, just -- I don't know. Don't give up on your dreams, alright? You're still a teenager."
"I won't," Dan promises.
He has too much riding on this, too much left to be proven, too much left to take back. He doesn't turn around to wave at Charlie again once he passes through security, even though he can feel his friends' eyes on him through the crowd. Instead, Dan concentrates on his feet under him, moving him forward one step at a time.
This post has been edited by Dan^2: Mar 12 2018, 01:08 PM