Featuring Stan, Ten & The Team
“I think something is wrong,” Connor announced to the room. We all looked up because Connor had a way about him that made people listen. “It’s Stan,” he added when no one made a move to stand up.
“We know,” Adler said.
We all knew, because every single one of us had walked to optional skate past the Russian in the hallway. The big guy was staring at a newly painted wall, with a frown on his face. He wasn’t moving or talking to it like he did to his pipes, he was literally just staring.
He hadn’t even grunted hello, or answered my question about Noah’s tooth coming through, and for Stan that was a big deal. If only Erik was here then he could tell us everything was okay, but he wasn’t here, something about a conditioning session with our PT.
“Ten?” I looked up at our captain, and in an instant, I knew what he was asking. Erik wasn’t here, therefore as Stan’s best friend I was next in turn to go talk to him.
“What if he’s finding goalie space,” I said, quickly, reluctant to be the one to pull him out of wherever his thoughts were.
“He’s staring at a wall, Ten,” Adler pointed out. “Even for Stan that is fucking weird.”
Dieter elbowed him hard. “Remember dude, we don’t call Stan weird.”
Adler pushed him back. “He’s communing with a wall, dude. That’s the definition of the kind of weird that is sort of weird when it’s obviously weird. Even if he’s weird.” Adler said, the wrinkled his nose when he realised he’d talked himself in circles. He did that a lot. Not wrinkling his nose but talking way too much.
Dieter shoved harder. “You’re an ass, Tiddler.”
“You smell like used jocks, D-nut.”
There was more good-natured pushing and shoving between Adler and Dieter, and it only stopped when Connor cleared his throat as loudly as he could.
“Guys, this is serious. Ten, you hit him good in yesterday’s practice, you think it’s a concussion?”
Guilt flooded me. Was Connor right? Had I been too accurate with my slapshot? It had made Stan go to his knees, but when I went over he’d been cackling, holding out the puck in his gloved hand.
“Shit,” I said, and really wished Erik was here. “I’ll go see.”
Some of the guys nodded, other’s stick tapped my legs as I passed them, hell, it was like I was walking to my doom or something. Shoulders back, I took the corridor to the newly painted family room hallway and found Stan exactly where he’d been standing when we all arrived earlier.
He didn’t answer, his arms crossed over his chest, and I moved closer. Was he swaying? No. Was his expression unfocused? No.
“Stan,” I barked at him.
“I am hearing you,” he replied as I neared. “Am not hard of deafness.”
“Hard of hearing.” I stepped up beside him, looking at his profile intently, then, because I was obviously not quite lost enough, I stared at the wall as well. Maybe he’d seen the face of Wayne Gretzky in the new paint, like that dude who swore the mold growing on an old bologna sandwich in his fridge was an exact replica of John Lennon. Shit went viral. I didn’t see a Beatle on the green slice of bread but over two million other people did. “So, hey, dude, what we doing here?”
“Am watching paint dry.”
Ah. Sure. That was my next guess. “Why?”
“Is new groovy thing for sign of smartness.”
Well sure it was. I glanced from the white paint up and down the hall. There was no one – and I mean no one – in sight, which was highly unusual. Fuckers were all hiding.
“Uhm…” His eyes never left the wall. “So where did we learn about this new groovy thing?”
“From Erik.” He squeezed his eyes shut and then leaned closer to the wall, his eyes now wide open. “He says after scientific show last night that is telling about dust.”
“You watched a show about dust?” Man, didn’t I feel stupid. Here was Stan watching science shows when all I’d done was spend five hours in bed glued to ‘Dear White People’ – Hashtag Team Lionel and Wesley – on Netflix while shoving cheese curls into my face until Jared had removed the phone and the bowl of cheese curls from my hands and gave me something hotter to do with the rest of my night.
“Is making mind grow smart. Did you know first vacuum cleaner was made in 1901 and was so big it was needing horse to be drawing it? It was parked outside of house and run on gasoline.”
“Uhm, nope. I did not know that.” I looked around for Erik, but he was nowhere to be seen. “So, did this show about dust mention walls or paint?”
“No, is not speak of paint on show. Is Erik say paint. Show is dust show.” He huffed as if I were being dense.
“Oh yeah, right.” I was so fucking lost I needed Google maps to get out of this conversation. “What did he say about paint?”
“He says good show I’m enjoy much, is for him most like watching paint dry. So, I find paint to dry and watch so my mind will grow smart.” He looked down at me gaping at him. “You wish to join me in making brain big with smarts?”
“Uh, no, thanks my man.” I clapped his shoulder, smiled at my best bud, and then ambled off to find Erik and tell him he’d be doing some clarifying.