“…and then I have nowhere to put towels because Henry dumps everything on the floor.”
I finished my rant and waited for a response, but Jacob had clearly dozed off, or walked off, or had some kind of cow emergency because there was no reply.
“Huh? I’m here, sorry, Mathilda isn’t looking good.”
I know Mathilda is a cow, and Jacob is a farmer, and his list of priorities didn’t really include listening to me ranting about my housemate who also happened to be new to the Raptors.
“I’m sorry,” I apologized. “What’s wrong?”
“We’re calling out the veterinarian, he should be here soon. Tell me again what you said?”
“Don’t worry, go look after your poorly cow.”
“Thank you, I love you, good luck today babe,” he said, and blew me a kiss down the line. I stood in the Raptors’ parking lot like an idiot; gripping my phone and missing my boyfriend so bad.
Henry shoved at me, made kissy faces, and then jogged passed me in through the front door. I like Henry, he’s a super polite Canadian like me, bit of a joker, and one of the ten guys that were in the group house with me. He was also one of the ones I thought you would make it out of the other side of training camp with a fully-fledged contract to play with the Raptors. It’s what we were all here for after all.
Unless I deliberately fucked up so that they got rid of me, and then maybe I could go to a team that I did want to play for.
Ethan’s voice was in my head. Change the team from the inside.
I walked into the briefing room, which wasn’t nearly as plush as what the Railers’ had with not one ounce of leather in sight. In fact it echoed the entire back end of the Raptors rink was shabby and worse for the wear of years of investment only in the front facing areas. Aarni was already there, and I deliberately chose the seat furthest from him, slouching down next to Henry. He’d looked over as I walked in glared at me and then leaned in to talk to the guy sitting next to him. Fuck knows what he was saying, but if he dared to talk to me about Ten then… I don’t know what I’d do. I wanted to deck him, shout at him, call him every single horrific name under the sun. I wanted him gone from the Raptors, I wanted his career to be over… yeah, the poison was there and I couldn’t shift it.
There again I’d been the one to hold my dad’s hand when he thought Ten might die.
I just hoped to hell Aarni wouldn’t talk to me or even acknowledge me at all, for however many years we played on the same team. God forbid we were ever on the ice together because I don’t know how I would handle it.
Change things from the inside.
“What is this meeting about?” Henry asked, but all I could do was shrug.
All I knew was that management had been holed up for hours yesterday and that practice had been slow and a complete waste of team time. There was no passion in this place, no belief at all, and I could sense the apathy settling around me. It didn’t help that the owner of the team had died a few weeks ago; the higher-ups were in flux, and no one knew what was happening.
A message got whisper-passed to Henry who in turn leaned into me.
“Apparently our new coach is on his way here.”
I straightened in my seat, eager to get first sight of the man tasked with pulling the Railers up by their bootstraps. How he handled this room would be the first step into getting their respect.
I couldn’t wait to see what he’d do.
I stepped out of the doors of Tucson International Airport and a crushing amount of heat hit me face on.
“I don’t think I’m in Ontario anymore, Toto,” I muttered as I scanned my new town. The sky was blue above stoic mountains. The colors of the desert—pinks, golds, oranges, browns, and yellows—were everywhere. Also, there were cacti. We didn’t have many of those in Ontario. The cacti fascinated me for some reason. I hoped I had one in my new yard.
The driest wind I had ever felt blew over my face, and I lifted my chin into the welcoming gust. At least the weather seemed to like my decision to leave Canada for this shot in the pros. My mother and sister certainly hadn’t been thrilled when I’d told them. Or my old school, or the fans of the team, or the other Mustang staff, or the players. It seemed the only person happy about the move was me, and even then I housed some reservations. Good thing I was rockheaded. My mother’s word not mine. I preferred to think of myself as determined. To get my own way. All the time. Because I was generally right.
My car pulled up finally, one supplied by the Raptors, and I slid into the back, the cool interior a nice respite after the ninety-plus degree heat.
The driver was courteous about my change of directions. I had plenty of time to drop my bags at the apartment the team had arranged for me. I wanted to meet my new team today. Right now. Coaching staff generally arrived at training camp before the players, but I’d only just finalized the contract with Westman-Reid Senior when the old goat had dropped dead. His kids were rumored to be doing chicken-minus-heads impersonations, but that didn’t concern me. My contract was tight. No loopholes for nervous heirs to fiddle with.
“Quick stop at the nearest hardware store,” I told the young guy behind the wheel. I settled back for a short ride, jumped out at a Fix-It-Now Hardware store, made my purchase, and was at the arena in no time.
I grabbed my bags, my hardware purchase, and I strolled into Santa Catalina Arena as if I owned it. It was easy to find the team. Just follow the rolling thunder of male voices and there you’d find the players. I passed two men in red Raptors polo shirts, equipment managers I assumed, and tapped my brow with my purchase. They blinked as I stalked past them.
The team lounge was packed with players, most in T-shirts, shorts and running shoes. The place wasn’t state-of-the-art but it was functional. Five rows of seats, each higher than the one in front of it. Viewing screens in the front of the room, huge images of Raptor players on the back wall. The seats were basic flip-down theater-type seats, dark brown, and the team colors were evident everywhere. Someone in the rear whistled sharply, and the group of perhaps forty men—players and staff—fell into silence.
I strolled to the front , threw the blue broom onto the floor, and addressed the room as a whole.
“I prefer to be called Coach Carmichael, but Coach C works.” Lots of confused looks lingered on me. “You’ve all heard that old saying about a new broom sweeping clean?” I heard a lot of mumbling replies. “Good. This team is fucking filthy and I have an aversion to dirt.”
I spun on my heel and left them all gaping at my ass.