Sticks, Pricks and Little Pink Slips
Finally it came. A glimmer of hope: a hot lead! It hit him last night, following the anemic 2-1 loss to the Jets. The team looked disinterested in playing hockey. Darcy was checking the weather report, his face flushed red with embarrassment and frustration. But he perked up when he read that the next day would be sunny. It would be warm. It would be 65 degrees. In February! He wasted little time getting on the phone.
After making all the arrangements, he got into bed feeling satisfied - even hopeful - and that is when it hit him. How could he have been so blind; so delusional? All this time he’d missed it, sitting right at the tip of his nose!
But nevermind all that. Today he'd set everything right. It was time to be... aggressive. These were his thoughts as he laid awake, waiting for 5:00 to appear on his alarm clock. When it finally did, he tossed off the covers and marched to the shower without even noticing the aches and pains that slowed him most every morning. Not today. It was time to begin a new era.
“Had anything to drink tonight, sir?” The cop asked, with authority.
“You mean this morning?!” Darcy beamed. It was still dark.
The cop swept the car once more with his flashlight, inspecting the back seat and passenger side, but seeing nothing of note. He leaned over a little closer, now bearing a smile.
“Sure, that’s what I meant”, he replied and leaned closer until the confusion returned to his face. He didn’t smell any alcohol! “Well anyway, I’ve got you at 65 in a 45. What’s the hurry?”
“Oh, just -uhh- trying to catch an early tee time!”
The cop paused. He shined the light on Regier’s clothes, seeing - he’d be damned - a golf shirt and khakis. Plus he was wearing one of those... Irish things. A scally cap? Is that what the hell they’re called?
Darcy interrupted his rumination. “You... wanted to see my license?” He handed it over the submerged window and the cop accepted.
NEW YORK STATE
“Oh! That is you Darcy!”
He beamed. “Yes, well... “ Darcy muttered, trying to channel his best Jimmy Stewart charm “you know...” Fail.
“Well, I do gotta run this, but you just sit tight OK?”
Darcy thanked him and checked his watch in the light of the flashers. Oh, this job has. Its. perks. He waited nervously for the cop to return, keeping the radio off. Honestly what do they do back there? I mean, does it really take 25 minutes to drum up a disorderly conduct charge from 2002?! But, settle now, he told himself; you know how you hate it when people think they know how to do YOUR job…
At last, Darcy heard the controlled thud of the cop’s door open and shut behind him. Rolling down the window again, he smiled wide and toothy, holding out his hand to recover his driver’s license, but was shocked to see a paper attached to it.
“Slow it down Darcy. And trade that fuckin’ bum Stafford, what are you waiting for?”
Darcy was incensed, but speechless. He scanned the ticket and upon seeing a speed of 75 miles per hour leaned back out the window and shouted "you said SIXTY five!!" As the cruiser drove past him.
He was right. Before he even ashed the cigar, a young man of small and gentle stature wandered up the glittering pavement. He was plainly attired in - much to Darcy’s approval - narrow khakis and a simple sky blue polo. His hair bore the tell-tale sign of a young millennial with a job that requires awaking at ungodly hours: it was short, mussed and greasy but formed into a fashionable style. So much the better. Keys jingled as they were drawn from his pocket and Darcy marched up to the boy with cigar perched to the right of his mouth looking even more Patton-esque. The boy was slightly startled to look up and see that someone had beaten him to the course, but he looked at Darcy with a vacant bewilderment when he extended his hand as straight and firm as - well, we don't really need an analogy do we?
"Daniel!" Darcy exclaimed with that familiarity reserved for persons you’ve actually fucking met before.
The boy took his hand cautiously.
"You remember me, I'm Darcy! Darcy Regier."
The boy nodded and upon escaping his firm but gentle grip, turned quickly around and started toward unlocking the door.
“Boy, you sure get here early Danny!”
The boy regarded him blankly. But to those studied in his expressions - as nearly all of those with the honor of their name on the wall of the Glen Oak clubhouse are - one would read: And what time did YOU get here?!
Undeterred, Darcy pressed on. "Y'know I was wondering -ah- Danny... if you... -ah- might be willing to caddy for me today!"
The boy seemed to ignore him as he fumbled to unlock the sliding glass door to the clubhouse. Every second waiting for a response was an eternity for Darcy. He began wondering if the young man was deaf. Darcy had never heard him speak, but the boy certainly seemed to be able to hear. Darcy finally exhaled with the sound of the tumbler turning. Danny slid the door open completely and turned toward Darcy with another blank expression. This time it said: I don’t know... what’s in it for me?
As if he understood, Darcy reached into his back pocket. He didn’t understand, of course, it was just his default panic response, and the boy’s seeming lack of interest had indeed launched him into a panic. What if he has some long-term deal with this boy?! Opening the billfold, Darcy produced a 50 and eyed the boy’s expression. It remained blank. Darcy produced another fifty, and the boy turned towards the door. Now in complete panic, nearly hyperventilating, Darcy doubled the sum and placed it desperately in the boy’s hand. His relief was enormous when the boy nodded. They shook on it and Darcy was exuberant.
“Oh, thank you Danny, thank you! Now our tee time isn’t until 9. Can I buy you breakfast? I was about to go to Tim Hortons.”
The boy held up 3 fingers.
“Three? Ok. -ah- three of what?”
The boy shook his head and held up his three fingers again with more emphasis.
“I - I’m sorry I don’t understand. Three... Three...”
The boy sighed and reached into his pocket. He produced a notepad and pencil.
A #3, he scribbled.
“Oh! I’m so sorry my boy how silly of me, of course, a number 3 combo. OK. With coffee?”
The boy nodded.
The boy held up 2 fingers.
The boy shook his head.
“Ok great I’ll go -”
The boy interrupted and grabbed him.
Milk, he scribbled. Darcy nodded sheepishly and began his march back to his car, deep and slow drumbeats in his head.
A beaded bronze chain sat vertical underneath the green lamp shade. It had stopped swinging minutes ago, and completed the utter stillness of the room.
Staring blankly at those leather-bound volumes - so full of knowledge! - Terry was pondering his profound dilemma. Truly, this was a test of his will and his character. All the wise gnomes that populated the Forest of Businesses Brilliant in his mind chorused in unison: delegate and empower! Delegate and empower! But meanwhile all the little gnomes in the Sabres fan forest of his mind chorused “FIRE FUCKIN’ LINDY YOU STUPID PRICK!” But he couldn’t fire fuckin Lindy. That was Darcy’s fuckin’ job. The hierarchy is clear on this one, there’s no two ways about it. The only thing he can do is order Darcy to fire Lindy. But again, that would violate delegate and empower. What a Catch-22. What a… PICKLE.
Q-tip, Terry’s puffy white cat, yawned as he reached the bottom step of the black metal spiral staircase that led to his study. Terry swirled around in his chair and beckoned the cat, who obediently approached, leaping up into Terry’s lap with an agility that always made him proud.
After several minutes of purring, Q-tip was back asleep on Terry’s lap.
“What would you do Q?” He whispered. “Give me your counsel!” But Q-tip was just too zonked out to be of any help. And who could blame him? It was 6:00 AM. “How could Darcy be so stubborn?" He whispered into Q's ear. "The team is tanking, the players think he’s a loon and if he doesn’t do something soon, he’s going to have a mob of angry Sabre fans at his door with Molotov cocktails and probably torches concocted of Derek Roy jerseys wrapped around old hockey sticks.”
He needed some help. And this is where Terry separated himself from his billionaire colleagues. It was time to get help outside the circle. Gently, he picked up Q-tip from his lap and placed him on the floor. Then, he gave the bronze chain on the lamp two quick tugs, and the bookshelf to his right rotated 180 slow degrees, coming to rest perfectly flush with the rest of the wall, bearing a select assortment of Brooks Brothers khakis and dark blue Sabres polos.
After making a careful and deliberate selection, Terry started up the spiral staircase, where at the top he placed his right palm on the right handle of the Sabres logo engraved on the stone wall, and it popped open a crack. Pushing it all the way through, Terry turned into the fluorescently lit hallway, with its white walls, completely unadorned, and walked the 100 homogenous yards to the only ornament on the far wall - a fingerprint scanner. Placing his thumb to it, the white wall opened a crack, and Terry gave the gentle push required to move the well-oiled hinges and slip into his great hall.
One unfamiliar with this vast, torch-lit room might have walked straight across, expecting to find a door, even though the room was too dark and enormous to see to the other side. But Terry wouldn’t cost himself that 25 minutes, and instead made way through the innumerable stone pillars to a faint glowing dot some distance to the left. And when he reached the source of that dot, he would look to his right for the next dot, and then the next and Terry would reach the next door in a pedestrian 5 minutes. Surrounded by stone, no one would expect a microphone to be hidden in the cracks, and certainly would not know what to say into that microphone to open a door so well hidden in the gloom that no one - save perhaps Gandalf or… or Yoda - would recognize the door’s existence.
Terry cleared his throat, and readied his fingers for counting.
“LA-LA-LA-LA-LA-LA-LA-LA (8) LA (9) FON-TAINE!”
His voice echoed through the chambers and off the pillars and brick walls, verifiably shaking everything in sight, but nothing happened. Puzzled, he looked down at his fingers. Only his left thumb was not sticking out.
“It’s the stress. The stress is affecting me. Or maybe I needed a better music teacher in elementary.” With a sigh he puffed out his chest, and readied his fingers again.
“LA-LA-LA-LA-LA-LA-LA-LA-LA (9) LA (10) FON-TAINE!”
The stone creaked open, a modicum of dust puffing out and Terry walked into the fresh morning air and proceeded down the stone pathway lined with ten foot bushes until he reached the first intersection. Left. Twenty deep green-bushed feet further. Left. 10 feet. Right. Left. Right. Right. Straight. Left. Left. Right. Finally, the row of bushes ended at a green door. Terry reached for a fingerprint scanner that wasn’t there and paused. What do I... How... OH.
He turned the fuckin door knob and walked into the garage, past his black Mercedes, and his red Maserati, to his ‘92 blue Escort. He got in, and made his way to the Arena, already feeling like Columbus boarding the… umm… Santa Maria? Hell if I know.
As he walked in today, and turned around to lock the door again, a young man was approaching the door. Terry smiled and held the door open instead.
“Good morning!” he beamed.
“Mr. Pegula! It’s really nice to meet you!” the kid said brightly as he walked through the door and shook Terry’s hand briefly.
“Who might you be?”
“Oh, I’m, -uh-” he paused nervously; this was like Prince William asking a commoner of his occupation! “I’m Mike. I’m the intern for Hockey Hotline.”
“You’re kidding! I love the show you know, I listen to it nearly every day.”
“Oh that’s great, great!”
Terry’s intuition was perking up. His Spidey sense. His radar. He knew there was… something about this boy that was going to help him…
“Say Mike, uhh…” he started as they strolled through the atrium “what’s the plan for the show today?”
“Boy, I don’t know, that’s why I’m here so early, I have to pitch a couple ideas to Kev and Peters.”
“Rough game last night…”
Terry nodded pensively. “I know Mike, I know. Geez. You’re a bright young fella, what would you do?!”
Mike was startled, but he knew the answer as plain as day.
“Mm. I thought you might say that. Mm hmm. Mm hmm.”
“It’s just…” Mike started “it’s just time for a change. We need some new life, a little fresh air. Lindy’s a great coach, but…”
“Oh, I agree Mike, I do! It’s just - boy I really shouldn’t tell you this. Can we be off the record?”
“You won’t breathe a word of this to anyone?”
“It’s just that Darcy is so attached. He refuses to fire him. I’m afraid Darcy’s willing to go down with the ship.”
“Yeah, everyone kinda figures that’s what’s going on…”
“Even now - after that game last night! - he’s out playing golf with Lindy. Golf! They’re golfing!”
Eventually they concluded their conversation and Terry walked away disappointed. Perhaps his intuition was wrong?
“WHAT DID YOU SAY!?” Peters demanded, incredulous.
“I said” whispered Mike the Intern “they’re golfing right now.”
Peters snatched the college ruled paper he was scribbling notes on, crumbled it up and threw it into the air in jubilation. He grabbed Mike by the shoulders, shaking him like a broken vending machine.
“WHY DIDN’T YOU SAY SO YOU BRILLIANT SON OF A BITCH?!!” He wheeled around. “KEVIN!!”
“What Petey?” Sylvester chanted from across the Sabres Store, fingering a set of blue and yellow mittens on sale with one hand, and sipping gingerly at his coffee with the other. “What the hell is it? I swear to god if you’re showing me that youtu-”
“Darcy. Lindy. They’re GOLFING.”
Sylvester dropped his mug with a crash-splash on the floor, and they both snatched up their phones to make urgent calls as they bolted out of the store, leaving Mike the intern dumbfounded, with the weight of a 2-hour radio show on his shoulders.
Now in the empty foyer, Peters was the first to connect.
“Vanner.” He started. His voice hushed, but clear, and still echoing through the vacuous foyer. “Georgia Omega Lambda Foxtrot… Georgia. Omega. Lambda… FOXTROT!”