You’d think after being something cool like a Roman gladiator, or majestic like a golden eagle, shape-shifting into a hockey puck would have been a letdown. But we shapeshifters don’t get to call the shots. We have to take what we get and this time I was a hockey puck, an inanimate object with no heart or soul. It was one of the weirdest experiences I ever had. And one of the best.
It all began when I awoke in a dark space where my first thought was, Man does it ever stink in here! Turned out I was in an equipment bag for the Indianapolis Cougars hockey team. I was among a bunch of round rubber discs and asked the one next to me, “What the hell is this?” I was immediately surprised at my vitriol. I’m considered a pretty mellow dude in the shapeshifting community and not one ordinarily given to swearing, let alone displays of emotional outbursts. Maybe it was the company I was with.
“You’re a hockey puck in a damn bag, buddy. What? You an idiot?”
I felt a tidal wave of anger surge through me. “Screw you!”
I wanted to pound the puck next to me but couldn’t since I didn’t have any arms. Where was this sudden rage coming from?
Well, I found out pretty quickly. Hockey was a rough, a cold sport filled with rough, pugilistic players and we hockey pucks were no different. I soon found myself swearing and trash talking with the rest of the dozen or so pucks in the bag. Not my forte given my usual peace-loving nature, but when in Rome…or an equipment bag full of macho hockey pucks…you do what you have to do.
Before the last game of the season, I was in jovial spirits looking forward to the off-season. It had been a long year and I was ready for a break.
One of the senior pucks admonished me. “Hey, pal. What’s up with you and the good mood?”
“Why, what’s wrong?”
“Don’t you know?”
He laughed, “You idiot. When the game is over, it’s all over for us, too.”
“What do you mean? Don’t we get a break until the next season?” I was looking forward to some serious downtime.
“No, you wingnut. We get hauled off and melted down. Turned into tires or something.” He smirked. “Good luck. We’re toast.”
Toast? Good luck! I didn’t want luck, or toast, I just didn’t want to get melted down. I kind of liked being a hockey puck.
Toward the end of the game, I was given to the referee. He dropped me to the ice at what they called a face-off and the players used their sticks to hit me. Then, a guy stepped on me with his skate and cut a deep gash in my already scarred body. I just wanted the game to be over, but then had a sudden thought: Wait a minute. When the game ends, then I’m through. I’ll be melted down, and then what’ll become of me?
And that’s when it happened; one of those serendipitous events that we shapeshifters can only dream about. I was skimming across the ice when a burley guy on our team nicknamed “Bear” struck me hard with his stick, and I rocketed toward the net at over a hundred miles an hour. The goalie blocked me and I ricocheted off the goal pipe and flew through the air above the protective glass surrounding the rink, spinning over and over and over so much I thought I was going to be sick.
I must have passed out because the next thing I remember was being picked up, and a young boy’s excited voice saying, “Look, Dad, I got it! I got the puck. Cool isn’t it?”
“It’s just a damn hockey puck, stupid,” the father said, and not in a very nice way either to my way of thinking.
“Can I keep it?”
“Sure, why not? We paid enough for tickets.” He took a drink of beer, belched, and looked at his watch. “Anyway, let’s go. I gotta get you home to your mom.”
Charming, I thought to myself. Nice role model for your son.
The young boy was holding me in his mittened hands and gently caressing me which I have to say felt pretty good after getting bashed around like I had been lately.
“Okay. But, what’s the matter? Don’t you like hockey anymore, Dad? You used to play for these guys, didn’t you?”
“Yeah, kid, but that was a long time ago.” He stood up and belched again. “Come on. Let’s hit the road.”
A few days later found me contemplating how oddly interesting life could be. One moment I’d been playing in my final hockey game, expecting it to be my last day in my current form before being melted down. But that didn’t happen. I’m still here and now a firm believer that life works in mysterious ways. I live in the boy’s room. His name is Newton. He’s kind of a geek who loves hockey. But he loves his father more. He’s got me in a place of honor on a shelf in his bedroom right next to a framed picture of his dad back when he used to be a hockey player.
I like this kid a lot. He’s polite and gentle, a far cry from the macho hockey pucks I used to hang around with. I’m way more comfortable with him, even at night when he does the strangest thing. He takes me down from the shelf and holds me close to his skinny chest and then falls asleep silently weeping. Pretty sad, but I don’t mind. It feels good to be with him like he needs me or something. It’s nice to be needed. I hope I can stay forever.