I wrote this little piece several years ago, when I was just starting to work on Seeking the Center. It's about young guys playing sports.
By the end of the lazy summer I'm glad to get back to town. To the cool of the rink, the smells of moldering, wet wool and sharp sweat, the sling-shot jocks, the jostling of us guys packed together in our stalls, buzzing and slamming like too many molecules, loud with joking and laughing and trash-talking. Where else would we go? What other place is left for us? The big, slick ice, the dark tunnel, the dank, crowded dressing room: they’ve made those places for us.
Outside, they’ve taken down the goals. Like a fish out of water, my form seems unsuited, my strength, outsize. It’s like when I was a kid and my mamma would say, what am I ever going to do with you? I was too fast, too heavy, too hard, too strong, too loud, too coarse, and too excitable to have in the house. It couldn’t hold me. I didn’t stop when she said stop. My words grated on the ears; my shirttail fluttered. Not fit for civilized society. That’s what she’d say. She was only joking, but I think it might be true.
I’ve heard that in the old days, they set the goals a town apart, fields apart, forests apart. That would’ve suited me great. Back then the earth was our playing field. One goal was just over the hill, far side of the schoolhouse; the other, across the stream and through the muskeg. We’d run through the brush, our feet on fire, our battles real.
But somehow it got too small for us out there, and so they’ve put us inside. Kind of funny, eh? Maybe it’s for the best; maybe it’s for our own good. Now we’re a show, a museum piece, and people pay to see us. They don’t have to have us in the house, or in town, or terrorizing the schoolmarms, or trampling the fields or trudging through the muskeg, getting mud on our shoes. Now we’re contained. It’s cleaner this way.