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The Pale Blue Sky

by Jack Lynch

Part 1 - Carey and Connor, Chapter 3

Saturday. The Game.

Carey took extra time showering and getting ready to go to the hockey game. He shaved for the third time in a week. Unnecessary. His beard was so light that he only shaved now and then. As he was blow drying his hair and carefully brushing it into place, he checked himself out in the mirror. Pale shoulders, somewhat boney. Narrow face. Was he too skinny? Pinkish, brownish nipples. Small chest. He poked at a new zit that had appeared right at the intersection of his left arm and shoulder. Opening the bathroom door, he twisted around so he could see himself in the full length mirror mounted on the other side.

With his back to the mirror, Carey checked out his bare ass. Round and tight. One of his better features. Smooth skin except for a round mole in the middle of his back. It lined up perfectly just above his butt crack. Turning to face the mirror, he realized his cock was suddenly at half mast. Six inches when erect. Average. Slightly used, he said to himself with a smirk.

Fluffing up his sparse pubic hair with one hand, he gave his balls a slight squeeze with the other. No, he admonished himself firmly. Save that for later. He chose one of his nicer plaid button up shirts to wear with a pair of jeans. It suddenly occurred to him that it might be chilly in the arena so he grabbed a zip up sweat shirt.

After he was ready, he chuckled to himself. This was ridiculous. He was going to watch some kid play hockey. He wasn't going on a date!

He walked down the flight of stairs from his second floor apartment and turned right as he left the building. It was a modest two story clap board building. A laundromat was located on the first floor with the door to his apartment at the left corner of the building. He briefly looked up at the small bay window of his apartment to make sure he'd left a window cracked open for some fresh air. Carey walked around the corner of the building turning right onto the neighborhood's two lane main street.

Oak Street ran up the hill in the shape of a meandering "S" curve. An older commercial district, somehow stuck in a past time. He walked past Brew-Skis, the local coffee shop and his favorite barber shop, Marv's, complete with a classic rotating barber pole. The distinct smell of machine oil emanated from the doorway of MacDougal's Hardware. As he glanced through the door, he saw a large display of vintage root beer. Such an odd choice for a hardware store!

The pinball arcade was further up the block, at the middle of the "S." A couple of people were playing the machines. When he glanced at the counter in the far right corner, he saw Wally sitting with his head on his chest and his eyes closed. Nap time, he chuckled to himself.

Past D.A.J.K.O.T.A., the women's boutique with the strange name, he walked up the hill for the next two blocks to the hockey arena at the top of the hill. A mid-20th Century nondescript concrete block building, painted a sickly shade of light green. Carey jerked the heavy metal green door open and entered a small dusty lobby that led through to a second set of doors. Beyond was the rink. He'd never been in the building but, based on the exterior, he wasn't surprised at how dingy and dark the arena itself was. Even though the ice surface was illuminated well enough by older silver halide lights, the corners of the playing surface were dark. The players' boxes and bleachers were lit by two-lamp bare fluorescent fixtures spaced at wide intervals creating deep shadows throughout.

Carey jumped up on the rough wood bleachers, peeling paint and all, just to the right of the entrance, and took a spot about a third of the way down the fourth of six rows. A few older kids were shooting pucks around before the game. Watching them for a moment, he turned his attention to the rest of the arena. The crowd was sparse; maybe twenty or thirty people. Most of them stood in small groups on the bleachers or along the sideboards talking to each other. The majority of them looked like they were about the right age to be parents of kids around Connor's age. A few looked old enough to be grandparents. Several younger kids chased after each other; probably brothers and sisters of the players. Two men sat in the top row of bleachers. One of them had a briefcase open in front of him. The other one was referring to a clip board. Scouts, maybe?

Suddenly, the older boys stopped shooting and skated off the ice. After a short pause, a smattering of yells and clapping greeted the teams as they jumped through the side door onto the ice. The Bruins and, apparently their opponents today, the Sharks came out together. At least one or two players from each team immediately slipped or fell to their knees as they jumped out on the ice. Carey chuckled to himself. Well, they were just kids, after all. The Bruins' uniforms were obviously styled after the Boston Bruins hockey team. They wore black jerseys trimmed in yellow at the neck and the waist with yellow and white arm bands, a version of the iconic "B" emblazoned the chest.

After they all skated one complete loop around the ice sheet, the teams split up and went to opposite ends. Each team continued to skate in a large circle in their own end. Several more boys slipped and went sliding into the boards. He tried to find Connor but couldn't pick him out. The numbers on the boys' jerseys were a blur because they were moving around so fast. Plus, there were were no names on the backs of their jerseys.

Some signal Carey must have missed sent the players on both teams to their respective blue lines. Goalies skated to each net. Taking turns, the boys each skated in and tried to put the puck into the net. That's when he spotted Connor. Carey smiled to himself. The first thing he noticed was the blond curls sticking out of the back of his helmet as he leaned over to put his stick on the puck. Then his eyes dropped down and he saw the number 7 on the back of his jersey. He was no expert but the kid looked good! He skated with confidence and seemed to know how to handle the puck.

A whistle blew ending warm-ups. Each team huddled around their goalie for a moment before skating to the benches on the far side. Only the starters remained on the ice. Coaches and scorekeepers took their places in the boxes on the far side of the ice.

Once the puck dropped, both teams skated hard and fast. The puck handling and passing were impressive. Lots of shots missed the goal but quite a few zinged in on net.

Carey watched every move Connor made when he was on the ice. Wow! Did the kid ever know how to skate! He didn't get a lot of chances. But, when he did, he almost always made hard shots right on net. Unlike other players that dodged and weaved, Connor seemed to always make a beeline right to the Shark's net every time he got the puck. The Sharks were definitely intimidated by him. They seemed to collapse back towards their own net as they desperately tried to defend themselves against his aggressive play.

Carey noticed a woman standing on the first row bleachers next to the glass. Whenever Connor skated by her, she jumped up and down and pounded on the glass.

If Connor got the puck, she screamed, "Go Wa-wa!" or "Shoot Connie!" Carey could barely see her face but from the back and side, she looked like an attractive woman. She was probably about 5'7," slender, with blonde hair the same shade as Connor's that fell to the middle of her back. Probably in her mid-30's. She wore jeans and a short light weight indigo blue jacket.

Between periods, Carey climbed down the rows of the bleacher seats to where she was standing. "Hi," he said. She turned her head quickly to face him with a surprised quizzical look on her face. It was Connor's face…to a "T." "Your son is Connor, right?" he asked.

She broke into a smile, "Yes!"

"I kind of know your son. My name is Carey."

Her eyes sparkled and her mouth opened in an even bigger smile. "Of course!" she laughed. "I hear we have the same name! Connor's talked about you! He'll be so excited you came to see him play!" Carey blushed. He didn't know what to think about that.

Some light banter followed about the game and how Connor was playing. "Your son is one of the best players out there."

"I know!" she beamed. "He just loves hockey and he's really getting good, don't you think?"

"I couldn't agree more," Carey smiled. He glanced up and down the bleachers. "I guess your husband couldn't make it?" he asked.

Somewhat more quietly and with her smile a bit strained she replied, "No. Connor's dad hasn't been in the picture for quite awhile. It's just the two of us."

"Oh, gotcha." was all Carey could think of to say.

Just then, the teams started coming out for the beginning of the second period.

They stood together, sometimes sitting, for the rest of the game. Carey couldn't help but notice how closely Connor followed the action, even when he was on the bench. He was always bent over the side concentrating on the action.

Starting in the second period, the Sharks put the same player on the ice to put pressure on Connor whenever he had a shift. They obviously thought he was a threat. Much bigger than Connor, the boy, wearing number 8, did everything he could to disrupt Connor's play. He constantly slashed at his stick or tried to tie him up against the boards. It was obvious Connor was getting frustrated. After one whistle, the kid's arms and elbows came up. He pushed Connor back against the boards. Carey could see his face. He was clearly angry. Somehow, the referees missed it. Carrie was frustrated, too. He could see the worry on her face, but she kept her cool.

At the beginning of the third period, number 8 went after Connor again with his elbows up as he ran him into the boards. The whistle blew immediately calling for a stoppage in play. Connor had reached his limit. He pushed the other kid away far enough to pull his gloved hand back and punch him in the face. Because he only hit the helmet's cage, the hit by itself didn't do much damage. It was hard enough, however, to snap the kid's head back. Grabbing and clutching followed as they did a short circular dance of sorts. Just as the referee got to them, Connor gave the other boy a good shove and he fell flat on his back. The crowd roared. Carey was stunned by what he saw. This was almost like a big time NHL fight! When things settled down, both boys headed to the penalty box. Mercifully, each only got two minutes for roughing instead of major penalties for fighting.

As the time wound down and with the score tied 3-3, tension in the arena began to mount. Each pass, each shot, every move was met with cheers or groans. With just over a minute to go, there was a big scrum in front of the Bruins net. Connor laid back near the point. Once again, Number 8 tried to tie Connor up against the boards. He suddenly faked to the right and number 8 went for it. He dove at Connor but found nothing but air as he fell to the ice and slid away, out of control. Seeing an opportunity Connor banged his stick on the ice twice. Out of nowhere, the puck came flying out of the scrum right onto Connor's stick. Connor turned to his left and started skating as hard as he could up the left side. People in the stands stood up. With both teams in hot pursuit he crossed the blue line into the Sharks' zone. Connor made one long stroke with his left leg, lowered his shoulder, and lifted his right leg behind him for leverage. He sent a powerful wrist shot onto the goal. The puck flew at such a high speed, Carey couldn't see it. He only heard it as it clanged off of the right side of the crossbar and flew into the back of the net.

Everything seemed to stop for the length of a heartbeat. Then, the crowd went wild. The players, Connor included, raised their hands and sticks in the air. Connor was mobbed by his teammates. After they punched his chest and banged on his shoulders with glee, he and the other players on his line skated to the bench. Carey and Carrie jumped up and down, yelled and screamed, and hugged each other.

The next minute or so was tense as the Sharks tried to knot the game up once again. After another flurry in front of the Bruins net, the puck was shot out to center ice as the final horn sounded.

Carrie had tears in her eyes as she held her hands to her face in a prayer pose of happiness. Carey congratulated her over and over. They walked together to the end of the bleachers and out to the lobby just as the players began to happily stream out of the locker room. The din of joyful chatter bounced off the walls.

Connor came out of the locker room at the tail end of one of the last groups of players. Hair matted down from sweat and his face flushed. As he carried his heavy bag, stick, and helmet through the lobby, people slapped him on the back and offered their congratulations. With a wide smile on his face, he spotted Carey and his mother standing off to the side.

As he walked up to them, his mother's arms out wide, his helmet slipped from his hand and came rolling across the lobby floor. Carey bent down on one knee and trapped it with his hands. Connor walked up but instead of meeting his mother's outstretched arms, went to retrieve his helmet. Carey's bent over position actually brought him low enough that they were at eye level. Their eyes locked. Carey's breath caught in his throat. He was going to say something. But what was he going to say?

Wordlessly he handed the helmet to Connor. And, just like that, the moment was over. The screaming and the yelling returned to Carey's consciousness. Connor's Mom hugged and kissed him. Other people clamored around him with congratulations. In the ensuing celebration Carey was separated from Connor. Just then, the men who had been sitting at the top of the bleachers came over to introduce themselves to Carrie and Connor. They talked to them for a couple of minutes. Before he knew it, Carrie was leading Connor out the arena door.

The crowd quickly thinned. Turning to leave, he noticed an old man standing quietly along the wall. He was almost as wide as he was tall. Thin gray balding head, rheumy eyes, no neck, wearing suspenders over a dull white t-shirt and supporting himself with a cane. The man intently watched Connor leave the building. Carey just shrugged his shoulders and left.

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