About the Author

Eric Choi

Books by this Author
Arrowdreams
Excerpt

"Hockey's Night in Canada"

by Edo van Belkom

"What's up coach?" said Wilson, making himself comfortable in a chair. He had an idea that he'd been called in to be told that he'd made the team. After all, the morning's performance should have been more than enough to prove that he deserved a spot on the roster more than Smolnikov did. This was it. The point he'd worked all his life to get to, his life-long dream about to be realized. He was going to remember this moment and savour it for all time.

"You followed our team last year, didn't you?"

"I'd been drafted by Toronto the year before, so yeah, I kept up with whatever was written in the papers."

"Good, good," said Coach Chase. "Then you know that our defense had the third-best plus-minus rating, and allowed the fourth fewest goals in the league."

"Sure, those were good numbers."

Chase nodded. "So you realize that I've already got five good defensemen and it would be difficult for someone new to fit in with the defensive system that's already in place."

Wilson's soaring hopes suddenly came crashing down in flames. He knew that when Coach Chase said someone new, what he was really saying was a Canadian. So he wasn't going to make the team, after all. Wilson shifted uncomfortably in his seat, and placed a hand over his suddenly turbulent stomach.

"You know how it is," said Coach Chase, sounding more apologetic than authoritative. "People want to see the Russians play, they think their style of hockey's more exciting, more entertaining."

Wilson said nothing.

Chase got up and started pacing around the room. "I don't like it any more than you do, but that's the way it is. Maybe if Henderson hadn't hit the post in the dying seconds of that final game back in 1972, then maybe things would have been different. If he'd scored and we'd won the series, then maybe the Russians would have had to learn the game from us instead of the other way around. But no, he hit the post and they came back up the ice and scored..."

Chase shrugged. "The next season every team's got an operative behind the iron curtain. First Tretiak defects, then Kharlamov and Yakushev. Next thing you know, the Russians are making the deals themselves, using our money to make their hockey program stronger." Chase shook his head in dismay. "But what am I telling you all this for, kid? You probably know it as well as anybody..."

Chase sat down in the chair behind his desk. "Look, I'd love to stack the team with Canadian talent, play it tough, you know, real old-time hockey, but the owners want a team full of Russians. Better for product licensing and television revenue. I almost convinced them to start building up a team with young Canadian talent, but the Canucks shot that all to hell last spring when they won the Cup by dressing every Russian on the roster through the playoffs."

Chase suddenly threw up his hands as if he were disgusted by the whole situation.

Wilson took a deep breath and nodded. Who'd he been trying to kid? Who'd want a Canadian defenseman when they could have one of the best young Russians instead?

But, he reasoned, maybe things might change. If the Leafs couldn't use him, then maybe another team could. There was talk about the Oilers making the move to strictly homegrown talent. Sure it was a cost-saving measure on their part, but it was still a chance to play in the bigs. Wilson decided he'd work twice as hard this year and be ready if and when the call came.

"Am I going back to junior?" he asked.

Chase shook his head. "No, we don't think another year in junior as an over-age is going to help you much. We're sending you off to our minor league affiliate in Minsk."

"Really?" asked Wilson. This was good news, very good news. The Minsk Maple Leafs were one of the top teams in the Russian Hockey League, the best minor-pro league in the world. Heck, Gretzky and Lemieux were even playing out their careers there.

"Yeah, really. You do well there and maybe we'll call you back by mid-season."

Wilson's hopes soared once more.

They weren't giving up on him. So, he wouldn't be playing for the Leafs this year, at least he was being given the chance to improve his game by learning from the best hockey players in the world.

The Russians would teach him to play the game their way and he'd be that much better for it. Then, he'd be back in Toronto, wearing that eye-catching, army-red and white jersey the Leafs had adopted a few years ago to make them look more Russian. The dream was not over.

Not by a long shot.

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Carbide Tipped Pens

Carbide Tipped Pens

Seventeen Tales of Hard Science Fiction
edited by Ben Bova
by Eric Choi
edition:Paperback
also available: Hardcover
tagged : short stories
More Info
Shades Within Us
Excerpt

Porque el Girasol Se Llama El Girasol (Rich Larson)

Girasol watches as her mother shakes the entanglers out onto the hotel bed. They are small and spiny. They remind her of the purple sea urchins she was hunting in the netgame she can’t play anymore, because they had to take the chips out of their phones and crush them with a metal rolling pin before they left Las Cruces.

She is not sure she will be able to swallow one. It makes her nervous.

Her mother plucks the first entangler off the bedspread and peers at it. Her mouth is all tight, how it was when they checked in and the clerk passed her the little plastic bag.

“Peanut butter or grape jelly?” she asks, because she took a fistful of condiment packets from the breakfast room.

“Jelly.”

Her mother peels the packet open and rolls the entangler inside, globbing it in pale purple. Girasol takes it in her hand, getting her fingers sticky, and stares down at it. Ten points, she thinks. She puts it in her mouth.

She gags it back up. It pokes in her throat and she thinks she can feel it squirming a little, like it is alive. Her eyes start to water.

“Squeeze your thumb in your fist when you do it,” her mother says. “Squeeze hard.”

It takes three tries, and when it finally stays down Girasol is gasping and trying not to sob. Her throat is scraped raw. Her mother rubs between her shoulder blades, then takes the second entangler and swallows it. Her face twitches just once. Then she goes back to rubbing Girasol’s back.

“My brave girl,” she coos. “Brave girl, sunflower. Do you feel it?”

“I don’t know. Yes.”

For a few moments, Girasol feels only nausea. Then the entangler starts to prickle in her gut. Warmer, warmer.

“You should feel it.”

“I do. I feel it.”

“It should feel like a little magnet inside your belly.”

“I feel it.”

Her mother’s voice is stretched out like it might snap. “Okay.”

***

They test the entanglers outside, on the cracked and bubbled tarmac of the parking lot. Emptiness on all sides. Their motel is last in a ragged row of gas stations and stopovers, after which there is only the highway churning away to horizon. In the far far distance, they can see the Wall: a slouching beast of concrete and quickcrete latticed with swaying scaffold. Workers climb up and down it like ants; drones swarm overtop of it like flies.

Girasol has never seen the Wall in real life before. It makes her feel giddy. Her teacher only showed them photos of the Wall in class, and had them draw a picture of it on their smeary-screened school tablets.

While Girasol drew, the teacher stopped over her to ask, in a cheery voice, what her parents thought of the Wall. She gave the answer her mother told her always to give: their country was so good that bad people always wanted to come in and wreck it, because they were jealous, and the Wall was good because it kept them out. Then the teacher asked Fatima, and then Maria, but nobody else.

Girasol is still staring off at the Wall when her mother’s charcoal coloured scarf drops over her eyes. She feels her mother’s strong fingers knot it behind her head.

Excerpted from Shades Within Us, copyright © 2018

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