Wharton Tiers Hockey Club

When we were kids, I saw my cousin Patrick on special occasions, birthday parties for him or his sisters, never just an afternoon in the park or a weekend matinee. Then, my Aunt Carol moved the family to NH and I didn’t see him again till he surfaced in my MA high school. Aunt Carol drove him two hours each way for the hockey team. She dropped him and his hockey gear off when the sky was still dusty white and went to nurse a pot of tea and a bowl of fried noodles at the Paper Lantern, a Chinese restaurant you could see from the highway. Sometimes, she’d invite my mother to walk with her at the mall, like my mom didn’t need to work. I can’t remember if Patrick played on the varsity squad when he was there. Me and my friends only cared about two things, model UN and smoking clove cigarettes on the concrete lip of a massive drainpipe that filtered sewage into the Blackstone River. The hockey guys in my grade were affable goons, so deep in privilege that the violence of a check was instinctive, a dog scratching at a tick or patch of dry skin…. Both of my mother’s parents worked when she was little, so a pair of maiden aunts watched her during the day.  In 1953, a tornado nosed the ground in Petersham then dug a furrow from Barre to downtown Worcester, where my grandmother served at a department store lunch counter. My mother fretted till her aunts drove her downtown to find my grandmother. When they got there, she was sharing a cigarette with a work friend, the two of them gawking at the concrete card stack the tornado made of a five story office building. My granddad was still missing two days after the storm, and when he turned up, my grandmother’s shiner started to show, a bruise that turned swirling eggplant black. She pushed away my mom when she tried to touch it and told the aunts she was hit by something the storm sent flying…. Patrick went to my school for two years before he found a club league in Manchester whose fees were less than tuition at my school. I heard he kept playing but was never more than an amateur at it. Maybe a decade ago, my mom told me he went to prison for assaulting an officer of the court. Lately, it seems like he’s at the end of every trail I follow, his face on the side of the city bus, ads on TV and the radio, announcing his candidacy for state senate. I asked my mom if he was serious about running, and she laughed and told me she is hosting an open house for him. She expects me to attend, and I suppose she assumes I’ll vote for him, too, because he’s family. Which makes me the bad guy.

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