Lana’s asleep beside me when my cell rings. I kiss her naked shoulder and reach across her to my bedside table.
It’s Rob. He tells me that Petey’s dead.
The ice at the park was too soft to skate on, so we were in our boots, taking slap shots. Over on the hill, kids were tobogganing. We could hear their shouts over the echoes of our stick blades cracking, pucks thudding into the stained white wood.
Then one of my shots went sailing over the boards, right to where Rob’s eight-year-old brother Petey was pulling his sled up towards the chalet. The puck hit him right in the face. I dropped my stick and ran over to where he had collapsed.
His blood was all over the snow.
“You going over now?” Lana says.
“Yeah,” I say, pulling on my shoes.
“How old was he?”
“Oh, my God,” she says.
We hug, and I walk out of our apartment into the May sun. I drive over to Rob’s folks’ house back on Harmony Street—where we grew up. My mom still lives in our house up the street. I knock on Rob’s porch door and step in. Their living room is full of silver-framed pictures of Rob and Petey.
Rob’s mom, Lorna, comes in from the kitchen. “Hi Alan,” she says. “Can I get you something? Tea? Water?”
“No, thanks,” I say.
I watch her go back into the kitchen, and I sit down on one of the green felt armchairs. Everything in this room is green or silver. Clean.
Rob walks in from the hall. “Hey,” he says. I stand up and give him a hug. We sit back down, with Rob on the sofa across from me.
“You okay?” I say.
“I guess,” he says.
I lower my voice: “What happened?”
He stands up. “I’ll show you. Come with me.”
We walk into the kitchen, past Lorna, who’s spreading margarine onto white bread. We go downstairs, through the family room in the basement to the storage room. On the way, we pass the open door to Petey’s room. He has posters of Patrick Roy and Vanilla Ice in there.
In the storage room—full of tools and mason jars full of pickled things—Rob points up to a wooden beam in the ceiling. “He hung himself, from here,” he says, pointing up. “We found a note. He was having trouble with school and with his girlfriend.”
“Holy fuck,” I say. For a second, I feel bad about having sworn. Rob and his family still go to church. Then I realize it doesn’t matter.
I hadn’t seen Petey in years, but he had always been a shy kid. Whenever we played Dungeons and Dragons, or any other vaguely social game, he was quiet, just kind of following along.
Rob tells me I should probably go. I nod, and we go back upstairs. When we get there, Lorna says, “Do you want a baloney sandwich?”
“No, thanks,” I say. “I’m eating at home.”
I give Rob a hug and tell him I’m here for him. “Thanks, Al,” he says.
More than anything, I want to go home and talk to my mom. I walk up the street, and in through the old front door. Mom is in the kitchen, still in her yellow bathrobe, watching Coronation Street on the portable TV. When I tell her what has happened, she says, “My God.” Then she’s quiet for a while. “Do you want a cup of tea?” she says.
She puts the kettle on to boil and gets out one of my old mugs—a graduation mug with a trophy printed on it that reads ‘Certified Smart Person’.
“Well,” my mom says, “I’m not all that surprised.”
I don’t understand what she means.
“You know what Petey was like,” she continues, “so shy and never showing any emotion. His mother is the same way, you know.” She takes a sip of her tea as though it’s case closed on the subject. When my tea is ready she hands it to me, and we sip in silence.
The next day, Mom and Lana come with me to the visitation at the funeral parlour. Lying in his coffin, wearing a black turtleneck, I kneel down in front of Petey. He looks the same as when he was a kid: with his pale, soft skin and parted soft-brown hair. He even still has the dimple on his left cheek from when I hit him with the hockey puck.
I stand up and walk over to pay respects to Rob’s parents—his Dad’s eyes are red, and he uses both hands to shake mine. He tries to say something but can’t. When I reach his mom, she says, “Thanks for coming, Alan.” She smiles. I try and smile back.
I walk out to the car with Mom and Lana, holding Lana’s hand. She puts her head on my shoulder.
Mom takes hold of my elbow. “Well,” she says.
We drive back to Harmony and get out of the car. In the driveway, Mom hugs us both. “I love you guys,” she says. I can feel her sobbing. “I’m glad you have each other.”
Lana and I keep holding hands as we drive back to our apartment. On the way, we pass by the park. Down where the ice rink used to be, they’ve built a playground.
The ambulance arrived to take Petey to Lakeshore General. Blood was still pouring out of his cheek.
“I’m so sorry,” I said to him, as an ambulance technician pressed gauze onto Petey’s face.
Petey looked up at me over the technician’s blue glove, and smiled a little as he stepped into the back of the ambulance. He had tears in his eyes.
He was going to be okay.
Adam Kelly Morton is a Montreal-based husband, father (four kids, all under-five), acting teacher, board gamer, filmmaker, and writer. He has been published in Black Dog Review, Fictive Dream, The Fiction Pool, Open Pen London, Talking Soup, Pulp Metal Magazine, and Untethered, among others. He has an upcoming piece in A Wild and Precious Life, an addiction anthology to be published this year in London, UK. He is the editor-in-chief of the Bloody Key Society Periodical literary magazine.