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.