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A Night at the Skating Rink

I’ve enjoyed writing for many years. I'm dedicating more time to the craft in my retirement days.

An Evening at the Rink

The Zamboni clears the ice, leaves a trail of warm water behind, and eventually a surface that is a clear, unmarred glass-like slate. I hide under the bleachers, playing with my skate strings, pushing the plastic ends of the laces together, imagining they are connected in a continuous loop and wondering, how could I tie them if they were?

Then I start to think about the person who made up the name aglet for the little plastic thingies on the ends of shoelaces. Where did (s)he get the idea to call them that?

The lights go out with a clunk, and I hear the Zamboni guy—he’s the rink’s head maintenance person, too, I think—I hear him whistling and jangling his keys as he walks toward the exit, then I hear the door slam, the lock turn and know I am finally alone in this huge, now pitch-black arena.

I give him a few minutes to start his car, drive away and get close enough to home so that the pull of the hearth, the idea of sitting at the table with his wife, is stronger in his mind than the pull of the workplace, of what he left behind here at the "office" on this night.

I know him. He’s a family friend whose wife will wait till way past 11 PM to eat her own dinner just so the two of them can sit at the table and enjoy mealtime together. This is their normal. They will talk about their respective days, light a candle and listen to the late evening news while they dine on microwave-warmed spaghetti with burnt garlic bread made from leftover heels of homemade loaves consumed the past several weeks.

And then I throw the master switch myself; with a clunk again the lights flicker and buzz, slowly warm and begin to fill the arena with their glow. My mind wanders once more, pondering the puzzle of arena lights that shut off instantly but take more than five minutes to become fully illuminated. I wonder if there isn’t a way to create a ballast or a transformer (or whatever it’s called) that could get the lights to come on as fast as they go off. It is the speed of light, after all…isn’t it?

When the lights are finally as bright as they’re going to get, I stand at the edge of the rink, marvel at the perfect blank ice canvas. For the next few minutes, it is my whiteboard, recently-erased and ready for the next algebraic equation. Or intransitive verb. Or secret love note from a crushing teen. Or something like that.

I am confident my skate blades are sharp and ready. I took them to the bike shop down on Main where they sell bikes year ‘round but they also, in winter, sell hockey gear and figure skates and tutus and pads and gloves and pucks and sticks. The owner sold these skates to my mom a few years ago at Christmas time, and I take them back every November for sharpening. I don’t think I ever would have done that if the owner hadn’t once told me how much difference sharp skate blades make. He was right. Sharp skates are—counterintuitively, perhaps—safer and more stable than dull skates. They toss shards in an aggressive turn, glide true and fast on a full-out run up the ice. And they write better, too.

I don’t have any idea what I’m going to engrave into the ice as I sit down on a nearby bleacher to remove my blade guards. I just know I can’t wait until Martha sees it. I’ll take a picture of it with my cell phone and send it to her tomorrow first thing. She’s going to flip! She’ll give me a hard time for “breaking and entering,” too, and I’ll tell her the truth: I didn’t break in; I walked in through the front door. “Semantics,” she’ll say. I can already hear her, and I can see her shaking her head, too. The thought of it makes me laugh out loud, and the sound echoes across the arena when I do.

As I pull the guard off of my right skate, I notice my fingers aren’t working quite right, like maybe they’re cold or something. I grab and push the aglets together again, smirk a little, release the laces. I sit up and reach over for my gloves and stand up, checking my balance. I walk over to the small door on the edge of the rink, push it open, put my left skate on the ice and lean into it. It’s ready to careen and curve and carve.

And I am, too.

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