#31DaysOfWriting: Third Man In

Working Out Differences

“Enough already,” Scott grunted through clenched teeth as he began another ten reps. He exhaled loudly as he pressed the weight away from his chest.

“Hey, I was happy just counting,” I said.

He lowered the bar back to his chest. “Uh-huh,” he managed, as he sucked in as much air as he could and pressed the bar upward again.

He lowered the bar. “So, count,” he said with a grunt as he began another press.

“Besides, you asked,” I reminded him. “Three.”

He held the bar for an extra second, then lowered it again.

“Well.” He snarled with the exertion of the next rep.

“Four,” I counted.

“I changed –” He lowered the bar and breathed in deeply.

Back up. “Five.” And down, taking another deep breath.

Then expelled the same air with a loud, “Aaaarrrgggh,” as he raised the bar again.


He lowered the bar, took another breath. “My –” Up.

“Seven.” Down.

“Mind.” Up. He exhaled again, teeth clenched. “Aaaarrrgggh.”

“Eight.” Down. “Just two more.”

“Just –” The word was swallowed up by a loud grunt as he pressed the weight away from his chest with obvious effort now.

“One more. Come on, push. As if you were shoving Hannaford up against the glass.”

“Mil –” it was an exhaled plea, as he raised the bar for the last time.

“Yeah, yeah. Drop it,” I said, helping him guide the bar back into the safety holds, where he let the bar drop.

“Time?” he asked, sitting up and wiping his face with a towel.

“We should go.”

“You sure you don’t want to go another ten?” He pointed at the bench.

“Two’s good.”

“We’ve got time,” he said.

I shook my head. “I’m good,” I assured him.

Unlike Scott, I pushed myself, but only within limits. From the gym we’d go over to the rink and skate for a half-hour and then we still had practice with the team in the afternoon. Where Scott did three sets of ten, I settled for two. It had always been this way every Tuesday and Thursday for as long as I can remember, but like our morning workout sessions, Scott pushing me for a third set was part of the routine. The team usually did weight training together on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays before practice.

He nodded. “Okay. Let’s skate.” He pulled his sweatshirt over his head, grabbed his jacket and headed for the door. “Thanks for the spot,” he said over his shoulder, and I stopped in my tracks. Since when did he thank me for spotting him? “Hannaford’s class,” he added. “Yesterday.”

A burst of cold air blasted my face and forced me to swallow my response with several short breaths. I tucked my chin to my chest and jogged into the wind to the car. It couldn’t have been more than fifteen degrees.

“Speaking of Hannaford,” I said, bouncing up and down on my toes to try and stave off the icy wind while Scott unlocked his door. “I was thinking about Chapter fifteen.”

He stopped and looked at me over roof of the car. Even in the dawn’s pale light I could see that familiar expression — the I don’t want to talk about it look. It was a little bit more subdued than the obstinate look he used in Hannaford’s class, maybe because his jaw wasn’t set or his teeth weren’t clenched, but his eyes had the same annoyed expression in them. Like I said, I liked to push myself within limits; and that applied as much to moments like this as it did to weight training. And I still had a few more reps in me to finish this set as long as I maintained a natural rhythm.

“Time’s a wasting,” I said, tapping on my watch.

He pulled open his door and climbed into the car and, no surprise, he didn’t unlock my door. A minute later, the engine roared to life, and I could see him fiddling with the knobs, adjusting the heat, tuning the radio. I bounced up and down a few more times, trying to keep warm. Finally, after another minute, Scott leaned over and unlocked my door. Music and warmth poured out of the car.

“The rink’ll feel like Florida compared to this,” I said over an R.E.M. tune. I rubbed my hands together and waited until we were en route to the rink before I broached the Hannaford subject again. I inched the volume down a bit. “It’s just that he’s likely to single you out again.”

Scott navigated the Nova through the traffic along Route 1, singing along to R.E.M.’s ‘Everybody Hurts.’ We pulled into the Coffee Shack drive-thru and I handed him the thermos as we by-passed the ordering speaker and drove right up to the window.

“Good morning, Millie,” Scott said, smiling broadly as he handed over the thermos. “Filler up, please.”

A few moments later she handed him back the thermos and a bag with two muffins in it — a blueberry and a corn. Scott made the usual attempt to give her some money, but, as always, Millie waved him off. “You just give my best to Charlie and we’ll call it even,” she said with a smile.

“You bet,” Scott said.

Then we were back on the road to the rink.

“You think Charlie’ll ever get around to asking her out?” I asked.

“How do you know he hasn’t?” Scott replied, smirking.

“No way,” I said. “Millie would give it away.”

“Yeah, you’re right,” he said and we both laughed. He looked at me and shook his head as we idled at a stoplight, waiting for the one other car on the road to pass so we could turn.


“So wrapped up in everyone’s life,” he said with a smug nod of his head.

And so I couldn’t resist. “Which reminds me. Hannaford. To Kill a Mockingbird,” I said.

“I have a Coach,” he said as we pulled into the rink parking lot.

“So –”

Scott didn’t say anything as he pulled up by the door, hopped out of the car and circled around to the trunk, where he handed me my equipment bag, grabbed his bag and headed for the rink doors. Scott unlocked the door, but before he opened it he turned around and looked me in the eye. “So I don’t need you riding me about my grades.” He arched his eyebrows as if to say, “Okay?”

“Which is my point,” I said, and stepped in front of him, opening the door and leading the way inside.

“Well, good morning, fellas!” Charlie called out from the far end of the hall.

“Hey, Charlie,” I called back.

Charlie was about the only other person at the rink at this hour. Of course, it was his rink, and he liked to do a lot of the basics himself, especially where the ice was concerned. Charlie was a retired assistant coach who’d worked with the New York Rangers from the 1970s through the early 1990s, so he was a hockey guy from way back and he still loved being around the game, and the ice. If asked why he retired, he’d say it was just time for him to go. But Scott and I knew it was today’s franchise philosophy that influenced his decision; he didn’t like the heavy focus of money over talent and when teams became more about who they could afford rather than who they could keep and win with, he stepped down.

“There’s no team loyalty anymore,” he’d said to us on more than one occasion. And so it was the players he’d left behind, not the game. Now he coached in the junior league, which is where Scott and I first met him, where he passed on his love of the game along with pointers and technique.

“Millie sends her best,” Scott said, handing Charlie the thermos and the muffins.

“Such a dear, that one,” Charlie said a smile forming slowly at the corners of his mouth. He unscrewed the thermos cap and breathed in the roasted aroma of the coffee. “Ahhhhhh. Nothing better.”

“What’s the story with you two?” I asked him.

Charlie just smiled at me. “The clock’s running for ya,” he said. He raised the thermos to us, as if making a toast. “Thanks for the brew,” he said and headed down the hall.

“You just don’t quit.” Scott shook his head and ducked into the lockerroom before I could say anything.

Let’s Chat

I’d love to hear your reader thoughts on Scott and Alec’s friendship. Is it believable? Let me know what you think in the comments.

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