Playoffs ~ fiction by Salvatore Difalco

 “What do you think he’s going to do with it?” Danny asked Jonathan.
 “He said he’s taking it up to Aurora.”
 Danny adjusted his black-rimmed glasses and glanced at the flat-screen mounted on the wall. The Leafs were losing to the Bruins.
 “Why Aurora?” Danny asked.
 “That’s where his girlfriend Natalia lives. He bought her this house on a two-acre spread. He goes up there weekends. Guess he’ll drive it around up there.”
 “He paid too much for it,” Vinnie said from under his chocolate-brown hoodie. He’d been comatose for most of the evening. Blamed it on bad sleep and stress. Rumour had it he was into some wise guys for fifty large in gambling debts. Now he was offering an opinion.
 “I think the Russian has been manipulating him,” Danny said.
 Rolo and Barney, Vinnie’s two Rottweilers, started barking. They often started barking for no reason. Vinnie thought all the pot and hashish smoke had slowed their cognitive functions.
 “Shut the fuck up!” Vinnie shouted at the dogs.
 “They can’t get the fucking puck out of their own end,” Jonathan said. He had a hundred bucks riding on the game. But the Leafs were flat as pancakes.
 “Awful to watch,” Danny said. “And this is my night out. I should have gone to Fallsview like I’d planned. I felt like playing some poker.”
 “Of course she’s manipulating him,” Jonathan said, pulling from his joint of hashish with pinched lips and clenched eyes. Smoke surrounded him, heightening his gnomic airs. He had recently shaved off his white beard and his scant hair.
 “Tell us something we don’t know,” said Danny. “I’m just wondering if he really just got it for her.”
 “Wouldn’t that be rich,” Jonathan said, laughing in his chest. “Aw, honey, I need pretty wheels to complement the pretty house.”
 Danny slowly shook his head. “Who buys his Russian girlfriend a Ferrari?”
 Vinnie raised the volume. He liked to hear the clack of stick on puck and the swish of skates on ice. Sometimes you could hear the players calling to each other as the play unfolded.
 “Did Charlie say if he was coming?” asked Danny.
 “Who knows,” Jonathan said. “If he’s in Aurora now, he won’t be back for an hour. How much did he pay for it?”
 “Two fifty large,” Vinnie said. “I think he got a bad deal.”
 “There’s a better deal?” Danny said.
 “What the fuck is with you?” Sam said to Vinnie. He’d been quiet all evening, suffering from a bad tooth. “Mr. Contrary.”
 “That bud’s too strong,” Vinnie said. “And I told you I didn’t sleep at all. You haven’t exactly been Mr. Congeniality.”
 “You’re not the one with an abscessed tooth, bro.” Sam gripped his jaw and winced.
 “He likes to play it up,” Vinnie said to the other two.
 “This is real,” Sam said. “This is not some kind of arboresque concoction.”
 Sam, who had taught postmodern aesthetics at Humber Community College, often wove his abstract ideas into normal conversation. The others believed this indicated a lack of self-confidence, and they were not wrong. Since his wife had left him for another man, Sam’s life had turned into a rotten nightmare. Now he had an abscessed molar causing the most exquisitely horribly pain he had ever experienced. He was at the end of his tether. The dogs started barking again. This intensified the pain, the barking. He glowered at the dogs.
 “Why don’t you just get it yanked?” Danny asked.
 “My dentist has been out of town. He’s back day after tomorrow.”
 “I know a good dentist,” Jonathan said.
 “My dentist is fine,” Sam said.
 “I think you just like suffering more than everyone else,” Vinnie said.
 “I think you’re a blowhard,” Sam said. “What the hell do you know about it? I was hoping to save the tooth. Now it has to come out. Do you understand?”
 The Bruins scored another goal. Jonathan pounded the table.
 “Take it easy on the friggin’ table,” Vinnie said. “It’s already tilting. That table belonged to my mother. Before the dogs ate it must have been worth two-three grand.”
 “The dogs ate it?” Danny said.
 “Look under and see.”
 Danny raised the tablecloth and chuckled. “They really went to town on it, eh?”
 “Morons,” Vinnie said.
 “They’re just dogs,” Jonathan said. “And besides, they reflect the owner.”
 “Did you say Charlie was coming?” Sam asked.
 “Yeah,” Vinnie said. “He was driving it here.”
 “I can’t afford next month’s rent,” Sam said, “and someone in my circle bought a Ferrari for his girlfriend. How does that work out?”
 Danny and Jonathan smiled. It certainly was a strange thing. And though Danny and Jonathan were moderately well-off, and drove German cars, they couldn’t afford a Ferrari, and no one else in their circle could afford a Ferrari. Charlie, a trust fund beneficiary whose father was a bigwig at Dupont, had never worked a day in his life. He never rubbed it in, and was quite generous with his money and dope. But he wasn’t the sharpest guy in town, and prone to the wiles of beautiful women with agendas. His ex-wife, a grifter, had soaked him for millions. His girlfriend—estranged from a Russian mob boss husband, but not divorced—looked like a Playboy bunny, but was a real operator.
Her motives were transparent to Charlie’s crew, and they had gently tried to warn him, but he wouldn’t hear it.
 “What kind of Ferrari?” Sam asked. “Did he say?”
 “Think it was the 454 Italia,” Danny said.
 Jonathan pounded the table again. One of the Leafs had just miffed on a breakaway.
 “I friggin’ told you not to pound the table,” Vinnie said.
 The dogs, almost on cue, started barking. One of them appeared to be barking at Sam, who wasn’t a dog person.
 “Rolo doesn’t like me,” he said.
 “That’s Barney,” Vinnie said. “They both don’t like you.”
 “Call him off.”
 The boys laughed.
 “I said call him off.” Sam was serious, and in serious pain. He gripped his jaw and bowed his head. Barney stopped barking of his own volition.
 “The 454 Italia Ferrari,” Jonathan intoned, his eyes half-shut.
 “I know,” Danny said. “Hard to wrap your head around it, eh?”
 “What’s he gonna do with his GTR?” Jonathan asked Vinnie.
 He shrugged. He still hadn’t shown his face from under his hood.
 “He has to strip it down to sell it,” Danny said. “He’s been racing it up at Mosport.”
 “Wonder if he’s gonna race the Ferrari,” Jonathan said.
 “Can you imagine if he cracked it up,” Danny said.
 Jonathan pounded the table again. The Bruins had scored another goal.
 “Stop it!” Vinnie said. He lifted off his hoodie and showed his grey face. “How many times I gotta tell you? I don’t feel like buying another table.”
 “Leafs are stinking out the joint tonight,” Danny said. “I thought they’d put up more of a fight.”
 “Fucking Boston,” Jonathan said. “I hate Boston. I hate everything about them. Look at them—bunch of ugly bastards.”
 “I could care less,” Sam said. “I’m a Habs fan.”
 “And where are your Habs these days?” Danny said.
 “I’ll always have my memories.” Sam said, wincing. “You guys weren’t even born yet when the Leafs last won the Cup.”
 The dogs started barking again.
 “Shut up!” Vinnie shouted.
 They heard the rumble of an exotic engine outside.
 “I think it’s Charlie,” Danny said.
 All of them stood up and started for the door except Vinnie who covered his head again with his hoodie and returned to the quiet comfort of his despair.

Salvatore Difalco splits time between Toronto and Sicily. His work has appeared in many print and online journals. He is the author of four books, including The Mountie At Niagara Falls, an illustrated collection of flash fiction.

Show Salvatore some love via PayPal at sammydifalco(at)gmail(dot)com.