Authors: Matt Christopher
Copyright © 1973 by Matt Christopher Royalties, Inc.
All rights reserved. Except as permitted under the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, no part of this publication may be reproduced,
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First eBook Edition: December 2009
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To Dale and Joanne
he morning of Saturday, December 1, was unlike any other morning ever in Pie Pennelli’s life.
It started with a laser beam shooting at his right eye. The blinding light startled him. Then he realized that it wasn’t a
laser beam at all but the sun shining through a hole in the drapery of his bedroom window.
He had been dreaming.
He moved over in the bed, hating to leave its soft, velvet warmth. But he knew he would have to soon. The Fly League hockey
game started at eight o’clock and he had to be at the rink a half hour before, at the latest.
As if thinking about it was a signal, there came a sudden knocking on his door and his mother’s vibrant voice. “Pie! Get up!”
“Okay,” he grunted softly.
He got up, washed, put on his black and white hockey uniform, and had breakfast.
“Better hustle,” his mother said. “You’ve got only eight minutes to get to the rink.” He smiled at his blond, trim mother,
and as he stood up, noticed with disappointment that she was still a head taller than he was.
“I’ll make it,” he said, and looked at his father, a lean, broad-shouldered man with a moustache. “You going, Dad?”
“Can’t this morning,” Mr. Pennelli said. “I’ve got to work on the car. Who are you playing?”
“The Bears,” Pie answered. “They’re real good.”
“So?” His father’s dark brows arched. “Be better.”
Pie shrugged, remembering that Dad used to say the same thing to Pat. Pie’s older brother, now at State College, was one of
the best defensemen in the business. It was Pat’s ice skates Pie was using. They were about two sizes too large, but Dad said
he couldn’t afford buying a new pair. “Your feet will grow into ’em,” he had told Pie.
“By then I’ll be in high school,” Pie had answered.
In the meantime he had to be satisfied with them, but even laced up tightly they felt like canal boats and slowed down his
He flung the skates over his shoulders and went to the door. “See you later,” he
said, and stepped out into the bone-chilling air.
He walked up Oak Street, crossed Madison, and turned left, soon reaching the high wire fence that separated the street from
the gorge that gave the village of Deep Gorge its name. Just past the gorge the fence turned up at a right angle to form a
protective wall between it and a path going up the steep, tree-dotted hill. A squirrel chattered as it clung, head down, onto
the side of a tree that hung over the breathless chasm, and Pie smiled.
“Morning, squirrel.” He nodded.
He arrived at Davis Rink, and Terry — Terry “the terrible” Mason — saw him and looked up at the clock. A crooked smile came
over the tall, dark-haired boy’s face. “Seven-thirty on the button,” he said. “One more second and you would’ve been late.”
Like Pie’s brother, Pat, Terry’s brother, Bob, was going to State College. Both Pat Pennelli and Bob Mason were competing
for a position on State’s hockey team.
“A second is as good as an hour,” Pie snorted.
“The way you played last week I really believe it,” Terry said. “What do you do Friday nights? Watch the late-late show?”
“And the late-late-late show, too,” Pie replied, exasperated. He hadn’t sat down yet to put on his skates and Terry was already
picking on him.
Last week Terry had done the same thing, picked on him throughout the entire game.
How can I play a good game of hockey with him riding me all the time?
He didn’t know why Terry was so crusty toward him. He wished he knew, but he didn’t.
Ten minutes before game time both teams
got on the ice and skated round the rink to limber up their leg muscles. The Bears wore brown uniforms with white trim and
white helmets with a brown stripe across the center. Only a handful of fans sat in the stands that seated a capacity crowd
of three thousand.
Up on the electric scoreboard the time clock read 12:00. The first of the four large glass buttons beneath the hour lights
was lit. Each button designated a period. The game was composed of three periods. The fourth button was lit in case of a tie
score, and that was used only when the high school played.
The buzzer crashed through the sound of gliding, slithering skates. The two referees blew their whistles, and like flies both
teams scrambled off the ice, leaving only their first lines.
The Penguins protected the north goal. In front of the net was goalie Ed Courtney;
at right forward, Pie; at left forward, Bud Rooney; at center, Terry “the terrible” Mason; at right defense, Chuck Billings;
and at left defense, Frog Alexander. Watching from behind the boards stood Coach Joe Hayes, wearing a baseball cap and yellow-rimmed
glasses. Beside him sat the rest of the Penguin roster.
went the whistle, and the ref dropped the puck.
Terry and Ed Kadola, the Bears’ belligerent center, slapped at it, and it skewed across the ice to Bud. Pie sprinted down
the ice, looking over his shoulder for a pass.
Down it came as Bud shot the puck to him.
Pie hooked it with his stick, saw Terry backskate toward the Bears’ net, and was about to fire the puck to him when a Bears
defenseman bodychecked him. Another Bear stole the puck and slapped it hard to the
other end of the ice. And Pie heard Terry yell, “You slowpoke! We could’ve scored!”
Almost on the heels of Terry’s chafing remark came a yell from the stands. “Come on, Pie! Show ’em!”
He didn’t dare waste time looking up to see who the rooter was, but the voice sounded familiar.
Then another voice yelled his name, and this one he recognized. It was Coach Hayes. “Get down to that blue line, Pie! Hurry!
He dug the point of his right skate into the ice and bolted toward the line. Across the red center line the Penguins’ two
defense-men were struggling to wrest the puck away from the Bears’ forwards. Suddenly the puck shot to the side, rammed against
the boards, and bounced on its edge toward the corner.
Terry and a Bear hightailed after it. Both
reached it at the same time, collided, and fell. Terry, on his feet first, hooked the blade of his stick around the puck,
dribbled it behind the Penguins’ net, then shot it up the ice.
“Pie!” he yelled.
Pie caught the pass, turned, and headed up the ice toward the Bears’ net. His feet seemed to be swimming in his skates, and
he wished again that he was wearing a pair that fit snugly. He
he could skate a hundred percent better with tighter-fitting skates.
He saw the Bears’ defensemen charging toward him, and he pulled back his stick, aiming to sock the puck at the space to the
right of the Bears’ goaltender.
He missed the puck completely. Then
Down he went as the two defensemen plowed into him.
Stars danced in front of his eyes as he landed on the ice, both Bears on top of him. The whistle shrilled. The Bears rolled
off him, and he climbed slowly to his feet, groggy and tired.
He skated off the ice with the rest of Line 1 and felt a sharp blow against his right elbow. He turned. It was Terry, his
face shining with sweat.
“Why don’t you take up tumbling?” he said. “You seem to do that pretty well.”
“I’ll think about it,” said Pie as he stomped through the open gate. He found a space on the bench and sat down.
He wasn’t going to tell Terry or anyone else about his oversize skates. They’d laugh him out of the rink.
For two minutes the second lines of both teams fought but had no success in knocking the puck into the net, and for another
minutes the third lines tried unsuccessfully, too. It wasn’t till the first lines went back in that a Bear broke the scoreless
Then the Penguins knotted it up when Terry “the terrible” Mason, after driving down the ice from the red center line, socked
the puck up into the corner of the net unassisted.
The rink resounded with a roar as jubilant Penguins drummed their sticks against the boards.
Five seconds after face-off, Pie caught a pass from Bud Rooney, bolted toward the Bears’ net, and saw his chance to score.
The Bears’ goalie had slipped to one knee at the right side of the crease and was taking his sweet old time getting to his
The puck streaked like a black pellet through space. Up shot the goalie in a futile effort to catch it with his gloved hand.
“Nice shot, Pie!” the familiar voice shouted again in the stands.
This time he recognized it, and a grin curved his lips. He looked up at the sea of faces and saw two that looked exactly alike
— the Byrd twins, Jody and Joliette.
Jody waved. “See you during intermission!” he yelled.
“Can’t!” Pie yelled back.
“Your fans, Pennelli?” a voice sneered near his elbow.
He turned sharply and read Terry’s mocking grin.
“My friends, if you’d like to know,” answered Pie, and he turned his attention to the game, which continued without another
score to the end of the first period. Penguins 2, Bears 1.
Pie skated off the ice, plagued by his over-size
skates more than he was by Terry’s cutting sarcasm.
Tired and half worn out, he stepped into the locker room, sat down, and took off his helmet. The cool air felt refreshing.
He was ready to settle for a few minutes of much-needed rest, when in burst a couple of kids, both in blue snowsuits and both
looking as alike as twins could possibly look.
“Pie!” Jody Byrd cried breathlessly
“It’s coming out exactly like we thought it would!”
“Exactly!” Joliette repeated.
Pie stared from one bright-eyed, redcheeked face to the other. “What is?” he asked bewilderedly.
“The game!” Joliette cried. “It’s coming out exactly the same!”
Pie frowned. “The same as what?”
Just then Terry Mason’s voice cut in like a
sharp-toothed saw. “Hey, you kids, beat it. Even the great Pennelli’s fans aren’t allowed in here.”
The twins scowled at him and headed for the door. “See you after the game, Pie.”
Pie nodded, still frowning.
The same as what?
Just what were those twins talking about, anyway?
off, and the second period was underway.
Terry Mason and Ed Kadola smacked at the puck. It skittered toward left forward Bud Rooney, who socked it across the ice to
Pie. Pie stopped it, dribbled it across the blue line, saw a Bear defenseman charging at him, and passed to his right defenseman,
Chuck clouted the puck toward the Bears’ net.
The Bears’ goalie shifted his left leg and stopped it with his pad. He then picked it up
and tossed it behind the net, where another Bear retrieved it and started to dribble it up the ice.
Pie bodychecked him at the boards as he tried to pokecheck the puck.
sounded a whistle, and Pie saw a ref pointing at him.
“Boarding!” the ref yelled. Pie shook his head and skated off the ice toward the penalty box.
“You went at him like a bomb,” said Terry, skating up beside Pie. “You can’t take more than two steps when you’re checking
a guy. Don’t you know that?”
Pie glared at him. “I wasn’t thinking about steps,” he grunted. “I was thinking about getting that puck.”
“Well, you’d better think about steps, too,” Terry snapped.
Pie found it difficult to control his temper, and was almost pleased for the one-minute
penalty. While he sat serving his sentence, the Penguins tried desperately to keep possession of the puck. They knew that
if the Bears got it they could try a power play, and the Penguins, with five men on the ice instead of six, could do very
little about it.