- Ethan Lockwood
During the coldest winters in the province of Alberta, when the temperature drops to minus 40, I have seen how the boys will bring their mini hockey sticks to Christmas parties and take shots on net in their coach’s empty basement. Upstairs, their parents will stand with drinks in one hand and crackers scooping up hot artichoke dip in the other, while a few women will put casserole dishes in the oven to reheat. There will be a pile of cards on the counter from every player, thanking the coach for his time, a gift card from Tim Horton’s Donuts tucked inside each of them. Each boy will have stood at the front door with his hair combed nicely and a buttoned-up cotton shirt beneath his coat, shyly handing an envelope to the coach, mumbling his thanks before running down to the basement with his stick.
But last December, it was warmer than anyone remembered, warmer than snow, warmer than all the records, warm enough to make the doomsday sayers say that God had left and the world was melting to hell. It would be a green Christmas, other people had said, as if things had turned tropical. It was a strange name for it. Everything green had died to brown, and the brown wanted the snow to make it beautiful. So the boys brought their real sticks, ducked their shy hellos at the door, and dragged the net out from the garage and onto the road.
They hardly even needed coats. They pulled their toques off their heads and threw them to the sidewalk, divvied up the players, and someone dropped a puck for the faceoff. The backs of their necks were sweaty within minutes and their party clothes wrinkled and damp against their skinny chests. They played hard like they did on the ice, but for fun, switching sides and fighting, jabbing ribs, swearing and giggling. They took cheap shots and [End Page 85] turns in net. When the sun began to set and the temperature dropped, they felt the cold settle between their spines and lungs, and their mouths turned to little smokestacks spewing white air over the suburban yards. Someone’s dad had already hollered at them once to put their coats back on. Dinner would be ready in five minutes. Time to come inside.
The boys thought of plates of food and warmth and the game on the TV in the basement while their parents ate upstairs, and they felt the emptiness of their stomachs all at once. But there was still time for just another shot, and then maybe another. Two of the boys scuffled with their sticks, and Ethan Lockwood, who had turned to go inside because it had been his father calling, saw the last chance for a good shot and hurried towards the puck that was rolling free. He ran to his friends, caught his stick in theirs, caught his feet in his own ten-year-old feet, and tripped. He fell into a bush edging the neighbor’s yard.
A branch in the bush entered Ethan’s right eye. It traveled through his eyeball, through the socket, past his skull, and punctured his brain. There was no snow to catch the blood or his body, only brown grass and dirt.
Miraculously, the doctors said, it did not kill him. Miraculously, he was only paralyzed on the left side of his body, admitted to intensive care while his brain swelled and fought off infection. A millimeter to the left or right would have ended everything, they said. He’s a lucky boy, they said.
A Google search of Ethan Lockwood reveals another boy in another city wearing a too-large t-shirt that reads, “You make your own luck.”
I have been writing letters. They are along the lines of “Dear Sir/Madam, I know that this is strange and that I am a stranger to you, but could you please tell me what kind of bush hurt Ethan.” I want the name of the plant so that I might search until I come to the evil heart of it. Somewhere, I know...