378: Throwback Thursday: The Goalie in My Socks
Recess plays no integral part of the average high school student’s day; but for me, a homeschool upperclassman with a hip-high brother, recess proved a pre-lunch staple.
All because of sockey.
Sockey, the field-tested brainchild of my brother, Timmy, and me, became the official pastime of our little world. It originated from king-of-the-hill, the game that began when Mom’s car left the driveway and ended only after my mattress and every pillow in the house lay sprawled on my bedroom floor. Next came couch cushions to the mix, and they evolved into dodgeball walls around my bed. The cotton-filled dodge balls changed to soccer balls, as my furniture moved to the outskirts of my room to foster a bigger indoor field. My bedroom floor, a collage of cracked and creaking tiles, welcomed smuggled furniture polish and thereby World Cup slide tackles, which Timmy mastered. To pad his skinny shins and extend his skids, he added a pair of my white socks to his uniform. Always big and sometimes floppy, the socks doubled as skates on the Pledge-slicked tile.
Spontaneous experimentation yielded a new kick-thing, the puck. Of course, stubbing socked-feet toes proved painful enough—let alone with solid rubber pucks; that’s why we used offering pockets—you know: the round plastic holders of Dad’s nontaxable spare change. This marriage of soccer and hockey, sockey, spawned a bonding point for my brother and me and stretched coffee breaks into shirt-shedding marathon tournaments.
I learned to disguise our recess as physical education and even mathematics. Well, Timmy came up with the math idea. In his preschool pondering he discovered that his six-foot-something opponent scored at a higher rate than did he. His solution? A handicapping system, based upon weekly performance and computed in his head. See: math. He was not only a National Hockey League prodigy but also an Ivy League prospect.
His handicaps shrank as his goalie prowess grew into bragging rights. One day he beat me; then one day became some days. The handicaps shrunk more, my almost-letting-him-win goals becoming goals-in-defeat. Games poured into others, until they all blurred together in one pool, the catch basin that would be my memories.
Except one game, and only one part of that can I still remember.
Like in most other sockey games, Timmy guarded his goal (the box for my Rollerblades) too closely for me to fire even a miracle shot into its bounds. I teased him, kicking the puck just far enough away for him to risk a race to the puck. He bit. He had a decent chance at winning puck possession, for only a sweat’s distance would determine the race. But I won.
My left foot slid to the left of the puck and, half a second later tapped it a tile’s width to the right. (It was my trick shot: the puck would slide over and stop exactly where my cocked right leg would tee a lined one-timer to the Rollerblade box; Timmy would slide through my foot-to-foot pass, while the puck flew unabated to its cardboard destination.) Timmy crashed into my left leg—standing—just as my right leg uncorked. My foot connected with the puck, unleashing one of the hardest, best-aimed slap shots of my sockey career.
The following replay has run only in slow motion since I first watched it, the highlight of all sockey highlights.
Timmy hears the kick and jumps, high and long and backward—as from an explosion. His arching back flies parallel with the hard tile ground toward a hard tan wall; his right arm flings farther toward the wall, faster than the puck. The blistering, screaming plastic grabs his palm; his fingers wrap by instinct. Inertia. Timmy, hand outstretched, crashes through the box, into the wall, onto the floor. Rigor mortis of the save leaves Timmy’s arm still raised, still clutching the yellow offering pocket. And from his lips?
He had stopped my shot but started my destiny. That day, I saw Timmy as a high school upperclassman offering handicap points to his not-as-young-as-he-used-to-be brother—thirty years old—almost letting me win.