This past weekend, my father called to let me know that Albert Dell’apa, a childhood friend, had been written up in the local newspaper from the area in which we both grew up (and where my parents still reside). Albert, who lived about six houses up the street from me, penned a novel called How to Win a Chestnut Fight, based loosely on his experiences growing up in a village about an hour east of Toronto.
While my father read me the article, questions flooded my brain. First was, “What the FUCK? How is my upcoming book going to stand out in a smaller market if another guy from the same street beat me to the punch? And what was in that water?” Second was, “How could he write a book? He’s only 12!” It took a minute or two to remember twenty-eight years have passed since I saw him last—these years have been mostly a blur. I blame the magic mushrooms.
Once my original pangs of jealousy settled, my next and most pressing question was, “Am I in the book?” Actually, my question was, “Oh no…what if I’m in it?”
And I was … sort of.
And I was … sort of.
In the novel, Albert (Andy) and his brother Rocco (Rick) play their one-and-only pond hockey game against two boys from the neighborhood (me and my friend John). Despite the preparations of the two brothers of Italian descent, the game ends with a 30-goal differential between the two teams. This really happened. When so few things of athletic consequence happen in one's life (my life, for example), these moments stand out.
The author did, however, leave out the main reason his team was trounced. As I faux-announced the game (no small feat when you’re breathless), I referred to the famous goalie Jacques Plante as “Jack-Ass Plant”, which caused Albert/Andy to roll on the ice laughing for the remaining game time. It may not seem so funny now, but to a pre-teen, anything with the word "ass" is pure comic gold. Albert's brother played most of the game alone.
Albert also neglected to share that, during another game (this time on the street), he took exception to my calling him a “wop” (we were less evolved in those days) by winding up and slashing me seven times across the shins with a hockey stick. Funny how the little things can break down foolish prejudices.
So he didn’t mention his bout of hysteria, nor did he mention his attempts to sever my legs just below the knees. He did, however, cause me to break through the ice and drown. Was that poetic justice?
When I write my tell-all about my childhood, I may recall a certain “Andy” who, while playing an especially hard-fought game of street hockey, is tragically felled by a chunk of space debris, or perhaps by a moose falling from a plane. There’s your poetic justice, my friend.
How to Win a Chestnut Fight is great fun, and is available from amazon.com and indigo.ca.