Thursday, September 17, 2009

four: back in the burgh

Soundtrack Song - LMFAO, I'm In the Burgh Trick

Ah, it feels good to be back in Pittsburgh.

I haven't been back since July. After we won, I went home for a while for the Omnium Gervais-Talbot before coming back for my surgery and hanging out in the city for awhile. After that, though, I was back in Montréal for the remainder of my summer.

But as much as it feels good to be back, something's not right. I haven't trained or worked out like I would normally. I run, I do sit ups, but I can't lift weights or shoot pucks. I promised Geno that I'd work on my bad hands over the summer, but you can't do that with a hurt shoulder.

I'm feeling pretty useless. Don't get me wrong; the summer's been amazing. First of all, I brought the Cup home. Nothing can top that. Of course, it felt good to be back home, speak my language, be with my family. The partying continued, but I feel... guilty to see all the guys again, knowing they've worked so hard all summer and I haven't. I mean, it's not like I can help it, but I should be getting ready to get back on the ice instead of rehabbing.

It took years for me to work up into being on the top lines again. In Juniors, I was a goal scorer and a captain. I won the Guy Lafleur Trophy two years in a row. I'm not saying that to brag; it's just that after I got drafted, I didn't have that offensive force and presence anymore. I became the "scrappy fourth line center," the penalty killer. I was happy for the spot, to be playing the game I loved in the NHL, but I knew that I was better than that, that I could be better.

So finally, Therrien gets canned and Bylsma comes in, and this was my chance to really prove myself to someone who a fresh perspective on the team and the style of play. He's willing to give me a chance on the second line. The work is about to pay off! My production is finally going up. Four goals in the Stanley Cup Finals, two of which are in Game 7. Even I can't believe it, and I'm the one that netted them. I mean, you could put a fire hydrant as winger on a line with Geno, and it's bound to score a couple goals, but this is amazing.

But now, after earning that spot as winger, I had to get surgery. I had been playing with that torn labrum for months, popping painkillers and pretending that nothing was wrong. Because you don't disclose injuries in hockey. Not when the opposing goons are just going to target you. And we were in the playoffs, for the second year in a row. No way was I going to miss that because of a little pain and soreness.

Everyone's speculating about who will take my place until I come back. TK? Duper? Caputi or Tangradi? But me—I don't want to guess. I don't want to know who's vying for my spot. I'm worried about whether or not I can reclaim that spot when I make it off the IR. Maybe I'll just end up going back to that scrappy, fourth-line guy.

Every day is the best day of my life. That's my motto. Work hard, play hard, and live every moment to its fullest potential. You've got to take the shot; you can't score unless you put the puck on net. Give everything your all, and you'll never be disappointed with life. It's how I play the game, and it's how I live, both on and off the ice.

I know a lot of the guys in the dressing room wonder how I made it this far, because I lack the skill that the lot of them have. I don't know how I made it here either, but I'm soaking up the moment while it lasts and working to keep it around as long as possible. That's the way I've got to live, because you never when you'll get demoted from the second line to the fourth line. So enjoy it while you can.

Not to mention my mother's brush with breast cancer. I've never been terrified of anything in my life, except that. This was why Bruno and I started the Omnium Gervais-Talbot: to raise money for the Quebec Breast Cancer Foundation. Thankfully, she's in remission, but having a loved one encounter such a lethal disease makes you realize that every moment is precious and needs to be lived to the max.

Which is why, even though I'm feeling idle and unproductive, I can only devote my all to rehab. I've never been injured before; I mean really injured. The high ankle sprain? Nothing compared to this. And plus, some of the other guys were out with the same thing at the time, so we could commiserate and get through the ordeal together. This time around, however, the guys are dedicated to their workouts while they prepared to defend their title as champs and bring the Cup back again. And I'm alone, a bystander, no more than a spectator.

The worst part about having to miss training camp is the lack of team bonding. It sounds stupid and cliché, but those guys are more than my teammates; they're my friends. I want to work beside them, pushing my body to its limits, and joke with them in the locker room. At least I'm thankful that a lot of the guys are returning this year. Those who have moved on will be missed, but that's the world of hockey. Hopefully, the chemistry the team had last year will transition nicely into this season, so when I come back to the line-up, I will mesh with whomever my line mates are.

Which is why I'm stoked when the guys are talking about hanging out after the Summer Sticks Golf Tournament. I drove a golf cart around all day, unable to participate in the day's activities, and I'm bored as hell.

"So everything officially starts tomorrow. What do you say to one last hurrah on the town?" Staalsy asks out loud to no one in particular. No one responds, so he continues, "Talbo, dude, I know you're up for going out. You're always looking to get your dick wet."

"Real classy," I tell him, a smile still breaking across my face. Not that it's entirely true. The ladies mostly come to me, and despite my attempts to woo them, they're already willing to spread their legs. I know my reputation; who am I to not take advantage of it? "You guys have your testing in the morning. You should probably stay in."

"I am not going to be lame and spend a Friday night on the couch. We don't have to get shit-faced," he suggests.

"If you want to see a movie, I'm in," offers Flower.

"If I wanted to go see a movie, I'd take Heather," Gronk moans while he rolls his eyes.

"I'm soo telling," TK laughs.

Staalsy punches TK's shoulder, a little harder than he should seeing as though training camp starts this weekend. "Don't be a douche. So, fine, whatever. A movie. What's playing?"

"Nothing good," I tell him. Not only do I love movies already, but without having much to do to occupy my time, I've seen practically everything in the theaters.

"Um, excuse me? Sandra Bullock," Tanger says. He's got some weird obsession with her.

I shrug, and it only brings attention to my injury. I can see the guys looking at me, evaluating my movements—Flower moreso than the others. I know he's got my back and he's just looking out for me as his friend, but I'm kind of annoyed at the analysis. "Fine. Since it's your idea, Tanger, find out the times. I have to stop by the physio center. I'll see you guys later."

No, I don't need to go to an appointment, but I use it as an excuse to get out of there. I don't want their sympathy. They're good guys, I know that, but I don't need them to look at me that way. It's not doing me any favors. I do stop by the center anyway, just to see if maybe the doctor can tell me I'm progressing. I live for the good news he tells me, that rehab is getting better and my shoulder's improving.

The old man's there, watching the TV behind the counter. "Mr. Talbot! I didn't know you were coming in today."

I smile. "Hank, how many times do I have to tell you? It's Max," I say, thinking about how many times that damn commercial played. Just call me Max. Or Superstar. "I actually don't have an appointment, but is the Doc available? I'd like him to look at my shoulder."

"Sure thing, I'll check. Just a second," he tells me, and he's off into the hallway with his shuffled gait. As I wait, I look around to see that the place is empty. There's one girl, on the treadmill. Her mouth is moving to the lyrics of whatever she's listening to, but her eyes are focused on some spot on the wall. Her cool down finishes, and she steps off to wipe down the machine and move on to the next.

Hank comes back and tells me that the doctor will be with me in a little. He makes small talk, and I smile and nod with him, listening to him more than speaking back. I get the feeling that he's a lonely guy. If I were his age, I'd imagine I'd be lonely, too. Not to sound rude, but all your friends to start to die off, and soon you're the only one left. Another reason to live it up while you're young.

As he continues to talk, I watch that girl, Gym Girl. She pulls up the hem of her tee shirt to wipe away the sweat across her forehead, and I get a peak at that body she's hiding. Not bad. Her pants are tight, and I can see that ass and those hips. What was it that Army used to say? Cushion for the pushin'?

She moves across the room to the bike, and I still can't stop watching her. It's the determination and the effort. That's the kind of thing I see in the weight room at the Mellon. I'm used to seeing girls in the gym with perfect hair and make-up. Not her. She's here to work out, and for some reason, that's really hot.

The minutes passed by like seconds, and she leans against the backrest with her arms over her head and is breathing heavily. It's so... hot. I try looking away and focusing on Hank's conversation but I keep staring anyway. He leaves to check to see if the therapist is ready for me. It's me and her. And I can't help myself; I have to do something. I take a bottle from the cooler behind the counter (hey, they always tell me to help myself!) and take it over to her.

"Thanks, Hank," she breathes. I want to know how my name will sound when she says it like that, out of breath, preferably thanks to me.

"No problem," I reply, trying to play it cool and suave. "Looks like you got in a pretty good workout."

She blushes when she looks up at me. I've got her. Maybe I should call the guys now and tell them I can't make it to the movies. Then she looks down and straightens her smile into a thin line on her face. "Well, that's what I come here for." She opens the bottle and starts to guzzle. I know what it's like to be so thirsty after a hard game, but she's only going to make herself sick.

I try to warn her. "You shouldn't drink so much so fast. You're going to upset your stomach."

"Thanks, buddy. I'll keep that in mind," she says, taking another drink just to taunt me. Feisty. This could be fun.

"So, do you work out here a lot? I've been here a few times before, and I've never seen you." I'm not here often, but I'm reaching for something to say to her. I can't remember the last time I've had to have a real conversation with a girl before.

She shrugs and I'm about to ask her if she'll be here tomorrow, but Hank speaks up before I can. "Mr. Talbot, if you'll come right this way...."

I look back at him, nodding that I'll be right there, but when I turn back to ask for her name and number, she's halfway out the door. I watch her leave and then follow Hank to a room in the back, wondering if she does come here and how often I'll have to stop by to run into her again.


  1. Alright so... once again:

    "I mean, you could put a fire hydrant as winger on a line with Geno, and it's bound to score a couple goals..."
    LMFAO... genius!!

    Seriously love your Max... just the right amount of attitude, ego, party-boy and conscious. I'm really looking forward to more... you're making me love Talbo as much as Charlotte! =)

  2. Oh I LOVE Max's POV. He's just... (sigh) he's Max. That's what he is. haha. I'm falling in love with your Max, that's whats happening right now. I can feel it.

  3. Ahh, I totally feel the need to quote this again, because it's so darn quote-able!

    "Um, excuse me? Sandra Bullock," Tanger says. He's got some weird obsession with her.

    ^^I can just totally imagine that happening! You write so spectacularly, Jay. This Max point of view is totally making me love him, too!

  4. I like how this story is starting. I can't wait to read more.

  5. Haha poor Max. Shot down!

    Excellent Jay. Keep it up.

  6. "More cushin' for the pushin'" LMAO.

    Such a good way to start my morning, thanks!

  7. I am caught up now, and this is an awesome story. I am lovin' both characters - I think they will give each other a run for the money!!!

    Love it, love it, love it. Thanks for writing another one...I can see by the comments, your fans approve :)