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The Jackson Lunta Snow Dance Song: Chapter 4

A downloadable package of this chapter (.pdf, .epub, and .mobi) is available in the Sparkler Monthly Issue #061 back issue.

Back inside the hotel, a chill still lingered in the air, but the lights shone brightly, a picture of normalcy. Sammy wasn’t fooled.

“Jackson!” He struggled to control his voice as he chased his roommate down the hall. “What was that?”

Jackson shrugged, nonchalant, glancing back at Sammy as though he hadn’t just broken his entire conception of reality.

“Answer me!”

A door flew open, and Coach Niemi’s face emerged, squinting balefully in the light. Sammy froze.

“Boys! Do you know what goddamn time it is?”

Sammy’s already taxed brain struggled to come up with a credible reason for shouting outside his coach’s room in the wee hours of the morning. “The power went out, and so we…”

“The power went out and so you what? Broke curfew? Keep it up and I’ll scratch the both of you!”

“Sorry, Coach.”

“Back in bed!” Coach slammed the door.

By the time Sammy stopped tingling with the adrenaline spike of being caught, Jackson was already halfway through the door to their room. Sammy lunged after him, pushing him inside and up against the wall.

Sammy knew he looked crazy–wide eyed and panicked, his damp hair clinging to his forehead–but he couldn’t let this slide. This was beyond messages on windows and frozen pools; it was beyond belief.

“What.” He hissed through gritted teeth. “The fuck. Was that.”

“Whoa, chill.” Jackson wrestled against his grip, and then seemed to crack up at his own word choice. “Ha ha. Chill.”

“I saw…” Sammy floundered, unable to articulate what exactly he had seen.

“Yeah. You did. Now let go?”

The fight ebbed out of Sammy. He stumbled away and sank down on the bed, scrubbing his hands over his face. “How did you…do that?” You a wizard or something?”

“Not really. Let’s just say it runs in the family.” Jackson pulled off his snow boots, tugged the wool linings out, and set them by the radiator unit to dry. “I’ll tell you the whole story later.”

“How are you so fucking calm?”

“I dunno. I trust you, I guess?” Jackson sat down on the bed across from Sammy. “You know something about me, I know something about you. I’d say we’re even?”

Even?” Sammy stared at him in disbelief. “Even! You can do crazy magic shit! I just, uh…” Even after the events of the evening, it was harder to say than Sammy expected. “I just like…guys.”

“I mean, same? If the making out hadn’t clued you in.”

That shocked a laugh out of Sammy, and once he started, it was hard to stop. There had been times when that secret had felt like the heaviest thing in the world to carry, and yet here he was, sitting in a hotel room in Barrie across from a not-really-wizard, finally not alone.

“It’s just…bro. This is a lot to take in.”

“Been quite the night.” Jackson hummed and stretched his arms, the familiar motion of rolling stiffness out. “We’ve got an afternoon game tomorrow, though, so we should probably get some rest.”

An unpleasant thought occurred to Sammy–silly, but it still needed to be asked. “You don’t use it to cheat, right? It’s not like you’re using freaky powers during the game, ’cause that’s not…”

“Nah, man. Maybe I have a better sense of the ice than most, but it’s just hockey. No tricks.”

“But, like…”

“Tell you later. I promise.” Jackson kicked at Sammy’s leg gently from the opposite bed, smiling in reassurance. “Sleep.”

Sammy thought that would probably be easier said than done, but to his surprise, once the light was off and Jackson’s breaths settled into a restful rhythm across the room, Sammy felt his eyelids start to grow heavy. He drifted off once more to dreams of snow.

***

“You getting up soon?”

Sammy groaned. Beneath the blankets, his alarm was going off again; when he opened his eyes, he saw Jackson standing by the door, freshly showered and dressed, watching him in concern. “Team Breakfast?”

“Yeah, just…ugh. In a sec,” Sammy said. Jackson left him to root around for his phone.

Sammy rushed through his morning grooming and barely made it downstairs in time, earning him the stink-eye from Coach over eggs and toast. Watching Jackson placidly eat his omelet, Sammy felt a powerful disconnect; the extraordinary events of the previous night receded, fading dreamlike into a mundane road-trip morning.

As he reached for his fork, his elbow brushed against Jackson’s, and he shuddered as a sense memory of soft skin washed over him. On Jackson’s neck, a faint bruise was coming in–a purple smudge barely noticeable compared to the wicked shiner Sammy had seen in the mirror this morning. That part, at least, was real.

The game was an afternoon match against Sudbury, and it was barely noon by the time they boarded the bus, sharp in their suits. Sammy hadn’t fully realized before that the busy, communal nature of traveling game days left little opportunity for private talk. He tried to focus, but with Jackson’s arms and legs encroaching from the seat beside him, he couldn’t stave off the curiosity that had been eating at him since he’d gotten out of bed.

“Hey, so, about last night…” Sammy leaned toward Jackson, his voice low.

“You wanna talk about it now?” Jackson asked. Out of the corner of his eye, Sammy could see the boys across the aisle watching something on a tablet, mere feet away. He was suddenly conscious of the background hum of two dozen bored teenagers eager for a distraction.

“It can wait,” Sammy said, and then was struck by an idea. “By the way, I’ve been meaning to ask you. What’s your number?”

“Eighty-four?” Jackson tried, and then laughed at Sammy’s expression. “Oh, my phone number!”

He reached into his coat pocket and withdrew a blocky little red device–the kind of phone that would have come free with a data plan five years past–and checked something on it, before showing the number to Sammy.

“Thanks,” Sammy said, as he copied it into his phone and fired off a text. “I can add you on Snapchat, too.”

“I don’t think I have that,” Jackson said.

“Twitter? Instagram? No?”

Jackson shrugged. “It’s not like I get a great signal at my dad’s house, anyway.”

“So, is your dad…”

“Later.” Jackson settled in his seat and closed his eyes. “Wanna know a game day trick?”

“What?” asked Sammy.

“Don’t worry about anything that’s not happening right in front of you. Sit back, take it all in, and then you’re at the rink, playing the best sport in the world.”

Outside the bus window, the fields of rural Ontario passed monotonously by, punctuated by the occasional rest area or farm stand. Jackson drew a finger across the glass, and a little line of frost trailed in its path, tiny, but no less miraculous.

Proceed to Chapter 4, page 2–>

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