On a chilly, autumn night, he slumped deeply into the ball chair smack dab in the middle of his dark and uninhabited living room. An open window to his left wafts a cool September breeze throughout the entire room. The crisp, fresh air invigorates his mind, body and spirit, it's bite offset by the roaring fire some five feet away in the beautiful stone fireplace that takes up an entire cabin wall.
Unshaven and dressed in a stained undershirt, partially buttoned flannel jacket and torn up sweatpants, he reached with his right hand for to sip from his eighth alcoholic beverage of the evening. As he swigged from his bottle of Old Vienna -- the finest lager on the market -- he realized that it's now or never. He pulls out his phone.
His hand trembled slightly from a mixture of alcohol and the lifelong head trauma he has endured. Taking a moment to compose himself, eyes fixated on the crackling fire -- akin to the one raging inside of him -- he regained his poise and logged on Twitter. As shadows danced across his face from the licks of flame, he sunk his bare feet into his bear-skinned rug, curled up his toes and began his first of many 140 character outpourings.
"I sit here from Gand Bend, Ontario putting a pen to my heart and writing on paper what bleeds out..."
Krys Barch has been a professional hockey player for the past thirteen years. The current NHL lockout will be the second he will forcefully endure, thanks to thirty fear-mongering owners, led by their undoubted leader, Gary Bettman.
"Those pricks", he thought to himself as enjoyed the last drops from his sweet elixir. "I wonder if the owners of Boston, New York, Washington, etc, etc, have endured any of the injuries that I or any other player in the NHL have endured."
After posting the first portion of his Twitter rant, he detached himself from his throne to grab another beer. The linoleum floor was cold beneath his feet and made him long for the bear-skinned rug which he had previously enjoyed. Upon opening the fridge he made a stark discovery.
"Hmm, OV's gone.... Guess I'll open that bottle of Porte."
Though decently intoxicated, it didn't take him long to retrieve the Porte as he had been saving it in the cupboard above his fridge in the event that he such an occasion would occur. He knew it was only a matter of time before his short fuze would ignite and explode, and he would rely heavily on the appropriate drink to get him through it. The Porte not only gave him courage but helped stabilize him as he rationalized his thoughts.
He wasted no time opening the decanter and taking a few hearty chugs.
"There. Now, back to work."
He returned to his sanctuary, noticing that the fire was in need of stoking. He grabbed another log from the pile stacked in the corner close to the window and tended to revitalizing the embers. Hearing coyotes howling at a harvest moon reaching its' apex, Barch decided it time to close the window.
"I hate coyotes," he quipped. "They remind me of this mess the NHL is in. I would give my right arm to play the game I love..." He paused. "But only after I pummel Cam Janssen with it one last time. I don't care if that guy is my teammate, I still hate that douchebag."
Realizing he'd sidetracked himself long enough, he gave his clouded head a shake. He knew it was time to finish what he started. There was so much left for him for him to delve into, so much to argue. Growing up in Hamilton, Ontario, Barch dreamt as a little boy of becoming a hot-shot Toronto based lawyer, working his way up to the rank of District Attorney and afterward ascending into the position of Chief Justice of Canada. But his father saw Krys for what he really was: a boy with a cement head that could take a pounding and hands like meat grinders, perfect for sparring. The boy was a fighter whether knew it or not. He had always loved hockey, without a doubt. But with the guidance of his father, his love flourished into infatuation. As a teenager, Krys found out he could get paid upwards of six figures a year to jaunt around the ice for five minutes a night before getting his skull caved in and was all too willing to re-focus his pent up energy to a shift in career.
Back in the soft confines of his favourite chair, he continued his stream of literate emotion until every last thought was flushed from his mind and laid out like poetry on a social media canvas devoid of such raw despondency. He felt accomplished, strong and prideful. The adrenaline rush charging through his body was the same he'd felt after any of his NHL fights. He swished another mouthful of Porte between his teeth as the fire lightly flickered, igniting his soft hazel eyes every now and again.
Erstwhile, the dead of night had set in. As Barch was preparing his retirement to a night of slumber, he heard three heavy knocks on the oak door at the front of his cabin. His pupils dilated as his mind raced.
"I wasn't expecting visitors. Prolly just some punk kids playing pranks. I'll go set those little bastards straight."
Still enjoying the lingering effects of his euphoric high, Barch set forth eager to scare the living hell out of whomever thought it best to disturb him at such a late hour. As he reached the edge of the kitchen, entering the long, narrow hallway towards the front door, he heard three more heavy knocks that coerced him to stop in his tracks.
"That knock is too forceful to be some snot-nosed kid's..."
He had no peephole to peer through, nor a window without an obstructed view of the cabin's main entrance. The cabin had been designed with the ultimate purpose of enhancing privacy, but at this moment it was a huge detriment to Barch. Reserved, he decided to err on the side of caution.
"WHO IS IT!?", he bellowed in the most intimidating voice he could muster.
"SUDSY!", replied the jovial voice on the other side of the door.
"SUDSY!? You ol' sandbagger! You had me worried for a minute there!"
Inebriated, Barch fiddled with the door's deadbolt. He was excited to catch up with his old Dallas Stars teammate Brian Sutherby as they hadn't been united since the spring of 2011. He didn't even give it a second thought as to why the man amicably known to him as 'Sudsy' would be visiting his property in the vast Ontario wilderness at 11:30PM on a Saturday night in September.
As he flung the door open with great exuberance, Barch's smile quickly melted into a contorted grimace of shock and terror. And that's when the lights went out.
Join us next week for the second act of "A Tweet Too Far"