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Written by Mitch


February 2, 2021

9:00 PM

The black fur of Crosby Sutters’ left paw was hidden beneath a mist of white powder, which drifted through the air like a soft, gentle snowstorm. Innocent white motes sprung away from the wall as he rubbed a block plane sander along it, smoothing out freshly-cured spackle and pasterwork. Hairs here and there on his paws were still stuck together in clumps of it, while his face was remained concealed behind a full-face respirator. Putting a hole in the wall had been foolish, but to not protect his lungs while repairing it would be foolhardy.

As the dust settled, Crosby stepped back, wiping the clear shield of his facemask to survey his work. In another hour or two, you’d be hard-pressed to tell there had ever been a hole there at all.

The wrench which had caused it lay upon one of his toolboxes there in the workshop. Its chrome vanadium finish still scuffed and marred by drywall and bits of paint. He had been surprised at the accuracy at which he’d managed to throw it. What started as a wild surge of anger formed into pinpoint aim as he’d flung the wrench across the shop, and watched as it glittered beneath the lights as it spun and bit deep into the wall beyond.

And so, beside the wrench, lay the subframe he’d been trying to work on, still in its early stage of progress, as he’d spent the last two hours patching a hole, and sanding it smooth. Filming happened in the shop, and if there was a hole in a wall, it would cause hell for continuity.

A vacuum was broken out to suck up the dust, followed by a can of spray texture. A smooth painted spot would stick out as much as a hole would, so Crosby spent the next few minutes carefully applying texture, before removing his respirator at last.

The day wasn’t supposed to go like this, he told himself. He shouldn’t be like this. And worst of all, while the rage and hurt feelings were supposed to fly away with the wrench as he flung it, he could still feel them simmering beneath his surface. A full toolbox of expertly-thrown tools would not sate what he felt inside, and he didn’t know what to do about it. So he patched up the mess he made. He would cover it up; hide it so that no one else would ever know that side of him existed. It wouldn’t be the first time he’d covered up the uglier side of himself. Thus far no one had seen it, as he’d only expressed it in private. And that’s how it needed to be. There had to be continuity.

The lightest of smirks turned up the corners of the genet’s muzzle, and he let a paw comb through his messy black headfur. The plaster dust left streaks of white, which blended with graying temples, as he realized that he shouldn’t be upset at all. After all, it would go against continuity for him to get a spot in the All-Star Game. Ten seasons, never once picked. Never even close. No end-of-season awards, either. He should be used to it by now, he told himself.

But he wasn’t. It still hurt. In seasons past, he could understand it, as he’d been a bench player for much of his career. Bench players never make the ASG, after all; it’s a popularity contest, and who cares about bench players? Who cares about the guy who works harder on bringing his team together than on his own game? Who cares about anyone but the biggest stars, or the loudest mouths? No, in seasons past there was no reason to vote for Crosby Sutters. In seasons past, no, but this season? This season he thought he’d shown it.

After all, he’d learned that teams don’t value the team player. They don’t care about unity, or team spirit. All they want is wins, and big plays. He should have learned that lesson the first time as the Spectrums blew up the team after their championship win, and brought in another power forward to start after telling him he wouldn’t be given that chance. That move had resulted in requesting a trade, and being sent to Edmonton. Then, after getting back into the league, he’d busted his tail to pull together the most dramatic, discordant team of rookies and egoes he’d ever seen, on the Wildcards, to make them a proper team by the end of the season. His reward? Being traded off to Baltimore, without even being talked to.

And it was damn clear that Baltimore’s management didn’t give a shit about their players. The players weren’t people to them, they were machines, and they were there to do their coach’s bidding - nothing else. It wasn’t a team, it was a prison, and Crosby was counting down the days until the end of his sentence. Leadership? Almost nonexistent. He’d tried, along with Erik Toivonen, to pull the team together, but lately there didn’t seem to be much point. The team operated independently of their coach, who only seemed to be interested in her own power trip.

No, the players on the Spirits worked together because they had to in order to play well. Stats and highlight reels would result on offers from other teams come free agency. Each one of them knew that the goal was to get out, to escape to somewhere better, and the farther they could go in that endeavor, the greater their chances of escape. Sure, Crosby cared about his teammates, and his natural tendency to be Team Dad was still strong, but his goal was to be the best he could, and show the league he was worth picking up. And show Las Vegas they had made a mistake throwing him into the trash like they did.

But all that drive and turned to anger, and resulted in him throwing a 19mm wrench into a wall. A wall which now needed to be painted. Plastering tools put away, or dumped in the shop sink to soak, he signed and dug out a paint roller, and a can of the same light grey paint he’d chosen for the shop walls. Stroke by stroke, pull by pull, the ugliness and damage disappeared beneath fresh paint. Wounds no one had to know about but him.

Tomorrow was another game. Another chance to show his worth. Another chance to be the player he knew he was inside, and another chance to possibly make an impression on some other team’s GM. Thoughts of earning Most Improved danced in his head, before being wiped out as he pulled the paint roller down over the last bit of mis-matched spray texture. That award would go to someone else, as it always did. No amount of hope would make it happen, as an award would break continuity.

And there had to be continuity, otherwise people would know that things were out of place, and then they might start asking questions. There were some questions Crosby Sutters didn’t want to have to give answers to, so he’d play along, and act like there was nothing wrong. Just as he always did.

Just as he always did.

Featured Characters

Crosby Sutters

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