I played hockey when I was a child. All four of us did, even my sister, though she never got past the stage of pushing around milk cartons. I was horrible at hockey — specifically, I was horrible at stick work. I was not horrible for lack of trying; I was horrible for lack of hand-eye (or hand-stick) coordination. To add insult to injury, my mother was very good at hockey — good enough that she had played on the boy’s team in college, before they relented and created a girl’s team. The rink we skated at offered both hockey programs for both genders, but my mother thought I should skate with the boys, much to their disgruntlement and my abject humiliation. (Thank heavens for the advent of puberty; after a few clanking, stumbling, tape-sticky changing sessions in the girl’s bathroom, my mother took pity and let me quit).
I digress. I hated hockey, but I did not hate the rink food. I generally practiced first, and then I had an hour of hanging around while my brothers neatly trapped pucks and shot to the slots and stopped cleanly, so a scrim of white flakes lined the outside edge of their blades. I loved that hour. That hour was french fries and hot chocolate or else just chili. The fries were thick things, devoid of flavor but with wonderfully fluffy innards; the innards were always scalding, and I always couldn’t wait for them to cool. The hot chocolate was Swiss Miss, innocuous and also scalding. Innocuous and scalding could be put to most of the rink menu, but the chili, porridge-thick with ground beef and pinto beans, was not innocuous, at least not to me, because the rink was the only place I knew that served such a thing. Most of the other loitering kids bought blue raspberry slushies and called it a day, but I loathed the zombie tint they gave my lips, and so I stuck to innocuous and hot.