“Hear ye! All rise for the Defender of the Right, the Upholder of the Law, the Bane of Miscreants, The Judge of his People, the Honorable Finemaster, here to do justice on your ratty no-account asses.”
The Aces shuffled around and drew closer.
“Thanks, Buff,” said Gertsen. “Maybe a little over the top, but since you’ve spared us all the alliteration from last time, I’ll let it go. Now, do any of you have complaints to bring before this court?” There had been an effort by some factions to get Gertsen to wear a crown made of the gold-painted cardboard tubes from rolls of toilet paper and to carry a toilet plunger as a scepter but he had rejected them with the contempt of Brennus ratcheting up the ransom of Rome. This was the NHL, not baseball, after all.
There was a pause while the Aces considered their options. Had anyone forgotten to flush? Been seen kissing a wife or girlfriend in public? Worn a really ugly tie, or a disgraceful pair of shower shoes? Broken a skate lace? Stiffed a restaurant server on a tip? Downloaded a really obnoxious ringtone? Been seen dancing badly? Failed to hustle during practice? Failed to cover the goal? Or worse?
Someone cleared their throat. “Um, yes, well, I do. Your Honor.” It was Tosh, Kent noted. “I’m sorry, it’s Parse. I mean, I know he’s our captain, but that just makes it more—“
“Step forward and make your case, brother—and never fear—he’ll get his chance to defend himself. If he can.”
Tosh moved up a little close. “Well, Your Honor—he was on television. And not, like, sports television, but regular television. In the daytime. With that blonde lady—“
“Ellen,” someone supplied.
“That’s right,” said Tosh. “and he had this really ugly cat shaved down to peach fuzz, and he tried to do this really stupid little dance thing, and then she stole his hat. It was embarrassing.”
There were murmurs and nodded heads. Kent figured if he was lucky they’d stop talking about it all the time by Christmas.
“Indeed,” Gertie said. “That sounds bad.”
“Um,” said Tosh. “It’s on Youtube, if you want to watch it.”
“Oh, that won’t be necessary, Tosh. Mom DVRs Ellen, and she made sure I watched it. She thought it was cute.” The Aces, by and large, respected Mrs. Gertsen a great deal, and a good many of them would have hiked thirty miles through brush and timber to get her something she needed, but that “cute” was a nail in the coffin of Kent’s dignity. He could feel the reproachful eyes on him.
“That’s not the only thing,” said Schoenwasser. “He was on the Jimmy Kimmel Show, and he did dumb stuff there too.”
“You stay up that late, Wash?” Kent asked.
“Chevy made me get up and watch. He talked about dancing naked with the Stanley Cup. And he dissed In-and-Out-Burger, too.”
“Wait, what? Chevy talked about dancing naked?”
“Parse talked about it,” Wash clarified. “There were pictures.”
“Pictured of Kent dancing naked with the Stanley Cup?” Gertsen asked.
“In the middle of the Bellagio Fountains,” clarified Buff. “And let it be noted that no one else who was on the team that season was photographed doing anything like that. That we know of, anyway.” He looked sternly at Kent.
“Prisoner at the bar!” Gertsen declared. “Have you anything to say in your defense?” Kent wondering if he’d been streaming old Rumpole of the Bailey episodes.
“Any of these unbecoming and undignified acts.”
“I was sent out by the PR people for this shit. Because Milton’s babes were all over Twitter.”
“Hunh,” said Gertie.
“And Ellen’s people asked specifically for the cat. I’d have left him back here at home otherwise. And you have to dance. They make you.”
“Honestly, I don’t know why you think you can call that dancing. Even for a white guy it’s bad.” A room full of white guys looked at Buff, and then flicked their gazes back at Kent. To a man, they smirked.
“And I couldn’t save my hat because I was holding the cat.”
“The cat again.” Gertie shook his head. “How can we hope to maintain the reputation of hockey as the manliest of sports for manly men when you publicly collect cats and let Mashkov pick you up by the back of your sweater like a sack of trash? Right now, up in Canada, Don Cherry weeps at the thought. And so does his dog.” He took a deep breath. “All right, I will pronounce judgment here. A hundred dollars for getting the damn cat, and another hundred for having it shaved.” There were murmurs.
“I’m not done here. Bailiff,” he said to Buff “keep track. There’s carrying the cat in public and while being recorded for later broadcast, for another two hundred. It’d be more, but the Cone of Shame is hilarious, and so counts in your favor. There’s the dancing, that’s another hundred, and then the cap. That’s a good two-fifty right there. Plus, you did what PR told you, so that’s five hundred.”
“That’s one thousand, two hundred and fifty,” Buff said.
“Continuing on to the rest of your little jaunt,” said Gertie. “Simply appearing in the same space as Jimmy Kimmel, even without an audience or recording for later broadcast is another two-fifty. Adding television to the mix doubles it. Plus that whole Which is the Real Hockey Player shit for another two-fifty.”
“Two thousand so far,” put in Buff, helpfully.
“Then there was that whole “rules of hockey” bullshit. Does the whole world need to know our secrets?”
“In mitigation,” said Jeff, “That bit about Zimmermann having a cold wet nose was hilarious. And the bit about not needing a chiropractor, thanks to Mashkov.”
“That’s five hundred, then—two-fifty for the rules of hockey BS, and another two-fifty for trying to be funny.”
“Gentlemen,” said Gertie. “This brings us to the Cup. The greatest trophy in sports. Let us consider, just for a moment, the Curse of 1940, a curse that shut the Rangers out of contention for over fifty years. Our captain, a man as well aware of the history of our sport as any of us, allowed himself to be photographed while naked, with the Cup, in a public place before hundreds of witnesses.”
“It tied up traffic on the Strip,” Buff said. “There was such a big crowd they had to send the police to maintain order. Someone sent the pictures to the space station.”
“Wait, people in space have seen Parse naked?” Kent wasn’t sure who’d said that.
Gertie looked at Kent. “I would ask you what your defense was. But I know what you’re going to say, before you’ve even said it. You were young. Ira made you do it. You didn’t realize what was going on until they handed you the bathrobe and told you to strip. You were on your rookie contract. You were tired and not thinking clearly. But did Sidney Crosby have his picture taken in public with the Cup on the streets of Cole Harbour in his birthday suit? Did Jonathan Toews disport himself naked on Mayor Daley Plaza with the Cup? They were young—but they knew better.”
“Your Honor, I would like to petition the court in this matter.” Albinson gestured towards Kent. “There is another issue which I believe should be considered. This man—” he waved his hand at Kent “—our captain, a man who should, by virtue of his position, consider the welfare of his teammates, ate dinner at The Smokehouse without us. Without even getting us something to go. Not even a crabcake.”
“I don’t believe I am familiar with that establishment ,” Gertie said.
“A Hollywood tradition! A temple to meat-eating!”
“Really. That’s distressing.”
“It’s in Los Angeles! I got back late at night! It would have been cold!”
“And how do you think this should affect my judgment, Mr. Albinson?”
“I would respectfully suggest the fines previously declared stand, but that the penalty for his antics with the Cup—“ there was a low oooooo sound, which wasn’t exactly a boo, but couldn’t be considered a positive noise. “—be considered in conjunction with his failure to share food. The first requires a fine beyond mere cash, while the second suggests a remedy for the first.”
“Your reasoning interests me. Pray continue.”
“He owes us all dinner.”
There was a general murmur of agreement.
“The court is prepared to accept your suggestion. You will confer with the accused and report back. Does anyone care to add anything?”
“Um, Gertie? I mean, Your Honor?”
“Yes, Mr. Chevalier?”
“Did anyone say anything about the cat’s name?”
“No, we overlooked that. I fine myself fifty bucks right now for losing track of that.” Gertie looked at Kent. “Kitt Purrson? Seriously, man. I have heard some dumb pet names in my day. But you named your cat for yourself and made it a bad pun? Why do we let you go around alone in public? You should hire someone to keep you from embarrassing yourself in front of people.”
“It was PR! They named him that when they set up his Instagram!”
“Your cat has an Instagram account?” Gertie closed his eyes. “Dude. What are we going to do with you, man? It’s like a Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, but with the balloons made up of the gooberosities you’ve perpetrated, instead of beloved cartoon characters.” He shook his head. “Another five hundred. The total, Bailiff?”
“Three thousand dollars, American,” Buff told him.
“Your fine, then, Parse, is three large, cash only, due within a week. US dollars only; no Canadian money without prior permission because calculating exchange rates is bullshit. And we’ll await your dinner plans with interest.”
“I thank the court for its mercy,” Kent intoned. He wondered if he should bring up Milton’s business, or wait and see if someone else would do that.
“I come before you as a special prosecutor.”
“I believe Parse mentioned in passing why he was out making a fool of himself in public, although he didn’t dwell on it, being too ashamed and embarrassed over his own behavior.”
“Refresh my memory; I’m still aghast over the business with the Cup.”
“On our latest road trip…”
“Oh, yes.” Gertie turned to Milton. “Congratulations! You scored! But not with the puck, which is what really matters here. Because lots of people get lucky with women, but only a few get to score points in a game in the National Hockey League, which is what you’re getting paid for. So forgive me if I’m not impressed.” He went on. “Especially since your debaucheries have brought this team into disrepute—has anyone besides me been chirped to death via text message, or am I just unlucky like that?—and forced your captain to debase himself on television talk shows with a shaved pussy. I mean cat.”
“I have chlamydia,” Milton said.
“That is not a mitigating circumstance! And I hope to god you wash your hands because that shit can get into your eyes. Also, you need to pass that detail on.”
“Um, I don’t know how to get in touch with them.”
“Twitter! They’re on Twitter, dumass.”
“And tell everyone on Twitter—”
“Everyone on Twitter knows all about this anyway. Because your hookups have shared with the world.”
“I could text,” Schoenwasser said.
“You could text?” Kent was impressed.
“Well, when I was taking them down I asked them to let me know if they got home safely. And they did.”
Gertie shook his head. “We can take the boy out of the Lutheran parsonage, but we can’t take the Lutheran parsonage out of the boy. In the interests of humanity, Wash, please do.”
He turned back to Milton. “Add forcing your teammate to pass on news of your STD to your crimes, which include inconveniencing your roommate, plus the pain and suffering sustained by your captain. And giving PR an excuse to compel us all to distract the world from your follies, as well as giving Don Cherry a new excuse to drag this team before all of Canada, plus anyone else in the world with internet access. Plus you lost every single damn faceoff in Providence, which forced Kent to play bumper cars with a goalie. Granted, we won, but the Goaltenders’ Union is tracking him now, and if his net collision numbers get to be too high, Ron Hextall will show up by his bed at night for a little heart-to-heart chat. Possibly with a sock full of pennies. So that’s $3000 for Parse’s humiliation, and another thousand for Chevy, and another for your failure to consider the result of hooking up with girls who screw and then tweet. You may say that’s high, but it will be higher next time, so learn from your pain now, Milton. A payment plan can be arranged. We will attempt to retrain you on what to do in a face-off. And seriously—get your eyes checked. They’re looking a little swollen.”