…In time the municipality built a permanent brick shelter by the rink. It was a place where we could hang out in relative warmth during the winter months and tie on our skates and flirt with the young gals and show off to our hearts content. It was also the abode of the caretakers who were responsible for the maintenance and the flooding of the ice service.
I remember one evening, a school night, it was about mid week. I was running late and it was as cold as ice outside. I had been at my friend’s house and was now on my way home taking a short cut through the park, alone with my thoughts and my futile attempt to stay warm. There was a cruel frost in the air that froze one’s breath into that visible plane of C02 stillness: opaque, inert like foggy dull whiteness that seemed to just hang there in mid air, motionless, wafting for a second or two, then disappearing wistfully until followed inexorably by the next sustained exhaled breath.
I sauntered down to the area of the rink. The usual bandits were not there. In fact no one was there except a lone figure holding a fire hose emitting a jet streamed rush of water over and on to the ice surface. The natural light of the half moon and its reflection off of the snow and ice surface made it somewhat surreal watching this stream of water jet forth from the nozzle like liquid crystalline, then arc its way up and over some invisible barrier then down and out it went splattering onto the surface of the ice flowing and emanating outward in what appeared to be rippled waves of smooth liquid velvet sheets across a frozen yet clear rejuvenated expanse. Ironically that cold blast of water resembled a cauldron of steam, exploding like an expansion crack when it made contact with the surface and frigid coldness of the ice.
The caretaker just stood there, like an automaton, as if watching and admiring the outcome of his work from afar. He would move the hose from side to side, then up and down a few times as if coaxing, then directing the stream to do its magical work, somewhat like a maestro conducting a movement. He was old, about 40 I would guess, crusty, with a wrinkled face of someone who made his living working outdoors. He had a low forehead from what I could see just shy of his toque. His was a square face with a set strong jaw and a bulbous crooked nose masking dark, brooding inset pair of eyes. From time to time one could see a slight glint but that only came to light as part of the draw on his rolled cigarette. The exhaled smoke, combined with his frozen breath, gave the impression of a magician’s folly with nature’s illusion of turning water magically into ice…