Rugby boys fill the hotel room, laughing and clutching their halffinished beers. Hey, boys: shut up, will ya? Chopper’s lying on one of the hotel beds, no shirt on, under the clean white sheets, and he squints at me. What’s he doing here? It’s all right, Justis tells him. That’s Fraiman, he’s writing something for the Watch. We don’t have to keep anything from him. Over by the corner of the room, Willy leans on a desk and starts to talk, so everyone quiets down. It’s been proposed that we throw tonight’s game, he says.
The room falls strangely quiet. The game’s at 8:40 tonight, Willy explains, which means we’re back at the hotel by 9. Now, Chevy’s—that’s the crown of the weekend, the bar where all the rugby teams go on Saturday night, an annual tradition featuring sloppy girls and a mythical dancecage centrepiece—we wanna get there before 10 o’clock, because after 10 they charge cover, seven bucks. Problem is, we’ve got what looks like a thousand dollars in booze here at the hotel, these two-fours of Keith’s and two-sixes of whiskey and a keg of Garrison something-or-other. And before Chevy’s, we gotta do Kangaroo Court—that’s a King’s Sevens tradition, the hotel room drink-fest—and there’s just not enough time to do it all before 10. Otherwise, Willy says, we’ll just do our own thing, drink our booze and pay the seven-dollar cover. We’ll take a vote. Who wants to play? A few hands shoot up—one, two, three… Guys, remember, if we win tonight’s game, that means we gotta get up for another game tomorrow morning at 9:20. Are you gonna get up that early? More hands on the rise: four, five, six… “I’m playing tonight at 8:40,” Asher announces, matter-of-factly. “And I’m playing tomorrow at 9:20.” Someone asks: What if only a few guys stayed behind to drink, while the others play? “If we play, we’re all going to watch,” Willy snaps, and it sounds like a threat. “Because we’re a team.” Everyone looks around. The hands are up.
They want to play.
It’s been said that King’s rugby has passed its prime. Four years ago, we destroyed our rivals, Mount Allison, twice in the regular season, and should’ve won the championships— but we got disqualified because one of the guys dropped out of King’s and didn’t tell anyone. It’s been downhill ever since: Mount A beat us in the following two season finals, both in overtime. This year, they beat us 48-0. Truro Sevens is different, because Sevens doesn’t really matter. The rules are simplified, there are fewer players and shorter matches, and everyone’s either drunk or hungover. If you crane your neck to look into the Wardroom trophy case, you can still see the dirty white victory plaque King’s won at Sevens in 2009. But the team lost nearly a dozen of its starting players this season, and though some of them came back for Truro, the team is mostly rookies now—small-framed kids with guts but no experience. When you see them together, you get the sense that they’ll make a strong team one day, cohesive and well-trained; but now, they just seem young. When we get out of the van and walk towards the Sevens barn, a few of them run ahead; Justis stays behind, walking at his own pace. He’s been team captain since his second year, a title he can boast for only a few more weeks. “Sometimes this makes me feel old,” he mutters, and we enter the barn. The Sevens barn is a brown and dirty place, stained with mud and cheap, watery beer. The field is covered in flaky earth, and in between games, a lonely man in a hoodie crosses the field, redusting the white lines of play. In the stands, we jeer at a team from some New Brunswick town whose jerseys all sport a big red “4” on their backs. Nice play, Number Four! Shoulda passed it to Number Four! Halfway through the game, Asher clutches at Number Four’s leg, and Four steps down on his head. Justis loses it: Real classy, Number Four! Do ya like kicking people in the head? C’mon! Number Four scores the first try of the game. Furious, our team pushes forward, scrambling and grabbing at Number Four’s shirt—then—yes! Robo—he’s a vet, a graduate player— he breaks through, ties the game up. There are four minutes left—maybe three—we kick it off—and Number Four lets go of the ball! Oh, too bad, Number Four! Shouldn’t be so greedy next time—should pass it to Number Four! Less than two minutes now. Rory picks it up—another vet, Rory dropped rugby after five years for Dal football—and he runs with it, breaking through and scoring just before the time’s up. U-K-C! U-K-C! U-K-C! We pat backs and congratulate players, but the ceremony’s quick—if we’re fast enough, maybe we can still make the mythical Chevy’s for free! We scramble for the cars and race back to the hotel, high on victory, not thinking about tomorrow.
What happens in Kangaroo Court “does not leave this room,” Willy announces, towering shirtlessly on a hotel bed. He then glares in my direction, and the heads of two-dozen rugby players clad in crayon-red onesies turn towards me and stare. I pinch my fingers together and zip up my mouth, left to right. Suffice it to say, we spent the next little while drinking. At around 10 o’clock, we stumble out of the hotel in our onesies—yes, myself included—and fall into the cabs. “We’regoing to Chevy’s,” we tell him, even though it’s technically not called Chevy’s anymore—it’s The Warehouse now—but the driver knows what we mean. He recognizes us from last year, and we laugh as he drives us to the mythical bar with a cage. When we jump out of the cab, we find some friends near the end of a long shivering mass of bodies, waiting to get in. We bud the line and join them: Guys, we gotta keep warm. How do we keep warm?
I PUT MY HAND UPON HER TWAT
I PUT MY HAND UPON HER TWAT!
I PUT MY HAND UPON HER TWAT!
SHE SAID, HEY ROOKIE—NOW THAT’S THE SPOT!
GET IN, GET OUT, QUIT FUCKIN’ ABOUT!
YO-HO, YO-HO, YO-HO!
We sing for an hour, advancing the line by maybe 10 feet. Guys, guys—we’re out of rugby songs! What now? Fuck it—let’s go to The Engine Room! Wait, what? The Engine Room? Not Chevy’s? Not the mythical bar with the cage? Not tradition? The Engine Room—it’s down the block, it’s cheaper, there’s no lineup! We’re fuckin’ freezing here, we’ve been waiting an hour and we can’t even see the door.
To The Engine Room! A mess of us go—not all, but some, maybe a dozen, and I amble away with Big Gay Al, whose red onesie is being held together by a P.R.I.D.E. button; and Bowman, whose arm is in a sling under his onesie because he dislocated it in the first 10 minutes of game time this weekend. There’s no lineup at The Engine Room. We pay our three dollar cover and walk inside. At the bar, we pull our wallets out from our socks (onesies don’t have pockets) and pay for our drinks. Then a bald-headed man walks onstage with his four-piece cover band and starts to sing Blink-182’s “All The Small Things”, so we all hit the dance floor, clinking bottles and singing along. We last about an hour before deciding to leave. Should we call a cab? Fuck it—Curtis says we can walk it, so we walk it. Curtis is a grad player, so we trust and follow him. “Dirty old town, dirty old town,” he sings through the empty streets of Truro, only nobody joins in because we don’t know this song. We walk behind him as he sings, and soon, we start to join in for the chorus, grasping onto whatever we can, just to feel a part of something.
I heard a siren from the docks,
Saw a train set the night on fire,
I smelled the spring on the smoky wind,
Dirty old town…
Dirty old town…
It’s probably a mistake to cram 11 of us into Genny’s Volvo hatchback—two in the passenger seat, four in the back, four in the trunk—but we do it anyway, and race towards the barn through the sobering, sunlit streets of Sunday morning Truro, rushing in just to see the first kick. Cliffy runs out of the car and straight onto the field. In the stands, some people are drinking Sunday-morning beer. I’dbuy one, except all the money in my wallet disappeared last night, somehow replaced by one silver Cuban peso. As we watch, we realize this is not going to be a close game. Mount A is bigger, faster, tighter overall, and they trample us 4-1. We barely even possess the ball, and hope that our next match, later that afternoon, will play out better. That match is the Consolation Finals—the series we won in 2009, which gave us the dirty white plaque that still sits in the Wardroom trophy cabinet. But our hopes for the weekend disappear when we lose that game, too, 4-1 as well. They’re sad games to watch, and the weekend isn’t as fun anymore. There’s a sense of quiet disappointment as we hop in our vans, sober up and fall asleep on the long road back to Halifax. I close my eyes and lean against the window, the Truro flatlands scrolling past me, the smell of rugby sweat permeating the van. Someone asks Justis if he actually got into Chevy’s last night. He did, he tells us. How’d you manage that? Did you sneak in? “I waited my turn,” he replies, simply. Apparently Chevy’s was a good time; they got stupid drunk and danced in the mythical cage. But it just wasn’t the same, y’know? Not without the whole team there. It felt weird, he said—not like it used to, during the good old days. I’ve still never been to Chevy’s, and I probably never will. It doesn’t matter, anyway—it’s not even called Chevy’s anymore. It’s something else now, and next year, it will be something else still.