We take you to a street in Santa Ana, California, outside a ramshackle store trading in religious articles and amulets. A great number of statues of saints is visible in the window; behind them is mysterious darkness. A blazing early November Orange County sun shines down on the four conspicuously white men gathered outside.
The men were Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Ryan Kesler and Kevin Bieksa. All four were wearing T-shirts, shorts and flip-flops (Bieksa’s shorts are shorter than the other three men’s, although Kesler’s and Getzlaf’s are also definitely above the knee), and all four sported very cool sunglasses. Getzlaf, Kesler and Perry also wore ball caps: Getzlaf’s a Ducks model (and worn backwards), Kesler’s from his Team USA days, and Perry’s a blue Blue Jays hat.
Bieksa was bareheaded, and wore the largest sunglasses. Were he to remove his aviators, a nasty gash next to his right eye would have been visible.
“Are you sure about this?,” Kesler asked Getzlaf.
“Is the place even open?,” queried Bieksa.
“Do we have a choice? The only logical explanation for how the team’s been playing is that we’re cursed. And the note I got in the hospital said that this was the place to come to have the curse lifted.” He produced a small envelope, from which he extracted a business card for the store in front of which they’re standing. He turned the card over to show the verso to the other three.
In letters cut from magazines, it read: “TEAM IS CURSE. COME.”
“Reebok forgive me, but let’s just do it,” Getzlaf continued. He entered the store.
The other three followed him inside.
When they realized how dark their surroundings are, they removed their variously cool sunglasses. Getzlaf put his on top of his ball cap, Perry cliped his to his shirt, and Kesler put his facing backwards on his head. Bieksa kept his on for the time being. And squinted a lot.
A slightly decrepit old Mexican dude appeared out of nowhere, and came over to them, eyeing the four big white guys with total puzzlement.
“You are lost?,” he asks. “Need directions?”
“No,” said Getzlaf, “we’re here to see…” He pulled out the card and showed it to the little Mexican dude. He gave a mysterious “ah!, “ and bade them wait with his hand.
He disappeared behind a curtain at the back of the shop.
Bieksa took his sunglasses off to puzzle at a statue of San Martín de Porres.
The little dude reappeared from behind the curtain.
“You come,” he said, pulling back the curtain.
Getzlaf again led the way, although he needed a far larger aperture in the curtain than the short Mexican dude was able to provide. Perry and Kesler followed.
“Um…Kevin?,” said Kesler.
“Oh…yeah…sure,” said Bieksa, still puzzling over San Martin de Porres. “Did you see this statue?
“Get your Canadian butt in here!”
Bieksa passed through the curtain, which Getzlaf let close behind him.
The room in which they found themselves was even darker than the store. The only thing visible was a table, covered with a black felt cloth, and strewn heavily with sand. Thick clouds of not the highest quality cigar smoke filled the space.
A woman was seated at the table. She was very dark, with floods of raven hair caught up in long braids. The scarlet ribbons woven into the luxuriant tresses only highlighted their stygian blackness. Even more striking than the woman’s tresses was the low cut of the embroidered peasant bodice she wore. She was very young, and exuded a potent earthiness.
All four of our plucky hockey players being married, I’ll say what they may or may not have been thinking: “[expletive deleted] man – she’s hot!”
“That’s a witch?,” Kesler whispered to Getzlaf.
“I…I think so.”
“I didn’t know you could look like that and cast spells.”
“She removes curses,” observed Bieksa. “We don’t know anything about casting spells.” Kesler shoots him a look. “There could be a difference.”
The woman stared at them….and it was just possible that she was staring at Getzy in particular.
The men stared back.
“Do you speak English?,” asked Bieksa, a bit slowly and emphatically.
“No,” answered the woman in a dark, thick voice. “Brujacita no habla inglés. ¿Grandes hombres blancos hablan español?”
“Say something,” said Bieksa, prodding Kesler with his elbow.
“I don’t speak Spanish.”
“You’re American, of course you do. Everything I’ve seen since I got here is written in English and Spanish. This is obviously a bilingual country. So all Americans must speak Spanish.”
“You do realize that everything where you come from is written in both French and English and that you don’t speak French, right?”
“Hablo poquito español,” said Perry, getting the other three to snap their heads in his direction.
“You do?,” asked Getzlaf.
“Yeah. Only way to get the housekeeper to understand how I want things done. And not a word out of you!,” he appended, turning to glare a bit at Bieksa. He turned back to the woman at the table. “Nosotros estamos los patos…”
“¿Ustedes son patos?”, the woman asked in disbelief, hardly able to repress a surprised giggle.
“Si. Los patos de Anaheim.”
The woman looked up, and smiled broadly at Bieksa and Kesler, extending her arms. “¡Ay, que pareja linda! Grandes hombres blancos guapos – ¿casados, ahora que si puede casarse? You…marry?”
“Holy Dudley Do-Right,” said Kesler, “she thinks we’re a couple.”
“Must have been those lavender warm-up jerseys,” muttered Bieksa. “What did you say to her, Pears?”
“I said we were ducks.”
The men exchange puzzled glances.
“We no mariditos,” said Kesler, pointing to Bieksa and himself.
“See? I knew you spoke Spanish!”
“Brujacita piensa grandes hombres blancos guapos casados. Brujacita siente grandes vibraciónes de grandes hombres blancos guapos. Y,” she shifted her attention to Getzlaf, “¿muy grande hombre blanco tiene esposa?”
“She wants to know whether you’re married,” translated Perry.
“Que lástima.” The woman – let’s start calling her Brujacita, shall we? – picked up a cigar which was smouldering precariously on the edge of the table, and made several very large puffs, the men assumed in order to refill the room with smoke and atmosphere. “Brujacita quiere saber porque grandes hombres blancos estan aqui.”
“She wants to know why we’re here.”
Getzlaf began to speak, but Brujacita silenced him with a raised finger with chipped nail polish. She smoothed the sand on the table in front of her, and produced a handful of hard white objects (Bieksa supposed they were bones, and had no desire whatsoever to find out what sort of bones they were.) She tossed the objects into the sand, and set to moving the pieces around. Her brow furrowed a lot, and, at one point, she looked up, visibly scared.
“¿Muy grande hombre blanco tiene dolores de estómago?,” she asked, looking at Getzlaf again.
“Now she’s asking whether you have a stomach ache. I think.”
Getzlaf looked at Brujacita with amazement. “Si,” he said, and pointed to where his appendix used to be.
“Brujacita prepara té para estómago de muy grande hombre blanco.” She rose from her chair. The men noticed that she was wearing an absurdly full white ruffled skirt…and that she wasn’t wearing something else.
“No es necesario,” said Perry, motioning for Brujacita to sit down. “Tenemos todos una problema mucho mas grande.”
Brujacita resumed her seat, gathered up what indeed were bones (I’m not telling what kind), and scattered them into the sand again. She added a few more puffs of cigar smoke.
“¡Ah!,” she said, looking up with understanding, “grandes hombres blancos son deportistas.”
“Is she asking whether we’re being deported?,” Getzlaf asked Perry, in a whispered aside. “We cartas greenas,” he said. “No deported.”
(“Don’t say it,” Bieksa whispered to Kesler.)
“Deport?,” asked Brujacita, looking alarmed. “¿Ustedes conoscen a mister Trump? Ah,” she then said, laughing, “no ‘deport’ – ‘deporte.’ Grandes hombres blancos…¿futbólistas?”
“No football,” said Perry. “Hockey…hockey sobre hielo.”
Brujacita moved her bones around a little bit again.
“¡Ay!,” she said, looking up, “grandes hombres blancos juegan por el equipo maldito. Ahora entiende Brujacita. Y grandes hombres blancos quieren que Brujacita cancele maldición.”
“Si,” said Perry, “exacto. Como levantar maldición?”
“Brujacita prepara té para todo el equipo. Té de yerbas especiales.” The last word was almost whispered.
“She says she’s going to make a magic tea for the whole team. Y despues tomemos la té, equipo va ganar muchos juegos?”
“Brujacita no sabe nada de hockey sobre hielo. Brujacita solo sabe que haya maldición, y, para maldición, necesario tè de yerbas especiales que tiene Brujacita. Pero Brujacita necesita algo mas para preparar tè…”
“She says she’ll make the tea from special herbs she has. But she needs one more thing.”
“Ask her what it is,” said Bieksa.
“Que es necesario mas?”
“Tres pelos del capitán del equipo.”
An inscruitable look came over Perry’s face.
“She needs three hairs from the head of the team’s captain,” he said, slowly removing Getzlaf’s ball cap.