TORONTO — Don’t move. I have an octopus.
I grin at the mirror as I speak those words. I am cool. I am ready. I am like Robert DeNiro in “Taxi Driver,” a man with a secret and a weapon to back him up. I am from Detroit. I have an octopus.
“Are you talking to me?” I ask my image, with a sudden stare. “Are you talking to . . . me?”
I am evil. Truly I am. I whip out my eight-legged friend as if he were a
.38 special, and I think about center ice at Maple Leaf Gardens and take aim. Tonight is the night. Wings vs. Leafs. Just a few more hours. Splat! Splat! Spla—
A knock. Quick. Ditch the fish.
“Room service,” comes a voice from the hall.
“Leave it!” I yell.
Room service? Yeah, right. Probably some Leafs fan with a net, or an underwater gun. They know who I am. They know what I’m packing.
When was it, that first octopus? 1952? Third game of the NHL playoffs between Detroit and Montreal? The oily creature came flying onto the ice, the brainchild of a Michigan fish store owner, and the crowd roared. The Red Wings won the game, then the series, and the Stanley Cup.
Thirty-five years ago. How many have been thrown since then? Hundreds? And ever since that day, Canadians have been spooked. It works. They know it. But they had to worry only when they came to Detroit.
Now the weapon has slipped quietly across international lines. I am the agent. Code name: Squish. And tonight, the sixth game between the Red Wings and the Maple Leafs, a game Detroit must win to stay alive in this best-of-seven series, well, let’s just say . . .
“Are you . . . talking to . . . me?”
Heh, heh. Liver . . . yeah, that’s the ticket I splash cool water on my face. Just a few more hours in this darkened hotel room. I must stay calm. How calm was I on the perilous journey up here? I was so calm. I was maxi-calm.
Remember the security officer at the airport? “What’s in the bag?” he asked, as its form flashed across his screen.
“Mr. Potato Head. Ever hear of him?”
He let me go.
And then, on the plane, there was that flight attendant who grabbed my bag to put it in the overhead compartment.
She said: “Here, let me help you with your . . . ooooh, yichhh!”
“Liver,” I said quickly. “I’m a butcher. Special delivery. Guy in Toronto loves my liver. What can I tell you?”
She walked off, wiping her hands.
There was the guy at customs. I told him I was a brain surgeon, with samples. And the taxi driver, who said he smelled something funny. “My after-shave,” I said. “Sorry. Put too much on.”
It was so smooth, I was beginning to get suspicious. Surely there would be several agents in blue Maple Leaf jerseys waiting for me in the hotel lobby. But no. I made it unharmed.
I laughed. Not a soul in Canada who knew the danger I possessed. Once that creature hits the ice, the game is history. Don’t they realize that? A Detroit octopus in Canada? I walked to the reception clerk with a broad smile.
“How many in your room, sir?” she asked.
“Just one,” I answered.
Heh, heh. Those Canadians deserve it Of course I don’t do this for danger. I do it for the Red Wings. I am from Detroit. I have no choice. This has been a crazy series, first no one won at home, then they only won at home and tonight, who knows, nobody knows, but it is too soon for this season to end, at least for the Wings, who trail three games to two.
Besides, it is only fair. Have you ever seen the visitors’ locker room in Maple Leaf Gardens? I have a bathroom bigger than that.
And did you notice they don’t sing the American national anthem in this place? I don’t get it. Don’t we always do the Canadian national anthem? Don’t we all join in for as long as we can: “O, Ca-na-da . . . uh la dum eh la . .
Sure we do. So this is clearly not a fair place to work, not for outsiders, and it is time to bring a little piece of the outside in. A little scaly piece. Maybe in a white wine sauce. I have an octopus. I am from Detroit.
The hours pass. I hold my mollusk close. I practice my throw in the bathroom mirror. It feels right. It feels good. Happiness, as the Beatles once sang, is a warm tentacle.
I flick on the TV. There is a sports announcer, urging fans to come to Maple Leaf Gardens this evening. “Give the home team a hand,” he says.
Oh yes, I say to my bad self. I will give them a hand. I will give them eight hands. Just wait. A few more hours. I am here, Canada. I am from Detroit. I go splat.