Nobody believed him, but then nobody ever believed him. And maybe, at least sometimes, they were right not to believe him because he had, after all, told more than a few whoppers. Eddie Phelps kicked at a shiny brown horse chestnut lying on the sidewalk and sent it into the trunk of the big tree with a fat smack. All right .... He swung his hockey stick down from his shoulder, lined up another chestnut, and began dribbling it across the sidewalk. "Phelps passes to Hondo Johnson, takes a return pass and ... SCORE! Yes! Ladies and gentlemen that goal was a work of art. Phelps dropped the pass, blew past his man, and slapped Hondo Johnson's return pass into the net without stopping. The goalie never had a chance, but that's the kind of play we've come to expect from Eddie Phelps." Eddie looked up to see if anyone had heard, but the street was empty both ahead and behind and he smiled and lined up on another horse chestnut. This time it did not go as well. The edge of his Nike caught the seam in the sidewalk just as he stepped into the shot, stopping his leg in full swing and he fell spread eagled onto the lawn, driving his chin into the thick carpet of grass. He hopped up quickly and looked around. Someone had laughed. But who? He looked around again, but he couldn't see anyone. And yet he was sure he'd heard someone laugh, a low, deep sort of chuckle. Very deep. Jeez, talk about letting your imagination run away with you .... And then he looked at the house set back fifty feet or so from the sidewalk. Oh no! He had completely forgotten that this tree was on Amber Mayfield's lawn. What if she'd been looking out the window? She had the biggest mouth in school. It was just like his teachers said, if he weren't so preoccupied, stuff like this would never happen to him. But how could you change what you were? He looked at the face of the old Victorian house, checking its eyes, but he saw no faces at the windows and then the slight sideways drift of a drape in an upstairs window caught in the corner of his eyes. Had somebody been watching? He took off his backpack and pretended to be fixing the strap, watching the house without looking directly at the window. The curtain moved again and he grinned, an evil sort of smirk as he picked up his hockey stick, stood, and lined up on a fat chestnut with the green thorny burr still solidly attached. It was a long shot ... a very long shot and definitely out of his league. Even a high school player couldn't make a shot like that. He straightened up and looked at the window. Heck, not even a pro could make a shot that long, even shooting off ice, and here he was shooting off a sidewalk. Do it, Eddie, do it! You can make that shot, all you have to do is concentrate. Show them what Eddie Phelps is made of! Take the shot! He swiveled toward the tree. "Who said that?" He stepped to one side, peering around the fat scaly trunk. It was so big around that someone could easily have hidden on the other side without being seen. "Who's there?" No answer. He rubbed his chin where he had used it to plow a furrow in the grass. "Must've hit the ground harder than I thought," he mumbled to himself. Then he saw the curtain move again, and again a sly, mischievous smile pulled itself upward from his mouth. Okay, he thought, this one is for Miss Busybody. He stepped back, lined up on the chestnut and suddenly everything came together; his stride into the chestnut was neither too long nor too short, he kept his head down, eyes focused on the green spiny hull of the nut and when he started through, the motion was clean and pure, the timing perfect. Usually he topped his shots by pulling his head up too soon or he didn't get the angle of the blade square to the puck and ended up squibbing it to the side, but not this time. No sir. This time he hit it dead on and ... then, as the crash of glass rang like a gong through the neighborhood, he stood dumbfounded, staring at the window and then looking at the blade of his stick, and suddenly he scooped up his backpack and lit out for home at a full sprint. His mother was waiting for him. "You are in big trouble, young man." All he could do was plead innocent. "What did I do?" He dropped the pack in the back hall and stood his hockey stick in the closet, and then decided maybe if he put his hockey bag where it belonged it might help. He slid the bag into the back of the deep closet and closed the door. "You know perfectly well what you did." "No I don't." He headed for the refrigerator. "I told Mrs. Mayfield that we would pay to have the window fixed, but here's the deal, Mr. Hockey. It's coming out of your pocket." "But, Mom." He carried the plastic milk jug over to the counter and took a glass from the shelf. "All I did was try a slapshot on one of those horse chestnuts." "And you sent it through Amber's window. It was lucky she wasn't standing there. She said you did it on purpose." He poured the milk, half turning toward his mother. "Mom, how many hockey games have you been to? Have you ever once seen me hit a clean shot? And that was with a puck. What do you think the chances are that I could hit a window that far from the street with a horse chestnut?" He didn't look directly at her, but he could see the doubt in her eyes. Just like it said in the books: Guilty until proven innocent. Attack the credibility of every witness. Who said I broke the window? Amber? Amber makes up crazy stuff like that all the time. "Were you there when the window was broken?" "I heard it." He sat in the breakfast booth. "But you didn't do it." "Are you kidding? The window in her room must be fifty feet from the street and it's on the second floor. Not even Cam Neely could hit a puck like that! Not even the Great One, not even Lemieux...." "And of course, not even Eddie Phelps...." He let the sarcasm pass, especially since he knew what it meant. He was out the price of a window was what it meant. But maybe it was worth it. After all, it was by far the best shot he'd ever gotten off. Now if he could just hit a puck that hard .... That'd be the end of all the crap he'd taken the past two years. "What have you got to say," his mother said. "Uh, it was an accident?" "So you did break the window, then?" He looked around at her. "I didn't mean to, Mom. I was just practicing and by accident I connected. I never hit anything that hard before. It was awesome. I mean, like totally awesome. I kept my head down and I followed through perfectly, and that stupid chestnut came off my stick like a bullet." "And you weren't aiming at the window." "Mom, I can't even hit the goal most of the time from ten feet away." "Why did you hit it at all?" "Cause it was just sitting there in the middle of the sidewalk." And then he remembered something else, the voice, deep and slow and powerful. There was no question that he had heard it, but where had it come from? There hadn't been anyone around. "I just wish you hadn't lied about breaking the window. Now that you're thirteen, we expect more of you, Eddie." He grinned, using all the charm he could muster, and making sure to use the smile that always worked with his mother. "Pretty good try though. Nearly had you for a moment." She smiled back. "Yes, you did. Maybe we're going to wind up with another lawyer in the family." He shook his head. "Hockey, Mom. Boston Bruins. The next Bobby Orr." "Not unless you get better grades." "Com'on, Mom, you know how it works. I only need good enough grades to qualify for a scholarship." "Eddie, you have to understand something. One day hockey will end and you'll have to make a living. You won't do very well without an education." "But I'll get an education. I'll have to keep my grades up or they won't let me play." He finished his milk, carried the glass to the sink, and walked to the back hall for his knapsack. "I'm even going to get my homework done early." Linda Phelps raised a single eyebrow. "Right," she said, making it perfectly clear that she doubted he had any such intention. "No, really, Mom. I'm turning over a new leaf." What he didn't tell her was that he'd had a meeting with Coach Basteau after practice and Coach had made it clear that if he didn't get his grades up he'd be off the team. Stupid English anyway. Only girls were good at that stuff, girls like Amber Mayfield and Mallory McTernan. But at least Mallory didn't make a big deal over it. Mallory was nice. I wouldn't mind going out with her, he thought, but right now that was impossible because she was going out with Jake Ross, the captain of their middle school basketball team and nobody tangled with Jake. He was just too damn big. Eddie tossed his bag on the bed, opened it, and pulled out the books one at a time, wondering just how tough Jake really was. Sure he was big, but was he tough like a hockey player? Okay, maybe he's tall but I'm still growing and Dad's over six feet and I'll probably be at least that tall. I only got two inches to go. And I spend a lot of time lifting weights and Uncle Charlie's teaching me how to box. I could take him. Look at the hit I laid on Tony today in practice. Flattened him and saved a goal. And Coach liked that a lot. He grinned to himself as he set the books on his desk. There was nothing like a good clean hit. And so what if nobody believes me. One day I'll be playing in the NHL, and then everybody will believe me. He grinned as he looked out the window into the growing dark. But would anybody ever believe that he had intended to put that chestnut through Amber's window?