Saturday has come, “and everything is going to happen today. All the very best, and all the very worst.” Maya wakes up feeling feverish and fighting a headache and thinks she ought to spend the day in bed.
These words forecast that Saturday is going to be a consequential day for Beartown as a whole, and especially for Maya—though, had she decided to stay in bed, things might have turned out very differently for everyone.
Peter drives to the garage owned by his childhood friend, Hog, with whom he’d once played hockey. Peter feels inadequate dropping off his wife’s car for another man to fix. Hog says that his son, Bobo, will fix the car. Peter starts to protest that Bobo should have a rest before today’s game, but then remembers that the economy is unavoidable. Plus, he knows that Bobo isn’t good enough to play professionally someday. Peter walks home to try to calm his nerves.
Peter’s inability to fix Kira’s car reminds him of the ways he feels like an unconventional husband. As much as Peter wants to spare Bobo any strain before the game, he knows that Bobo will probably have to make a different living someday. This shows that he’s capable of living outside the hockey bubble—and that some people have no choice but to do so. Hog’s insistence on Bobo’s help also shows that Bobo hasn’t been spoiled the way Kevin has been.
The Bearskin pub has belonged to Ramona’s family since her grandfather’s days. The only difference nowadays is that she smokes outside. The boys who frequent the pub in the evenings call Ramona “The Marlboro Mom.” She and Holger never had any children. Hockey was the big thing they shared. Then he got cancer and “he left her,” as she always puts it. Now she gets through the day with the company of “the boys,” who love Ramona and are all she’s got left of Holger. She still lives in the apartment above their pub, and the boys who work in the supermarket buy her food so that she doesn’t have to venture out. She never goes to hockey games.
Ramona is a pivotal figure in the novel because, in some ways, she fits in to hockey culture—her pub shelters a whole community of ruffian fans—while in other ways, she completely avoids contact with the town. She has enough distance from the hockey culture to be able to see its various hypocrisies and dysfunctions at work, which makes her a valuable critic later on. In this way, she’s similar to characters like Kira and Amat.
Ramona sees Peter approaching and asks him if he wants some whisky for his nerves. Peter likes Ramona, who never seems to change. Some people in Beartown don’t like that Ramona shelters the town’s thugs and think that she’s antisocial, but she is comfortingly familiar to Peter. He asks for coffee instead. Ramona laughs that men whose fathers loved whisky either drink too much or not at all. Peter remembers having to carry his father home from this pub when he was a teenager; he’s rarely been back since.
Again, Ramona’s long history in the town and her comparative distance from it allow her to have insights on other characters that they themselves lack. She’s also especially sympathetic to those who don’t easily fit in or are scorned by others.
One of the reasons Peter doesn’t frequent the Bearskin is because of “The Pack.” The Pack consists of about 30 or 40 angry young men who’ve been left behind by the local economy. The Pack are known for scaring Beartown’s opponents away, but they’ve had the same effect on sponsors. These men don’t want Beartown to modernize, since they think that progress in the town will lead to even fewer opportunities for them.
The Pack are an embodiment of Beartown’s precarious economic position. Many of them are bitter about it and express their anger through their extreme hockey fandom. And they’re well aware that advances of the town will be unlikely to benefit them much, showing how even people who love hockey can be left behind by the town’s relentless fixation on it.
Peter and Ramona sit at the bar and talk about hockey. Peter wonders if the town takes hockey too seriously—what, after all, can it give them? Just a few isolated moments of feeling immortal? But as Peter gets up to leave, Ramona says, “…[W]hat the hell is life, Peter, apart from moments?” Peter appreciates her insightful advice.
Ramona’s point to Peter is that, while it’s possible to make too much of individual moments, it’s also possible to overlook them; it’s really about what one makes of them. This will be borne out later in the story, as small moments tend to reveal much about individual character.
At home, Kira feels tightness in her chest—panic attacks. She stopped seeing her psychologist after that diagnosis, feeling ashamed. She doesn’t know how she could explain it to her family, but parenthood “makes [her] feel like a blanket that’s always too small.” She can never cover everyone adequately.
Kira keeps her conflicted feelings about work, grief, and motherhood hidden, not wanting to burden her family with them, with the result that she’s troubled with anxiety. Motherhood makes demands that she knows she can’t perfectly fulfill. Backman suggests, later, that perhaps it’s this focus on perfection—“winning”—that’s misplaced; maybe Kira really does have enough to offer everyone, even if she doesn’t feel that way.
Kira thinks about the demands of game day—all the rides she’ll have to give throughout the day—and her work inbox, which never empties no matter how late she sits up answering emails. She hasn’t felt like she’s given her best at anything in a long time, because she simply doesn’t have the energy. Nowadays, she understands those parents who lose their cool in the stands at children’s games—as silly as it is, hockey starts to symbolize parents’ own hopes and failings.
As she often does, Kira is able to take a critical look at aspects of hockey culture. She’s able to empathize with the way it consumes parents’ lives and becomes a mirror of their own anxieties. Because she feels so inadequate herself, she understands the quest to project those feelings onto something external while also pointing out how futile that quest can be.
Kira checks on Maya and is surprised to find that her forehead feels hot. Later that morning, she’ll be surprised when Maya uncharacteristically insists on joining her mother at the rink. And, in hindsight, she’ll wish she had made Maya stay home.
Backman sometimes foreshadows or hints at coming disaster. This goes along with his point, expressed elsewhere, that life is just a culmination of moments, individual choices whose outcomes can’t be predicted.