Mooers is in the northernmost corner of New York State, only 40 miles south of Montreal. It is farther north than Toronto and Guelph and Plymouth. Like lots of rural towns, Mooers is just a few tattered businesses laid out at a crossroads—the A&L Cafe and Monette's Furniture and Dragoon Farm Equipment. The Boulerices have lived outside Mooers for 19 years, in a trim white farmhouse. It's pretty country, dotted with dairy farms. You can see the Adirondacks rolling away to the southwest.
Mike and Lisette Boulerice share the house with Marie, Jesse's younger sister. Jesse's bedroom, at the top of the stairs to the right, is much as it was when he moved to Plymouth to play Major Junior hockey. There's a low bed along one wall and a dresser and a few jerseys hanging in the comer. Leaning on their stocks next to the dresser are two shotguns that Mike and Jesse use when they go bird hunting. There are no trophies or medals; those are across the hall in a little attic space. There is also a letter in there from some local schoolkids saying that Jesse is their favorite hockey player.
Mike and Lisette are in their 40s. They celebrated their 23rd anniversary on Valentine's Day. Lisette works for a commodities company that handles grain. Mike works for the highway department, doing roadwork and plowing snow. He takes extra work doing construction and welding when he has time. The Boulerices used to run the 148-acre farm as a dairy operation, with 60 cows, but they had to sell out a few years ago. "You can't go 15 years just breaking even every year," Mike explains. They kept the land.
Lisette is a pretty blonde who still has Quebec French in her voice. Mike has curly brown hair. He is meaty through the chest and shoulders, like most farmers. He gets agitated when he talks about their son's impending trial but doesn't always have the words to express his feelings.
Sitting in their kitchen, you begin to understand what all this has done to them. "We think it was a terrible thing," says Mike, "but this kid has had no trouble with the law whatever!' Mike and Lisette both look tired. There has been a lot of bad press about all this and a lot of talk around town. "You really find out who your friends are," Mike says. Lisette says she has tried to talk to Jesse about that night, "but he doesn't say much, just keeps it all inside."
What would they say to the Longs if they had the chance? Mike knits up his face and says, "We're sorry, I guess—we're just so.... I wish we could just get in a room and talk to them...." Tears well.
"How sorry we are," adds Lisette.
It is nearly midnight. You've heard all the stories: Jesse driving a tractor when he was eight, putting in a full workday like a hired man. How he started hockey late, at 10, and practiced out front shooting into a goal Mike welded up himself; about what a good kid he was and is, and how nobody here can make sense of this. How hard he worked to overcome his late start. How tough he had to make himself.
You walk out into a night so dark you can't see the keys in your hand to unlock the car, and you remember what Mike said about driving back from the arraignment in Plymouth: "You cry all the way home. Nine hours. Then you get home, and you cry some more."
THE TIME LINE, PART I