Killer Ridge

Illustration by Christopher Hutsul At the best of times, Newfoundlanders are seasonally impaired. We know climate change—every two hours or so—and, as a result, our minds are prone to wandering …

Christopher Hutsul
Illustration by Christopher Hutsul

At the best of times, Newfoundlanders are seasonally impaired. We know climate change—every two hours or so—and, as a result, our minds are prone to wandering out of season, so to speak. Just yesterday, stretched naked on a hot, sandy beach, admiring your bronzed bod as you surfed the rolling Atlantic, I was transformed back to that first time I saw you. Sleek, lithe, black Lycra encasing your buttocks, you were the most perfect form, streaking down Killer Ridge. Yet, despite my badly defined form as I crawled up the bunny hill in an overly padded Ski-Doo suit—there was this instant, this primal recognition of you, my split-apart.

The Grand Puppeteer yanked my strings, and I was instantly vertical on those wretched, polished blades and clumping madly toward where you were swerving in a spray of white to a halt beside the Killer Ridge lift. Luckily, you bent, tending to your skis, never witnessing my laborious shuffling as I passed, getting into the lineup ahead of you. I shoulder-checked once. Your eyes, undoubtedly, a heavenly blue behind those glazed, black shades. And cheekbones you could hang a winter’s coat upon.

The lift swooped to my side, and I scrambled upon the seat, clutched the steely armrests, and turned to face the mountain. It was high. But you were with me. I was calmed. The lift creaked ten, twenty, thirty feet above the trees. The wind screamed past my ears, welting my face with lashes of ice. A thousand feet above the bunny hill we whirled to the top of Killer Ridge. A leap of faith and I was hurtling off the lift, feeling no pain as my face smashed into crusted snow. A swoosh of air overhead and I looked up to see those Lycra-clad legs leaping over me, landing lightly on polished skis, and vanishing over the mountain edge.

Untangling my feet, I shuffled to the edge. Rivers, valleys, hills sprawled out below. Panic welled. And then from the heavens soared a raven, full of grace, power, beauty. Weren’t we all of the same basic substance, we earthly creatures? Surely, I too had grace, power, and beauty? Tightening the belt around my Ski-Doo suit, I filled my lungs and snowplowed off the slope. Steep. Real steep. But you were down there, and trusting that somewhere I was hard-wired for this, I took another leap of faith and started snowplowing down the path that you had forged.

All was good. Snowplow, snowplow, bit of speed, slalom to the left, slalom to the right. Good, good. Snowplow. Slalom—whoops! Backslide. Dig in poles—slowing down, slowing down. Up again, snowplow. Slalom. Snowplow. The beginning of a rhythm emerged. Slalom, snowplow, slalom, snowplow. The raven soared upward and I with it, fusing into its wings, the sky, the mountain, one with it all. And there you were, my most perfect form, a few hundred yards below a ridge, resting easy on your poles, talking to another most perfect form, a burning redhead clad in green, with pink lightning darts bolting up her legs. Reaching out a hand, you twirled a finger through a fiery curl.

Everything stopped—my slalom, my heart—my illusion pricked by a clarity of vision that needed no reason to substantiate. In that second I professed to know nothing—except that the Grand Puppeteer had let go of my strings and I was suddenly plummeting down the ridge toward you and . . . her. I screamed, going too fast to snowplow or slalom. The raven swept past and I cursed its wings. I dug a pole into a knobby lump fast approaching my right. It wrenched my arm, nearly snapping it out of its socket. The oneness was fully aborted now, and each separate crystal in that sloping glacier bit, scratched, and spat at my face as I pitched forward like a fat bowling ball. Something jarred my leg, and I was wrenched onto my back, sliding headfirst down Killer Ridge. I screamed and then screamed again and then managed to lift my head—and oh Lord, it was you, my once split-apart, hooked onto my ski and being dragged down with me, legs and arms flailing like a giant tarantula as you tried to unhinge yourself from me. But it served to entangle you further. And as I watch the blue-greeny wall of the Atlantic now curling over you, I curl deeper into the sand, our eternal knot glinting on my finger.

Donna Morrissey