] Skiing down the wrong side of the mountain
The High Country Illuminator

Skiing down the wrong side of the mountain

Silver Fox came floating down to him, drawing a long curved track through the powder, rising and falling, her parka all one with the snow. "Dummy," she said, skiing down to where he stood. "Oh god! I'm so happy," said Silver Fox. "Happy happy happy . . . Why didn't you turn when I told you?"

"I didn't know how."

"Haven't you ever skied powder before?"


"Wow," said Silver Fox.

"Wow," said the High Country Illuminator, said good old George Togalok. "But I think I've got the hang of it now."

He skied off, trying his new discovery, following a long easy path to the southward, turning toward the fall line and back to the mountain again, until he got up his courage to bust right through. Shazam! He was skiing the other way, westward to the sun. Finally he was able to stay in the fall line, turning, turning, ass-deep in powder, working his way to the bottom. Silver Fox was yonder, playing in her own private cloud of snow. Once in a while they crossed over, like sky divers; sometimes they fell earthward together, never so free as now.

There were trees at the bottom. And a brook, frozen yellow at the banks, running free in the middle. They trekked cross-country until they found a great tree trunk straddling the brook, silvery gray and hollow at the core.

"We'll crawl through it," said Silver Fox. "We'll crawl right through, and come out in Mexico, and join a whatchamacallit."

"A fiesta."

"Yes, a fiesta."

But first they took off their skis and sat on the trunk, in the light of the setting sun. "I love you," said Silver Fox.


"You me too?"

He studied her face, golden now in the sunset. An elf's face. Little golden straws poked out from the hood of her parka and curled around her ears; for a moment he saw- but then it was gone-a snake's head darting toward her eyes. "Yes," he said. "Me you too." If he turned his eyes away . . .

"George?" she said.


"Sometimes," she said, as a cloud passed across the setting sun, right on cue; "sometimes I wonder what's to become of us. You and me and everybody. Do you ever wonder about that?"


"Not even when you wake up in the middle of the night?"


"Sometimes," she said, "I remember that we're all going to grow old. Like Homer. I don't want to grow old."

"You'll never grow old, Linda," he said, wrapping the sturdy George Togalok arm around her. Then he saw it again. The snake.

"Tell me again."

"You'll never grow old. You'll always be in Avalon, skiing down the wrong side of the mountain."

"That's nice," she said, burrowing down. "Tell me about Avalon."

"Avalon is an island in the sea," he told her, "where falls not hail nor rain nor any snow, save on the other side of the mountain. All the trails run downhill, and the wind is always at your back. The only birds in Avalon are larks, all baked and buttered; they fly hot-buttered into your mouth."

"Oh, I wouldn't eat a lark."

"Scones, then," he said. "The scones fly hot-buttered into your mouth...."

"Is there a Corporation in Avalon?"

"There's a Corporation everywhere."

Silver Fox stirred in his arms. "Well, I don't like that part," she said, "but the rest is beautiful. How can you make it so beautiful if you never think about it?"

"I don't know," he said. "The words just fly into my mouth."

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