It had been one of those days, he thought. Colorless sky, a few flakes of snow from the last storm still falling, and the world like a blank sheet of paper bearing no promises, no words of comfort. A couple of years ago he would have been out skiing, ploughing through the sumptuous névé, watching it silently part like torn silk and then come together again behind in an endless undulating ribbon.
Smelling the pine needles and a distant pinyon-juniper fire. There were days that flashed in his memory, a bough dumping fiery crystals, the treetops dovening in a sudden gust of wind, long swooping turns that never seemed to end.
“Love that new loop around the lake.”
“It’s almost as good as Faraway.”
But now that world had been ripped away from him; fate had delivered the coup de grace, stolen the last reserves of strength from his limbs, the remnant desire and dreams from his mind, and finally knocked his balance askew, so even walking through the house he found himself grabbing banisters and door frames to keep from stumbling and falling.
Skiing? It was out of the question; on his last attempt, three winters ago, he had fallen into a tree well beside the trail and found that he couldn’t get up, no matter how hard he tried.
Finally a couple of other skiers came by and helped him clamber out; he was puffing like an antique steam engine, his face purple, eyes bulging. “Are you all right, sir?’ the girl asked. Sir! He felt
like jumping back in the hole and not coming out. It seemed like only yesterday he was helping carry Chinaur out of the line of fire after the kid took a 12.7 slug in the side of his head; now he had gone from a savior to a victim, a hero to a fall guy, the protagonist in a global drama to comic relief, a clown stuck upside down in a hole in the snow, and now not even that. If life was a movie, he barely had a speaking part, just another face in the crowd.
You never imagined things would end up like this. It was ridiculous, absurd, obscene. Everyone he knew was up skiing, and he was alone, alone in an empty house, watching the daylight fade and the dusk come on….
The game on Fox Soccer was a repeat, a rerun of a game that wasn’t good in the first place. QPR at Wigan in the rain fighting to avoid relegation, like a slap fight between Pee Wee Herman and Ish Kabibble.
He already knew how it ended, nought-nought; a scoreless game could be exciting, attacks and lightning counter-thrusts and miraculous saves by the keeper, but this one was a
festival of miscues, with passes gone awry, wild clearances that flew way out of bounds, ridiculous shots on goal from thirty or forty yards out that landed on the fly in the crowd or sputtered away weakly. Sixty-six channels and nothing on….