09 December 2010

Literary Skiers 10a


They stopped for icicles to cool their drinks. Suttee clambered over a low stone wall and dropped into deep snow. Down the slope the firs stood black and brambly in their white shrouds and a fine mist of snow was blowing with a faint hiss like sand. He pissed a slushy yellow flower in the landscape, standing there with his drink in one hand, looking out on a wild white upland world as old as any thing that was and not unlike it might have looked a million years ago. Just when he would have said that nothing lived in these frozen altitudes two small gray birds flew. They came from a clump of snowbroken heather below and crossed the slope in a loping flight like carnival birds on wires and vanished in the forest.

He walked up the road, his shoes crunching in the packed snow. Under an overhang of icebound rock where sheer palisades of opaque crystal walled up the black forests above and he could hear the wind suck and moan in the trees. He reached to pluck small icicles from the rocks until he'd filled his glass with them.

Back in the cab she covered him with the blanket and rubbed his hands. You're icy cold, she said.

At Newfound Gap there were skiers, a bright group bristling with their poles and skis about the parked cars. They pulled in to watch them, goggled madmen in clouds of powder dropping down through the fir forests at breakneck speed. She clutched his arm, them standing there with their drinks and their breath swirling in the cold.

They went back in the early blue twilight, ghosting down the mountain with frames of snowy woodland veering inverted across the glass. They made love under the blankets in the back seat like schoolchildren and later she sat up and talked into the silent cabman's ear and made him promise not to tell what they had done and he said that he would not.

--Cormac McCarthy, from Suttree, 1979

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