Off I go! said Blurtso, streaking out the door. Places to go, things to do, I’d better pick up the pace, I’m late, late, late!
Hey, why are my hoofs so cold? Oh no, I forgot my mittens! I guess it’s back I go. Up the walk, through the door, grab my mittens, go, go, go. Ahhhh, that’s better, said Blurtso. That’s more like it. Snug and soft, happy on the hoof. Now, what was I doing? Where was I rushing to?
The side of the mountain was covered with snow. Nick could see the team on the ridge, but he couldn’t see Jim. Jim was at the back, anchoring the line. Nick heard a pop and a sheet of snow slid from the ridge. The sheet was sawed into strips by the pines on the hill. Nick heard another pop and saw another sheet break loose. He saw the sheet move before he heard the pop.
At the lodge they sat in silence.
“I’d give anything to have been up there,” said Nick.
“It was something,” said Jim.
“This damn leg,” said Nick.
“Sure,” said Jim.
“You never know,” said Nick, “what you’re doing for the last time.”
“We had some times,” said Jim.
Jim looked at the glass in his hand then looked at Nick. Nick looked at Jim.
“My stomach’s still good,” said Nick.
“I’ll get another bottle,” said Jim.
The terry-cloth towel hung from the hook to the left of the sink. It was stained with old blood that had dried and new blood that had not. The blade of the razor rested on a bar of soap and its handle rested on the sink. The basin was streaked with remnants of stubble and soap.
Nick returned to the kitchen when he heard the coffee. He turned off the flame and poured the thick liquid into a small cup. He added a teaspoon of sugar and stirred it with the spoon. He felt the salt air blow through the window. He could taste it on his lips.
Jim will be waiting, he thought, taking a sip from the cup. He was glad he had somewhere to go. Glad he had a reason to shave. He took another sip and picked at a crumb on the table. Any reason is enough, he thought.
It’s warmer today, said Harlan. Yes, said Blurtso. You don’t look very good, said Harlan, what have you been doing? I’ve been painting, said Blurtso. Painting? said Harlan. Yes, said Blurtso, I saw Lizzy again, and I think she should be immortalized like the models of Renoir.
I call it, “Jeune âne au piano.”