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.
“Time is running away”
“Again?” said Jim.
“Oh yes!” she said. “I never get tired of hearing it!”
“I love you forever,” said Jim.
“And ever and ever?” she said.
“And ever and ever,” said Jim.
“Here we are,” she thought, and looked out the window. The brown water of the river fanned into the bay. The water of the river after the rain was brown and stained the blue of the bay.
The tables and chairs were arranged on the boardwalk and the waiters were crossing from the cafés carrying coffee and bread to the tables. The clients who weren’t tourists were reading newspapers and smoking. Some of the tables had parasols that wouldn’t shade the tables until the sun was higher on the horizon.
“I’m going for a walk,” said Peggy, looking out the window.
“Wait and I’ll join you,” said George.
The sun reflected brightly on the tables without tablecloths and the legs of the tables were black against the water. The tiles of the boardwalk were smooth. Some of them were cracked and some were wet from the rain. The ones that were wet were darker than the others and the dark ones were slippery.
Peggy and George walked until they passed beyond the tables and chairs. They found an empty bench and sat down. The sun across the water was low and bright in their eyes. It didn’t bother them if they looked up or down the coast. A jogger passed in front of them and Peggy followed him with her eyes until the man and the boardwalk disappeared around the cape.
“I wonder if I’ll ever be back here,” said Peggy.
“Of course we will,” said George.
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.
The sun after the rain dried the rain into steam and the steam drenched the street and the bay. Jim’s shirt clung to his neck and his arms beaded with sweat. His arms beaded and his eyebrows glistened with sweat.
In the dark his eyebrows still glistened and from his bed he heard the late voices rise from the bay. He heard a door open and he heard a door close and a streetlight cast a shadow on the wall. The streetlight cast the shadow of the window shutter on the wall. The mattress grew damp where his body touched the mattress and he shifted from where his body touched the mattress. Sweat beaded at the creases of his arms at his elbows and ran to his elbows. Sweat beaded on his neck and ran along the creases and ran behind his ears. “When this is over,” he said, “thirty nights will be remembered as one.”
The shadow of the shutter in the lamplight grew dim in the brightness when the late voices became early voices rising from the bay.