In February, I hosted my first-ever Meaningful Moments Writing Contest for my email subscribers. Two winners were selected, with the grand prize being their stories featured here on the Ink & Impact blog.
It is with pleasure that I share the second winning entry, a humorous short story by Charlotte Hackman.
Charlotte started the Landfall Writers Group in 2015 and has collaborated on two books published by that group. She is also the author of a nonfiction book, The Strength to Let Go published under the pen name, Jo Henry. She is currently working on a mystery thriller.
I Should’a Been a Boy Scout
by Charlotte Hackman
My husband, Ed, got a temporary job assignment in Montreal, Canada in the winter of 1976. We arrived on New Year’s Eve and moved into our downtown high-rise apartment and celebrated with a six pack of Molson Beer and Guy Lombardo on TV.
We had taken a few ski vacations and decided our stay in Canada would be the opportunity to get serious about the sport. On the weekends we took day trips to the surrounding ski areas where we were honing our skills on the icy slopes.
In early March, we decided to take a “big” weekend trip to Mont Tremblant and spend two nights there. The forecast was for several inches of snow and we had never skied on powder, the term used for inches of new snow.
It was here, early in our skiing days, we encountered a roll back on a chair lift, something that is never supposed to happen. It’s also when I realized a big difference between Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts! Ed was an Eagle Scout and I had been an avid Girl Scout.
If you have snow skied, you know what a chair lift is. If you haven’t, the chair lift is that thing that looks like a porch swing that carries you up the mountain, suspended from cables held on tall, tall poles. You wait in line, slide over to the chair on your skis, stick out your butt, sit, and ride up the mountain looking down at the skiers below.
A chair lift will stop from time to time as you are riding up the mountain, because somebody fell getting off up at the top. The first few times we skied, falling as we got off the lift was my standard procedure. Though Ed always warned me to “Be Prepared,” the Boy Scout motto, I was never quite prepared to disembark.
We made a great sight as we approached the top with me frantically asking “NOW? Should I lean forward NOW? What do I do with my poles?” and Ed yelling, “Don’t grab me, be prepared to get off!”
Anyway, that’s why the chair lift stops sometimes—so the guy running the lift can untangle the husband and wife and the skis and the poles that have fallen in a heap at the top of the lift. But never does a chair lift start moving down the mountain backwards. NEVER!
That morning in Canada we had a foot of new snow—powder. We had made one run down the mountain and got on the chair lift to go up again. The chair stopped—not unusual. We looked down, enjoying the view of the colorful skiers on the newly fallen fluffy snow.
Just then a very strange thing happened. The chair started going backward very slowly and then stopped. I looked at Ed and asked, “Was that strange? I mean, I don’t remember that ever happening before.”
He said, “Yes.” Ed is a man of action and few words.
About that time, we started going backwards again…and picking up a little speed. Then you could feel those cables jerk like something was trying to stop us, and we stopped with the chair gently swinging.
“I don’t think this is supposed to happen, do you?” I asked.
“No,” answered Ed.
We did this roll back—stop—roll—stop routine a couple of more times and the skiers on the ground were now all stopped, looking up at the chair lift, some of them shouting “JUMP!” which seemed out of the question since we were three stories in the air. I was definitely not prepared for this wild and unexpected event. Like a good Girl Scout, I started thinking about other people.
I started thinking about those other people who had been behind us further down the mountain. What had happened when they got back to the “get on place” going too fast to get off? Would the chairs fly off that big turn wheel at the bottom?
Whoa, here we go again backwards, and we are really moving fast now and people are screaming “JUMP!” Easy for them to say!
I look at Ed and asked, “Are you gonna jump?”
He’s bent over and I think maybe he’s sick or something. “Are you OK? Are you gonna jump?” I asked in a bit of a panic.
“I dunno,” says Ed the Eagle Scout.
Now we feel some more jerks and slow down and almost stop.
“Well, once we go over that ridge, it’s really a huge drop off and we can’t jump then. I bet people that jumped near the bottom are all piled up,” I say with visions of bloody bodies.
Ed the Eagle Scout is bent over again. Is he gonna throw up or what?
About that time, shooosh we take off backwards like a racehorse out of the gate and gain speed. I have no real explanation for what happened next.
I looked at Ed and said, “We’re not going get any closer to the ground. I think I’m gonna jump!” And I did.
With my skis on!
Somehow that foot of new snow looked soft and fluffy—until I hit it. Trust me, I cleared that powder in an instant. I was not prepared for the pain. It knocked all the wind out of me, too. With my first gasp of air, fearing the worst, I called out to Ed (which rhymes with dead). Was he now one of those bloody bodies I had envisioned at the bottom of the lift?
In a quiet voice like an angel from above I hear, “I’m here.”
My God, he’s dead and already an angel. His voice is right above me. That was fast.
I turn my injured body, spitting snow to look up and see him swinging above me, by a pole on the chair lift, without his skis.
The chair lift had stopped the instant I jumped. A gentleman climbed up, pulled the chair over and helped him down as I lay in the snow. Ed was able to climb down the pole whereas others had to wait up in those chairs for hours to be taken down.
My injuries were relatively minor: bruised ribs and a few pulled things here and there. By some miracle, I hadn’t broken a leg—jumping with my skis on.
Once Ed knew I wasn’t seriously injured, he started.
“Sweetheart, for if you were gonna jump, why didn’t you take off your skis? In that kind of wild and unexpected situation you need to think fast and Be Prepared. It’s a miracle that you didn’t break a leg.”
How do I explain that as a good Girl Scout, whose promise includes “to help other people at all times, especially those at home,” I had been concerned about those other people and especially worried about him? And then I realized why he had been bent over.
“You were taking off your skis? That whole time I was worried about you being sick and puking on the people below us, you were taking off your skis?”
On that unforgettable trip to the mountain I learned to be concerned is nice, but to be prepared is better.
Perhaps I should’a been a Boy Scout!