It came about like this. Fred had very little work during the winter, and I had none, so it was his idea to get some season passes to Shawnee Mountain and ski every day. Even though the rest of the country was in the shitter, New Yorkers still had wads of cash, and suddenly condos sprouted like fungus in Shawnee. T’s husband was one of the locals making fistfuls of dollars slapping up the units, too cheap to have tile anywhere in them, but he literally took a powder, leaving T with her two kids, a boy and a girl, and a house to take care of. She worked at a local stable, making joke money, and whenever she wasn’t working she was at Martha’s, Shawnee’s local watering hole.
They’re 160 bucks, but if we ski every day, that’s like two bucks a day.
Less than we spend on beer! I said.
Oh, way, way less….
So each day we toddled off the mountain, always beating the crowds and getting in a dozen runs before the buses even started rolling into the parking lot and the herds of loud city people clumped across the long wooden bridge that spanned a swampy pond. That winter started out incredibly cold, with temps below zero every morning for weeks at a clip, and when there wasn’t natural snow, they made plenty. Skiing was good, and I had to admit, for all the times I had mocked the skiers that packed the hotel in the winter, the skiing scene was a pant-load of fun. We’d usually knock off right after lunch and head to Martha’s, named for the elderly matron that ran the place. It had everything you could ask for in a bar: a pool table, a cigarette machine, the world’s absolute best cheese-steaks, and just enough tourists. By that I mean that they were in a distinct minority. Most of them frequented the uppity places like the Inne, but occasionally a few would find their way through the front door, and we would do what any group of locals do when we saw them open it: sit and stare at them for a beat before we went back to whatever it was we were all doing.
Locals can be asses, too. I wouldn’t learn that for a few more years, when I was on the other end of that stick. It’s funny, now that I think about it, how quickly I had forgotten the lesson on eyes and looks I had learned so deeply that first day of school, but that’s the way of the human world. If we remembered everything that ever happened to us when we woke up, I don’t think any of us could even get out of bed.
Anyhow, that’s where I met T, who was sort of the Queen there. I knew most everybody else, and at that time the cast of available women in Shawnee was about what it always had been: slim to none. So I laid siege to her walls, I guess you could say. I had decent recreational drugs and ready cash, and that sealed the deal. By mid-January I was staying at her place more than I did in town, and skiing and seeing Fred less and less. Lonely boy that I was, I had a ready-made family! T worked mad long hours taking people on trail rides, and I was all too happy to take care of the kids, getting them off the bus and fed up, making sure they did their homework and chores, all that stuff I had learned how to do helping my sister out with her tribe.
Silly boy, I put heating oil in the tank, and, it seemed like just like that I was watching the clock and wondering where the hell she was. She had always talked her husband down whenever she got the chance, talking about his over-the-top drug use and how he was a lousy cheater, and I completely missed the cue. I say that because I only recently realized that when people accuse you of something like lying or cheating, it’s usually because that’s what they do. By mid-February, the sap was running and so was T. The final straw was the night I waited for her to get home, drinking every beer available and them laying in the empty bed upstairs most of the night, only realizing long about 4 in the morning that her Volvo was parked outside all along. I got up and tossed my clothes on, grabbed my coat and went outside, pissed and a tad drunk, and damn if the windows weren’t all fogged up.
I had never stuck another human soul in my life, even though I had come close with Fred a few times. But he was way bigger than me, and more used to fighting, and besides, he was my closest friend. I stormed over and yanked the door open, and there they were, in flaigro delecto or however you say it. T instinctively threw her hands up over her head, partly from the sudden light but also from long practice, I guess, but the fella with her was slower to react.
Anger and fear are awesome things. We’ve all heard stories of women exhibiting super-human strength in times of disaster, yanking cars off their children and so forth. I grabbed that guy and yanked him out of the car, no pants and all, and commenced to hammering him in the face. I didn’t feel my fingers breaking, just delighting in the sudden smell of blood (just like hunting!) and his screams for help. T was trying to untangle herself from her own clothes and in a second had managed to fall out of the car and grab at my legs, just enough to get me off balance and let the bloodied sucker run around to the other side of the car, crying and screaming like a little girl.
T started screaming at me to get the fuck out of there, staggering upright and finally getting her pants on. Upstairs, the lights flicked on: we woke the babies, I realized.
I took a step closer to T and raised my hand to slap her silly, then suddenly realized what was going down. I wish I could say that I was suddenly ashamed, or remorseful, or something along those lines. Fact is, I had never felt more powerful and alive. I turned and walked over to my car, my fingers dripping blood on the tired snow, my heels making that squeaking sound on snow that you could just hear over the guy’s blubbering and T’s swearing and crying.
I never made it back to East Stroudsburg. The Staties pulled me over by the Holiday Inn on 209, and just like that I got to spend my first “night” in jail.
What about that phone call? I asked the cops, and they said It can wait until the shift change and shoved me in the lock-up.
There was one other guy in there, an old drunk that everybody in town knew that cleaned windows for the businesses and got drunk enough to be “arrested” on nights when it was too cold to sleep outdoors, the cops’ idea of community service, I guess. He never stirred when the cell slammed shut, just like in the movies. That was when I realized how badly my hands hurt. Sure enough, at 7, I called Fred, and the bluster and brag was all out of me and I accidentally whimpered a little bit before taking a shaky breath and asking if he couldn’t come and get me and take me to the hospital.
Oh, they’re broke pretty good was all he said, looking at my hands, both of which were swelling and turning some interesting shades of black and blue.
The ER at the time was a desk of sorts set into a wall of ceramic block with an accordion-style closure that slid open and shut, with a bored or tired looking nurse sitting behind it. She told me to take a seat until she got the doctor, and Fred and I did just that, not speaking in the wan light of day.
Turns out I had busted bones in both hands, and they told Fred to come back for me at lunch. He offered to stay and I waved him away.
Thanks, old buddy. I’ve been enough trouble, I said to him, and he looked like he was ready to say something back, but instead got suddenly gruff and said he’d be back. I was shuffled back and forth between x-ray and waiting room, finally getting both hands wrapped with only the thumbs sticking out.
No physical activities for you, one of the nurses said, by way of instructions.