Eliot watched the snow fall and felt a chill go down his spine. He heard the shower. He didn’t think Mona was having fun. He thought she was a better skier. Last night was frustrating; she got defensive after three glasses of wine. The paper she writes for, in his opinion, does too many dog stories. She said the paper had to entertain its audience, and he said no, it had to inform its audience. She got sullen. He heard the shower turn off.
“Today’s a new day,” he thought.
He decided to try again with her. After several more minutes, he heard the hair dryer and the light momentarily dimmed. He saw the poster on a tree: Warning! Avalanche Alert. They were at Foster Mountain in New Hampshire for a two-day ski trip. They met in a bar in Keene; he was an associate professor of Literature at the college, and they sat next to each other, and watched a Patriot’s game, and spontaneously tried to guess the Patriot’s offensive plays, and she was better than he, and he bought her dinner. They saw each other again, two nights later, and the banter was natural and easy, and they drank whisky, and ate chicken wings. They were Mark Twain fans, and this time, he knew more than she, and she was a good sport about it which is what he liked about her. They met for coffee, and he invited her to help out at the library book sale, and she told him stories about working for Baxter Phillips, the editor at the paper. Baxter Phillips knew a lot about who was doing what in Keene, and that gave him influence over the city council and the mayor because, not only did he know what problems they had in life, but he ran the organ that could expose them. He knew it and they knew it. She compared him to J. Edgar Hoover, and Eliot laughed.
“I’m not kidding!” she gushed.
She several months before left a relationship with Benny Dawson, a car salesman with a cocaine habit, which sullied the quick and cutting humor he had which Mona was enthralled by. His observations about others were quick, funny, and reliable, and she marveled at how quickly he did it. What wasn’t so funny was his disappearances which suggested there was more than one chapter to his story, and a chapter he didn’t want anyone to know about but had something to do with a rest area on the highway. Eliot realized quickly to be open with Mona because she needed to be able to trust again. He walked to the coffee pot, and poured another cup, and went back to the window and watched the snow. Warning! Avalanche Alert. He heard Mona in the kitchen.
“Where’s the creamer?”
“Bottom shelf, sorry,” he answered.
He heard her pull a chair out from the kitchen table. He went and sat across from her at the table. There was a radio on the kitchen counter.
“We should check out the weather,” said Eliot as he stood and turned on the radio, and fussed with the dial until they heard:
The New Hampshire Parks Commission has issued an avalanche warning for Cheshire County as a result of the sharp rise in temperatures causing an unsafe condition for skiers and hikers. The Commission advises people should stay off the hills and mountains until such time as the temperature drops to below freezing.
“We should ask for our money back,” said Mona.
“I signed a waver that acts of nature were not the responsibility of the ski area.”
“Of course. And neither of us is clever enough to read a weather forecast.”
“I don’t think that would help us. Okay, so we have to plan something else to do. It’s not the end of the world.”
“Just the end of a hundred and twenty-five dollars.”
Like lightening, they heard Baxter Phillips on the radio.
The Keene Police have arrested Baxter Phillips on solicitation of a prostitute. The police issued his arrest warrant at his home in Keene, and he was taken into custody without incident. There are no further details at this time.
“Did you hear that? I can’t believe it, can you?”
He looked at Mona and she was red and staring down.
“Baxter Phillips consorting with prostitutes, I can’t believe it. Wow! Is that going to change things in Keene!”
He paused and looked at Mona.
“Mona, are you all right?”
He saw her hands shaking and she was breathing heavily.
“Mona, why aren’t you surprised?”
“Shut-up, just shut-up.”
He stood up and went back to the window.
“I’m ruined, can’t you see, I’m ruined?” she screamed.
He watched her like she was some alien being.
“Mona, listen to me. Whatever your situation getting hysterical is not going to help. It is obvious his arrest affects you in some way.”
She quickly turned and went back into the bedroom and slammed the door.
Eliot watched her and thought of his teenaged sister doing the same when their father told her she couldn't go to the movies with a boy she liked. The boy, two years later, killed himself and two others in an alcohol – related car crash when he drove into a tree at seventy miles an hour. He looked out the window and saw it was raining.
“What’s that quote? ‘I fear the lady doth protest too much’? Looks like she knows something about this, and how could it ruin her?” he thought.
She spent the morning in the bedroom, and Eliot read and napped on the couch. He couldn’t stop thinking about Baxter Phillips being arrested for jaywalking, never mind, prostitution. Around noon time, she stuck her head out the door.
“How about some lunch?” he offered, “you must be hungry with no breakfast.”
She slowly walked to the table with her head down. Eliot didn’t have the heart to ask her anything. He made two baloney sandwiches and poured diet coke into two glasses. They ate in silence. After he finished his sandwich, he stood and turned the radio on. He didn’t pay attention until he heard, Baxter Phillips!
The county prosecutor’s office announced the misdemeanor charges against Baxter Phillips have been dropped due to lack of evidence. Mr. Phillips was released on his own recognizance.
“Well…I’ll be…” said Eliot, “someone fixed it for him.”
She was looking down.
“You must be relieved…”
She said nothing. Eliot studied her for several moments.
“Where did you say you got your journalism degree?”
She stood and went back into the bedroom and came out with a parka and boots on. Without looking at him, she went out the door. He thought he should go after her, but decided it was pointless. It was several minutes later; he heard the whoosh of sliding snow.