American Contemporary Fiction

         Slightly after the agreed-upon meeting time of 6:15am, their three snowboards were secured in the roof rack Shawna’s Jeep Cherokee. Shawna, the only one with a four-wheel drive car, lived in north Portland close to the highway entrance and developed intractable nausea if she was in the car but not driving, making her the de-facto mountain driver. Unfortunately for her friends Miya and Jamie, who had brought their coffee in thermoses, this also meant they were at the mercy of Shawna demanding to stop at her favorite neighborhood coffee shop. Jamie decided to brave the relentless drizzle to go with her and get a croissant, while Miya stayed in the backseat and tried to contain her grinding impatience.  Her Colorado friends never would have stopped for coffee at the potential price of a first chair fresh powder run, she thought bitterly.

              An excruciating fifteen minutes later, Shawna and Jamie piled back into the front seat, and soon they were merging onto 84 east. With everyone a little bit more awake, the car hummed with excited energy. It was a small miracle that the first major snowfall of the year on Mount Hood coincided with a Thursday that all three of them had off from work. They spent the first thirty minutes of the drive comparing notes on their offseason fitness and gear up dates, and intermittently refreshing the ski resort’s website for lift status updates.  

              While Shawna was talking about a video she had seen about a profession skier who had died in an avalanche in Chile over the summer, Jaime dug around in her pocket to see if she still had Chapstick from last season, but instead her hands closed on a small square piece of paper. Perplexed, she pulled it out, and recognized the white snowflake on the purple background immediately. “Oh no!” she exclaimed

              “What?” Miya said at the same time Shawna said “Jesus Jame, you scared me!”

              “Sorry,” Jamie replied. “Do we have a snowpark permit?”

              “A what?” Miya said.

              “Oh dammit, no,” Shawna answered. “I meant to buy one online and I forgot. We can stop at that grocery store in Rhododendron and get one.”

              “WHAT?” Miya snapped before she could contain herself. What on earth could warrant another stop? They had all bought season passes for the ski resort months ago, she couldn’t imagine what other pass they needed.

              Jamie chuckled ruefully, “Oh Miya I forgot you’re new to winter in Oregon. We have to have a snowpark permit to park at the resort. They’re only $35 for the season so not too bad, I just wish we’d picked one up ahead of time. Does Colorado not have these?”

              Slightly puzzled, Miya offered unhelpfully, “Oh, that orange hangtag? I have one, you should have told me to bring it.”

              “No that’s the Northwest Forest Trails Pass, that’s different. This one is just for winter,” Shawna explained.

              Miya was baffled. “Wait there’s a different parking pass for the winter and the other seasons? A parking pass for a private resort that charges $110 a day for lift tickets?”

              “Yup,” Shawna and Jamie answered in unison.

              “You have got to be kidding me.” Miya replied. “This state has so many stupid rules!”

              No one disagreed, and fifteen minutes later they pulled into the grocery store. Jamie and Miya scampered to the bathroom while Shawna went to the counter for the permit. When they reconvened by the door, she relayed the bad news “They haven’t gotten the shipment from the parks service yet.”

              Miya sighed dramatically. Surely there was nowhere else they even could stop between this last store for stocking up on supplies and the ski resort.

              Undeterred, Jamie said, “They usually sell day passes for $5 in the parking lot, let’s just do that,” which was met with uniform agreement. 

              Back on the road, the drizzle turned to wet snow, and then they turned a bend on the highway and were met with a sweeping view of a valley of evergreens covered in snow, like a winter Christmas village. Miya’s impatience dissipated a little bit. “Oh this is beautiful, okay Oregon is legit. Even if they require a different parking pass for every single place and season.”

              Twenty-five minutes later they were directed one of the last rows in the nearly full main parking lot. Jamie leaned around her seat and started chattering with Miya about how shockingly crowded it was but Shawna stayed on task, calling out to the parking lot attendant.  He walked over to the open window, leering at the site of the three girls, and pulled a day pass out of his pocket. “That’ll be $5. Cash only.”

              “Hey do you guys have any cash?” Shawna interrupted. 

              “No,” Miya replied.

              “No of course not, it’s 2019, no one has cash,” Jamie said.

              “You ladies are out of luck then, sorry. They probably won’t bother checking today, but if they do it’s a $250 ticket. Maybe go to the store down in Rhododendron...” he suggested as Shawna cut him off by rolling up the window in frustration.

              Miya bit her lip. She didn’t remember if the grocery store even had an ATM, but if they went back it would be another hour just of driving time, then they would end up in the overflow lot and have to take the shuttle bus, and the snow would be tracked out by the time they got started. On the other hand, she thought, none of them could afford a $250 ticket.

              Shawna was decisive. “Let’s risk it. Hopefully it starts snowing again in an hour like it’s supposed to, then the windshield will be covered and they won’t be able to tell if we have a permit or not.” Miya liked her reasoning, nodding appreciatively.

              Jamie looked skeptical. “Are you sure? That’s such an expensive ticket.”

              “Yeah, the mountain will provide,” Shawna said, an out of character earth mother comment from the native New Yorker. Miya exhaled, her excitement for the day ahead immediately blowing out any residual annoyance. Jamie shrugged but didn’t protest.

              “I just have to go pee before I get dressed,” Shawna announced. “I’m just going to go in the patch of trees over there.”

              While she jogged to the grove of trees at the edge of the parking lot, nimbly climbing over a small mountain of plowed snow, Miya and Jamie got out of the SUV and joined the scattered parking lot crowd of excited skiers and snowboarders putting on layers, tightening boots, and checking their gear.

              “Hey!” Shawna yelled from twenty feet away a few minutes later, recklessly bounding across the snowy lot towards the car. “You guys are not going to believe this!” She caught her breath for a moment and held up a small red square of paper with a snowflake on it. “2019-2020 snowpark permit! I found it on the ground by the trees!”

              Jamie and Miya whooped in delight. “Are you kidding me?” Miya exclaimed. “No ticket for us!” Jamie yelped, doing a ridiculous little dance with her hips. Shawna put the permit on her dashboard and rushed to get her bib and jacket on. A few minutes later, the three of them tromped through the parking lot to the lift.

              They hadn’t been anywhere close to first chair but there was still fresh, untracked snow to be had and they did three laps from the main lift in rapid succession, thrilled to be out in the crisp winter air at play instead of at work. By the time they were ready to go up for the fourth time, a line had formed, and they quickly decided to head to the eastern terrain from the top of the lift. 

              While shuffling forward in line, Jamie said “I still can’t believe you just found that permit in the parking lot. That was such good luck!”

              “I still can’t believe we need a permit!” Miya countered.

              “I told you the mountain would provide, didn’t I?” Shawna said. “I was meant to pee in those trees by the highway.”

              At this, one of the male skiers in front of them turned around, prompting giggles from all of them.

              “Don’t judge!” Shawna said flirtatiously, putting her hands up in surrender.

              He smiled, crinkles just barely visible through his goggles at the corners of his green eyes. “No judgement from me. But did you say you found a permit?”

              Shawna told the story as the lift line kept gradually moving. When she finished, he laughed. “I cannot believe it,” he said, nudging his friend next to him. “Bro you hear this? These girls stole our permit!”

              “What?” Miya said.

              The man continued as his equally attractive friend turned around to join the conversation. “Derek bought a snowpark permit in October, like first day they went on sale. We parked towards the back of the lot but kind of in front of those trees.  He got it out of the glove box but we had both doors open to put boots on and a gust of wind came through and it flew out of his hand. I shit you not, just instantly gone. We looked around a little but didn’t see it, so we just got a day pass from the lot guy, and Derek has been going on about it all morning, trying to ruin my first day out vibe.”

              Shawna replied without hesistation, “Well it sounds like we at least owe you boys a drink. Let me get your number and I’ll text you at the end of the day?” Blushing, Miya noted and appreciated her inclusiveness. Some of her Denver friends would have ditched the girlfriends to ski with the guys right away, but Shawna knew that Miya was reluctantly putting herself out there again after the break up that prompted her move to Portland. Jamie was engaged, but had never been one to turn down a beer.

              “Yeah you do. I’m Ethan,” he replied, Derek grinning next to him, incredulous at this change in luck. Ethan recited his number as Shawna put in her phone, finishing just in time to catch the chair up the mountain. 

              Six years later, when Shawna and Derek married on a cloudless August afternoon in an orchard with a view of Mount Hood, a few of the guests would be confused about why the program had a vaguely familiar-looking snowflake printed in the top right corner.

October 23, 2021 02:22

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Bella L
12:56 Oct 29, 2021

This story did not go where I thought it might- and I loved every minute of it!


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Claire Clayton
00:06 Oct 29, 2021

Wonderful vocabulary and varying syntax structure!


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07:36 Oct 28, 2021

Nice story.


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