I don’t usually drive in boots. I’m more of a tennis shoe kind of guy but you can’t wear them in the snow. My friend Cory convinced my to go snowboarding with him. He said it was easy and I’d pick it up in no time. I spent more time on my ass than I did on the board. The worst part was getting off the lift. Each time he’d tell me, “Alright, just lean on your back foot and slide out of the way before the next group gets there,” and each time I’d stumble and catch a face full of ridged ice.
Me and Cory weren’t really friends. He was the kind of guy who knew a guy that could get anything. I’m the kind of guy who goes home after work every day. We’d worked together in the deli section at Costco for a few months. We didn’t talk much. Then my dad bought himself a new truck and sold me his old one. All of a sudden Cory started introducing me to all of his lady friends and slipping me uppers between shifts. I think he just needed a ride.
He had a friend with a cabin in North Tahoe. I never met the friend but judging from the décor of his house, he was in the porn business. Sufficed to say there was a lot of leopard print and rough patches in the carpet.
I like to complain, but the days on the slopes weren’t so bad. Cory’s actually a halfway decent teacher and I was starting to get the hang of it by the end. It was the nights that were too much for me. I didn’t know this before we left, but Cory’s a mean drunk. By the third night whatever combination of pills and liquor he’d taken Hyded his Jeckal hardcore. He was throwing shit, crying and cursing at me like I was trying to bone his mom. Then he tried to kiss me and I was out of there. He could find his own way home.
White steam billowed from the exhaust as I peeled out of the drive and onto the highway. I had the heat on high but the truck hadn’t warmed up yet and it was cold as dicks in the cab. I was shivering like a Chihuahua on a sixty-degree day. I tried pinning the wheel against my knee so I could rub a little warmth back in my arms but the moment I took my hands off, something appeared in the middle of the road. I grabbed the wheel and pulled hard to the right but the truck hit a patch of ice and the tail end skidded. There was a loud thump as the bumper clipped whatever it was, sending it tumbling over the bank. The truck ground to a halt and I popped out to see what’d happened. The taillights cast a bloody red light over the snow bank.
“Hello?” I said, praying to god whatever it was wouldn’t answer. I didn’t know if I could cope with being a murderer. I knew I couldn’t cope with prison.
For a long time the only sound was the truck, slogging against the cold. Then there was a high whine. Not a human sound, but close enough that my heart twisted. It was a dog, someone’s pet.
‘Sons of bitches’ I thought angrily, ‘what kind of irresponsible, scumbag, asshole person lets their dog run around on a snowy road at night. Fuck them. This isn’t my fault.’
The dog whined again. The sound was pure, like the crashing of thunder or the crunch of dry leaves. I tried to walk down to where the beast was lying but I couldn’t see and the hill was steep.
Thinking I’d back the truck up to the edge so that I could use the tail lights to see, I got in the cab and thrust the shifter in reverse. I’d planned on going slow, stopping a healthy distance from the edge and firmly yanking the parking break, but I forgot how heavy my boots were. As I released the clutch, the truck jerked back and even though I tried to pull the heavy boot over to the break, the truck was already sliding over the edge, the steep icy incline utterly unimpressed by the new breaks I’d installed in the summer. Craning my neck between the seats, I did my best to avoid the rocks and trees. Then I saw it, at the bottom of the hill was a sudden lack of land. I was heading toward a cliff. The truck wasn’t going to stop and in spite of my best efforts, it was only going faster. I made a split decision and yanked the wheel. Deliberately crashing the truck backwards into a thick pine. It crunched like a soda can. The tree was unharmed.
I peeled myself out of the screaming steel and collapsed headfirst into the snow. The crystals clung to my face like desperate lovers. A few feet away I saw a dog, a little Boston terrier with fur as thick as a t-shirt, shivering as he hobbled his way over to me. He licked my forehead with a tongue the texture of wet salami.
I felt for his color and saw the name ‘Gordon’ printed above a phone number.
“Well Gordon,” I said tucking the tiny beast into my jacket. “Your owners are assholes, so you’re coming home with me. It’s been a fuck of a day and I could use a friend.”
He seemed amenable.