Sometimes I think when the neighbor says again we’re planning for a little snow trip, I want to trip them with their shiny matching poles. I don’t want to steal their money so I too can go, I just don’t want them to go. Okay, I do want them to go, I mean someone should enjoy the powder even if we can’t because we haven’t paid our electric bill and we need to. It will be turned off in a week while the nights are window-cracking cold. 

It’s night skiing I’m talking about. When I zip zip down the tunnel of darkened trees, knowing the chateau is below, but maybe not, maybe it forgot, to stay there, because it is so dark-sinister that the lodge, at the bottom of the lift, might have left.

Back in the bus days of youth, floors slushy, wool wafts, crumbs of orange crackers on scarves, someone had a sticker that said don’t eat peanut butter, your ski will stick to the roof of your mouth. I didn’t eat peanut butter then on the foggy bus, but instead sat in the back squinting, refusing to wear glasses, keeping my hat on to cover flaccid hair, wishing I was still on the hill, careening through night trees, the ones who reach but can’t grasp because I’m so fast.

The entryway to the night forest is the blood-sister to that moment when a diver leaves the blocks and soars dry-suited prior to immersion. Just before the treeline is that gulp-grip in my knees: maybe the pines won’t spit me out at the other end.

You do that and have a blissful time I say to Mr. and Mrs. Perky, the neighbors who don’t have kids, who have matching Toyotas, bobbed haircuts and silver ski jackets.  They glimmer toodles! and skip off to their 4wd rig saved for Tahoe trips and I say by the mailbox in my pajama pants as I almost drop the overdue water bill, you guys going to make it for night skiing?

Not in years! they say, as if I’ve suggested skipping to San Francisco in their silver jackets. Oh no, we can’t see that well, as if their four eyes are a collective-vision-effort.

Not in years? They are in their fifties. I want to say, you mean in just a few years I too won’t be able to see to ski at night?

Instead, I stand at the mailbox pretending to shuffle yellow and pink notices.  

We’re going I tell my husband when he comes home sweaty, charred, beaten.

How? Is his only worn out word.

Apparently on the way in, he didn’t notice our missing and unused bikes, sold on Craig’s list this afternoon.

When he sleeps, I siphon-spit gas from the neighbor’s Toyota tanks: fill ours for the way there, fill a can for the way back.

I have a spare key of theirs to feed the cats. I’m trustworthy that way. I empty a third of their almonds, sneak four slices of bread, two tuna cans out of twelve, a bagful of tangerines off their tree.

Ready? I say to my husband who has fallen asleep on the couch. I’ve packed everything. All he has to do is sit in the car and let me take him for a ride.


Night skiing is one of those mysterious and thrilling events that only the night skiier is privy to, equally as delightful as watching snow plows during The Big Storm with an awestruck three year-old, or throwing snow-clods on a winter bonfire just to hear the darn thing sizzle.


If The Unsuitable Neighbor Smells Snow - Stefanie Freele (c)


Copyright 2009