By Richard Carter
I don’t know what got into me. I mean, I like my job, and I like most people, but some . . . it’s like, when they become tourists they leave their brains at home. This lady today, she came off the boat with her bicycle, walking up the middle of the roadway. So I asked her to move over with the foot traffic. Simple. I’m the ferry agent. People are supposed to listen to me. I wear this fluorescent orange vest and carry a walkie-talkie, it’s not like you can mistake me for someone else. But this lady just keeps walking. I say, “Excuse me. Please move your bike into the walkway.” But she acts like she doesn’t hear me. Well, she’s got this helmet that looks like half a watermelon over her head, and spandex from her knees to her neck, squeezing all the blood into her face, maybe she can’t hear me. So I stand right in front of her and say, “Lady! The walkway!” And I point. She smiles and says, “Next time, I promise.” And keeps walking! Like I’m one of those fluorescent orange cones you can knock over and nothing bad will happen to you! It was too much! There were fifteen cars lined up behind her and the first three were locals, just aching to grind her into the pavement. Jeeze! I’m trying to save the woman’s life and she’s ready to run me down! So I grabbed the bike and shouted, “This time, lady! Move it this time!” And I lifted that friggin’ bicycle over my head and slammed it down in the walkway so hard the tires popped . . . . I’m not normally like that. But thoughtless people, they shouldn’t travel.
From “Park City Sport”
It’s the same with all guys. Men in their twenties. They’re all “finding themselves.” Don’t ask me how they get lost. It’s like there’s this detour sign: “Men in your twenties, TURN HERE!” And they all turn. And then it takes years driving in circles before a guy’ll ask for directions. If he’s twenty-four, twenty-five and you get involved with him . . . watch out. The road gets worse. Takes him through miserable, dark little places with names like “Depression,” and “Despair,” and beautiful downtown “Panic!” Most often he hits twenty-six or twenty-seven still looking for the “road to his destiny.” He’s pissed off. He peels out, puts his foot to the floor, it doesn’t matter which way . . . . (She makes the sounds of an automobile racing and crashing.) He’s twenty-eight now. Bruised, bleeding. Insurance? Hah! He doesn’t even have Triple A. But if he’s lucky – and he usually is – he walks away from it. And he usually leaves some girl in the crumpled wreckage. So you come cruising along and this poor, battle-scarred boy sticks out his thumb, and you are sorely tempted. Don’t even think about it. Don’t pick him up, do not dust him off. You got maternal instincts? Go work in a daycare. Better yet, help animals, take care of plants. They need caring people. Plants and animals, they’ll treat you right. At least, they’ll treat you better than any guy under thirty.
From “Park City Sport”
A ski town is a weird place, man. It’s like livin’ in an Easter egg hunt. Everybody around you is half crazy lookin’ for candy. The Powder Hounds are lookin’ for that waist deep snow. The Hot Doggers are after the best bumps. The Boarders, they just want a little respect. Snow Bunnies are lookin’ for macho ski instructors and Macho Ski Instructors are lookin’ for snow bunnies. That works out. The kids out of high school are lookin’ for somethin’ to do before college, and the college grads are lookin’ for somethin’ to do before they get a “real job,” and the ones with real jobs are lookin’ backwards, goin’, “Whoa! Whatever happened to deep powder, big bumps, and casual sex?” Me? I’m just lookin’ for a good time. That’s all I ask out of life: to enjoy it. I work as much as I have to at anything I don’t mind doin’. I smoke a little dope ’cause it makes me feel good, especially at this altitude. I sleep with who I want, when I want, and I don’t mind sleepin’ alone. There is one thing I don’t do. Ever. And maybe that’s why I’m happy here. The key to my success, livin’ in a ski town? I never ski.
From “Park City Sport”
“A woman wants to possess a man’s soul.” That’s what Maugham says. W. Somerset Maugham? He’s my god right now, and “The Razor’s Edge” is my bible. Ever read it? The hero winds up as a cab driver in New York City, and he’s happy, just driving people around. I’m a ski mechanic and a boot fitter, and I just want to work. I want to work a lot. And when I’m done working I want to go home and read Somerset Maugham. When your girlfriend’s around you can’t just sit and read. Ever notice that? She has to have your attention. It’s like the book has come between you and her. Oh, she might let you get in a few pages but then she has to say something: “How’s your book?” Or, “What’s so funny?” Or, here’s the best one: “Are you going to be reading long?” She’s jealous of the book! She says, “We’re apart all day and when you come home all you want to do is read.” Yes! That’s all I want to do. Is that a crime? It helps me relax, takes me away. I feel things when I read. Inside. She can’t stand that, my girlfriend. That a book can touch me where she can’t.
From “Rice Krispie Hour”
Remember the time somebody stole Tommy Parker’s baseball mitt and we found it in the toilet with a turd on top? You played Perry Mason ’cause your dad was a lawyer and I played Paul Drake ’cause . . . well, ’cause we were buddies, and we called the mystery, “The Case Of The Turded Mitt.” You interviewed all the boys in camp, and the older guys thought you were this little turkey, but you didn’t let that stop you. And eventually, you solved the case! The biggest bully in camp had turded the mitt. Ted Alberger. We all made fun of him after that. Called him Ted Turdberger. “Hey Turdberger, how’s it hangin’? Wanna play ball, Turdberger?” You were a hero. And we were best friends. God . . . the summers lasted so much longer then.
From “Rice Krispie Hour”
My sister was a legend here. The girl who always won the talking contests, could hold the most marshmallows in her mouth . . . that was Anne-Marie. She dove off the cliff where there was absolutely no diving. Naturally she was the first to lose her virginity. And not to just any boy, she laid Big Jack Duryea. He was a legend himself, even then. A lot of people think Jack is this macho pig, but he has a good heart. He picks flowers for Anne-Marie. He takes them up to the clearing on Cedar Ridge – I think that’s where they did it – then he goes down to Otter Point and lets a few float out on the tide. That’s where we spread her ashes. She asked us to do that. She sat in the park with a flashlight writing notes to everyone she loved. She said she knew we loved her, she just couldn’t love herself. . . .
I make myself go out to the rifle range. I make myself lie down with a twenty-two calibre rifle in my hands. I squeeze the trigger. I know when it’s about to fire. You can feel that. I take a short breath and hold it, and the noise of the other rifles fades out, and time seems to stop. There’s this fine line: holding tight, letting go. Anne-Marie crossed over the line, that’s all. That was just like her.
From “Second Coming”
How did I get so confused? How did I get . . . when I was growing up, I was taught to open doors for girls. But when I was growing up, girls wanted to open their own doors. Not all girls. And not all the time. Sometimes, some girls wanted me to open the door. When I was growing up, Captain Kangaroo was on T.V. in the morning and the Vietnam War was on at night. Mr. Moose dropped pingpong balls on Captain Kangaroo and the U.S. Airforce dropped bombs on North Vietnam, and from way, way up in the air, the puffs of smoke from bombs landing on North Vietnamese looked pretty much like pingpong balls. My anti-war cousin was a “hippie,” who smoked dope and slept with mangy boys, so I was taught that hippies were bad. Her older brother had been a “beatnik” and lolled endlessly on the couch with dirty clothes but he was considered okay now, so even though I loved her and still felt greasy when I lay on the couch, she was bad. If you were bad in school when I was growing up, you got sent to the principal: Mr. Vincent. Mr. Vincent was an ex-marine. Mr. Vincent said you could remember how to spell “principal” correctly because he was your “pal.” Prin-ci-pal. Mr. Vincent had this paddle, with the school name carved into it, so if you were bad enough to get sent to the the prin-ci-pal chances were you would get the school name emblazoned across your ass. How did I get so . . . what was the question?
© 2001 Richard Carter