I can hear the wind howl outside like the roar of North Shore winter waves back home in Hawai‘i. I shiver, wrap my hands around my half-empty cup. I’m sitting next to an older gentleman who’s fueling up with some steaming hot coffee too. He asks me what I do for a living. I tell him I’m an English teacher, and that I also write fiction and a little poetry, trying to break into the professional literary world.
He says he’s officially a retired writer. Me, I want to write stories right up until the day I die. I never thought of opting out.
“Well kid,” he says, “if you’re gonna tell a story, you gotta remember that time decays, you know? That’s an important idea. People need to know that. They like to read about that kind of thing too.”
He gives me a scrutinizing look, and there’s a follow-up question behind it, like he’s wondering if I catch his drift.
He says, “You know, right, that summer’s honey breath ain’t gonna hold out, as they say?”
I nod. I do get it, even if, apparently, I look like I don’t.
“Yes sir, I do. Time’s running out.”
“Yeah, kid, and I can see you’re still in the summer, while me, I’m just about to hit the slopes, skis in hand.”
I laugh. He looks at me like I’ve hurt his feelings.
“You think dying is funny, kid?” he asks.
“No sir, I do not. It’s just that your way of describing how you’re heading into winter, the image of you with your skis, it was funny.”
“Nothing funny about it, kid. I could break my neck out there and not enjoy a full last quarter.”
“The metaphor, kid. There are four seasons. It’s like a basketball game that’s got four quarters. Winter’s the fourth quarter. I may be old, but I wanna experience the whole 15 minutes right down to the final damn buzzer.”
I want to at least smile. But I don’t. This guy maybe doesn’t get how funny he is. Kind of a tragedy if you ask me, him being retired from writing and all. With stuff this good, he should still be typing away. Funny, especially, is hard to write.
“Anyway, kid,” he says, “I’m headed out into that blizzard now. See you, hopefully, at the end of the run.”
End of the run. Another way of looking at it. Like a marathon finishing up. Break the tape and it’s sayonara time.
I nod, thank him for his good advice. “Take care out there,” I say, watching him pick up his skis from the rack and trudge outside. The image is an exact match of what I’d pictured. I want to laugh again. But I don’t. The snow really is falling pretty fast. The conditions could be treacherous. We could all break our necks out there.
I want to make it to winter too, enjoy my final full fifteen minutes. Maybe even finish with a stunning buzzer beater from half-court. Maybe my all-net novel.
Still, dangerous or not, I like it here at Vail. Colorado has always been my favorite place to hit the slopes.