On the Peak to Peak Express

By Carolyn Light Bell

here we were, on the Peak to Peak Express, sniffing the air, inhaling the grandeur of the rugged dramatic Blackcomb and Whistler mountains in British Columbia, innocently discussing a friend’s divorce, when a starkly handsome young man caught my eyes and held them.

 

“Would you do me a favor?” he asked in an Australian accent, favor sounding more like fiva.

“Sure, what?”

 

“Would you take my picture here?” Definitely an Aussie. Take came out as tyke between his perfect teeth.

 

“I’d be happy to.”

 

My skiing companion and I traded looks.

 

“But first,” he added, “I have to get something out of my pocket and put it on.”

 

I knew something strange was about to happen and began to feel wary.

 

A sign above his head read: This is the longest and highest single gondola ride in the world.

Anything might happen. There was time.

 

I established my boundaries immediately. “You’re not going to strip, are you?”

 

“Oh no,” he said, reaching deep into the nether regions of his belongings. I’m not sure from where exactly, he pulled out and unfolded an enormous rubber horse’s head. It was a very large, grotesque head, with wide flaring nostrils, mouth agape, and huge teeth set in a decidedly hungry expression.

The man handed me his camera.

 

“Show me where to push it,” I said.

 

The man, in a colorful confetti-decorated snow jacket, closed my hand over the proper button and posed in various postures, cheesecake-like, crumpling his silky, confetti-decorated jacket under him. Whistler Peak with its single Black Tusk loomed up behind him. I snapped several shots, centering them as close to the middle of his huge long nose as possible in the little green square on his tiny digital screen. Perspective was distorted since his horse head was enormous and our space confined. His beastly mane was framed by vast, snow-covered slopes.

 

My friend, a horse woman, whinnied.

 

He was encouraged. He cocked his horsey head at her, removed his rubber mask, and grinned with the surprise of joy. Maskless, his face had the sculpted bones of a Grecian and the ruddy cheeks of an Italian.

 

I handed the camera back to him. “I hope those will work for you,” I said.

 

My friend was still whinnying impatiently, probably waiting to get out of the barn. He handed her the horse head. She struggled to put it on.

 

“Now I’ll take your picture,” he said. Dressed entirely in black, she donned her black gloves for hooves, reared up on her hind legs, and pawed the air, snorting loudly. I was dwarfed beneath her stallion-like wildness. Terrified, thrilled, and amused, I whinnied too.

 

She sat down, removed the mask, and returned it to him. He was impressed. She had outdone him.

 

He put the horse head on again. “May I ask you to do me one more favor?  This is where it gets a bit pornographic.”

 

“You’re not going to strip, are you?” This time it was a dare.

 

“No, no.”

 

“Well, all right then.”

 

He stretched out on the bench, heavy ski boots clunking down on the metal seat, assuming a seductive pose. His outer arm lay at rest along his ski-panted leg. His other arm was bent under his head, to keep it from lolling about in the pitch and sway of the gondola.

 

He lay there without moving. Benign. Maybe even smug. I pushed the little silver button. Snowy mountains behind him remained stately, remote, and quiet. The tram rocked. His horsiness sat up, took off his mask, and spoke. “I’ve had my picture taken all over with this horse head on.” He handed me his camera proudly, displaying shots from Cairo to Madrid.

 

The photographs were dark and opaque in the glare of winter sun shining through the tram windows. “Interesting,” I said. “Why?”

 

“I’m in the horse business. I buy and sell Arabians.” He lowered his gallant head and tucked his folded mask back somewhere deep within the folds of his heavy clothing.

 

“Oh,” I said. I wanted to ask, “What are you doing later?”

 

The gondola reached its mid-peak destination. We all stood up, skis, poles, and boards in hand, returning to our less equine roles.

 

Somewhere in the whistle of high wind, high in the Douglas firs, I’ll be listening for his whinnying as he thunders down the slopes.

 

 

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I reside in the Midwest where I trade off being an educator, writer and photographer. My website is onelightsource@comcast.net.  My work has appeared in Amarillo Bay, Big Muddy, Blue Buildings, Croton Review, Great Midwestern Quarterly, Grey Sparrow, The Griffin, Kansas Quarterly, Limestone, Louisiana Literature, Milkweed Quarterly, Minnesota Memories, Minnesota Women’s Press, Northern Plains Quarterly, The Paterson Literary Review, Phoebe, Praxis, Reform Judaism, Response, RiverSedge, Tales of the Unanticipated.    


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