Sky full of stars

Written by Mrs.Gaudin

I remember the day distinctly.  I was waiting for my French cousin to join me for dinner at La Hacienda in Santa Fe when I hatched a most brilliant plan.  You see, my cousin and I have been rivals since the ripe old age of 4.  We used to race to the mailbox, jostle to get the closest seat to my grandmother at church, and we even held a liver and onion eating contest even though neither of us could even stand to smell liver let alone eat it.  It was all in the name of glory.  So when my cousin told me he was coming to visit me from France the wheels began turning.  

I admit, I was jealous.  Pierre, at 23 was the founder and CEO of Informatique, a French software company that supplied NASA with the latest computer software.  He was easily a billionaire.  I was no slouch, having finished my PhD in neuropsychology from UC Davis but I wasn’t exactly Daddy Warbucks.  However, I was a really good skier.  I was secretly training with the Olympic team and they had selected me as an alternate.  This was the ace up my sleeve.  Although Pierre was a good skier, this was a competition where I was going to be the champion.  

I had prepped Lou, the bartender at La Hacienda.  He was going to start a little wager in the restaurant between me and Pierre.  We have some regular customers that really can’t resist a good, healthy bet.  Take Jim Smiley, for instance, that man will bet on anything. Why one time he even bet on how long it would take a Straddlebug to get to Mexico.  That man is crazy. Anyway, here is what we came up with: I would get Pierre to agree to race me on Devil’s Peak.  This is a double black diamond slope that goes straight down the chair lift.  Hundreds of people will be watching as we fly down the slope at 100 mph.  There is one tricky spot that requires a quick turn and jump or you will land in the trees.  I know this run like the back of my hand, why I could even go down it blindfolded I know it that well.  Pierre on the other hand will be unaware.  Like a newborn baby breathing his first breath, Pierre will be shocked and awed and then he will disappear into the trees and I will be the winner!  Ha!

So Pierre finally arrived and we greeted each other for the first time in 10 years.  

“Salut Pierre.  Comment ca va? T’as fais un bon voyage? Tu n’est pas trop fatiguer?”

“Salut Silvie. Non je ne suis pas du tout fatiguer.  Je me suis bien reposer sur le vol dans mon petit avion privé.”

There he went again-bragging.  I had not seen him in 10 years and he starts off with how well rested he was after flying in his own private lear jet.  I was already getting irritated.  I told him all about my grant for research on studying how brain waves can predict how well people will respond to psychological treatment for drug additions.  I told him how I had met with President Obama to discuss my very important research findings and how my research was published in Science Journal and I how was going to be nominated for a Nobel prize this year.  He was nonplussed.  Everything I had done he had already done better.  So I got mad.  

I knew Pierre had a low tolerance for spicy-me on the other hand I could eat a pound of ghost peppers and not even shed a solitary tear.  As soon as Pierre got up from the table to go make a very important phone call, I asked Lucia our server to bring me the hottest salsa they had. I swapped out the wimpy salsa with the uberspicy one and waited for Pierre to come back.  I couldn’t wait. Then he took a big old dip of salsa-opened his mouth wide and the chip slid into his mouth like a train into a tunnel-and two seconds later steam came out of his ears and hot tears squeezed from his eyes and his hands formed into fists like two anvils.  And then he spewed hot lava fire from his mouth as he threw up the contents of his deluxe lunch he had on his deluxe plane ride from elegant Paris.  Unfortunately he vomited on his very chic tie that was completely ruined since it was a dreamy cream white-as creamy white as the Dove bars in the commercials on TV.  I had gone too far.  I could see revenge in his eyes.  He was going to get me-and good.  What I didn’t know was where or when. And this was the unfortunate moment that Lou decided to plant the seeds for our little ski competition.

“So Silvia, is this your French cousin?”

“Sure is.  Pierre this is Lou, Lou, Pierre.”

“Bienviendo, hope you enjoy your stay.”

“Merci and enchante”.

“So Pierre-do you ski?”

“Why yes, I do. Why do you ask?”

“Well, we have some halfway decent slopes here in Santa Fe.”

“Oh really?  I am sure they are not nearly as good as ze French alps.”

“Well, that may be but what do you say to a little competition between you and Silvia?”

“Oh I do not know-I would hate to embarrasse er.”

“You know Lou, I haven’t skied in a while.”

“Ah c’mon it’ll be fun.”

At this point Jim Smiley approaches our table.

“So I heerd you is having a friendly like little ski competition.  I’ll bet 25 buckaroos on the French fella.”

“Fifty dollars on Silvia!” yelled Tom Sims.  

“One hundred on Frenchie.” replied Jim.  

At this point the restaurant exploded in people shouting bets.  The Mariachi band which was playing in the other room was making their way towards us and the music was getting louder and louder.  Suddenly they were right in front of us.  With one final ear blasting trumpet the music stopped and the whole restaurant was quiet.  You could hear a pin drop. Ding-Lou dropped a quarter into my margarita glass on the table.

“So what’ll it be?”

“OK-Devil’s Peak-tomorrow-10 am.”

“Oui-let’s do it.”

The crowd exploded in a cacophony of voices. They sounded like flamingos at a discotheque.   I chewed on my hair-what did I get myself into?

The next day was picture perfect.  Not a cloud in the sky-the air a crisp 30 degrees.  I got to the chair lift right at 9:30.  I was sporting my tie dyed ski tights and matching helmet.  I was ready to go.  But Pierre was not there.  At 9:45 there was quite a crowd.  Still no Pierre.  At 9:59 there were 1000 plus people and still no Pierre.  I was getting mad-just like Pierre to make a grand entrance and steal my thunder. At 10:05 the chair lift operator gets a call-Pierre was already up on the slope waiting for me.  Apparently he thought we were meeting at the top.  I quick hopped on the next chair.  My stomach was all butterflies and I was trying to calm my nerves hoping for a tranquil ride up to the top.  

No such luck-I am seated next to a garrulous gentleman of 60.  He won’t shut up.  He is going on and on and on about how excited he is to be skiing.  He broke his knee roller-blading with his granddaughter and hadn’t skied in over two years.  He is from El Paso and loves the snow.  He has been skiing since he was six and he spent his honeymoon skiing with his wife here in Santa Fe.  And blah, blah, blah-he went on.  At one point I could no longer take it so I politely asked him to be quiet.  I explained I was competing in a race down Devil’s Peak against my cousin.

“Ah so you are the young lady racing against the French gentleman.”  

“Yep that is me and I really need to focus because there is a tough jump and I want to ace it.”

“I was in the restaurant last night and I wish you all the best. You know my wife and I skied down Devil’s Peak on our honeymoon.  It was the last run of our first day and we were racing down to the chair lift to get one last run in when she flew past me, broke through the orange netting and disappeared into the trees.  I thought I lost her.  She was lying flat on her back not responding-turned out she was in shock that she survived and was busy checking to see if she had broken anything….blah, blah blah.”

So much for my zen moment before the race.  


As we approached the top we prepared to land-bar up, ski tips up, look at the horizon-3-2-1.  I broke right and the garrulous stranger broke left and whoosh I hit ice-right out of the box.  I landed flat on my back with a thump. And there I went sliding past my cousin Pierre who had a devilish smirk on his face, I skyrocketed off the ledge and down Devil’s Peak on my fanny.  Everyone on the lift was watching me.  I started flipping and turning-I became a giant snowball. I jettisoned my poles-I lost a ski-I somehow lost a boot.  Down I went.  I started catching speed-Oh no-I thought-here comes the monstruos jump.  I hit the jump backwards-did a double back flip-I was airborne flying up towards a sky full of stars-somehow I landed on one ski-then-slalom!  I schussed straight down the slope. I executed perfect form as approached the end of the run.  The crowd is going nuts.  I swear there are 50,000 people there.  The crowd looked like a colony of ants swarming; they roared like a pride of lions; I streaked across the finish line, the crowd went wild as I turned and sidecut to a perfect stop on one ski, spraying powder everywhere.  And that is how Tom Sims got the idea for the snowboard.

So I won.  Pierre arrived 10 minutes later fuming mad.  It turns out he got to the top early to pour water so it would be a patch of ice when I landed.  He also paid the garrulous gentleman to distract me and force me to sit on the right-so I would hit the ice patch perfectly.  After that day he never spoke to me again and that is the end of my tale, believe or not.