Photo: Keith Channing
The sky was blue when they headed out. Crisp, cold, dry, and sunny, it was the perfect day for some easy back-country skiing.
They planned to be home by lunch.
They did not plan on the weather turning. On clouds so low and so fast that they’d reached zero visibility in almost no time at all.
Joshua could see that Daniel was two steps away from panic. That would not do. Not with the children with them.
“Take the rear,” Joshua ordered.
If Daniel frowned at his bossy tone, the heavy fog covered it. Joshua stood his ground, literally, till Daniel maneuvered his skis so he was behind the two youngest. Good enough.
Joshua took a breath and tried to get a read from the weather. It was probably best to shelter in place till the fog lifted, but if the weather was about to get worse, it was better they got back before conditions deteriorated further.
There was no way to know for sure, but his gut’s tightening signaled that the latter option was the one to take. His hand tightened around the compass hanging from his pocket. He’d need it.
“Mark! Sally!” he cupped his hands and called for the two older children who, true to form, used any break in skiing for a snowball fight. The wind snatched his voice and he realized that it, too, had gotten worse in the last few minutes.
“Daniel, get them!” he shouted. “Timmy, Ronny, Sid, and Shirley, stay close to me.”
Shirley nodded and clung to his arm. “Are we going to Avalanche?” her voice shook.
“Avalanche isn’t a place, honey,” he replied over the thunder in his chest. “It’s when a lot of snow slides down the mountain. We’re not in an avalanche zone, so you don’t need to worry.”
“But it’s all white,” she sniffled, “and I’m cold.”
“I know, little one. The weather turned on us. We’ll get everyone in line and we’ll get moving and you’ll soon get warm. Timmy, Ron, and Sid, you okay back there?”
The boys nodded unconvincingly.
Daniel herded Mark and Sally closer to the rest and sandwiched them between the younger children and himself.
“Let’s go!” Joshua yelled, his voice barely audible in the whistling wind. “Keep your eyes on the person in front of you. Daniel, use your whistle if you need help.”
Daniel lifted his ski in response.
Joshua concentrated on the compass, on the next few steps. Everything he loved in this world was behind him. The white settled all around and he felt small. Like when he was ten and the world had come down around him in a tumble.
He shook the memory away.
This time he was not going to Avalanche.
He was going to get them — all of them — home.
For Kreative Kue 239
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