by Don Two
An ice skating marathon where the judges get fooled.
|Along with those bone-buckling, freezing temperatures well below zero, the windchill in Friesland can stop a heart, or solidify the skin of an exposed chin in seconds. It is not uncommon to see faceless people bundled in fur-lined parkas, moving cautiously like multi-layered automatons, trudging, heavy-footed, in bunny boots through drifts of snow. Yet despite this inhospitable environment, Friesland played host to the largest skating marathon.
The objective was simple: to be the couple who could skate the longest. Essentially, it was a dance marathon, except on ice, in skates, and outside. And since Friesland is way up north--further north than Iceland, even--there wasn’t much sun that time of year; just a few hours worth. But no matter. The ice rink had a magnificent series of mercury lights on panels held high by silver poles. Thus, all the skaters were well lit. They just had to keep skating, except for a five minute break each hour, wherein each hour was referred to as a “frame.”
First prize for winning the marathon was a Norwegian Cruise, and Ice-T and his wife, Crystal, meant to do just that. Spiritual rapture--that’s was skating was to Crystal. Gliding across the ice, she was the grace of Sonja Henie, the allure and grace of Peggy Fleming and Dorothy Hamill, the athletic energy of Tara Lipinsky and the interpretive perfection of Torvill and Dean’s Bolero.
T recently learned to skate because he knew how much it meant to Crystal, and she meant everything to him. She was the saffron burst of spring anemone, the refractive violet wavelengths of the aurora borealis, the energizing electric surge and spark in his spine. He would skate with her, and she with him, arm in arm, hand in hand.
Somewhere into the umpteenth hour, as they were gliding backwards on the opaque ice, Crystal said to T:
“Hold my hand.”
T developed a rictus grin, but did not second-guess his face for an instant, safe and secure behind his woolen stocking mask.
“I am holding it, dear.”
Crystal looked at the union of thick, blue mittens, then beamed a thoughtful brown eye through her woolen mask. White, frozen air floated like a lost soul in regret of a womanly sigh. T looked to the other end of the rink and saw just one other couple left skating.
“Hey, babe, it’s just them and us now.” He motioned in their direction.
Crystal tossed them a quick look, then pulled closer to T.
“Well, now that we’re down to just two couples, we’ll get an energy drink at our next break.”
T’s rictus grin disappeared, but only he knew that it did.
“An energy drink?” T’s questioning voice was unusually low.
Crystal went on to explain what T had not known, and what was in the fine details and in the small print--which T obviously hadn’t read. When only two couples were left, at the next five minute break, both couples would receive an energy tea, served in a mug.
And so, at the next break, both couples went to the break area. Just before the energy tea was served, T noticed the three judges conferring, and T thought they were acting a bit oddly. T eyed them suspiciously, yet he did so with subtlety, without drawing attention to himself. T got bad vibes, and he swore to himself that he discerned dirty looks. Maybe he was imagining things, so he tried to dismiss his suspicions.
Meanwhile, Crystal had been down at the other end of the table, near the other couple and near the judges. When she came back to rejoin T, they looked at each other, and T noticed a frozen tear right below her eye. Just as he was about to say something, the judge brought them their mugs with the energy tea. Even before they took a sip, they were both gripped with a feeling of betrayal--the drinks were cold. Crystal whispered in T’s ear:
“The other couple got hot drinks. I’m going to the judges...”
T grabbed her arm. She resisted.
“I heard them make some snide comments, too,” she whispered, a bit more urgently.
T was inexorable: “Let it go, Crystal, trust me.”
Two weeks later :
Crystal and T leaned against the rail of the cruise ship, having won the marathon, breathed in the salt-sea air and gazed in fascination at the rugged splendor of the fjords. Crystal again gave T his due:
“That was quick thinking on your part, hon. I would have said something to the judges for sure!”
T grinned assuredly: “Yeah, in their attempt to freeze us out of the competition, they screwed up, all right, and their plan backfired on them. The hotter the liquid, the faster it freezes. Our drinks were cold, but at least we got to drink them.”
Crystal’s face lit up. “Ah, yes, and that explains the expression on their faces; frozen in astonishment!”
The huge ship sailed proudly past the magnificent fjords of Norway.
Writer’s Cramp Winner