Shishir (Winter) 2019, Short Stories - Robert Steward



The Skiing Trip

By Robert Steward


La Molina, Spain 2001


‘That was a great run, wasn’t it?’ I said, trying to catch my breath.

‘Awesome, Rob,’ David replied.‘Much better than the red.’

David was my colleague from Brighton Language School in Barcelona.He was quiet,serious; the type of person who did things properly. Hecertainly looked the part in front of therugged,snow-cladmountains of thePyrenees with hismirrored wrap-around ski goggles, blue salopettes and matching skiing jacket. My tracksuit, scarf and leather jacket were somewhat lacking in comparison.

The guys from Wall Street Englishjoined us at the bottom of the slope.

‘Wow!’ one of them whooped. ‘Let’s do it again!’

‘It’s getting a bit late,’ David said, looking at his watch. ‘Our train’s at twenty after five.’

‘We’ll be okay,’ one of the others said. ‘If we’re quick.’

The three guys squeezed into one ski lift, while David and I sat in the one behind.

The lift edged up the mountain between two rows of pine trees, occasionally stopping altogether, leaving us in complete silence. The sky was still a brilliant blue, and the sun shone through the snow-covered branches.

‘It’s lucky we don’t have to work Fridays at Brighton,’ I said.‘It must get pretty crowded here at the weekend.’

‘Yeah, I can imagine,’ David replied.

‘So, how do you know the guys from Wall Street?’

‘I used to work with John in Canada--before I moved to Barcelona.’

‘Which one’s John again?’

‘The tall one with the white jacket.’

As the ski lift reached the top, we lifted the safety bar and dangled our skis over the edge. After a day’s skiing, my legs felt like lead.

‘Right, let’s go,’ David said, and jumped off.

I pushed off onto the snow and tried to keep my balance.

The piste looked like it had been dusted with icing sugar.

‘Where are the others?’ I asked.

‘Isn’t that them down there?’ David pointed.

Snaking down the mountain were three dark figures, one behind the other, rising and dipping, but always going further and further down until they were out of sight.

David adjusted his goggles.

‘Okay, see you at the bottom,’ he said and launched himself down the slope.

I pushed backwards with my ski poles and followed his mazy tracks. The crisp wind stung my cheeks as I swayed from one side of the piste to the other. The snow made a crunching sound beneath my skis. It was turning icy. While the sun dropped behind the mountains, the sky became darker, and it began to snow.
David was waiting for me at the top of the next run.

‘We’d better hurry,’ he said, looking at his watch. ‘We’re cutting it a bit fine.’

I launched off again and zigzagged down the mountain. The wind picked up, and the snowflakes flew into my eyes. I hit an icy patch. My hands clung onto the ski poles as I did a sort of star jump in the air and somehow landed on my feet and regainedcontrol. A shot of adrenalin fizzed through my body,clenching my stomach muscles and turningmy legs to jelly. I didn’t know whether it was a feeling excitement or fear.

That was close!

After that exhibition, I took it easy for the last descent, making slow, decisive movements with the skis and poles, cutting and piercing the icy white snow, going down, down and further down to the shimmering lights of the ski station.

The bottom of the slope was full of skiers. Some waited for friends, some snapped off their skis and stamped the snow off their boots, some messed around in the snow.It was a riot of colour and excitement. I looked around for the others.

‘Hello! Hello! Excuse me!’ A voice came from behind me.

It was a middle-aged man with a German accent. He lifted his ski goggles onto his forehead, revealing suntan rings round his eyes.

‘Yes?’ I looked up.

‘I think one of your friends has broken his leg.’

‘Sorry?’ I replied, wondering who he was.

‘Look.’ He pointed with his ski pole.

A skier lay flat in the snow, with David by his side.

‘Thanks,’ I said, and shuffled towards them.

The skier had a white skiing jacket. It was John. He seemed quite calm, but couldn’t hide the pain etched on his face.

‘Hey, are you okay?’ I asked.

My stomach felt hollow.

‘It’s my leg,’ he gasped.

‘The others have gone to call the medics,’ David said.

It wasn’t long before they returned and took him to the medical centre nearby.


Inside the wood-panelled building, the receptionist sat behind a desk, tapping away at acomputer. On the wall behind her hung framed medical certificates. David and the other two guys sat in the only three chairs available, while I stood by the window. It felt awkward standing in ski boots; they made your legs bend and weighed a tonne.Outside was dark, and the lights reflected off the white crystalline snow.

I remembered my fall earlier that day, rememberedthe feeling of going faster and faster, of not being in control, of trying to hold on and then suddenly spilling, of going over and over until finally coming to a rest, with snow in my eyes, ears,mouth and nose. When I looked up, there was a line of skiers waiting for the ski lift. Another few inches and I would have taken them all out.

‘Oopla!’ I said, looking up.

They didn’t look impressed.

Just then, two doors swung open as the medics wheeled in a trolley. John lay on the stretcher, holding a portable credit card machine, struggling to press the numbers on the keypad.

‘What’s he doing?’ I whispered to David.

‘He doesn’t have any insurance,’ he replied through the side of his mouth.

Neither did I.

‘Do you work here in Spain?’ asked one of the medics.

‘Yeah,’ John replied, handing over the small device. ‘I work for Wall StreetLanguage Schoolin Barcelona.’

‘So, you have a tarjeta sanitaria then?’

‘Er yeah, but it’s at home,’ he grimaced.

‘Okay, so you need to call your school and ask for your NIE number.’

There was an awkward silence.

‘Um, it’s just that I called in sick today--with a bellyache.’

‘I’m sorry, but without the number, we can’t call an ambulance,’ the medic insisted.

‘Oh, you’re joking,’ I whispered to David. ‘How’s he going to explain that to his manager?’

David shook his head.

‘By the way,’ the medic looked up, surveying the rest of us. ‘Only two people can travel with the patient in the ambulance.’


David and I clambered down the steep rugged hill in the darkness.The ski station shimmeredfaintly above us.

‘Look, there’s some lights down there,’ I shouted against the wind. ‘That must be the main road.’

We tumbled down through the long snow-covered grass until we finally arrived at the roadside. The streetlamps cast silhouettes of us walking on the tarmac. I heard the rumble of a truck and awkwardly stuck out my thumb. Looking up, the truck roared past. I felt deflated. A car whizzed by, and then another. Finally, an old Ford slowed down, so I ran up to it.

‘Osllevo?’ the driver called out, his breath rising up through the cold, evening air.

‘Sí, gracias,’ I replied.


Insidesmelled of smoke; the interior looked worn and faded. The driver worea purple hoodie, and his short hair was just a little longer than his patchy stubble.He put the car into gear, glanced into the rearview mirror and drove off with a stutter. He started singing to a Spanish song on the radioabout kissing a girl called Ines.

‘De dondeestais?’ he asked.

‘Yo soy ingles.’ I replied, rubbing my hands together.

‘Y yo soy de Canada,’ David called out from the back seat.

‘English and Canadian, eh? So, what are you doing here?’

‘We’ve been skiing at La Molina.’ I pointed tothe mountain.

He looked at me a little unconvinced.Maybe it was my leather jacket.

‘I wonder how John is.’ I turned round.

‘Probably halfway to Barcelona by now,’ David said.

‘I can’t believe they wouldn’t let us come in the ambulance.’

The driver looked at me with a furrowed brow.

‘So, where are you going?’

‘We want to go to Barcelona,’ I said. ‘We missed our train from the ski station, so we want to get to-- ’

‘Barcelona?’ the driver cried, slamming on the brakes.‘Joder!’

The driver slowed the car down until it came to a halt.

‘What’s wrong?’ I asked, slightly alarmed.

‘Barcelona, my friend,’ he said turning to me with both hands on the steering wheel, ‘is in the opposite direction!’



Robert Steward from UK, teaches English as a foreign language and lives in London. He is currently writing a collection of short stories, several of which have appeared in online literary magazines, including: Scrittura, The Creative Truth, The Ink Pantry, Adelaide and The Foliate Oak.


Our Contributors !!

Some of our writers!

  • We occassionally invite writers to send their musings. Do send in your work, and we will host it here.
  • Do visit the Submit page to submit your work.