I finished patching up one section of the roof and eyed it critically. It should hold up to weather. The thought made me glance up towards the sky. The clouds were still low, grey, and threatening, but there was no snowfall just yet. It would hold off for another couple hours, I was pretty sure.
Good. We’d have enough time to finish reshingling the roof before the storm hit.
I glanced over at my father and saw that he was still working on his section of the roof. I was glad that he’d been able to help me today; otherwise, I would never have been able to get it all done in time, not on my own. But Dad was always good to lend a hand. Even though he and I were never very close.
I glanced up again, wondering just how much snow we would get from this new storm. It had been a snowy year here in Park City. One of the better ski years, actually. Which was a damned good thing, given how warm and dry the previous winter had been. Things had finally gotten good in early April, right as the resort was getting ready to close for the season.
A lot of the locals had been frustrated when the resort declined to extend the season in light of that late snowfall. No one really understood just how high the operation costs were to keep those lifts spinning and keep workers at the hill. And since most of the late-season business came from season-pass holders, it just didn’t make sense to keep it all open.
But this year was off to a much better start, and hopefully the snow would keep on coming.
“Winter’s really going to hit hard this year, isn’t it?” Dad asked suddenly, echoing my thoughts.
“Sure looks that way,” I agreed.
He raised an eyebrow at me. “You don’t sound very excited about that,” he said. “I would have thought the prospect of a good season would get you more excited than that.”
“Busy season just means more work for the ski lodge,” I reminded him. Sure, it would mean that I’d hopefully get a little good skiing in. But I was looking at a few stand-out runs from the season, nothing more than that. I could only head up to the hill while Ethan was at school, which meant afternoons were already gone. The busier work got, the less time I’d have to enjoy time on the hill in the mornings too.
I expected Dad to comment on that. Maybe to say something about my work ethic or my responsibilities. But he stayed silent, and we finished up the roofing without any more conversation except about the work that we were doing. And even that was sparse.
I sighed internally, hoping that I would never reach a point like this with Ethan. But then, I smiled to myself; of course I wouldn’t. Ethan, little chatterbox that he was, would never let a minute go by in silence.
We finished with the roof just as the first of the snowflakes landed on the tip of my nose. I glanced back up at the sky as I packed up my tools. Dark and grey. A real storm, then. I knew the forecast had been calling for as much as twelve feet of snow when the storm hit land up in Washington state, but I hadn’t seen the latest on either what they had got or what we could expect down here. Sure looked like a lot, though.
As we climbed down the ladder and kicked dirt off our shoes, Ethan came running out of the house. “It’s snowing, it’s snowing!” he cried, pointing up at the sky.
I laughed. “I see that, buddy,” I said.
Dad crouched down so that he was almost at Ethan’s height. “Should we make a bet?” he asked, grinning at the boy. “How much snow do you think we’re going to get tonight?”
“A lot,” Ethan said, scrunching up his face as he thought. “Maybe fourteen inches,” he finally said. “And if I’m right, you have to make sugar on snow!”
Dad laughed. “Sure thing,” he said, shaking hands with the young boy.
Yet again, I wondered why Dad was never more talkative with me. Watching him with my son, it was like he was an entirely different person. Sometimes, in my darker moments, it made me wonder what it was that I had done to make Dad dislike me the way that he sometimes seemed to. But I knew that wasn’t fair. This was just the way that Dad’s and my relationship had always been.
Really, I was just glad that he didn’t shut Ethan out. He seemed to enjoy the kid’s company just as much as Ethan enjoyed his Gramps’ company, which was a relief since there were times when I got called up to the mountain for some emergency maintenance when Ethan wasn’t at school, times when I didn’t have a chance to hunt down a babysitter for him.
It was always a relief to have Dad around at those times.
Like right now, in fact. My phone buzzed as Dad and Ethan chatted about the storm. Ethan was telling Dad all about how excited he was to go skiing again that year, and Dad was telling him that maybe we could build a little ski hill in the backyard until I got the chance to take the boy up on the hill after this storm. I didn’t have the heart to remind both of them that Park City snow was usually too dry to pack together into a small hill like that. Let them dream.
Anyway, Dad was an engineer. He was probably already counting on the dry snow and figuring out how to inject it with the perfect amount of water to hold it together but still keep it from icing. Let them dream and scheme.
I answered my phone. “Hello?”
“Hey, Adam,” Gretchen, my boss, said. “We just got a call that there’s a problem with a pipe in one of the rental condos on the resort. One of the Pine Ridge ones. I know we’ve got this big storm that’s just about to come through, so the sooner we can get things fixed, the better. They don’t have any hot water at the moment, and you know what that means to our guests.”
I fought the urge to roll my eyes. I understood it: not having any hot water sucked. But from Gretchen’s tone, I could tell that whoever was in the condo was acting like a lack of hot water was equivalent to the apocalypse, and like we were idiots for not getting things fixed for them sooner.
Of course, given how rich and spoiled a lot of the clientele were, especially the ones who could afford to stay on the mountain at the new ski-in-ski-out condos, this was probably as close to the apocalypse as they had ever felt.
“Sure thing, I’ll be over there as soon as possible,” I said, glancing over at Dad and Ethan. “Dad, would you mind hanging out with Ethan for the afternoon?” I asked, holding my hand over the speaker on the phone. When there was last-minute work like this on the hill, I usually brought Ethan with me. He had all the guest services workers wrapped around his finger, and he always came away with stickers and candies. Plus, not a visit seemed to pass without him getting to hang out with the snow patrol dog.
But it was a little different when I was fixing things up in the condos. No one had ever told me that I couldn’t bring Ethan with me when there might be clients around, but to be honest, I didn’t really want him around a lot of the hoity toity clients. Not that I thought that he would ever act half as spoiled as some of them.
Fortunately, Dad nodded at me. “No problem,” he said. I could see his brows knit together, like he was curious about what the mountain needed now. But I also knew that he would never actually ask me anything about it. Depending on how frustrating the job turned out to be, I might end up telling him about it later. But somehow, despite the fact that his work wasn’t all that different from mine, he just never seemed to care what I was up to on the mountain.
As I headed over to Pine Ridge, I tried to think about what the problem with the pipes could be. We had tested everything earlier in the season, before we started moving in guests, and things had appeared to be working fine. I wondered if one of them had frozen somewhere along the line and made a face just thinking about it. The last thing we needed was burst pipes right in the middle of a storm like this.
I glanced up at the sky. The flakes were starting to fall faster now. Faster and thicker, quickly coating me in white. Hopefully whatever was wrong, it was either an easy and quick fix or else something that I could fix from indoors. But I didn’t get a job working for a ski resort without figuring that there would be some cold and downright miserable days in there. Such was work with Mother Nature.
Still, despite the random hours, challenges, and everything else, I wouldn’t have traded it for the world. Especially not since it meant I got to live here in Park City, and raise Ethan here. Soon, his weekly race program would start up again, and there was nothing better than knowing that you could support a lifestyle for your kid where half of their interpersonal relationship learning happened out in the mountains, breathing in the fresh air.
I knocked on the door at the address that Gretchen had given me. A buxom blonde answered it, her eyes widening fractionally when she saw me. “Are you the mechanic?” she asked, giggling.
“Yup, that’s me,” I said, shoving my hands deeper into my pockets. The sooner she realized I wasn’t interested in her, the better things were going to be for both of us.
But her grin only widened as she stepped back to let me in, her eyes roving over my body. “So, you think you can fix things?” she practically purred.
“Hope so,” I said shortly, heading for the bathroom. She hovered by the doorway, her eyes never leaving me.
“Can I get you a drink?” she asked. Again, she giggled. “I think we’ve still got some beer from the party we had last night, but I’m not sure.”
“No thanks,” I said, crouching down and focusing my attention on the pipes beneath the sink. I reached up and tried the faucet, laying a hand lightly against the pipe to feel if it heated up as normal. Sure enough, it did, and a moment later, the water got hot.
I raised an eyebrow at the blonde. “No hot water?” I asked, trying to keep the frustration from my voice.
She looked surprised. “I swear it wasn’t hot earlier,” she said.
“You said you had a party here last night?” I asked, suspecting I knew what had happened. “Did anyone else shower here this morning?”
“Well yeah, there’s, like, ten of us staying here at the moment,” she said, and I could tell that she still didn’t understand what I was getting at.
I stood up, dusting off my hands even though I had barely had to touch anything. “There’s a finite supply of hot water in the tank,” I explained. “If someone takes a shower, you need to give it time for the new water to heat up.
“But that doesn’t explain why there was cold water coming out of the hot water spout,” the girl said, pouting a little.
I tried not to roll my eyes. How did you explain something like this to someone like her? “Just give it twenty minutes between each person’s shower,” I recommended.
“If we did that, we’d never get to go skiing in the morning,” the woman said, folding her arms across her chest.
“Well, then you’ll need to either take shorter showers or else some of you could maybe shower at night.” I said it bluntly, knowing full well that it wasn’t what she wanted to hear. I’d have to make sure to call Gretchen again as I was leaving, to let her know how this had gone before this idiot could call to complain. Jeez.
It was easy to tell that we were getting into the winter season again. Time for the knuckleheads to come out of hiding.
“But it’s fixed, if I wanted to take a shower right now?” the woman asked.
“Yeah, you should have hot water right now,” I sighed.
The woman cocked her head to the side. “Any chance you might want to join me?” she asked in a breathy voice.
I stared at her for a moment, barely able to believe that those words had just come out of her mouth. What planet did this chick live on, anyway? “I’ve got more work to do,” I finally said. Then, I hightailed it out of there before she could say anything else.
I immediately called Gretchen and relayed what had happened. She burst out laughing and promised she’d try not to send me back over there, but couldn’t make any promises. I shook my head and headed home.