Paul Andersen: Fair Game
The Aspen Times
Aspen CO Colorado
Cash Barrister stepped outside the Aspen courthouse into pale February sunshine. As he walked down the steps, something grazed his carefully coiffed hair. He felt wet warmth where it hit, and touched his fingers to the gooey mess of a large bird dropping.
He turned and looked up at a jet black raven perched on the statue of justice on the courthouse roof. “F—ing bird!” hissed Barrister. The raven cackled and Cash wiped at the offal with a white hankie.
Barrister was a Dallas attorney representing his client, Mega-Mansions Inc. After browbeating the commissioners into submission, he won a favorable ruling to bring a gated subdivision to fruition – this one in a sensitive wilderness in-holding.
“Scarwood Heights” would be built that summer, complete with requisite “peasant quarters,” as his client liked to say. The half dozen palatial estates would sell for multi-millions, and Cash would profit handsomely from the lucre.
As he daubed the bird mess from his hair, someone came down the steps behind him. “Finally wore ’em down, eh?” It was Gaia Greenbough of the Wilderness Warriors, the sole opposition to the development. She skipped down the steps in winter Birkenstocks.
“How does it feel to destroy prime elk habitat, jerk-off?” She pointed a long finger and gave him the hairy eyeball. “May Mother Nature kick your ass!” she cursed. Barrister turned and walked away, dismissing Gaia with a flick of his soiled hankie.
Cash Barrister hurried along Mill Street. A woman walking a French poodle approached. Her dog suddenly bared its teeth at Cash and lunged with a snarl. Cash flinched in fear. “Flossie!” shrieked the woman. “I’m sorry, she’s never done that before.”
Back at the St. Regis, Cash began packing. He flipped opened his suitcase and jolted back. Inside were a mother mouse and five babies. They had nested in his dirty socks. He reached for the phone to dial the concierge, when it rang. “Cash!” roared his client. “Hey, drop what you’re doin’. We’re goin’ skiin’ with the realtor. Meet us at the gondola – 12:30.” Click.
Cash Barrister canceled his flight and left the mice to the Latina maids. Emerging from the hotel, he passed beneath the boughs of tall evergreens laden with snow. Something shifted and the branches released several clumps. One chunk, laden with ice, crashed onto Cash’s head. He staggered under the blow. “F–k!” he moaned, touching his forehead and examining a splotch of blood. His first thought was a lawsuit, but a noise in the tree had him looking up. A raven cackled and rustled its jet black wings.
In the gondola, Cash tried to describe the spooky bird, but his client and the realtor had other things on their minds. “We’re gonna make a killin’, and we couldn’t ‘a done it without you, buddy!” blared his client, slapping Cash hard on the back as they exited the gondola. “Pandora’s!” shouted the realtor. “I’ll show you the good!” And they were off.
Cash felt wobbly and lightheaded as they dropped through the trees. He lost his balance, toppled into a huge tree well, and watched helplessly as the others skied off. His calls were answered by terrifying silence until a sinister cackle met his ears. There came a flutter of black wings, and the raven settled nearby. It hopped over to look in at Cash, its eyes like coal.
“Shoo!” shouted Cash. He flailed at the bird with his ski pole, but in doing so, a clump of snow dislodged onto his face, momentarily choking him. When he had cleared away the snow, the raven was gone. His heart was pounding, and Gaia’s curse came back: “May Mother Nature kick your ass!”
Looking up, he realized that a ton of snow was precariously balanced on the limbs overhead. His skis were tangled in the lower branches, and whenever he moved, snow sifted down. Something was moving, bounding down the tree limbs, a black squirrel. It perched just above Cash’s head. Chirping madly, it lifted its tail and peed on Cash’s face. “Ugghh!”
The raven cackled again, this time high overhead where it perched on an uppermost limb. The large bird spread its wings and flapped once, twice. A small lump of snow came loose. It tumbled onto the next limb and upset the equilibrium of the entire tree. By the time the cascade reached Cash, it covered him with three feet of compressed snow. “Never more,” croaked the raven, “Never more …”
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