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Skunk zoomed over the forest floor like she’d never zoomed before. I, however, preferred to do my zooming in the treetops. Behind me, I could hear branches cracking and bark ripping as pebbles flew in pursuit. I upped the speed from Zoom to Scamper, which was more boundy, enabling me to reach farther destinations.  

Even so, I felt a sharp ping on my tail and was expecting the jagged edges of Death any moment when the forest abruptly ended and I dropped, my legs splayed, into an unsuspecting ski run. Luckily, Skunk was there to break my fall, and she tumbled down the leeside of the mountain.

“Oiy! Watch it there!” a man yelled, flying past me on his skis. 

“Hey, cat!” A snowboarder cried, flexing his board to jump over me. 

“Jesus take the wheel!” A woman in a yellow snowsuit screamed as she tumbled past me, her skis flying off, her poles, goggles, and earmuffs littering the snow.  

 

Fur porcupined, I looked uphill and saw a river of bipeds on sticks flying toward me. The green sign across the way said Sleepy Hollow, and I knew it was one of the busiest runs on the mountain. Increasing my bravery, I performed several rapid calculations in my head. Distance + Application of Ski Wax - Motivation x Weight of Biped = Certain Death.  

Turning, I galloped downhill, away from the stampede and toward Skunk, who was emerging from a fledgling snowberry bush. When I reached her, we rapidly checked each other for injuries before pulling one another toward the trees and away from the flood of oncoming annihilation. At the edge of the run, Skunk stopped suddenly, her eyes lighting up. “Eddy? Bijou, look! Look, it’s Eddy!”

Sure enough, sandwiched between the front and back of his ski jacket was Eddy, speeding toward us. He handled his skis quite well, and a dimpled grin of joy decorated his face. Right behind him flew Spencer, and then, farther back, came Tahereh and Harry.

“We’re not supposed to be here,” I reminded Skunk as she opened her maw to call out. “Hurry behind that tree so they don’t see us.”

“Bijou?” Eddy slid to a stop, peppering us with snow. He pushed up his goggles and rubbed his eyes. “Skunk?”

It was over. We were finished. Spencer had zoomed right by, but now she’d stopped and was hiking back toward us, her face morphing into a mask of fury. We could still run. I turned to Skunk, my fur tingling. “We could still run.” But the Pom had already scampered to Eddy and rode the pogo stick around his legs.

   

“What are you doing here, girl?” he asked, scratching behind her ears as she wildly licked his glove. “How in the world are you here?”  

“Bijou Bedelia Bonanno!” Spencer’s nostrils flared as she came toward me, and cloudy exhalations puffed from her mouth. 

“Uh-oh,” Eddy murmured, giving me a sympathetic look. 

Spencer stopped near Eddy and leaned on her poles, glaring at me. “Come over here right this instant.” 

I backed away until my hindquarters winterized the base of a blue spruce. 

Bijou.”

Turning, I hugged the tree between my forepaws, digging the claws in deep. 

Spencer sighed. “Really? Again? It’s like that, is it?”

“Um, this has happened before?” said Eddy. 

“Three times. You’d think I’d learn to check the car.” 

“Everything okay?” Tahereh and Harry joined us, their cheeks rosy with cold. Then, appraising the situation, they added, “Oh. Oh, no. Sorry, Spence.” 

“They’re going to get themselves killed. Or lost, which up here is pretty much the same thing.” 

That was simply untrue. A Viking never got lost unless she meant to make a discovery.

“Want me to get her?” Eddy asked, stepping out of his bindings. 

“Yes, please,” Spencer grunted, chasing Skunk, who was bounding from person to person, thrilled. “Bijou wants nothing to do with me when she knows she’s in trouble.”

Eddy’s boots sank deep into the snow as he made his approach. Reaching the spruce, he dropped to his knees. “Come on, Bij. You know you’re too hungry to stay here, and Spencer will be less angry if you come with me now.”

 

That was true. I was too hungry. In fact, Hunger currently hollowed my stomach so much it felt like a ladle waiting to be filled. Slowly I released my claws and allowed Eddy to scoop me up and carry me back to his skis, while below Skunk’s jealousy made crop circles in the snow.  

Shaking her head, Spencer snatched up the Pom and plucked ice balls from her paws. “I will discuss this with both of you at home,” she told us. Then, turning to the others, she said, “Sorry, everyone. Looks like our day up here will be cut short.” 

Assuring her it was fine, they all insisted they wanted nothing more than to cozy up by the fireplace with large mugs of mulled wine anyway.