The List: Number 63

February 17, 2006

Hamilton Saul pull his parka’s hood back, letting the frigid wind whip his hair about. He smiled despite the chill, and kneeled down to run a hand through the pure-white snow at his feet.

He laughed as he felt it in his hand, at the perfect heft of it, the ideal combination of soft and heavy snow. “Have ya ever seen snow like this before?” he asked out loud.

“Only most of my life since I was born, Mr. Saul,” replied his guide in these wintry lands, a young woman with blond hair and a cool disposition, who had, despite his attempts to the contrary, managed to lead him deep into the heart of the mountains without any lethal falls or other assorted catastrophes.

Hamilton, a middle-aged man who had some years ago inherited more wealth than some countries make in a year, shook his head sadly. “Ah, but that must mean ya take it for granted. You’d understand if you’ve ever seen snow in the Big Apple. It soaks up the city’s filth the second it drops from the sky.”

“As a matter of fact, Mr. Saul,” said Hanna Laaksonen, “I’ve seen snow in your cities. There are a lot of dirty things about the place, and one of the reasons I came back home after college.”

Hamilton looked up at her, one eyebrow raised in surprise. “You’ve been to college?”

“Harvard, sir.”

“Ah.”

He stood up, having spent the last few minutes occupied with the snow in some fashion, and then spun around, one arm thrust out in a sudden motion.

-Spak!-

Hanna reached up with one arm, and brushed the remnants of the snowball from her shoulder. She opened her mouth, as if to ask a question, then seemed to think better of it.

Hamilton has his arms crossed over his chest, wearing a smug little smile. “Item number 63, complet. The world’s most perfect snowball, crafted and hurled!”

He nodded in satisfaction, and then lifted his arms out to stretch. “Alrighty then, time to head on back!”

Hanna finally was able to make her mouth work again. “That… that was it? You came out here to make… a snowball? Why would you do that?”

A shrug was his first response. Then, “Well, its on the list, you see.”

She shook her head, then started pushing through the snow after him, as he quickly moved away. “What list?”

“Why, the one I made when the doctor told me I was a gonna die.”

If she wasn’t so far behind him already, she would have stopped. Instead, she quickened her pace. “Oh… I’m sorry, sir. I didn’t know. This is one of those… ‘do all you can with the time you have left’ things, then, is it?”

“Pretty much.”

“If you don’t mind me asking… how long do you have, Mr. Saul?”

“Oh, assuming no medical breakthroughs… forty, maybe fifty years.”

This time she did stop in her tracks. “What? Wait… what?

She couldn’t see his fast, and he didn’t stop his descent, but she knew he was silently smirking in response. Hanna gritted her teeth, then hurried after him.

“I don’t understand. You’ve got as much time with anyone – why waste it chasing after dreams?”

He finally stopped, and turned around, and there was a bit of knowing insight in his eyes. “Well, little miss… why not? In the end… it’s a very long list.”

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