A Closer Look


by Rita Buckley

Ina and Barry were too old for this, but doing it anyway. They�d excavated the wooden toboggan from the garage and were determined to act on their mutual whim to relive winters past. They were at the top of Red�s Peak, their city�s local ski area, watching kids on snowboards carving their way down the hill, their baggy pants and jackets flapping in the wind. Barry knew most of them. He was the obstetrician who delivered them, some more smoothly than others.

Their next door neighbor�s daughter, Megan, was a preemie who�d had a lot of problems early on. Now she was 15, with long blond hair and an athlete�s body. She flew by them on a straight run.  

�Go Meg go,� Barry shouted. She turned to look at him and fell into a snowy jumble of legs, arms, and feet.   

�Ooops,� he said, and dropped his big body onto the toboggan. Ina stood beside him, shoved on his broad back to get the thing moving, then slid into place behind him. They could hear the snow crunch beneath them as they started to glide. Barry pulled Ina�s legs close as they cleared the ridge and gained speed. �Ina, Ina,� he said, �hold on tight,� and down they went, gliding and bumping, hurtling over humps in the middle of the run. The cold wind rushed past their ears and stung their cheeks. Ina grabbed Barry around the waist and locked her hands together. When they came to the flat section at the bottom of the run and slowed to a stop, he pried them apart. 

�What are you trying to do? Kill me?� he asked.

�Not at the moment,� Ina said.  

She rolled off the toboggan, pushed herself onto her knees, and then to her feet. Barry did likewise.

�You move like an old lady,� he said.

�So do you,� she replied. 

They pulled the toboggan over to the tow rope and got in line. A group of teenage girls tried to stifle giggles as they approached. They were so far beyond the age of self-consciousness, it didn�t bother them at all. Ina grabbed the rope and started up the hill. She forgot how hard it was to hold onto it. When she got to the top, the muscles in her arms were burning. She could feel her heart pounding in her chest, thought she was about to have a heart attack, but after a few minutes,  recovered enough to do a second run.

�My body�s complaining,� she said. �You�re on your own after this ride.�

�But it�s good for you,� Barry said. �Maybe you�ll lose some of that baby fat.�

She pretended to stomp on his toe.

�Ouch,� he said.

�Poor boy,� she replied.  

�Get on,� he said, pointing at the toboggan.

Ina did so slowly, afraid he�d send her flying down the hill alone.

�I know what you�re thinking,� she said. �Don�t you dare. I�ll wind up like Ethan Frome.�

He laughed in that hearty way that always turned her on.

�I know what you�re thinking too,� he said knowingly.

�Later,� she said.

Ina settled in and grabbed onto the ropes on the side of the toboggan.

�Okay, get on,� she said.

Instead he sent her hurtling down the hill alone.

�Have a nice ride,� he shouted.

The toboggan flew so fast, she didn�t have time to get alarmed. She whizzed by a tree and a couple of stoned snowboarders.

�Wow,� one of them said.

�Wow,� said the other.

She came to a stop at the bottom of the hill and climbed to her feet, more exhilarated than angry. A young man dragged the toboggan up the rope tow for her, and slid it over when they got to the top.

She walked over to Barry with it.

�Okay, now it�s your turn,� she said. �Hop on.�

�No way,� Barry said. �You think I want to pull my arms off on that wretched rope tow again? I�ll make a donation instead.�

He took the toboggan�s rope and walked toward a group of teens. They�d been  watching them and laughing hysterically. One of them fell on the snow and rolled around, holding his stomach. He was laughing so hard it hurt. They passed a joint back and forth.

As Barry approached them, they offered it to him, but he waved them off.  He was getting a contact high just standing there.

�Here,� he said, handing the toboggan to a skinny, gum-chewing adolescent girl with thick red hair and iPod plugs in her ears. �Have a ball.�

�Neat,� one kid said.

�Cool,� said another.

�You�re the man,� said a third.

�Good. Just remember that the next time you see old people out here making fools of themselves.�

______

Barry walked back to Ina. She was standing with her hands on her substantial hips.

�Let�s go, you gorgeous creature,� he said.

�Gorgeous creature,� she snorted.

After 35 years of marriage, they had their idiosyncrasies�a way of interacting that looked like nasty bickering to outsiders, but was actually good-natured banter to them. They�d been together so long, each knew exactly what the other could take. More often than not, they even knew what the other was thinking.

______

Ina and Barry walked into their townhouse, his arm across her shoulder; hers around his waist. �C�mon cookie,� he said. �I�m in the mood for a snack.�

�It�s about time,� she replied. �I�m getting a little hungry myself.�

�Follow me,� he said.  He took her hand and they climbed the stairs together. 

When they reached the bedroom, they hugged. Barry rubbed Ina�s neck and back. He slipped his hands under her sweater and kneaded her skin.

�Take off your clothes and I�ll give you a massage,� he said.

She kicked off her boots, pulled her sweater over her head, unhooked her bra, and slipped off her pants. He slid the bra off her shoulders and her sizeable panties down her legs. After she stepped out of them, he took off his clothes. Gravity and time had inflicted damage on both of their bodies, hers worse than his.  

�I love cellulite,� he said.

She gave him a mock punch in the arm and he shoved her onto the bed.

�We�ll grow old together,� he said.

�We�re already old,� she replied.

Barry began massaging her toes and worked his way up to the back of her neck.

�Feeling relaxed?� he asked.

�Not yet,� Ina said.

�I�ll just have to do the other side. Flip over. I won�t watch,� he said, his eyes following her every move.

�Ah, I see you�ve been into the ice cream again,� he said. �Bad girl.�

She gave his stomach a light, good natured slap.

�Now shut your eyes and think good thoughts,� he said.

He began at her feet again and moved up to her thighs. He lingered there before starting to massage the inside muscles. Her legs relaxed.

�Uh oh, I see a suspicious object,� he said. �I�d better take a closer look.�

Just as he started down, his pager went off.

�Damn,� he said, looking at the message. �Judy Finkel�s gone into labor.�

He put on a pair of Dockers, a button down shirt, and a suit jacket.

�Listen cookie,� he said as he knotted his tie, �stay where you are. I�ll have even more of an appetite when I get back.�

�Promises, promises,� she said.

�Be nice,� he replied.

He took the Cialis from the bureau, put it in his pocket, and walked out the door.




BIO: Rita Buckley is an award-winning freelance medical writer. A summa cum laude graduate of Boston University, she earned an MBA at Northeastern University, and is also an alumna of the Bread Loaf Writers� Conference. Her poetry has appeared in Electric Acorn, and her fiction has been published in print and online in Versal, Paradigm, The Wilderness House Literary Review, and Danse Macabre.  It�s also been nominated for Best of the Web.