When the hurricane washed out his business and his life in Pensacola, Jim
decided that he needed a change of scenery. He didn't have much choice, but
thinking about it that way made it seem better. After all, everyone told him he
wasn't even thirty yet, and that was young enough to start over. When he
came out west, Jim had told his parents that he wanted to spend the winter at
his grandfather's cabin and do a little reading or skiing. He just wanted to figure
things out, and the north shore of Lake Tahoe is quiet, and King's Beach was
close to everything. He could design his own bakery this time-build in Tahoe
City, maybe, or the valley. Instead, he read books, mostly mediocre science
fiction novels, rented a dozen movies a week, and skied a little.
After Christmas he began taking drives with his black lab, Angel. His first
expedition had been a vain attempt to drive around the lake, but the road had
been closed in November. He drove to Incline Village one day and took a picture
of the Ponderosa Ranch which was shut down for the winter. He had sent the
picture anonymously to his ex-girlfriend in Florida just to mess with her head.
The first week of April he decided to go to Truckee for some late breakfast at a
little café where he would plan the rest his day. Maybe he would go to Reno or
Carson City. Maybe a whore house in Nevada. Jim wanted to go to one of those
places out of curiosity more than need but had never gotten motivated to go.
Snow still lined the side of the road going over Brockway Summit but had
begun to melt at the lower elevations. When he got to Truckee, Jim parked his
jeep in front of the only bakery/café that had a decent cup of coffee on the
"Historic Truckee" drag just off the interstate. It was too late in the day to get
breakfast anywhere else, and he had long since given up baker's hours. There
was a large front window of the café so he could see Angel. He liked these
places: finding out what he didn't want to do with the new bakery that he might
He walked inside to the sound of horseshoe-shaped bells on the door clanging
behind him. Even though he thought he'd get sick of it one day, the smell of
baked bread and yeast still made him smile. This café was set up as an
old-fashioned roadhouse with a little Wild West mixed in. Most of the tables
were full of late-season skiers who just finished one more half day before North
Star closed the slope and opened the golf course. On the wall here were
paintings, old-time photos of the railroad, the Donner party, and gold rush days.
Various overpriced junk was on a spinning rack next to the counter.
Jim ordered eggs Benedict and a side of bacon from a frazzled cashier and
looked for a place to sit down. Only one table was unoccupied, littered with
non-diary creamer buckets. Jim grunted and grabbed one of the complimentary
cream boats in an ice filled tray on the counter. The cluttered table also had the
remnants of at least two newspapers. He turned to the cashier to ask if the
table could be cleaned off, but she had disappeared.
"Crap," Jim said. He balanced his cup and cream boat, staring at it until he sat
He sipped his coffee and began picking through the newspapers.
Jim looked up to see a woman a couple of years older than him, slim with a hint
of a raccoon skier's tan. "You're at my table," she said. She folded her arms
and looked back and forth from his face to his coffee cup dramatically. She had
shoulder-length auburn hair that stuck to her face when she looked from side to
"I'm sorry," he said. He debated whether it was worth the trouble.
The woman began to laugh, "Kidding," she said. She had a raspy voice with an
almost surfer intonation to the way she spoke. Like a skateboarder with a trust
fund. She sat down across from him. "You can join me. I could use the
"Fine," Jim checked on Angel outside.
"That your dog? Lab?"
"Yeah. I'm Jim by the way." He reached out his hand.
"Mackenzie. Call me Mac or whatever." She shook his hand with her ring finger.
"Nice to meet you." He hated conversations like this in resort areas. "Where
are you from?"
"Here, there, wherever. You're just up for the weekend, I bet," Mackenzie said.
She played the same game.
"Is it the weekend?" Jim tapped an empty creamer tub, miscalculated, and it
rolled off the table. Mackenzie looked at him.
"Do we have to do this?" Mackenzie said.
"Do what?" he said.
"The getting to know you thing? I see tourists all day at work, and I'm off for
a couple of days. Can we sit here in peace?" She was leaning forward. She
folded her arms across her chest, covering her breasts.
"If you want. I don't know if I'm a tourist, though. I've sort of been living on
the north shore all winter."
Mackenzie raised an eyebrow over her coffee. "Okay, now that might be a little
more interesting. What do you mean by 'sort of'?"
Jim took in a breath. He had told this story so many times he didn't need to
think about it anymore. It was like a grade school essay. There was a prologue:
he followed his high school sweetheart out to college in the South, and he
eventually left school and ended up starting his own bakery. An anecdote: His
grandfather had taught him the trade when his parents sent him to work all
through Jim's summers as a kid. When other kids were playing whiffleball, he
was kneading bread dough. And, finally, a conclusion: he told her about
evacuating at the last minute when the hurricane rolled through, the crummy
hotel in Alabama where he finally found a place that took dogs. He ate his meal
while he told most of the story. Telling it over and over was like continuing to
have sex with a person after a really horrible break up.
Through the whole thing Mackenzie nodded or sipped her cappuccino. Blinked.
Kept eye contact. When he finished, she said, "So you traded hurricanes for
earthquakes and blizzards." Her voice was perky. "You told that pretty fast.
Got it down pat."
"Got what down pat?"
"Your tale of woe. I've never talked to somebody who had been through a
hurricane before. My ex was in the city during the Loma Prieta. Too bad he
wasn't on the Embarcadero."
Jim tried not to grin, "Okay, your turn."
"Not very exciting, I'm afraid. I was married. I fucked another guy. I'm
divorced. But a hurricane, that's exciting."
"It sucks." Jim piled his napkins and silverware on his plate. "Your situation, I
mean. Sorry. I'm not big on talking about the hurricane. I'll start again soon,
just somewhere else.
"Tell me more about the guy." Jim poured another tub of cream into his
He was getting tired of talking about the stupid storm.
"Nothing to tell, really. The guy I slept with got me this job at the ski resort
and a deal on a condo at North Star. I thought I'd get away for a while."
"Season's almost over. Come to any conclusions?"
"I think so." She paused. Jim looked at her. "I'm not going to tell you.
Something will come up." She looked out the window and then to Jim's empty
breakfast plate. "Hey," she said, "I have a dog. Only thing that I got left from
the divorce other than alimony. Bruno hasn't been able to run around with
another dog in ages. How 'bout it? Play date?"
"I don't have any appointments," he said. He'd already been to Reno twice