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They climb some and ski some, but soon the pervasive moon spell is shattered by a shrill whistle from Mike. They return to their hearth outside the igloo. It is cozy. They dine on steak, onion soup, wine, strawberry shortcake. It is nearly midnight when they finish. The cheechakos and Mike crawl into the roofless igloo and stretch out beneath a few brave stars. Judy Spivey sleeps by the fire. Shortly after dawn it snows, wet flakes the size of butterflies, but everyone stays in the damp bags until 8 a.m.
It is another gray day, dank again and they have French toast and syrup and coffee made from fistfuls of melted snow. The fire is smoking heavily and there are a few spruce needles floating in the coffee water. Eyes are puffy and no one feels like singing the Anchorage Nordic Ski Club song.
Breakfast over, they ski some, climbing a couple of hundred feet more up the mountain. Then, toward a tin-can noon, the trip is deemed done and they shrug on their packs once more to ski down. It is a swooping ride, through shin-deep new snow, back and forth in feathery traverses, whooping and shouting as they float down. What took three or more hours to climb takes perhaps half an hour to ride down. It is hair-raising and heartwarming, a journey on lightly controlled, thin slats of wood with winged boots. There is no resemblance to the heavier, more fashion-conscious game of downhill skiing in big rigid boots and iron-maiden bindings and skis made of metal.
At the bottom of Tin Can Mountain all are flushed and panting, happy after the long ride down. The trip home seems tedious, but not too long and by 5 p.m. they are back in the hotel lobby in Anchorage. The cheechakos have left Judy Spivey at her home and wished her all the best. Now they are about to say goodby to Mike Hershberger and this Alaskan adventure. They are shuffling around a bit, trying to say exactly what they feel, when suddenly Mike extends his hand and widens his grin.
"You know something? I expected you two to be something pretty different from what you are. I expected some New York fat guy with a big mustache and a big mouth coming up to Alaska for a big time with his little fat runny-nosed kid who whines every time he falls down. I didn't think you'd be able to ski or climb a mountain or any damn thing. Cross-country skiers from New York? A couple of marshmallows, I thought. Well, I was wrong, fellows. You guys surprised me. See you later and thanks a lot."
He leaves the cheechakos standing in silence. They grin at each other. They shake hands. They go up the elevator to their room and they bathe the Tin Can Mountain smoke off their skin and they brush the spruce needle bits out of their teeth. They put on clean dry clothing, neckties and soft shirts, respectable jackets. They slick their hair, put on city shoes with hard heels and even polish the toes a bit. They go down to the lobby, cross the thick carpet past bellhops, and enter the restaurant. There they order a house salad to be tossed at tableside, a chilled bottle of Pouilly Fuiss� for the elder, a glass of cold milk for the younger. They have the house special entr�e—Alaskan Crab Legs Voltaire, a delicate, sauced concoction that also is prepared at their table. It is splendid, and they so inform the waiter. To top off the meal, they have Baked Alaska set aflame at their elbows.
Now the meal is over and they wipe their mouths with white napkins, sip water from crystal glasses and grin at each other in satisfaction. They overtip the waiter and leave the dining room—cheechakos no more. They feel like two wilderness-aged grizzled old sourdoughs come to dine in elegance at the best hotel in town after striking it rich in the bush.
They are definitely skookum fellows now—no doubt—though each has yet to sight his first glacier worm or finish his first igloo.