This is because of her still-hectic schedule and her still-vulnerable legs. In addition to last spring's thoroughly chronicled surgery, in 1981 she had operations on both Achilles tendons. That famous right knee isn't entirely well, either. "In the fall I ran off the road to chase a rabbit and while I was jumping a stream, it locked," says Benoit, who was terrified. "I was lucky a neighbor knew that if I wasn't running I was in trouble and picked me up." She recovered without surgery, but the experience shows the edge she is always near. Dr. Stan James, the surgeon who repaired Benoit's knee in May, took a good look around in there with his arthroscope and told Sevene that in addition to the intruding band of collagen fibers he snipped away, the wear he observed on the underside of the patella made Benoit's a "limited mileage knee."
Benoit has been driving behind a rather slow car for a few miles. Finally she says, "This guy is just puttering!"
Scott looks up at the note of irritation in her voice. "Joan, slow down or pass him," he says, "but don't tailgate."
"Scott, it's so sad to see this person just creep."
"Well," he says, "if you're going to follow so close, I sure can't study." He closes his books and reaches to rub Benoit's shoulders.
They reach the Sunday River Lodge and race for the lift. For four hours they describe voluptuous curves down the velvety hill. Late in the afternoon, the powder rises behind their skis in rosy, back-lit incandescence. When Joan comes into the lodge, her eyes, her mother's eyes, are as vacant as after a hard race. She's so cold and tired that Scott has to break her ski boots from her ankles.
Yet she revives quickly and insists on driving at least partway home, so that Scott can continue to study. The car is soon filled with the warm ache and wet wool atmosphere of all rides back from skiing. The clouds are pink breath on a blue-gray sky. Benoit has another Joan, Baez, on the tape deck, singing, "You suffered sweeter for me than anyone I've ever known."
"When we skied as kids, we each got a quarter," says Benoit. "And for that 25 cents you could get a pack of gum, a Coke, a sugar-glazed doughnut and a candy bar. That was when I was about six." She's in happy reverie. "See, we never got an allowance growing up, because our bus stop was at a candy store."
There was discipline in the Benoit household then. "Yes, for some reason we were allowed to have sweets and sodas while skiing, but when we came home from the hill there would always be two sodas left from the six-pack, and woe to anyone in the house responsible if those sodas weren't still there the next weekend."
Yet she wishes not to give an image of harshness. "My parents never would have grounded us, though. What a perfect word, grounded!" She growls it out. "My friends were always saying, 'Ah, I got grounded.' "