Slippery Slope

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Avalanche: a large, rapid and sometimes destructive, slide of snow, ice or rocks; something that occurs unexpectedly or suddenly in large amounts

Derrick pulled into the employee lot. There was not another space to be found. He threw the car into park and got out, almost colliding with a skier. The man had his skis up on his shoulder and seemed oblivious to where he was walking.

Derrick swatted at the man’s arm to get his attention, “You need to watch where you’re going when your carrying your skis, man,” he said.

The guy looked him up and down and pointed to the head phones on his ears. “Sorry, dude,” the man replied and walked off.

Despite the recent avalanche and loss of life, skiers and snowboarders were still showing up in droves, and still venturing into the backcountry. Idiots, Derrick thought to himself. If they were stupid enough to go into backcountry without gear, they deserved anything that happened to them.

Although he had just recently quit working at the lodge, Derrick figured the least he could do was to offer some help. It annoyed him at times to feel so indebted to Asher, but he supposed he did owe him some gratitude. Derrick found Asher just where he knew he would - in his office, command central for the lodge.

Derrick strode into the room but stopped abruptly when he saw that Asher wasn’t alone. Standing by the scanner and a new bank of computers, was a tall brunette. She was quite a buttoned-up, corporate-looking type for these parts. Thick glasses with dark frames were precariously perched near the tip of her nose and her hair was pulled back in a tight ponytail. Both she and Asher were so absorbed in their work they did not notice he was there.

Derrick cleared his throat, loudly. Asher and the woman jumped.

“Sorry, about that.” Derrick proceeded to Asher’s desk and sat down in the chair opposite him. Asher put his work aside, but the woman, seemingly uninterested in who he was, promptly returned to hers.

Derrick turned his head to look at her and then tilted it back to Asher, “Aren’t you going to introduce us?”

Asher seemed to consider that for a moment.

“Hey, Hilda. I’d like you to meet Derrick. Derrick, Hilda Pierson.”

Derrick went to rise but stopped when Hilda only glanced up. “

Hello,” she said and then went back to examining the computer in front of her.

Derrick raised his eyebrows to Asher and settled back slowly into his seat.

Asher leaned across the desk and said quietly, “Hilda’s very focused and we’ve been really bogged down since the avalanche.” He leaned back again.

“Thank goodness for you, Hilda,” Asher said to her, speaking up. She now turned and offered a little smile and nod.

“The response time was incredible, thanks to the new equipment she had just installed. New routers and relays; a new, faster linkup to communications and the emergency system – Hilda did an incredible job.”

Derrick nodded. Hilda approached Asher’s desk.

“Asher, I’m going to do a check on the boards in the other buildings before we do a complete test.”

Asher looked at Derrick to explain, “Everything is going to run right from here – as well as remotely. Lights, heat, lifts, pool, everything. State of the art.”

“Impressive,” Derrick said looking at Hilda. He looked back at Asher, “It’s sounds expensive, though.”

“Yes,” Hilda answered him, “It’s a bit of an investment. But it’s much more efficient and over time will save lots of money.”

She turned back to Asher, “Speaking of which, the PC unit in the pool area is very inconsistent. I think it’s an environmental issue. There’s so much moisture. I really recommend a remote link up and an environmentally sealed unit in there.”

Asher blanched. “That equipment is pretty new. Is there anyway to put that off?“

“I suppose you could, Asher,” she said, “but there’s no guarantee how long it will last. It keeps going offline and may fail when you really need it. I could do a patch and rig a back up, but I don’t recommend it.”

Asher rubbed his chin and nodded, “OK, Hilda. Give me a budget and we’ll take it from there.”

Hilda smiled. Derrick decided that when she smiled, she was quite attractive. With a little makeup, contacts instead of those god-awful glasses, trim the eyebrows a bit, brush out the hair, and she would be downright pretty. She certainly had a nice body. Even her conservative clothes and shoes couldn’t hide that. She was trim, tall. She had the body of a yoga instructor, his favorite type. Hilda turned suddenly to look at him as if sensing his evaluation. He looked into her dark blue eyes, which stared down at him from above her glasses.

“Do I know you from somewhere?” she asked him, arching her eyebrows.

Derrick smiled faintly. It seemed he had made her uncomfortable. He liked that.

“I think I’d remember you, Hilda,” he smiled broadly at her. She had a slight twang to her voice – Midwestern or Texan, as near as he could guess. Definitely not LA.

“Hmmm,” she frowned and turned away with a twist of her hips. She headed toward the door and Derrick turned to watch her go.

“I’ll be back in an hour, Asher,” she said over her shoulder.

Derrick turned back to Asher and laughed, “That was fun.”

Judging from the look on Asher’s face, he did not think so.

“What?” Derrick asked him defensively.

“Derrick, Hilda –“

“Yeah – I wanted to ask you - is that her middle name? First name Broom?” Derrick laughed.

Asher ignored him and continued, “Hilda is an extremely intelligent, lovely young lady, Derrick. And she has been vital to my improving our security and computer systems.”

“Hey, don’t get me wrong, Asher,” Derrick slung an arm and leg over the chair, “I dig the whole straight-laced, brainy thing. She’s got a great body, too.”

Asher sat back in his chair and sighed.

“Oh, come on, Asher,” Derrick smiled, “Don’t tell me if Denise wasn’t in the picture you wouldn’t hit that. I can tell you like her – for her intelligence, of course.”

“She’s a bit young for me, Derrick.” Asher replied dryly.

Derrick had to concede that was true. Asher liked the ladies, but they were always age-appropriate ones. He and Denise were no more than five years apart.

“True,” Derrick replied, “She’s almost too old for me.”

“Derrick!” Asher said.

“I’m joking, Ash – lighten up,” Derrick replied.

“Please, Derrick. Even joking - just don’t go there.”

“Go where, Asher?” Derrick asked. Derrick waited as Asher shuffled some papers around his desk.

“You know what I mean, Derrick. Keep your eyes and hands to yourself.”

Derrick exhaled sharply. “You have got to be frigging kidding me.”

Asher laced his fingers together on his desk and removed his reading glasses. He focused his blue eyes right on him.

“I already have one employee who’s reeling from the games you’ve played, Derrick.”

Derrick put both of his feet on the ground and leaned forward in his chair.

“Still trying to be everyone’s dad, I see.” They stared at each other for a moment. Asher blinked first and Derrick smiled, “Kristy and Hilda are big girls.”

Then Asher added, “And as I recall, you’re married now.”

Derrick’s eyes narrowed.

“Jess and I have an understanding, Asher,” he said, “We’re together for Rick and Rachel’s sake.” He leaned back and waited again.

“Well, that’s very magnanimous of you,” Asher responded.

“I think so,” Derrick answered. “They are my children. They have their father and mother both with them. And Jess gets her parents off her back about being an unwed, single mom.”

“Nothing to do with her threatening to sue for child support and palimony?”

Derrick had to admit it. Asher was sharp, “Maybe a little. I think this works for everyone. I do love my kids, Asher. I didn’t want to see them getting bounced back and forth between us. And trying to raise them in LA was a grind. They even have their grandparents. That was the whole reason for us moving back here.”

“Until you get tired of it and decide to go back to LA or take up with someone else,” Asher interjected.

Derrick felt his anger rising. “You’re quite the hypocrite, you know.”

“How so?” Asher asked, his face reflecting his surprise.

Derrick snorted. “As I recall,” he said purposely echoing Asher’s words, “you took up with my mother while she was still married.”

“That’s right, Derrick.” Asher bobbed his head and pursed his lips, “You’re right. But that was after your father had left you both with no money and no place to live.”

Derrick clenched his teeth, “He left to find work.”

“Yes, son, and he never came back.”

Derrick stood up. “Don’t call me son.”

Asher stood, too. “Derrick, I married your mother because I loved her. You know that. And I love you, too. And although you’re my stepson, I know you as well as any son I could have.”

“And what is that supposed to mean?”

“That means I know you real well, Derrick. Well enough to know your strengths and your weaknesses,” his voice softened a bit. “I don’t know what you hope to find, going through all these girls – women – the way you do, Derrick. But you’re hurting people. Don’t you realize that?”

“So now you’re a psychologist, too?”

“No, not at all. But these are people I care about, Derrick. I never understood the relationship between you and Kristy. And I know you didn’t make any promises to her. But you strung her along for a long time – “

“It’s not anything she didn’t want, Asher.”

“And all that time, you were with someone else.”

“Again, Kristy and I were just having fun. If she thought it was anything other than that, she was just kidding herself.”

Asher put up his hand, “But that doesn’t make it right.”

Derrick shook his head, “It takes two. You have this little talk with her, also?”

“No, Derrick. I’ve known Kristy a long time, and you’re right, these men and women are like sons and daughters to me, especially Kristy and Brent. I’ve known them almost as long as I’ve known you, Derrick, when they used to come here with their families.”

“So why the words of advice to me? You’re not my father, either.”

Asher actually looked hurt. “No, but I tried to be the best stepfather I could. After Ann and I married, I did my best to help her raise you.”

“And?” Derrick asked.

“And, since your mother has been gone, I’ve tried my best to be here for you.”

“So you think you can tell me who I can and can’t sleep with?”

Asher shook his head, “Derrick, you are exasperating. You have to know I only want what’s best for you.”

“Oh, really, Stepdad? Only what’s best for me? You really care? Have you once even asked me how my children are doing? I had to bring Jess and the kids here to meet you because you can’t leave this place for a fucking minute. When I was in high school and Mom was in the hospital, who was with her everyday – you? No. It was me, Asher. And she never complained, not once. But I could see how she was suffering, alone. You’ve always hid here, just like you still do. I feel so stupid. I came here to find out what I could do to help you. I can’t believe I bothered. Nothing I’ve done has ever been good enough for you.”

Derrick walked to the door. Asher remained glued to his spot behind his desk, his face flushed, his mouth agape.

Derrick turned back one more time, and sneered at Asher with disgust.

“I’ve done pretty well for myself, Asher, not that you’ve ever acknowledged it. I put myself through school, I became a writer – and not just any writer. I’m one of the youngest and most successful screenwriters in Hollywood. But you’d prefer it if I was one of your loser, ski-bum employees, wouldn’t you? You all deserve each other.”

Asher opened his mouth to respond but Derrick walked out, still seething with anger. The notion that he felt any obligation to Asher now made his stomach turn.

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