It felt like a great weight had been lifted from his shoulders. He had gone through the long line at security and was now walking through the jetway to take his seat on the airliner. He felt a twinge of regret at leaving all of his friends at the military base that had been his home for the last two years. But now, he was a civilian again and ready for a new challenge in his life. He’d figure out what that was when he got home.
Home. He hadn’t thought about it since his parents died in an auto accident a year ago. He’d decided to sell the house when he got out of the service. There just wasn’t any point in staying there now. His uncle Jeremy, who lived at the next farm over, had been taking care of the place for him. He’d decided to sell it to him so he could increase the size of his farm. Farming was so difficult these days that you had to have a good-sized farm just to break even. Farming wasn’t for him; not since he entered the military and got a taste of the world out there.
Martin decided to stop at Las Vegas before going back home. He knew that if he didn’t, he be kicking himself for the rest of his life. So his ticket was for Las Vegas. One last party before he had to buckle down and get a job.
The flight was short and the heat was unbelievable when he stepped down from the plane and walked to the terminal. Just walking those few steps and he was sweating already. He hurried inside and the coolness of the terminal struck him like the cool air from his refrigerator when he used to open the door on hot summer nights back home. He picked up his bag and walked back to the ticket counter to book a flight back home. He didn’t want to get stuck in Vegas without a ticket home. He’d heard a lot of stories about people who’d lost everything and become citizens of Las Vegas because they couldn’t afford to leave. He wouldn’t become one of those, he thought. He put the ticket in his bag and stored it in a locker in the airport. That done, he was ready to hit the casinoes. He didn’t have far to travel. There was one right by the airport.
Martin was impressed by all the glitter and flashy displays. It’s no wonder people get distracted here, he thought. Everything was beautiful and all the women were beautiful too, almost surreal, he thought. He went to the cashiers kiosk and got twenty dollars worth of quarters. Not much, he thought, but it’s a start. His few hundred dollars wouldn’t last long if he didn’t show some restraint. He headed for the slot machines that seemed to be everywhere. One stood out from the rest for some reason and he decided to try that one. It took four quarters at a time. His twenty wouldn’t last very long on this machine Martin thought as he dropped in four quarters. He pulled the handle on the side and the machine clacked and whirred and finally the images stopped spinning. He’d lost. No surprise here, he thought. He decided to try once more and then move to the cheaper single-quarter machines. He pulled the handle.
When the pictures stopped spinning, Martin was confused for a moment. All the pictures were the same but the machine made no sound or movement for a moment. Then after a short pause, the machine lit up and started flashing lights and bells and buzzers sounded. A low alarm sounded that drew the attention of the pit boss whose job it was to monitor the slots. He cameover to congratulate the stunned Martin. Martin had just won a multi-million dollar jackpot. It was amazing how fast the crowd drew up, but suddenly Martin was surrounded by cheering, celebrating people. The floor manager for the slots introduced himself and introduced Martin to the two security guards that would be with him if he so desired. Martin declined the one in the uniform but asked the other, in ordinary clothes to stay for a while. His head was spinning and it seemed to hurt when he smiled for the cameras that were provided for all winners at the casinoes.
From that point on, Martin began to party. The funny thing was, the casino insisted on paying for everything, including the presidential suite. When he didn’t understand, the floor manager said that it was good business to do it because the other players knew that would be them if they won too. They seemed to spend more when they saw a winner. Martin vaguely understood and said so. And the smell of the women was as intoxicating as the many drinks that seemed to magically appear in front of him. He started to party seriously.
After several days of that, martin had had enough. He sobered up, got dressed in his new clothes and checked out of the presidential suite. He had the casino rebook his flight in first class this time. He said his goodbyes, posed for a few last pictures and got into a limo for the very short ride to the airport next door. The casino had insisted that he take the limo. All part of the prize, they said. Martin was glad to leave, now that he’d been a king for several days. It was time to get real again, he thought.
His uncle Jeremy met him at the airport. Martin had called ahead and arranged for Jeremy to buy his parent’s farm. He’d made the offer a generous one and Jeremy was glad to take advantage of his offer. He promised to keep the land in the family name so that Martin could come back any time and visit his parent’s graves at their family cemetery behind the old barn. Martin and Jeremy walked around the old place for a couple of hours reliving old times. In a way, Martin was sad to leave, but he knew he must. His own dream was about living near a glacier up in the mountains somewhere. He’d developed a love for them when he’d had to do some specialized training in glaciers while in the military. He rarely spoke of his time in the highly secretive special operations group he’d served with. But his love for the icy folds and crevices of glaciers had remained with him. He asked Jeremy if he could use his phone for some long distance calls. Martin called a well-known real estate agency and was promised that they had several pieces of land near glaciers in two states. He said he’d be there as soon as the flight could take him. He said his goodbyes again to Jeremy when he dropped him off at the airport.
The real estate agent had taken Martin to his best property up in the mountains. When they arrived, a light drizzle had begun to fall, but it couldn’t hold back the magnificent beauty of the glacier just below the rock outcropping next to it. When Martin and the agent walked to the outcropping to look, they passed through a river of cold air that flowed down the valley. It was like a opening a refrigerator door, Martin thought again. One look at the intense beauty of the ice of the glacier had decided Martin’s mind. And the outcropping of rock was the perfect place to put the balcony of his home. That view would be his every time he looked outside. He told the agent about his plans to build a chalet on the site. The agent was highly pleased that he’d made a sale and recommended a high-end building contractor who could do the work despite having to travel through the narrow roads to this site.
Martin shook hands with the agent and went back to his office to sign the papers. While driving back, the agent had lined up an architect to design Martin’s chalet. Now that he’d seen the property, Martin was in a hurry to get it done but he wanted it to be the best chalet his money could buy. After a week, he’d decided on a design and ground was being broken for the foundation of his chalet. The contractor was very efficient and things flowed smoothly even though all the trucks had to struggle through the narrow roads. At one point, the contractor had to deliver roof trusses by helicopter because the long truck bed couldn’t get through the narrow passages.
The speed of the contractor’s people amazed Martin. In just three short months, they had it built. Fall was descending on the glacier and an occasional light snow had already fallen. It just made the sight more beautiful, thought Martin as he looked from the balcony of his chalet. But occasionally, a fog formed over the glacier by the interrupted flow of cold air over Martin’s chalet. He didn’t remember that before, but since it only lasted several hours at a time, he thought little of it and put it out of his mind.
Because his chalet was such a classically beautiful home, Martin decided to start a foundation to preserve the chalet in the event of his death. He had no heirs and the thought of a foundation to maintain this beautiful place appealed to him. After several years, it became well-known. But Martin was still puzzled by the fog that formed periodically. It followed no set pattern but appeared according to some unknown cause. Martin had come to know the people in the small town up in the mountains near his chalet. They were good, hard working people who went to church regularly. Martin had begun to see a pattern in the appearance of the fog. It only happened after the death of someone in the small town. He’d noticed that right after they died, the fog formed and stayed for several hours. Then it went away. Funny, he thought. It must be a coincidence. He said nothing but kept the idea in the back of his mind.
One day Martin was on a ladder under the edge of the balcony, touching up the paint to keep it looking nice for the foundation. He heard the sound of a hawk in the distance and turned too quickly to look at it. The ladder slipped on the ice and Martin fell backward over a hundred feet onto the ice of the glacier. He was killed instantly when several pieces of ice pierced his chest. The caretaker heard the sound and came running to see what happened. He was shocked to see Martin lying dead on his back. He’d died looking down on the glacier. Despite all the blood, he was found to be smiling when the recovery team brought his body back up to the chalet. A fog started to formed right after Martin had died and the recovery team had to wait for it to clear up before they could start to get Martin’s body. After several hours, it cleared up and the recovery was done.
Later that night, after midnight, some accident of wiring started a fire in the chalet. By the time it was noticed in town, the fire had a good start. The town fire truck tried to get to the chalet but couldn’t get through the narrow roads leading to the chalet. It burned to the ground. Later, the foundation provided for a clean up crew to remove the remains of the building and restored the site to its original condition. A plaque was erected to commemorate the site and the chalet but everything else was left in its natural state.
Now that the chalet was gone, the cold air that had flowed down the valley resumed its cold rolling down over the glacier. A fog was never seen over the glacier again.
Who would believe such a tale unless they witnessed it themselves. Maybe not even then. There are times we just have to lighten up and enjoy a good story.