Who Invited Mother Nature on the All-Boys Weekend?
There are few places on earth where you can walk to the face of a glacier. Not that Moore, Rose, Lasseter, and Wynn did much walking on their trip. Busy men, late fifties, early sixties, interchangeable in appearance, they were powerful executives who made obscene amounts of money in oil and mining. They flew a private jet to Juneau, where Lasseter’s sleek new yacht and twelve-person crew awaited, then cruised overnight to Skagway. A van collected them at the pier and brought them to the tiny, control-towerless airport. Their helicopter soared over a stunning, rugged vista of rock, trees, and ice, then landed near the railroad tracks, leaving a modest hike of three hours to reach Laughton Glacier.
“Would you look at that,” Rose exclaimed as the group left the woods and emerged onto a barren, sloping plain of silt, rubble, and meltwater from the retreating glacier. “It’s like massive fingers of ice grasping the mountain ridge, ready to rip it apart.”
Turning full circle, Wynn scanned the valley’s contrasting landscapes. Below were pines, rivers, and waterfalls; above were rock, ice, and snow. It was July. “It’s incredible. The air tastes so different from Houston. This is the longest I’ve been away from my desk since the Deepwater Horizon hearings, but this was worth leaving the office for.”
“Agreed,” Lasseter spoke without irony. “I often forget how beautiful nature is. Glaciers are disappearing fast, so I’m glad we made it. Some people may never get a chance to see one.”
Abel was their guide, a long-haired, unshaven university student from Utah, on his third summer with Packer Expeditions. “If we keep up this pace, it’ll take an hour to get close enough to touch the glacier.”
“Can we chill our Dom Pérignon with glacial ice?” Moore asked.
“Absolutely,” Abel assured him.
With each careful step, the billionaires couldn’t resist admiring the bold landscape of mineral and water luring them forward. Two additional guides followed, carrying supplies for an evening meal and enough wood for the bonfire the men intended to build.
Arriving at the glacier, their Moncler hiking boots still appeared brand new, but the executives were out of breath. And disappointed.
Lasseter spoke. “It’s covered in filth.”
“No wonder it doesn’t melt in summer. It’s insulated by a layer of muck,” Wynn added.
Abel expected such comments. “It is melting. Every drop of water you see, including the river, is glacial runoff.”
Moore considered. “Wouldn’t that be something to bottle and sell? Imagine the markup on pure glacier water.” He surveyed the land, imagining his next factory.
Abel continued. “But it isn’t pollution. It’s all-natural. Glaciers consist of compacted snow, centuries old. They’re incomprehensibly heavy and pulled by gravity. Sheer weight grinds rock into a powder finer than beach sand. The dirt we see is actually pulverized stone.”
“What’s that blue up there?” Rose asked.
“Ah, that’s the true color of this natural marvel, peeking through last winter’s snow. Glacial ice is so dense it absorbs every color of the spectrum, except blue.” Abel pointed his axe at the muddy glacier before them. “If we’re lucky, we’ll find that same cobalt shade immediately below this dark layer.”
Abel chipped through a coating of frozen stone particles until he reached the purity he sought. With delicate precision, he carved a dozen ice cubes. Not long afterward, the sound of popping champagne corks echoed through the valley.
The late afternoon sun disappeared behind the mountain, yet daylight lingered for hours. The men were in no hurry. By nine, they were well fed, and a bonfire raged. On folding chairs, facing the flames, four friends lounged, watching shadows dance against the backdrop of an enormous curtain of ice. It was time for cigars.
Moore, satisfied and at ease, removed a hundred-dollar bill from his wallet, rolled it tight, and dipped it into the flame. Once it caught, he held it to his cigar.
Wynn and Lasseter laughed, but Rose noticed the guides’ gaping mouths. “Sorry to shock you. That’s just the way we do things.”
“It’s okay,” Abel replied, hoping it wasn’t his gratuity burning.
“We control money, it doesn’t control us.”
“I understand.” Abel tried to sound convincing. He turned to his staff, expecting them to concur—and perhaps laugh congenially.
“You must think we’re crazy,” Lasseter said.
“No, we’ve seen our share of crazy out here. Plenty of it.”
“What’s the strangest thing you’ve seen?”
Abel recalled an episode from a few weeks earlier. “We had a Bavarian group here for the summer solstice. All twelve started singing German folk tunes and dancing naked around a bonfire, just like this one. They believed the ritual cleansed their souls and reunited them with the natural world.”
“Is that right?”
Thirty minutes later, Moore, Wynn, Rose, and Lasseter were dancing naked around the bonfire, singing, “If I Had a Hammer.” It was the only folk song whose lyrics they knew. Rolls of pale, hairy flesh jiggled as they spun and pranced beneath the evening twilight. The men never felt so free, so in tune with nature. Lasseter howled like a wolf. The others laughed and joined in. Wynn turned and pissed to mark his territory.
Moore decided he needed more champagne. Abel obliged by uncorking another bottle, but they were out of ice, so Moore grabbed Abel’s pickaxe and set off.
Fifty paces took him to the face of the glacier. He felt heat evaporate with each step. Chilly air tingled and aroused him as he walked barefoot over mountain debris. Shivering by the time he reached the wall of ice, Moore couldn’t find the spot Abel excavated earlier, so he took the axe and swung blindly.
His first contact was useless. He wondered how many whacks it would take to reach the blue hidden below. His teeth chattered. Swinging harder, the impact left a pockmark the size a pebble might make on a windshield.
There was just enough light for Moore to witness the butterfly effect he set in motion. A crack appeared, no longer than an eyelash. It doubled, then tripled in size, before becoming a pencil-thin line racing upward over the glacier’s face. It zigged and zagged, pinged, and crackled. In a blink, the fissure was as tall and wide as a telephone pole. Several thousand tons of downward pressure caused thick ice to lurch apart. The seam burst into a gaping wound. Moore felt a tremor beneath his feet and heard the music of buckling ice. The song rose to a shriek, achieving the pitch of a million shattering spines.
Moore looked up as a six-story pillar of frozen, compacted snow split from the mountain and tilted toward him, obliterating the sky. It fell like a hammer as it pounded across the moraine, flattening Moore first, followed by his naked friends and their stunned guides. The bonfire was also snuffed out. Only the legacy of four billionaires remained, scattered across the weakened earth.
About the Author
Dave Gregory is a Canadian writer who worked on cruise ships and sailed the world for nearly two decades. He is an Associate Editor with the Los Angeles-based Exposition Review, and his work has appeared in numerous literary publications, including Exile: A Literary Quarterly, Firewords Magazine, Lowestoft Chronicle, and The Sunlight Press. Please follow him on Twitter @CourtlandAvenue.