- A colloquialism that describes a lower-income person, particularly in small communities in Northern Ontario. A skid is often sporadically employed and minimally educated. They may enjoy smoking and drinking to excess, yet they’re defiantly proud that they’re not “stuck up.”
The ice fishing hut smelled like beer and Ski-Doo fumes. It was bitterly cold on The French River, but Andre had the stove stoked well enough to be comfortable. Cozy even. If you were inside, you might consider taking off your jacket.
Dennis craned his neck to drain the rest of a beer, crushed the silver tallboy can in his hand, and then released a satisfying burp.
“Try to pace yourself, there guy,” said Andre. “Let’s try to remember this is actually a business meeting, eh?”
Dennis rolled his eyes, then lobbed the crushed can into a garbage bag hanging on a nail in the corner of the hut. “Larry Bird,” he said, pretending to slur the words. It sounded more like Lurreh Burr. He hoped this might get a chuckle out of Andre. It did not. Andre sat almost completely upright with his arms crossed, shaking his head disapprovingly.
Francois sat on a stool across from them on the other side of the hut. He was leaning over his ice hole, bobbing his line up and down with his elbows resting on his knees. He looked up and gave Dennis a palms-down “relax” gesture and a reassuring smile. Francois was the only one dressed appropriately, because he was the only one who actually fished. This was his shack, although this meeting was not his idea.
Dennis was dressed like he had never seen cold weather in his life. He wore a black jean jacket and black jeans, with massive black Ski-Doo mitts, which he’d borrowed from Francois. On the other hand, Andre was dressed a bit more appropriately. He wore a grey thrift shop parka with an Arctic Cat tuque and black sweat pants over a pair of jeans.
“Relax, bud,” said Dennis, playfully smacking Andre in the chest. “It’s fine.”
Andre smacked him back, far less playfully. “I’ll relax when Ray gets here,” he grumbled.
“Hab a beer,” said Francois, with his thick French accent.
Andre let out an exasperated sigh and said, “Yeah, I’ll take a beer. Just one though. Once again. This IS a business meeting!”
“Dere you go,” said Francois. “Give dah man a cold one.”
Dennis popped open the red cooler and felt around inside without looking. After a second or two, he leaned over and peered into it quizzically. “Did Skyler take that fuckin’ bottle of Sprite with him?” He rummaged around the cooler some more. “Yup. Yup he sure as shit did.”
It was quiet for a second, and then Andre started laughing despite himself. “Of course he did.”
Everyone else started laughing too, as a pressure valve inside the hut seemed to release. The laughs grew into cackles, and then howls.
The hut’s door swung open and closed quickly, as a short man stepped inside carrying a Ski-Doo helmet.
“Awful giggly in here, boys. You doing blades or something?” Ray asked.
The group greeted Ray with warm shouts. Even the newly relaxed Andre yelled, “There’s himself!”
The average adult man typically carries a Ski-Doo helmet under one arm. Not Ray. He needed both arms and carried it in front of him like a prize-winning pumpkin. He might be mistaken for a child, if it weren’t for his trademark moustache, which he had ironically sported since he was 12-years-old.
“I just passed Skyler on my sled,” said Ray, resting his helmet on the wood bench. “I waved, but he didn’t wave back. What’s his goddamn problem?”
“Did he have a bottle of Sprite?” Andre asked.
“He did, in fact. He’s not trying to hoof it back to shore is he?”
“Yeah. He threw a hissy fit and said he was walking home,” said Dennis.
Ray joined everyone’s laughter and said, “Christ. Of course he did. What a knob.”
The door swung open and closed again. A tall woman stepped inside and stood next to Ray. She was literally twice his size and wearing a matching Ski-Doo suit. She bent down and planted a kiss on his face.
“Sorry, Babes. I saw the piss bucket out back and I had a quick tinkle,” she said with a giggle.
The shack fell dead silent. Ray and his guest stood quietly at the doorway until Andre yelled, “What is she doing here?!”
“This is Sheila, guys,” said Ray, trying to be jovial.
“I didn’t ask her name. I asked you what she’s doing here!”
“Did she piss in the minnow bucket?” Dennis whispered to himself.
“This is Sheila and she’s with me. She’s cool,” said Ray, still trying to smile.
“Again. Didn’t ask if she’s cool. Asked why she’s here. This is a meeting!” barked Andre.
“Well, she can help us. And, drum roll please, she’s my fiancée,” said Ray, proudly.
“Aw Christ she’s pregnant then,” Dennis whispered.
Andre threw his arms up in disbelief and then covered his face with his hands. “Ray, what did you tell her?” he asked through his fingers.
“Not everything,” said Ray. “But. Most of… a lot.”
Andre screamed into his hands. Ray padded across the ice shack floor as daintily as a man wearing Sorrel boots could do so, then gently placed his hand on Andre’s shoulder. Andre didn’t look up.
“Buddy,” said Ray, trying to sound upbeat. “I had to tell her a little bit if she’s going to help us. Besides. She’s going to be my wife.”
“Absolutely no way that woman ain’t pregnant,” Dennis whispered.
Andre looked up slowly. “Please. Please do tell me how she can help us.”
“Well. You said yourself that Skyler up’n bailed on us. Now we need a computer guy. And Sheila knows about computers. Don’t ya, Babes?”
“I’ve got a laptop yeah, Babes,” said Sheila from the doorway. She seemed completely unaffected by Andre’s attitude. Cheery, even. Also, her Northern Ontario accent was somehow the strongest in the hut.
“See? She knows about computers. We need a computer guy to replace Skyler. And Sheila’s our guy.”
Andre cocked his head sideways and squinted at Ray. “Yes, but you didn’t know that Skyler bailed until you passed him on the way here. Did you?”
“Bah!” Ray laughed. “We all knew Skyler was gonna have one of his hissy fits. Didn’t we, boys?”
Ray turned to face the others. Francois was smiling and nodding. Dennis laughed. “Oh Jesus. There was no way he wouldn’t. Friggin guy.”
“See?” said Ray. “We’re good. Sheila’s can help us.”
Andre stood with his eyes locked into Ray’s until he was looking down on him. Ray kept smiling, but Andre look like he was ready to explode. He shook his head and walked over to Sheila. He looked her up and down, then grabbed a fishing stool and placed it in front of her with mock chivalry.
“Since you’re here, and since our friend is a largemouth ass, why don’t you sit down and tell us what you know.”
“It’s ok, Babes,” said Ray, helping her sit. “We’re all friends here.”
“Careful. She’s fuckin’ pregnant,” whispered Dennis.
Sheila sat in the middle of the shack, as Ray motioned for Andre to scoot over to make room for him on the bench. Andre sighed and then begrudgingly slid over. Dennis and Andre sat on stools on the other side of the hut. The men surrounded Sheila and stared at her like it was a job interview.
“Sick shack, by the way,” said Sheila. “Nice and toasty in here. Catch anything?”
“Nada gad dam ting,” said Francois. He pulled a pack of cigarettes out of his plaid shirt pocket and extended it to Sheila. “Dart? he offered. Dennis quickly smacked Dennis’ arm down and shook his head disapprovingly.
“Ok. Sheila,” said Andre. “Why don’t you start by telling us everything you know about… everything.”
“Well, I know that tonight is New Year’s Eve, obviously.”
“Aw she knows too much. Let’s kill her,” joked Dennis.
“Shut your goddamned face!” Ray yelled at a volume and pitch that seemed impossible for his small frame. He then turned to Sheila and returned to his sweet tone. “You’re doing great, Babes.”
“New Years’ Eve 1999,” said Sheila. “It’s gonna be a big party night. On a Friday night too! Probably gonna be the biggest gas and smokes sales night of the millennium.”
“Go on,” said Andre.
Sheila laughed. “And, you buncha Capones are going to knock over the Gas ‘N Go on Wasi Road. They’ll get both car and sled business that night. And smokes too. And ice too, I guess. Anyways. There’s no cameras and no cops for miles. So, it’s a good idea and I want in.”
“You want in,” said Andre, amused.
“I feel like she’s already in. Look at how much she knows,” said Dennis.
Andre held up a hand to shush Dennis and continued pressing Sheila. “Tell us what else you know.”
“I know you guys want to knock out the debit machine so it’s cash-only. Also pretty smart. I guess the guy with the Sprite was supposed to do that for you. But he left, eh? Oh well. I can do that. It’s easy.”
“How?” asked Andre.
“If they’re not on dial-up, you just put a cordless phone close to the router. They’re both on the same frequency. We had the problem at the Wing King I worked at. Cordless phones kick you off the goddamn net every time someone answers the phone. You’ve got to reboot. It’s annoying.”
The men sat in stunned silence.
“That… Doesn’t suck, actually,” said Andre. He turned to Francois. “Is that what Skyler was gonna do?”
“I hab no idea, bro.”
Andre took a long and meaningful sip from his beer. He stared at Sheila quietly for a full 5 seconds as she sat still and smiled. “Ok, I like her,” he announced.
The others cheered and stood up in celebration. Beer cans were raised. Hugs were exchanged. Muffled high-fives were given with thick leather Ski-Doo mitts. Andre remained seated.
“She’s in for half a share though,” he added.
The room fell silent again.
“Oh piss on that,” said Ray.
“Yeah piss on that,” said Sheila. “Were you going to give Sprite-Boy half a share? I don’t think so.”
Andre stood up. “Listen, sweetheart, you need to understand the situation here. I don’t know you from a can of paint. You and Ray-bo split a share. That seems fair to me.”
“You don’t know her,” said Ray. “She’s going to be my wife and the mother of my child.”
“Fuckin knew it,” Dennis whispered.
Ray stood next to his fiancée and put his arm around her waist. “I was going to ask you to be my best man. But if you don’t know her, maybe you don’t know me.”
“Less all just be calm here,” said Francois. “Less not make any big decisions yet. About shares or best mans.”
“Ok ok ok. Yes, I got a bun in the oven,” said Sheila, rubbing the stomach area of her Ski-Doo suit. “This is why I want in on this. And let me tell you. I think two shares will get little Ray Ray Jr. off to a better start than one share.”
Andre stood up and took off his tuque to reveal his flattened hair. He walked over to Sheila and Andre. “You want me to be your best man?” he asked Ray.
“I don’t know. Does my wife get a share?”
Andre laughed and shook his head. “Yes. Fine. Full share.”
Ray opened his arms and Andre went in for a giant bear hug, as both men laughed. Andre lifted Ray off of the ground and shook him playfully like a toddler.
“We’re getting hitched on Wednesday at the ringette rink. Wear something nice,” said Ray.
“Shit. That isn’t pool league night, is it?” asked Andre.
They were interrupted by a faint scratching at the hut door.
“The hell is dat? We got fuckin’ mices?” asked Francois.
“Hey, guys. It’s Sky. Sorry, I kinda flew off the ol’ handle earlier,” said Skyler meekly from the other side of the door. “I’ve had some time to think. I’d like to come in, make some gins and Sprites, and talk about the deal again.”
“Piss… Off, Skyler,” said Andre. “You had your chance, you temperamental lard. We don’t even need you anymore.”
“Ok. Ok. I hear you. But I’ve been reading a book called The 48 Laws of Power. Law 41 is Avoid Stepping on a Great Man’s Shoes. I stepped on your shoes earlier, Andre. And for that, I apologize. Shit. Law 4 is Always Say Less than Necessary and I’m now worried I said too much. Anyways…”
“He said piss off, Skyler, you tubby bastard,” yelled Dennis.
Skyler was not fat. He was, at the most, 5 to 6 pounds over his ideal weight. You certainly couldn’t tell from the Ski-Doo suit he was wearing. However, he endured relentless teasing about being “obese” from the group because they knew it truly bothered him. He even started exercising in secret with the help of several VHS workout tapes. However, after Dennis discovered them hidden in Skyler’s basement, the tapes became a whole new source of mockery.
“Is that how you all feel?” Skyler yelled at the door. The voices in the hut all responded with some variation of yes and piss off.
“Well sir. Law 19 is Know Who You’re Dealing with and Do Not Offend the Wrong Person. And you all have just offended the wrong person. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.”
“Oh god. Law 50 is Fuck Off, Skyler. Go look it up, I think it’s in the back,” said Andre
Everyone inside laughed. Dennis and Francois crowded around the small square window in the side of the hut. They saw Skyler walk away with his back to the hut and his middle finger raised, before disappearing from the window’s limited view.
“Friggin goof,” Dennis snorted.
A Ski-Doo grumbled and started up from just out of their sight. Dennis pressed his face hard against the window, trying to see around the corner. “Tha’s my sled. He’s starting my sled!”
Dennis also pressed his face into the window, trying to see around the corner. “Naw, he’s not that stupid is he?”
Skyler reappeared from around the corner riding Francois’ Ski-Doo. He slammed it into the front of the ice hut and used it to pin the front door closed. He then shut off the engine and stepped off the sled while making an exaggerated dusting off motion with his hands.
“What the hell was that?” screamed Andre. “Did he hit us?”
“I think he just sealed us in,” said Dennis. “Aw he’s totally lost his tits this time.”
Andre motioned for Ray and Sheila to stay back, then joined the others at the window. Skyler walked to the back of the sled and unhooked a bungee cord that was holding down a can of gasoline on the luggage rack.
“What’s he doing with that jerry can, boys?” asked Dennis.
“Ok. Sky. Let’s take a breath, there bud,” said Andre. “We’ve all said some things today. I know I have. Let’s not do anything stupid.”
Skyler unscrewed the top of the can and started flicking gas onto the ice hut’s roof and down the exterior walls.
“Jesus Christ, Skyler. What’s in your head? Just calm the fuck down, move that sled and stop throwing gas at us. Let’s talk about this.”
Skyler whipped the can and the remaining gas at the window. “Law 17 is Keep Others in Suspended Terror and Cultivate an Air of Unpredictability,” he said.
“And a bang-up job you’re doing of that,” said Andre, trying to appease him. “We’re all feeling your terror in here. Big time! But the air is getting a bit gassy and we’ve got a pregnant woman in here. Just please stop doing everything you’re currently doing. We’ll find a way to cut you into the deal.”
“The time for deals is over,” said Skyler, searching his pockets for a lighter.
“Christ he’s really doing it,” said Dennis. He jumped to the back of the hut and ran at the door shoulder-first. It didn’t budge. Dennis hit the floor, grabbed his shoulder, and rolled over in pain.
A Zippo lighter hit the window and then fell down out of sight. The front of the hut immediately lit up in flames.
Andre picked up the far end of the bench and motioned for Francois to grab the other. Ray grabbed it in the middle. Dennis saw what they were planning to do and rolled out of their path.
“Fucking ram it down, boys! One. Two. Three!” Andre yelled. They stormed forward and used the bench as a battering ram. The first blow didn’t open the door, but it cracked it across the middle. “Again!”
They backed up and hit the door a second time, this time breaking it open just above where the sled had it pinned closed. The impact sent the men to the floor. Ray waved for Sheila to get out first as he coughed from the floor.
She used the bench as a ramp, running up the thin wood plank and scampering out of the burning ice shack. Without slowing down, Sheila spotted Skyler admiring his work and lunged at him with a sprinting overhand punch. Skyler tried (poorly) to bob out of the way and fell backwards as the blow landed firmly in his ear.
Sheila was wearing Ski-Doo mitts, so the force of her first punch was deadened by leather and insulation. That would not be the case for the next 11 punches she landed. Skyler tried to roll over to protect his damaged ear. But Sheila sat on the side of his ribcage and locked her heels underneath him. Years later, when the UFC would start selling major PPVs, this would commonly be recognized in sports bars as a textbook ground and pound from mount position.
“You! Stupid! Peace! Of! Shit!,” Sheila yelled, timing each word with five rhythmic punches to his face. “You! Don’t! Fuck! With! Momma! Bear!” she added to the next six punches. She sat on top of him with her fists now a fiery red from the impact, the blood, and the cold. Ray and Andre appeared from behind her, still coughing from the fire.
“Good job, babes. That’ll learn him,” said Ray, helping her to her feet.
“And you left him breathing, so there’s no manslaughter. Strong work,” Andre added. “Wait. Is he breathing?”
Skyler rolled over onto his other side, barely conscious and coughed dark red blood onto the snow.
Dennis and Francois ran past them, both breathing heavily. Their strides were the frantic, yet careful, strides of two men trying to run on sheer ice in the sun. It was half running, half ice skating, and all panic.
“Sleds gonna blow, boys!” Francois panted as he ran by.
“What?” said Andre.
A loud bang rang out from about 20 feet behind them and the force of the explosion sent everyone chest-first onto the ice.
Andre rolled over onto his side to inspect the damage. Tall flames engulfed the hut, as black smoke poured upwards. He would never admit it, given their current predicament, but in most other scenarios, Andre would think this looked pretty cool. “My goddamn wallet was in there,” he said, then rested his forehead on the ice.
“It was empty anyways, bud. I’ll getcha another library card,” Ray replied.
Andre snorted with his face down. “You guys good?” he yelled across the ice to Dennis and Francois.
“Yeah,” they yelled back in unison.
“I’m not great,” Skyler burped through the blood.
“Shut up! Nobody gives a shit,” snapped Sheila, kicking him in the ribs from her lying position.
Andre slowly pushed himself up onto his knees and dusted the snow off. “I’m not gonna lie to you. That’s bad for a number of reasons.”
“Do tell,” said Ray, sarcastically.
“First of all. All that boom boom is probably gonna attract the attention of John Q. O.P.P. If they didn’t hear the blast, someone probably called it in. That’s bad.”
“Yeah. Bad,” said Ray.
There’s nothing tying the shed to Francois, but we should probably pop the plates off of the sled. Or. Report it stolen I guess.”
“It was a nice sled too,” said Ray.
“Thanks, bud,” Francois said from behind them.
“But, the cops showing up. That’s a lot of heat. Maybe we shouldn’t do the job? Put it off until May 2-4, or Canada day weekend?”
“Pffft. Fuck that,” Ray scoffed. “I ain’t showing up to work on Monday.”
Andre stared at him in disbelief. “You serious?”
“Oh yeah. The cops are at least a 30-minute sled ride from here. We can clean this up before then. Not the burn hole so much, but you get me.”
Andre considered this carefully, then shrugged. He yelled over his shoulder to Dennis and Francois. “You guys still wanna do the thing?”
“Oh fuck yeah,” they replied in unison.
Andre laughed and looked around. “Ok then. I guess… Meeting adjourned.”