THE SNOW QUEEN CONTEST
(A narrative non-fictional story)
by Joseph E. Fleckenstein
The ski club’s first meeting of the year is always exciting, festive. Friends and acquaintances from past trips would be there. There would be the retelling of encountered experiences from the previous ski season, as well as those from the summer months. There was always anticipation of the announcements of upcoming trips. A speaker would address a subject of common interest. Occasionally, a local ski shop would provide a fashion show to display their goods. There is always the man-woman thing, guys on the chase and women looking sideways now and then.
The club had over one thousand members although only a fraction of the members attended meetings. The club held the meetings in a rear room of a popular restaurant. A bar was located just outside the room, and it was well patronized by the club’s members before, during and after the meetings. The building’s owner never charged the club for use of the room. He made enough from the bar sales. Skiers tend to be a robust, don’t-give-a-damn, thirsty lot. It was almost as though you can’t fit in unless you are an imbiber.
Once the president announced the meeting was about to start, some members finished their drink. Others scurried out for a fresh one to have while they paid attention to the Club’s proceedings. After most were seated and the chatter decreased somewhat, the president started the meeting. Half way through the “new business,” the Club president, Ryan, made an announcement that startled me. He told the group I would be chairman of the Club’s annual Snow Queen Contest. Those present responded with a hearty round of applause. They were all happy for me. I smiled and waved a hand in the air to let everyone know I was present. I couldn’t merely sit there, stone-faced. In truth, I didn’t know what to make of the news. I thought it strange that Ryan hadn’t asked me in advance if I wanted the assignment. As I shall explain, I was pitifully naïve.
It was true. I had become one of the Club’s more active members and an enthusiastic supporter of its events. I was the Club’s treasurer the previous year, and I helped with the club’s activities. Being a bachelor I had the time. I started to suspect the assignment as chairmanship of the Snow Queen Contest was intended as a reward for my service to the Club.
The evening Ryan appointed me chairman of the Snow Queen contest, as was my custom, I stayed around after the formal meeting for a few beers and chatter. With beer glass in hand, I worked my way over to where Ryan was mingling with friends. I thought I should thank him for what appeared to be a favor. It seemed to be the right thing to do. When I caught his eye, I told him, “Say, Ryan, I want to thank you.”
Ryan responded with a broad smile that clearly showed most of the teeth in his mouth.
“Joe, you earned it.”
Ryan, too, seemed especially happy for me. His comment confirmed what I suspected: The Club intended the chairmanship as a bonus. It was a favor, not a chore. It gradually occurred to me that, yes, I might enjoy this adventure.
I resolved I would take my role as Snow Queen Chairman seriously. I would be conscientious and do whatever was necessary to make the contest a success. My first efforts would be to promote the event. Because I would need entrants, I called the Club’s secretary and asked her to place a notice in the monthly newsletter. I told her to say the Snow Queen contest will be in March. Mention that no experience is required, and there will be a prize for the winner. To register, the girls should call me. I gave the secretary my phone number so that it may be included in the advertisement.
The ad in the Club’s newsletter brought calls from a few of the Club’s young women. Although several prospective entrants expressed curiosity, none committed to entering the contest. A typical call was the one I received from Ann, a friend of many years.
“Hi, Joe. How are you? I didn’t have a chance to speak with you at the last meeting.”
“Fine, Ann. Thanks. How about yourself? Maybe we will be on more trips together this year.”
“Oh, I hope so. I can’t wait for snow. I’m really looking forward to going on a trip or two. I couldn’t wait for the summer to be over.”
Of course, I knew the reason for Ann’s call. She continued. “By the way, I see you are running the Snow Queen Contest this year.”
Ann sounded different from the Ann I knew in the past. She had become upbeat, cheerful, so happy to talk with me. I tried to bring the level of conversation to a normal tone–to the way people usually talk to one another.
“Yes. You know that if there were no volunteers to run the Club’s activities, there would be no club. I’m only trying to do my part.”
“Well, I think the Club picked the right man for the job. I’m sure you will do a good job and be impartial.”
I started to think Ann might be of the opinion that there is nothing wrong with a little partiality between friends. I told her, “To tell the truth, Ann, I am not going to be the judge. No, that would be too hazardous. I plan to have some older men be the judges. I’m merely the organizer. That way I get to live to ski down more hillsides.”
“You’re a smart guy. I was thinking of entering the contest. I haven’t decided yet. I wanted to ask you a question or two. If I enter, what do you think I should wear? Something with a skiing motif? After-ski togs or something like that?”
I didn’t care to sound too earnest or serious about my task as chairman. The event was intended to be a lighthearted affair, entertainment for all.
“Wear anything you wish. Short-shorts might be a good idea. If you want to stand out you might try a G-string below and pasties up above. Just kidding. Be yourself and turn on the charm. I guess the judges would like to see a genuine smile and, I’m sure, skin.”
“You men are all alike. I may or may not enter the contest. I’m not sure. See you later.”
Starting with the November meeting, I was the recipient of comments from some of my friends–mostly jealous male friends. Michael was one of those friends. In many ways, Michael and I were two men of the same inclinations. Together, we had schussed down distant snow-covered slopes, drank beer and chased snow bunnies. Michael sought me out at the meeting, and, maneuvering me aside, asked, “How’s the contest going?” He showed half a smile and seemed strangely curious.
I didn’t know where he was going with this. I told him, “Ok, I guess. A few girls called me with questions. Some wanted to know what to wear, but that was about it. No girl has yet told me she plans to be in the contest.”
“Really? You didn’t tell them you would like to meet with them before the evening of the event? You know, to interview them and maybe have a drink somewhere? To give them some hints on what to wear. Hints as to what it might take to win?”
“No, I told them the prize is a sweater. I suggested that the judges would probably like to see legs.”
Michael shifted to a frown and a whisper while squeezing my arm, I guessed, for emphasis. He looked around before speaking, much as though the two of us were about to cook up treachery.
“Joe, I’m disappointed in you. You should get up close to the girls. This is a rare opportunity. Some girls will do anything to win at a contest like this. You know what I mean. I’m talking anything!”
“No, I didn’t look at it that way. Besides, I have a steady.”
Michael was disappointed in me.
Several weeks before the contest, I contacted three political acquaintances and asked each if he would like being a judge of the contest. I did not need to beg.
One week before the March meeting, there were no applicants. I began to worry. Then the telephone started to ring. The girls had a variety of questions. How many have signed up so far? Will the names of the “losers” be in the newsletter? I told all of them the same: Show up the evening of the March meeting wearing whatever is your preference. Short-shorts might be a good idea. A local ski shop will be giving a good quality ski sweater to the Queen.
The night of the contest, one of the judges called and said he was unable to make it. Said he had forgotten about another commitment. I suspected he was afraid of losing the votes of disgruntled contestants. I decided to proceed with the two judges who had already committed. It was a mistake. The evening of the Snow Queen Contest, five girls, including my good friend Ann, approached me and said they would like to participate. Although it was a cold evening, all of the girls were wearing high cut shorts. Some of the shorts were made of material the thickness of crepe paper. The women’s dress confirmed my long-held belief that skiers of both sexes were a reckless type.
I waited until the Club’s president announced that the meeting was about to begin and “please take your seats.” I led the parade of contestants and judges down the side of the main hall and to a private room in the basement. What a parade! The clicking of high heels on the wooden floor punctuated the show. A few men applauded. In the basement, I repeated the prize and the procedure for the contest. The rules, I explained, were simple. The judges will select the winner. I was greeted with smiles a plenty. The girls loved me.
One of the contestants, Ashley, said she had a question.
“What are we being judged on?”
I had to think quickly. Visions of pits with sharpened stakes pointed upward flashed through my mind.
I responded, “It’s up to the judges. I would say that the winner would be a girl who is generally attractive and interesting. Skiing ability does not matter.” Saying more, I concluded, would only risk unneeded danger.
Ashley had a response to which I had no possible comeback.
“Well, we all have THAT.”
I realized I was in a predicament. What kind of an answer was she expecting? Well, Ashley, in my opinion a well-developed set of tits might help. Or, a nicely shaped ass wouldn’t hurt the cause. What about movie star looks? Comments, almost any spoken words, could bring me trouble that might endure long into the future. I was about to speak when another of the contestants, Carol, addressed the subject.
“Ashley, we all have THAT but some of us have more of THAT than others.”
I suspected Carol spoke up as a favor to me. Maybe she was hoping for points. Or, perhaps she was she jumping at an opportunity to trash the competition. There was no way of telling.
Ashley’s mouth dropped and it seemed she was about to comment further, possibly with spicy vulgarities. It occurred to me that Ashley might be of a type that would enjoy using sailor words on occasion. Instead, she held back and a broad smile replaced the frown. It was time for me to turn the discussion in another direction and without delay.
I told the group, “Girls, this is what we will do. The judges will interview one girl at a time while the others can join the regular meeting or have a drink at the bar. Drinks are on the Club. When the judges have finished interviewing one girl I will bring in the next one and so forth. The winner will be announced near the end of the regular meeting.”
As I turned to go upstairs, I heard the judges trying to decide which contestant to interview first. The monthly meetings usually lasted about an hour and a half. There was much to be treated at the March meeting: the financial report, old business, new business, stories from recent trips, and a speaker who was demonstrating how skiers can wax their skis at home. After an hour, the judges had talked with all five girls. I descended to the basement and asked the judges if they had made a selection.
One judge told me, “No.” They could not agree on a winner. Each had their selection and they could not find a way to resolve their difference. Neither intended to budge. Politicians, I thought. I had a problem on my hands. The meeting would be ending soon and the members were expecting to learn of the new Snow Queen. I did not care to be known thereafter as the guy who botched the Snow Queen contest. I suggested to the judges that they find a way to come up with the winner. I asked them to be “imaginative” and said I would return in five minutes. When I returned there was no change. Action, I decided, was required. I took the judges aside and announced I was making an executive decision. I said I would flip a coin. If heads, the judge to my right would have the winner. Tails, the other judge. It was tails.
I went before the assembled membership and announced that Nadine was the new Snow Queen. I asked Nadine to come to the front of the room to receive her sweater. She was delighted by the award and full of joy. The members applauded. Ann, my former friend of many years, stood and pranced to the coatroom to collect her parka. With quick, sharp steps to punctuate her march to the door, she exited the building.
After the meeting, Nadine came up to me and planted one on my cheek. “Joe, that was so much fun. Thank you very much.”
What could I say? I certainly could not have mentioned the flip of a coin.
“Nadine, you deserved it. There was no contestant better qualified to be Snow Queen.”
Later in the evening, Ryan, the Club’s president, found me at the rear of the room. He was displaying the same, strange smile he had the evening he appointed me Chairman of the contest.
“Joe, you did well.”
I was not inclined to disagree.
“Thanks Ryan. It was an experience.”
I could have added “education,” but I kept that to myself.
As the crowd was thinning, Michael and I made our way to the bar. Together, we downed a few and discussed the evening’s events before heading out into the chilly night air.
About the Author:
Joseph E. Fleckenstein, a graduate of Carnegie Mellon University, has published over 35 items. The list includes nonfiction articles in outdoor magazines, technical papers, online courses for professional engineers, a patent and more recently literary short stories in Prick of the Spindle, Story Shack, Out of the Gutter, Potluck, Gravel, Down in the Dirt, Work Literary Magazine, Street Light and Military Experience & the Arts. His 400 page technical book Three Phase Electrical Power was published in October, 2015 by CRC Press. Currently he lives in Pennsylvania where he is a self-employed engineer and freelance technical writer. Additional bio particulars may be viewed at his website www.WriterJEF.com.