Not Exactly Winter Wonderland (a short story)

by Arnold Snyder

We almost didn’t go to the Ice Capades in 1960. Every year Dad took us, the big Family Night. Geezus, it was miserable. But on my thirteenth birthday, Rudy and I got into a fight, a physical fight. My lip was swollen. Worse yet, his tooth got chipped on the dresser when he lost his balance. Mom and Dad were upset. They threatened to cancel going to the Ice Capades the following week. It was supposed to be part of my birthday present.

We moaned and pouted then went back to our room in glee. We hated the Ice Capades. The only good part of the show was the finale, always the same ending, every year. The skaters formed a line in the center of the rink, half facing one direction, half the other. Then they skated in a circle. The ones in the center hardly moved, while the ones on the circumference were racing. New skaters came in from the wings and they would have to skate even faster to make the circle bigger. It was like crack-the-whip on ice skates.

The first time we saw them, four or five years earlier, one of the end skaters was cracked off the whip and went flying into the sideboards. He was in a clown suit, acting like he was out of control. He hit the boards and fell flat on his back, but he never got up.

A couple other clowns came out with a stretcher to get the body, but they never stopped the music or the whip. I thought it was part of the show until Mom leaned down to Rudy and me and said, “That man’s really hurt.” She had a stern look on her face, like she disapproved of us smiling and laughing. But she was right. The clowns with the stretcher looked scared right through their greasepaint. The whole stadium was roaring with hilarity, music blaring, skaters whipping around the rink. Our family must have been the only people in the place who weren’t laughing and applauding. We sat in silent horror. Rudy was using the binoculars to try and see if there was any blood on the ice, but that was the extent of the fun for that night.

We never did hear what happened to the guy. Rudy and I figured he was probably fine. We’d seen hockey players hit the boards harder than that many times. In the following years, there was still a clown on the end of the whip, and every year he went flying into the boards. He always got up in a few seconds, then skated even faster to catch the whip again. But that was the only good part of the show, going to see if some clown might actually kill himself right before our eyes.

The rest of the show was for little kids. And, well, our Mom. Her taste in entertainment was infantile. By the time we were ten and eleven, we dreaded going. I’d have to miss Wyatt Earp or Rifleman just to see if some clown might get brain-damaged. And we had to act like we wanted to go because Dad made such a big deal out of what a special night it was. Sometimes you’ve got to treat your parents like they’re two-year-olds.

Unfortunately, Mom reneged on her threat to cancel the Ice Capades night, probably because Dad couldn’t return the tickets. So, despite half-killing each other, and fully deserving of the punishment, we went to the show.

The ice shows were always held in Olympia Stadium downtown. The Old Red Barn, Dad called it. At least a couple times each season, he would take Rudy and me to see the Red Wings play hockey there. We liked to sit as near to the penalty box as we could because you got to see the players close up after they smashed someone illegally. They’d come into the box and spit out their mouth guards. None of them had any front teeth. I don’t even know why hockey players wear mouth guards. Are they protecting their gums? I once told Rudy I couldn’t figure out why anyone would give up their teeth to play hockey.

“They’re great athletes,” he said, “but they’re dumb. If they were smart they would’ve learned to play baseball.”

Olympia Stadium was a rickety old building with hard wooden seats. It was torn down years ago. It looked a lot different for the Ice Capades shows than it did for the Red Wings games. For the ice shows, they didn’t light up the whole rink most of the time. They used spotlights. It was also a lot darker in the audience. You could almost forget it was a hockey rink if you didn’t pay attention to the red and blue lines and the big red wing painted beneath the ice surface.

About twenty minutes into the ice show, which had a cowboy theme this year, Rudy whispered to me, “Man, Franco, do I have a boner.”

This had to be the most inane and boring Ice Capades show we’d ever seen. I loved westerns, but something about cowboys in glittering tights, and cowgirls in pink and yellow tutus on ice skates, just didn’t add up to Wyatt Earp. Or maybe it was the two skaters inside the peacock blue horse suit with the mane of Christmas tree tinsel that just didn’t seem realistic to me. The PA system was blaring a song, with the refrain, “Ride ’em, cowboy! Ride ’em, cowboy! Ride ’em, cowboy!” And Rudy had a boner.

“Look at the girl in the green vest,” he said. “Watch her butt when she turns around.”

She was cute.

“Check out her ass!” he whispered a bit louder.

When she spun around, her short skirt flared, and you could see that her green satin panties had ridden up into the crack of her butt.

“Get the binoculars from Mom,” Rudy said.

The only time Rudy or I ever asked for the binoculars was during crack-the-whip. For most of the show, Mom and Dad passed them back and forth, only occasionally looking through them. Mom relinquished them without complaint.

“Give ’em here, Frank! It was my idea! I saw her first!”

She wasn’t just cute. She was gorgeous. Maybe 20 years old, possibly still a teenager. Her make-up was severe, like a kewpie doll, bright red lips, painted on lashes, rosy cheeks. And every time she spun around, her skirt flew up to show off the cutest butt… She was wearing tights. I knew that. But they were flesh-colored and it just looked like her legs and her ass. I wondered if she knew her panties were pulled up into her crack, the way she was smiling. She must have known there would be guys like us sitting out in the crowd, just staring at her ass, sweating bullets.

Rudy ripped the binoculars from my hands. I didn’t put up a fight. I was in a trance.

“I think I’m in love,” I said to him.

“Oh, man…” he breathed, feasting his eyes on her.

“You’re looking at my future wife,” I said. “Lemme see her again.”

His grip on the binocs tightened.

“C’mon, Rudy, she’s going to leave soon. The song’s almost over.”

“She’s mine,” he said, “All mine!”

For the next couple of hours, Rudy and I fought for possession of the binocs, salivating over various nymphs. For the first time in my life, I saw the Ice Capades for what the show really was—a raunchy spectacle of nubile flesh. Rudy had opened my eyes.

As another hot babe was performing a lengthy solo number, Rudy said, “Watch how everyone applauds whenever she spreads her legs.” It was true. One pose, in particular, was a real crowd pleaser. She would bow forward and spread her arms as if doing a swan dive, one leg lifted behind her, toe pointed, as she inscribed a long slow circle on one skate. It was graceful, beautiful, so smooth and controlled. Rudy called it “the never-ending crotch shot.”

By the time we were exiting the arena, I think my parents were on to us—Mom was, anyway. It was all those fights for the binoculars. I could see the way she kept glancing at us.

Out in the car, rolling home, she said, “How’d you boys like the show?”

We were sitting in the back. Rudy stuck his tongue out and started rubbing his crotch for my entertainment.

Thinking quickly, I said, “I think that show is mostly for little kids.”

It was a good answer at the time, but it back-fired. The following year, when the Ice Capades returned to Detroit, my parents went to the evening show with some neighborhood friends—adults. Mom said, “You guys are too old for it now, but we still enjoy it.”

Rudy could have killed me. “It’s because of what you said, you shitass. You had to go and tell her we didn’t like it anymore.”

I checked the Detroit News for the ad. There was a one o’clock matinee on Sunday. We had enough money for the tickets and the bus downtown. We were going and we weren’t going to tell our parents. We’d have to sneak the binocs off the shelf in Dad’s closet, but otherwise, it would be easy. They never paid attention to what we were doing on Sunday afternoons. We could be anywhere.

Walking from the bus stop on Grand River to the Olympia Stadium ticket office, we saw lots of families with little kids, all dressed up in their Sunday best. We weren’t surprised to see other guys our age, 13-14-15, some in big groups, many with binoculars.

According to the official program, the theme this year was “Winter Wonderland.” If you’d have asked us—or probably any of the guys who showed up with binoculars—the theme was “Cute Girls with Fine Asses Wearing Tight Little Panties and Spreading Their Legs Like There Was No Tomorrow.”

After the show, on the bus headed for home, Rudy said, “As soon as we get home, I’m going to bed.”

“It won’t even be six o’clock,” I said.

He looked at me with a pained expression.

“What’d you think of the show this year?” I asked.

“Best one yet,” he said. “I can hardly believe they let kids into those things.”

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