I recently joined a group in London all of whose members are winter sports enthusiasts. Even before its first meeting, I think that I can reasonably predict the need to sub-divide the group. I like to ski downhill, and although I have also enjoyed x-country skiing as a younger man, I sold all my x-country equipment many years ago in frustration at having too few days and too few affordable trails. Tubing? It’s just not something that I enjoy at all. Snowshoeing? Probably not for me. When I lived in Perth, Ontario, there were higher ski hills nearby than we have in Southwestern Ontario, but the cross-country in that part of Canada couldn’t be beaten. I skied cross-country exclusively.

I expect that the first meeting of our group may test the will of people to endure the thoughts and ideas of others simply due to the variety of interests encompassed in “Winter sports activities.” But as a writer, I’ve been challenged to bring a tale that I can “share” with others about my favourite winter activity recollection.

The fact is that the first memory that springs to mind requires putting the recipient of the story into the mood in order for them to appreciate what the experience meant to me. That’s the kind of thing that might be done with someone who has committed themselves to reading a true, short-story in true short-story length, but spouting it aloud in a group as everyone balances cups of coffee on their knees, I’m thinking, maybe as many as 50 words might be tolerated, not more.

In the shortest form I can imagine telling this tale is as follows:

On our snowmobiles, Lorne and I had travelled in miles from the nearest plowed road to this frozen lake. We cut a hole in the ice for fishing and started a bon fire nearby for warmth. Darkness fell over us, and wolves began howling. Stars were shining with fierce intensity. In the far distance, just above the horizon, we saw the flashing red lights of a small plane that seemed to be coming in our direction. The steady, buzzing whine of its single engine soon reached our ears. We stood transfixed by the sight and sound of the plane as it approached us, then flew over our fire, see-sawing its wings ever-so-slightly as it passed to acknowledge human contact. Then the doppler-pitch change of the engine indicated the beginning of its retreat from us and its gradual disappearance below the tree-line to our southwest, returning us to the sounds of the crackling of the fire and the howling of the wolves.

160 words.

How could I tell this tale properly in, say, 50 words?

The two of us were on an isolated, frozen lake at night. With our backs to the fire, we were awestruck by the canopy of stars that glimmered with fierce intensity. A single-engine plane flew in a straight line, tipping its wings slightly as it passed over our fire and slowly vanished from our awareness, leaving us once again with only the sounds of the crackling fire and the mournful howling of wolves.

76 words. Still too long.

Oh dear! What’s a neanderthal, long-talker like me supposed to do here in the snippet-inspired Twitterverse?

I think I’ll just let others have their say and learn what I can. It is essentially a social group. Telling them how thrilling it is to find yourself in such harsh, isolated conditions, is probably not what the membership is hoping to hear.

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