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Cropped cover of Secret Hearts.

Centaur Ski School

By Mark Abraham · Apr 17, 2013

Title: Centaur Ski School
Author: Achilles Juno Maud
(Surge Porter Publishing; 2002; ISBN: 248-75375793)

John (pronounced “yawn,” his brother always snarks) Natterly-Imbroglio is tired of being a regular old boring boy. He has big plans to change his life, though. He’s already started, in fact, with his facial hair. He’s grown a mustache. It is epic. He’s grown his hair out. He now frowns a lot. Though he’s only 16, he looks almost 20. Like a cowboy, he thinks. He combs a lot. He practices whinnys and nickers in the mirror. He will become the important, special man his peers have denied him the right to be. He will become a centaur.

His brother, of course, tells him that doesn’t make any sense. “Boys only have two legs, not four!”, Carl harrumphs. But John doesn’t care a whit about his brother’s poor imagination. He knows that if he dreams big enough and tries hard enough he can find a way. He can have it all. He just has to make it through ski school first, an annual month-long vacation where his parents dump him and Carl at Cheerful Valley, a ski resort in the shadow of Mount Ixion, while they go antiquing in New Hampshire. Great: soggy cafeteria hot dogs and skiing in a line. John just wants to go fast! Like a horse!

John’s month quickly turns strange, however, when a mysterious couple invade his room on his third night and lock him to his bed post. Then they steal some of his hair! The girl, dressed all in pink, makes John’s heart flutter. He is so flummoxed he almost forgets to be angry. He is smitten, and speechless, and totally in love. And he doesn’t even know her name!

…and then, right as she’s leaving the room, he sees it. She has a tail! Could it be true? Are there centaurs wandering in disguise through Cheerful Valley? Could John be a target? How do centaurs ski, anyways? What does that look like?

Over the next few days, things get even weirder. John swears that one of his instructors, Ari “Ark” Petraios, neighs when Carl masters a particularly difficult black diamond. Later, he absolutely sure that another instructor, Perry Medes, is actually using four legs while demonstrating technique on a mogul-filled double-diamond. And then Mimi Lykidas, his third instructor, straight out eats hay right in front of him.

All kinds of things suddenly click: the prevalence of Greek names in the Ski School; black diamond trail names like “Pseudo-Hyginus Knot,” “Hades in Yo’ Face,” “The Tartarus,” and “The Centaur-Lapith War”; the drinking troughs positioned all over the slopes; the giant gondolas.

John has this revelation while skiing back to his lodge, but little does he know his day is only just beginning. Out of the corner of his eye he sees the girl who tied him up—the girl who he is now convinced he loves—skiing down the slope. He sprints after her, yelling for her to wait.

…whereupon he promptly gets tangled up in his own legs and bails. But when he opens his eyes, there she is! “My name is Hylonome. Are you coming?”, she says. John tries to find words. Nothing comes out. Then again, nothing will capture the trials and tribulations he is about to endure. Nothing has prepared him for this moment. A battle is coming that he doesn’t even understand yet, and he is to be its hero. Something in Hylonome’s voice convinces John. He wordlessly nods, and they proceed to ski towards their destiny!

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