Their conversation finished for the time--Kilgore knew when to stop pushing, considered himself fortunate for having been able to go as far as he did without major consequence; he had taken a chance, for sure--the two men left their meeting-seats and wandered around for a bit, Einar hoping he might be able to slip away from Kilgore and spend some time sitting up in the rocks above the cabin, pondering, quiet, but seeing that there was little chance of any such coming to pass. Kilgore was right there with him, seemed disinclined to leave him in peace and was, in fact, suggesting that the two of them work on completing the woodshed. A necessary task; the structure’s half-done state had been troubling Einar for some time, but he did not especially wish to take on such a project just then, not in Kilgore’s presence, for he was, after his brief nap, feeling terribly stiff from the effects of his fall and of the past days’ travels, foot paining him a great deal and his balance not feeling like a thing that ought to be trusted too far. Parts of which he expected would, despite his best efforts be noticeable to the tracker should the two of them end up working together, and he did not want the man to know the extent of his difficulties. Might very well try and take advantage of them in some way, exploit his weaknesses in a further attempt to talk him down off the mountain, and Einar simply didn’t want to contend with such, just then. Didn’t want to hear it. Kilgore was being most persistent, though, had begun dragging timbers over, himself, and leaning them against the woodshed skeleton, so, figuring he had little choice, Einar joined him. Just have to work hard at not letting it show. Not letting anything show. Just focus on the work, and you’ll be fine.
Together they hauled the timbers that Bud and Susan had earlier retrieved, leaning each up against the woodshed frame with Einar stopping frequently to rearrange and adjust the structure as it took form, tightening it up against future leaks and making sure it remained sound. While the leaning timbers would go a long way towards keeping out the weather, Einar still hoped to find and apply a good many aspen bark slabs to the angled walls, knowing that it would be far more successful at shedding rain and later, melting snow. Though Einar worked silently and without giving much notice to his companion--the mere task of remaining on his feet and on the job was demanding all the focus he could muster--Kilgore soon realized his intention in hauling back the occasional slab of bark from one fallen aspen or another, and joined in the effort. By the time they finished leaning poles for the main structure of the roof-walls, the two of them had amassed a good pile of bark, also, and with Kilgore’s help Einar began placing the slabs, starting at the bottom and working his way up so as to keep them shedding water. Large and heavy as the slabs were, Einar doubted they would even need to be secured in place, but Kilgore wasn’t taking any chances, using the tip of his knife to drill pairs of small holes near the tops of some of the shingles and binding them to the frame with bits of cordage. A good plan, Einar had to admit, and one that would likely lead to a longer-lasting roof, especially once the snow began weighing it down.
Guess it’s not all bad having this fella here. Still wish he’d never shown up though. What good is it to have a great woodshed, after all, if you end up having to flee because your guests got themselves followed? Or have to make a planned and deliberate move because your location has been compromised… He shook his head, went at the work of shingling the woodshed roof with a fierce new energy. Had been running over and over the possibilities in his mind, the risks of staying and of going, the compromised security of the place, the lateness of the season, the coming birth, all of it, and nothing was looking too promising, really. Made him mad. Ought to be a better solution, better than either of those two, but if it was out there, he hadn’t yet found it. Which was clearly his fault, likely a function of his lack of sleep as much as anything, an explanation and not an excuse, for he ought to have been able to work through such difficulties, and do what needed to be done. Had always been able to, had often drawn both inspiration and a solid determination from the difficulty of the situation, and the fact that he seemed suddenly unable to summon up the strength and focus to do it yet again disturbed him greatly. Kilgore recognized his struggle, did not know the extent of it but could see that the fugitive was, if nothing else, having quite a time of it just staying on his feet and conscious, and he did his best to be helpful without getting too much in the way. Which helpfulness, Bud seeing Einar reeling and appearing about to fall, took the form just then of a question designed to get his attention, keep him engaged and in the present.
“This woodshed--you plan to fill it, and then what? You’re not thinking that’s gonna be enough, are you?”
“For the winter.”
“We’re surrounded by wood here, lots of leaning and fallen stuff that’s going to be made inaccessible by the snow, but plenty of standing dead, too. I can be cutting and hauling all winter if I have to, skidding trees over here on the snow for chopping and burning, but yeah, I hope to fill the woodshed ahead of time, give us a little reserve for hard times, for when the little one comes. That, and I’ve already got a bunch of stuff leaning up under the spruces and firs around the cabin here, mostly small dead aspen that I’ve found and hauled in, and I figure to leave it right where it is, most of it. May get a bit challenging to retrieve once the snow gets real deep and I have to be crawling down in all those tree wells and shoving it out and up onto the surface of the snow, but at least I’ll know where it is, and how to get at it. Not too worried about the wood situation.”
“Maybe you’d best get worried. Considering all the things you’ll have to keep up with this winter, you just may not have as much time as you think for felling and skidding trees whenever the firewood supply starts getting a little low. And that’s even if things go as smoothly as possible. Which it seems they don’t always, because wasn’t it just this last winter when you ended up losing a couple toes, then a couple more, over the course of more than two months? That couldn’t have been part of the plan, but I sure bet it changed the plan, lots of plans, slowed things down and looks like it’s still slowing them down, from the looks of you, the way you’re favoring that foot today. Think about it. Better fill this shed, stack more wood up under all the trees around here and then come up with a backup location somewhere real nearby to stack that much, again. If you want the two of you to have a good chance of making it, that is. The three of you… And then fill another shed--be better if it was a raised one, cache-style, to keep out the varmints--with dried meat, fat, berries, all sorts of stuff to help see you through the winter.”
Einar paused in his work, casting a slightly annoyed glance in Kilgore’s direction. “Yep, I know what a winter’s like out here. Done a few, myself.”
“Yeah, you look like it. Want the girl to end up all gaunt and hollow and starved like you are? And the kid? You somehow got her through the first one without too many ill effects it seems, and a healthy young woman like her might survive another winter like that, but the chances don’t seem real good for the kid, not good at all. And if you finish starving yourself trying to make sure they have plenty, well, honorable gesture I guess, but where does that leave them? Abandoned up here in the middle of winter to die, that’s where.”
“I thought we were through talking about this.” It was a statement, not a question, and again Kilgore let the matter drop for the time, returning to work and steering clear of Einar, who was slamming bark chips and slabs into place with a cold fury that told Bud his words had definitely not been wasted on the man, even if he wasn’t yet ready to come out and admit it.