18 July, 2011

18 July 2011

The day continued sunny and increasingly warm, Liz working as quickly as she was able to produce the tightly woven willow baskets that would store the transportable portion of their bearfat and Einar, as soon as he had finished draping and securing the hides for the night’s smoking tent, joining her just long enough to complete one basket of his own. Already Liz had produced two of them--her hands sure do work quicker than mine at the moment; good thing we’re not having a race, here--and he took them as she set them aside, melting pitch for each and coating them as he had earlier done with the basket borrowed from the cabin. Liz, who had become proficient enough at weaving with willow that she did not even need to keep her eyes continually on the project, looked up and watched him for a time as he worked feverishly to ensure an even distribution of pitch inside the latest basket, face beaded up with sweat and eyes glowing with a dangerous intensity that Liz had seen all too often. Fully absorbed in his work Einar did not notice her at first, did not seem to notice his own fast, labored breathing, either, which Liz had to admit was quite typical of him. He’d spent so many years training himself to keep on going no matter what that he appeared actually able at times to entirely set aside even the most--to her--obvious and debilitating physical difficulties to give his entire focus to a bit of work he had for one reason or another deemed critical. A good skill, but one whose practice she could not help but think was probably going to end up killing him, if he didn’t watch out. Liz had finished a third basket, her last, she was thinking, and Einar was about to begin pitch-coating it, but she had other things in mind.


He jumped to his feet, nearly splattering himself with the hot pitch he was at that moment pouring from its rock receptacle onto another slightly dished out rock nearer the coals, but somehow managing to avoid the accident.

“What is it?”

“My goodness, I didn’t mean to scare you like that. Guess I must have seriously underestimated just how much concentration it takes to tend melting pitch…”

Einar laughed, shook his head and sat back down beside her with a big hollow sigh, still trembling a little from the sudden startlement, or from weariness, or perhaps both. “Right now it takes just about all the concentration I’ve got just to keep on taking the next breath, it feels like, and then on top of that I’ve got the pitch to tend. So yeah, I was a little distracted. What did I miss?”

“Nothing. I was just going to ask how you want to arrange things tonight, with the smoking. One of us has to be responsible for watching the fire and adding wood…I don’t know? Every hour or two?”

“Yep, probably just about that often, as small and narrow as these bits of willow and cherry are. It’s no problem though. I’m gonna be up a good part of the night anyway burning out that fat-holding log, so it won’t be any trouble for me to keep an eye on it. You need your sleep, so little Hildegard can keep on growing the way she needs to and getting all ready to come out.”

“Not anytime soon, I hope! As far as coming out.”


“She really needs to wait at least another two months, if she can”

“Well, that’s probably just one more reason for you to be sure and get plenty of sleep. Seems things are going real well for both of you, and we don’t want that to change now. So. I’m the guy who tends the smoker.”

“Then you’re the guy who’d better be heading inside soon to take a nap for an hour or two, if he doesn’t want to hear from my rabbit stick!”

“Nap? You mean sleep while it’s light outside?”

“That is the generally accepted definition of…”

“Nope, that wouldn’t be me, then. You’ve got the wrong guy, I’m telling you, and…”

“Oh, come on. There have been times when we both lived like nocturnal creatures for a while, for one reason or another, so I know you can sleep during daylight hours, if you’ve got to. That’s all I’m asking. Just go nocturnal for the rest of the day, and sleep so you’ll have the energy to do what you’re planning to do tonight with the smoker and the log and all.”

“I am nocturnal. It’s just that I’m the sort of nocturnal critter that has baskets to coat and meat to slice and generally a lot to do before it gets dark and I start…nocturning.”

Nocturning, is it? I’m about to start nocturining you in the head with my war club, mister!”

Einar was laughing, and he didn’t want to laugh because he was already having enough trouble breathing--ribs seemed worse that day, the pain at times very nearly more than he could work his way through, and in addition his lungs remained tight, congested, making him feel a need to cough but he hardly dared do it--and felt as though he might pass out if things got any worse, which he definitely did not want to do in front of Liz. Didn’t have a choice though, one doesn’t always get a choice, and the next thing he knew Liz was rolling him away from the fire, hurrying to scrape half-solidified but still rather hot pitch from his hands and arm before it could burn him too badly. He tried to help her, tried to sit up and get some idea of what could have happened but lost consciousness again at the speed of his own movement, ending up flat on his back beside the firepit, eyes rolled back in his head and face showing a familiar purple tinge as his body fought to catch up on oxygen intake. Liz shook her head, dabbed a bit more at the pitch residue on his hands. It hadn’t been that hot. He would be alright. Guess you’re getting a nap now, you goofy nocturnal guy, whether you like it or not. Come on, we’d better get you inside so my busying around won’t be as likely to wake you. Evening will be coming in a few hours, and you’ve got an awful lot of work planned…


  1. Einar needs to start listening to his body more!

    thanks so much!!!

  2. Anonymous18 July, 2011

    There always comes an accounting, the time to pay the piper.
    EA, if you don't wise up, you'll leave a widow before she gives birth to your child.
    Thanks for the chapter, FOTH.

  3. Glad to see Liz is starting to be more assertive with E.

    Thank you

  4. Kellie said...
    Einar needs to start listening to his body more!

    Perhaps he has trained himself too well to avoid doing that... Sometimes the only way you can stay alive is to push things like that aside, and he has some trouble knowing which times are which.

    Anonymous said...
    There always comes an accounting, the time to pay the piper.
    EA, if you don't wise up, you'll leave a widow before she gives birth to your child.

    That is not what he wants to do.

    Nancy1340 said...
    Glad to see Liz is starting to be more assertive with E.

    Well, at least she didn't actually use the rabbit stick, this time!