Einar was indeed on a mission, hurried over to Liz and would have crouched beside her where she worked but remained standing, knowing how difficult it might be for him to regain his feet and not particularly wanting her to watch the struggle.
“Can that jerky spare you for a minute? I need your help with something inside. Need your body.”
“Need just what I said. Can you come, or can’t you? It’ll only just take a minute.”
“Yes, of course I’m happy to help, but I hardly think you’re in any shape for…”
“Aw, sure I am! I’m not dead, you know, and I’ve got to be able to do something, can’t just sit around in there until I fossilize, or some such. That wouldn’t be any good. At least this is gonna be pretty easy on my ribs, give them a chance to heal like you keep getting after me to let them do.”
“Perhaps I’m misunderstanding just what it is you need my help with…”
“How could you be misunderstanding, when I haven’t even told you yet? Here. You’ll see soon enough. Just come on in here and lie down on the sheep hide if you don’t mind, right here on the edge, yep, just like that.”
Which Liz did, laughing, shaking her head, “Einar, this is very nice with the sheep hide and all, but I really don’t think…”
“Don’t worry, we’re almost done. Just put your arms up for a minute, up here on your chest, and you can get up again.” Liz watched out of the corner of her eye as Einar took his charcoal-tipped marking pen and lightly traced a line from her waist to arm, making a mark just above her shoulder on one side and then the other, a faint line sketched along the top of her head, and then he was done, took her hand and helped her to sit up.
“See? Not so bad, was it?”
“You goofy guy! Why didn’t you just tell me you needed to measure me for a coat? That would have made the whole thing a good bit more simple, don’t you think?”
“Was it complicated? Didn’t mean to make anything complicated…”
“Never mind. Let’s just talk about the coat. Is this the one for carrying the baby, the Inuit coat you kept telling me about, earlier?”
“Yep, sure is. Gonna line it in places with fur and it’ll mean you ought to be able to venture out in the worst sort of weather, and not worry too much about the little one getting cold or wet, or being out in the wind. He’ll be pressed up right against your back, sharing your body heat and completely protected, and the coat’ll be roomy enough that if you need to feed him while you’re out there, you’ll be able to turn around in the coat and do that, too, all without moving him from his little pouch. That’s the idea, anyway. It’ll take some work to get it to that point, I’m sure.”
“It sounds great. Sounds like you must have spent a good portion of your life preparing to raise a family in a high, semi-arctic basin just like this one, too, gathering knowledge and planning what you would do…”
“Oh, no I wasn’t! Not consciously, anyway. Always been interested in how other folks live, applied a good bit of what I learned to my life out in the woods and up at my cabin, but sure never guessed I’d actually use this portion of the knowledge, myself, the part that relates to babies and children and all of that…no way!”
“Well, I guess the Lord knew otherwise…”
“Yep. Guess little Snorri’s gonna be kept all snug and cozy in a semi-authentic reproduction Inuit baby-carrying coat, even though we’re a few thousand miles too far south to find the sealskin the original ones were often made of…”
“We’re not really calling him that, are we? I mean, after he’s born…”
“Snorri? Well, I don’t know. I was just being goofy, calling the kid after my long-lost wayward uncle. Didn’t figure you’d really let me name him that, especially if you’d ever met my Uncle Snorri, which isn’t likely, because the last time anyone in my family ever heard from him was in 1974 when he…well, never mind about that. Guess we need to be thinking of a name for this little critter, don’t we?”
“Oh…eventually. For today, we just need to get some more jerky sliced up, and I need to get out of your way so you can start working on that parka. As soon as the bear’s all sliced up and drying, and maybe the hide finished, too, I’ll help you with the sewing projects so we can both have warm things to wear when the snow gets serious, and not just me and the little one. We don’t want you turning into a popsicle, either…”
“Aw, I don’t mind. It’s pretty much my natural state of existence.”
Which left him dodging Liz’s rabbit stick as she left the cabin, rolling onto the floor and laughing as he narrowly missed a good solid swat with the much-used weapon. Good thing she’d missed, he couldn’t help but think, because he sure couldn’t afford to lose any more ribs just then. Couldn’t, in fact, go on laughing like that without seriously impacting his ability to get air, and he stopped himself, lay silently on his side for a time, catching his breath and pressing the ribs to minimize the rather agonizing paradoxical movement in which they still wanted to engage whenever he tried to breathe a bit more deeply. Still a long way to go, Einar, before you’ll be of much use as a father to that child, and you’d better make pretty good time here healing up the ribs and all, because it doesn’t look like Liz can have that long until her time comes, month, month and a half, maybe, and then that’ll be it. He shook his head, rolled gingerly to his stomach and began the difficult process of getting himself to his hands and knees so he could return to work on the parka, glad that Liz had already left to pursue her own work. Seemed movement of that kind had become a good bit more difficult for him over the course of the day, his entire side swollen and stiff and inflamed, and he knew she’d probably get after him to lie down for a while, had she been there to see the extent of the difficulty. No need for that. It’ll all be fine, if I can just avoid injuring a lung or something until the pieces start mending back together, that, and remember to keep breathing…good to have a challenge, I guess.