Einar’s arm, though somewhat inflamed around the deep, ragged scratches and looking very sore, did not appear too bad, not nearly as bad as Liz had feared after being left basically un-tended for the night, and she washed it carefully with the berberine preparation before once more bandaging the worst areas with mullein leaves, grateful that the injuries seemed to have been limited, this time, to his arm. Seeing as he had apparently decided to take on a live wolverine at close range--even a snared one--he certainly could have come out worse for the wear. Einar had not moved the entire time she was working on the arm--aside from his body’s rather involuntary efforts to go on warming itself; a good thing our bodies do that without any conscious choice on our part, or he would have frozen himself to death long ago, I do believe--had hardly even blinked, so far as Liz could see, sitting there with eyes half closed staring at the stove, but as soon as she was done he took a deep breath and scrambled to his feet.
“Thanks. That ought to do it. Just a few scratches, really. Critter was fighting it to the last. Guess we’re a lot alike, that old wolverine and I. Kinda sorry I had to do him in like that, but he would have ended up causing us no end of grief.”
“Yes. I certainly wouldn’t have liked it if he’d decided to come in here one day…shove his way in through the door or the roof or down the chimney and try to get at the bear fat or something while the baby and I were in here. Better that the baby wears his hide. And now you’ve got his meat to eat, besides, and though it must be an acquired taste, you seem to be enjoying it…”
“Well, at the time, I definitely had no choice but to acquire the taste, so yeah, I can eat the stuff! But if you’ve already got soup going, better save this haunch for later.”
“I chopped the heart and what little was left of the liver up into the breakfast, so technically it’s wolverine soup, which I’ve definitely never had before. But it smells good.”
“Oh, sure does! Smell of it’s almost drowning out the stink of that hide in here where you’ve got it stretched…want me to get that thing outside so you won’t have to smell it? All our bear fat might end up tasting like that, if we leave it in here too long in that state. Figure I can get the first step done on the tanning before breakfast, have this thing ready to use in a day or two if I keep at it.”
“Sure, let’s get it out of here. But not before breakfast. The soup’s ready, it’s been ready for a while, and if you don’t help me eat it pretty soon, I might just have to devour it all myself. And wouldn’t want you to miss out on wolverine heart soup, because somehow that seems a very appropriate meal for you.”
Reluctantly agreeing to delay his work on the wolverine hide--hands were still a little shaky, anyway, from his last trip outside, and would be almost certain to work better if he had something to eat---Einar sat with her and shared the soup, both of them finding it quite tasty despite the inclusion of various wolverine parts. Liz--who truly was hungry that morning and seemed to be having to eat smaller, more frequent meals lately as the baby really began growing and crowding her stomach and other organs--finished her breakfast first, rinsing out the pot in which she’d eaten and setting it above the stove on one of the jutting shelf-rocks Einar had incorporated into the chimney to dry.
“It’s really looking like snow out there, isn’t it? And the way this wind is blowing, seems it might be quite a storm.”
“Yeah, clouds were moving while I was out there a while ago, really tearing over the peaks, and I’d be surprised if we didn’t start to get some snow within an hour or two. I could smell it. Looking like a good thing you got those snowshoes done when you did, because at this rate, we may not be seeing soil again before spring.”
“Yep. Gonna be one of those winters, I’m thinking. But…” he drained his soup pot, stared thoughtfully for a moment at the wooden barrels of bearfat, the strings and bags and baskets of dried berries and good starchy lily and spring beauty corms hanging from the ceiling, “we’re ready for it. About as ready as we can be, aside from putting a few more of these hides together into clothes for the cold times, and taking care of the boot situation. And the severe weather, if anything, will only serve to isolate us that much more and reduce the chances that we’ll have company during the winter. Which is a real good thing!”
Liz did not answer immediately that time, could not help but think that while he was of course right about lack of company being a good thing--the only thing, actually, that would give them a good chance of actually having some stability during the winter months and being able to stay there snug and reasonably well set in the cabin rather than fleeing somewhat desperately out into the winter woods to take their chances with avalanches, frostbite and starvation--she could not help but think somewhat wistfully about the prospect of seeing Susan again, especially when the time should come for the baby. A thought she tried to put out of her head just as soon as it came in, knowing that not only would Susan be unlikely to make the trip once the snow had set in for good, but that she’d likely be putting them all in grave danger, if she did make the trek. Tracks were far easier to follow in the snow, and if anyone was still watching, her visit might not be the only one they would be receiving.
And yes, we really are ready, far more ready than it was looking like we’d be for a while there, ready as far as material goods go, hides, food, fat, all good stuff and probably enough to keep us from going hungry much this winter, but what about you, Einar? Are you ready for it, or am I going to lose you to the cold before we see the third big snow of the season? I know you probably wouldn’t like me bringing this up, but I see how it affects you even now, before the real cold has set in…I see you coming in from as little as half an hour out there just chilled to the core and barely able to function, and the scariest thing is that you don’t even seem to notice, or don’t care, which would probably be even worse, and that’s what I think it is. You’ve got such a compelling need to test yourself, always push it a little further regardless of the consequences, that in a sense you don’t even care if you end up pushing things just a little too far, and end up dead out there in the snow. I want to talk about this with you, because I need you to care. Need you to be here for me and for little Snorri, and I know you want that, too, but sometimes your actions just don’t line up with what you say you want, with what you’ve said is your duty to us. Well. We’ve talked about it all before, and may have to do so again, but for this morning, I guess it’s good enough that you’re eating with me, planning for the future and getting things ready for the winter around here in the best way you’re able…that is a lot, an awful lot, and it is good.
Einar was watching her, seeing the strange look in her eye as she stared through him and wondering what he had said to merit such an inspection--must’ve been what I said about not having company this winter? Huh. Who knows? No figuring people most times, not even real sensible ones like her--and finally, growing uncomfortable under her gaze, he spoke.
“Been meaning for a long time now to get out there and set up a trapline or two, and with all this snow coming, today’s looking like the day to do it. Want to come along?”
“Yeah, today! No better time to be out and about in the snow than when there’s more on the way to cover your tracks, don’t you think? We’ll have to put together some more sinew cordage real quick for the snares since we don’t have any nettle ready right now--which is something we need to work on, just an hour before bed every night, maybe, and we’ll soon have a good supply again--but it’s early enough in the day still to get that done and go establish at least half of a pretty good loop. It should get us some ermine, marten, maybe now and then a bobcat or two and some good thick-furred winter rabbits, add to our meat supply and keep us from eating up everything we’ve got stashed away for the winter, and supply us with some more furs, too. Can always use the furs. Don’t have to come if you don’t want to, but I’d like for you to know where I’m putting everything, in case you ever end up running it without me. Just so you’ll know.”
“Oh, yes, I’ll come. But only if you’ll consider wrapping up in a deer or sheep hide or two. I really just couldn’t stand to see you freezing the whole time, the way I can tell it still hurts your ribs…”
“Aw, it’s good for me. Sure though, I’ll wrap up this time, because I got to have my hands good and limber if I’m gonna be handling snares and setting triggers and such, and it’s cold out there. And windy.”
Which got him a roll of the eyes from Liz--“this time?”--as she rose and fetched the coils of prepared sinew they had through the summer set aside for the making of snares, bowstrings and other things that would require great strength and some flexibility. By the time they completed enough cordage to make the snares Einar thought they would get around to setting out that day, snow had already begun spitting from a cold, leaden sky, Einar grinning as he stood at the door watching it fall.