All through the day as they gathered up the thoroughly hardened shingles and stacked them in neat piles in the woodshed, shared a bit of lunch and rubbed the first batch of tanning solution--heated bearfat mixed with the mashed brain of the goat--into the already laced and stretched mountain goat hide, Einar could not get the image of that sizzling, honey mustard-basted roast out of his mind, the thought of it growing so strong that when finally they cleaned up and returned to the cabin he found himself staring up at Liz’s bundles of shepherd’s purse, wondering just how many of them might be extra. He wanted to make her that mustard. Would have to wait though, because at the moment she was hard at work on a batch of supper stew and he supposed he really ought to be getting up on the roof before darkness finished descending, to give the newly-made shingles a test run. Still wasn’t entirely sure whether or not they’d made enough to cover the entire roof, and rather than waiting until the day when finally things dried out enough to install them to gain that information. He’d hate that, hate to get halfway through the project and find that he had to stop and make more shingles, when he could have made them in the first place, and to that end he headed back outside--the evening was cold and still, hardly a whisper of wind disturbing the last brittle golden remnants of the aspens’ fall splendor and the brilliant arc of the Milky Way just beginning to show in a sky that appeared high and vacuous and vast, dimming--and to the spot where they had stacked the finished shingles.
Tied together in bundles, the shingles were a bit heavier than had been the bundles of cut bark he had originally hauled up to the cabin, their thick coatings of pitch adding a bit to the weight. The shingles would be a fire hazard, pitch burning readily should embers of significant enough size fall on it and remain living long enough to provide ignition and he wished they had thought to press each into a mound of dirt or gravel while its coating had remained fresh. Well. Another time. He’d probably be adding fresh layers of pitch to the roof should the shingles work out, and could give them the fire-resistant layer at that time. For the moment winter was coming, and the roof would seldom be without at least some snow to act as protection from the danger of fire.
Right. Better get on with it then, quit wasting time daydreaming or it’s gonna be too dark to see the shingles, which’ll mean you bringing up a couple candles to help illuminate the situation, and then you’ll probably end up tipping one of them over and igniting the whole stack! Bad idea, Einar, real bad idea…though of course considering that the shingles wouldn’t actually be attached to the roof yet, you could just shove the whole flaming mess over the side and into the snow, probably saving the cabin from destruction, but making Liz--and yourself--real mad at how close things had come, and at the wasted effort of making the shingles, in the first place…yep, definitely best to just go ahead and do your little test now before it gets dark, don’t you think? Which he did, actually, though for some reason the image of stacks of flaming shingles had struck him as terribly funny and left him chuckling quietly to himself as he hoisted the bundles up onto the roof, moving slowly and a bit stiffly--the effort of braining that hide, though Liz had been assisting, had really taken a toll on his ribs--as he hauled himself after them.
Starting all the way at the bottom he began laying those shingles, neatly, rows overlapping just enough to effectively shed water but not too much farther, wanting to stretch them as far as reasonably possible, and even before he got to the top, it was plain to him that they had enough. More than enough. The spares could be used on the woodshed, or to reinforce particularly troublesome areas on the cabin, and he perched cross-legged on the roof-summit, looking down with satisfaction at the thoroughly covered roof. Good. It was very good, and had it not been for the fact that the roof itself still needed a good bit of drying and darkness--and the risk of his candles setting the entire thing aflame--almost arrived, he might well have gone ahead and done the entire job right then and there. Didn’t, though, sitting instead all huddled up on the roof’s highest point watching the stars brighten above him and planning the next day’s work--run the trapline again in the morning, hopefully find that a critter or two has stumbled upon our snares, haul more firewood, work on shortening and splitting some of what we’ve already got, do some sewing on Liz’s snow pants and maybe start on a pair of mittens for her, because some of these mornings are starting to get awfully cold, and I’m sure she would appreciate some…and mustard, got to make…honey mustard, because she thinks it sounds good and I…sure am starting to smell something good from down there, guess she’s got some supper going, sizzling goat roast and sure wish I could have some, but I can’t, of course because here I am stuck up on this roof with no way to get down, so I’ll make the best of it, and plan the rest of the day, tomorrow--until he woke with a start at the sound of Liz’s voice, not having realized he’d been anywhere near sleep. Must have been, though, for when he went to rise he found his legs terribly stiff with cold, nearly insensible and useless to the extent that they refused to support him, sending him toppling forward, clinging briefly to the edge of the roof with his heels before taking flight, landing with a solid thud at Liz’s feet in the snow. Finally thoroughly awake if dizzy and a bit sick he still possessed the composure to give her a big grin in the firelight streaming out through the open door, hauling himself painfully to his feet and grabbing the cabin wall hard for support as he fought to get his breath, to fend off the blackness that wanted to come.
“You were looking for me?”
Liz, startled and more than a bit alarmed at Einar’s sudden appearance, was not at first sure how to answer, took his arm and tried to lead him inside but he clearly wasn’t ready to go, so she abandoned the effort for the moment. “Yes, I was coming to get you for dinner but you sure didn’t have to respond by throwing yourself off the roof at me! What were you thinking? Are you alright? You look frozen, as usual, but that was an awfully hard landing. How are your ribs?”
“Still attached. Sorry to have startled you like that. Just checking the shingles, seeing if we have enough.”
“Well, do we?”
“Do we what?”
“Have enough shingles? Or hadn’t you got done checking, yet?”
“Oh, got done a while ago and was just…watching the stars come out, you know, and pondering tomorrow’s work. Might have gone right on pondering all night long, if you hadn’t come out when you did and demanded my immediate appearance! And yes, we have enough. For the cabin, and half the woodshed, both. Got a lot done today.”
“You were asleep, weren’t you? And fell off…”
He squinted, scrubbed a hand across his eyes in the hopes of clearing his vision some, but it wasn’t working. “Well I’d rather not put it like that, but yeah, guess so. Real nice place, that roof, and I’d got done with my work, or mostly.”
“Nice, maybe, but not for a nap! What am I going to do with you?”
“Help me bring in the shingles, if you wouldn’t mind too much. Don’t want you and little Snorri up on this roof if there’s any helping it--a person could fall off, you know--but if I could stack them up and hand the stacks down to you, things would go a good bit quicker.”
“Yes, of course. But I don’t know if I want you up there again right now, either! How about just leaving the shingles for morning?”
“Might blow away, and then we’d be spending half the day hunting all through the timber until we found them again. I won’t fall off. Nothing to worry about…” With which he clambered once more up onto the roof, balancing carefully on hands and knees as he collected shingles more by feel than by sight in the almost-gone light of evening and handing them down to Liz.