Einar’s breakfast--once Liz released her grip on him, which she was reluctant to do, knowing he’d be freezing again within minutes as soon as he left the warmth of the hides, but she could feel that he was becoming agitated and was ready to move--consisted of a rich stew of finely chopped elk, bearfat and serviceberries with a number of dried spring beauty roots half crushed and added for starch and thickness, the entire concoction ending up more sweet than savory as Einar stirred in a generous portion of honey and some flakes of dried mint. An odd mix, perhaps, but the smell of it simmering there on the stove certainly got Liz’s attention, got her up out of bed to hover warming herself over the stove, adding wood and pulling Einar in close beside her--he had, as was his usual custom, retreated to crouch cold and alone against the far wall, but somehow she simply couldn’t stand to see him so that morning, especially after the sort of night she knew he must have had, followed by his reasonably hasty journey just then out into the icy teeth of the storm to retrieve elk for their breakfast--as they listened to the incongruous symphony of howling wind, fire-crackling spruce sticks and simmering, bubbling stew.
“Sure smells good, whatever you’ve got going there.”
“It’s a secret recipe.”
“Oh, no! I know about your secret recipes… Is this one going to explode, spontaneously combust, or is it simply made of fermented fox entrails? Is that the secret?”
“Aw now, you know I’m perfectly capable of cooking things on occasion that neither explode nor are made of fermented critter parts, so what’s to say this isn’t one of them? It’ll be good. You’ll like it. I hope…”
“I have no doubt, from the smell of it. Let’s eat!”
Sharing the stew, which Liz did indeed find very much to her liking, they listened as the storm went on outside, wind blasting the cabin with such ferocity that Einar leapt at one point to his feet, facing the door with his spear at the ready, having been certain for a brief moment that someone was out there, beating on the door in an attempt to gain admittance. Didn’t take him long to figure out just what he’d heard and he returned a bit reluctantly to his seat beside Liz, blinking away the dizziness that had done its best to send him sprawling to the floor after his hasty rising. Steady there, you made it through a whole week of trapline runs, without falling on your face--too often…do seem to remember a couple of unfortunate incidents--so don’t let it get to you now, on your day off, with Liz watching, or she’ll just have that much more reason to try and keep you in here. Gonna stay close, with the baby seeming so set on showing up one of these days pretty soon here, but sure don’t intend on staying in the house that entire time, no indeed…
Glancing over at Liz in the hopes that she hadn’t noticed his spell of dizziness but seeing from the concern in her eyes that he’d not done so good a job a he might have hoped at concealing it, Einar took the stew pot she was holding out to him
“Don’t think we’ve heard the wind quite like this since we’ve been up here. Really slamming into things. Would be surprised if we don’t see some trees down by the time this thing blows itself out. Give us a good opportunity to gather in some more firewood, possibly.”
“Yes, it’s quite the storm, alright. I remember that my uncle used to look out the window on days like this and say to my aunt--or maybe to no one, or to the room in general; it was sometimes hard to tell, with him--‘now don’t you just wish you were out there dressed in nothing but a wet sheet?’ He’d sometimes look up at the peaks on a real windy day just after a storm, when the snow was being ripped off the peaks in big long streamers, and say the same thing. But regardless of my uncle’s sayings, I’m sure glad we’ve got the cabin to shelter in when the weather takes a turn like this.”
Einar looked thoughtful, tilting his head and staring at the door as if attempting to see through it. “Oh, I don’t know. That bit about the wet sheet does sound fairly interesting. Would be curious just to see how long a person could stand up to that sort of thing… Maybe not real long at all, in these conditions.”
“Don’t you already know? I’d have thought you might have tried that one, at one point or another. And no, I’m not suggesting you go give it a try now, because you remember what I said about bear hides and nettle cordage, and besides that, we don’t have any sheets.”
“Huh. Probably a good thing. Or I’d have to go try it at some point during this storm--hate to waste a perfectly good opportunity like that, you know--and then you’d be after me with that rabbit stick…”
Laughter, and then silence, an easy, comfortable silence during which each focused on their remaining portion of stew, enjoying every last drop and Liz rinsing out the pots, setting one to heat for a bit of tea. A fine morning, indeed, but as Liz went about cleaning up the breakfast things Einar could tell something was beginning to trouble her, figured he ought to try and find out what.
“I’m just thinking,” she spoke up after a bit of prodding on his part, “about our child. The kind of world he’s coming into. I think we forget sometimes, being so isolated up here in our little refuge, what it’s like down there. What a mess things are. It’s something I’ve struggled with all my life, you know, trying to figure out just what my role might be in that world, how I might…make a difference somehow, but it’s just so big and so messed up and there’s not much I can do to impact it. This, though, is something I can do. I can raise our children to be different. And to raise their children the same way, and bit by bit, that’s how the kingdom is built…”
“I hope so.”
“Yes, I think you’re right. My problem is that I want to take it all on, all of it, reach out and get hold of the root of the problem and chop it off where it meets the ground, storm the gates and bring down the walls, and I still think there’s a place for that, a time when that’s the only thing that’ll do, but you’re right, too. I see that you’re right. What you’re doing just now, carrying this child, preparing to bring him into the world and raise him the right way…well, that’s likely to have more impact than all the stuff I’ve given big chunks of my life to doing, isn’t it?”
“I don’t look at it that way. Everybody has a different calling, and different callings at different times of their lives, even. And just think about it--if you hadn’t done the things you’ve done, well, you wouldn’t be who you are and you wouldn’t be here with me right now doing this, either, now would you? Not even a chance of it. But here you are, and now, give your life to this. To doing right by this new little life we’re about to bring into the world. And to the ones that may follow it.”
Silent, nodding, Einar studied her face, his own grim and unreadable as he fought to prevent the tears from coming.