With the storm showing little propensity to lessen as the morning went on everyone remained gathered close around the fire, Susan at times talking quietly with Liz about the baby, Bud sorting through his pack and attempting to restore some sort of order after having everything dumped out and strewn about in various states of dryness since their arrival and Einar turning his attention to his snowshoes, which, slung on his back, had received a bit of damage in his tussle with Kilgore just after their arrival. Bud watched as he worked, removing a few bits of damaged webbing and carefully splicing fresh rawhide in their place, setting the refurbished shoe near the fire so the damp hide strips and twists could dry and proceeding to coat them with pitch, rendering them as water-resistant as the remainder of the shoe. Good work, and very thorough, though at times Einar would catch himself staring off into space with no concept of what he’d been intending to do next, having to mentally retrace his steps in order to figure it out. During one of these episodes, concentrating very hard on trying to find his place in the world even as he stared at the half-spliced rawhide strip in his hand--should have been a clue, but unfortunately held no meaning for him whatsoever, at the moment--Einar was jarred from his reverie by Kilgore’s booming voice, the tracker having moved over nearer to watch the snowshoe repair process.
“Awful shame that I can’t take a few dozen pair of them things down and sell ’em in town for you, Asmundson. Craftsmanship’s superb, and I’m pretty sure you and the Mrs. could make a pretty comfortable living off that work if there was some way to get it down there, especially seeing as you haven’t got too many bills or monthly expenses of any kind, living up here like you do.”
Confused for a moment Einar shook his head, stared at the work in his lap until he’d got his bearings again and then he laughed, finishing his splice before glancing up at the tracker. “Well, guess maybe I might be able to have a half dozen or so pairs ready by the time the next fall rolls around, if you’re serious about it--and if you want to carry them out and claim the work as your own! Because I’m sure not lugging them down there and doing any door-to-door marketing… ‘Hi, I’m Einar Asmundson, your friendly neighborhood federal fugitive and master snowshoe-maker, and I’d like to show you my wares…’ Nope, not a good idea at all. Can’t see myself getting too far with that one. Nor would I want to risk the trips down to town to spend the money, even if it should succeed…”
“Well now that is a point, but you know, Sue and I could spend the money for you--and do an air drop or two every year with the stuff you wanted. New boots, traps, maybe some spices to add variety to all your rabbit stews and mountain goat roasts, all kinds of incidentals folks might find handy from year to year, living up here…could be a good thing.”
“Whoa, don’t be getting ahead of yourself. We set up anything like that on a regular basis, and it’s only a matter of time before it attracts attention and we get an unwelcome visit by the Mountain Task Force tactical team…or a more likely a Hellfire or two, right through the front door. Really want to avoid that, if we can.”
“Yeah, I know. Not much of a plan under the circumstances, but maybe in eight or ten years when they’ve managed to pretty much forget all about you and Task Force HQ has gone back to being an old, abandoned feed store, maybe then it’ll be practical. Though by then you’ll probably have four or five little Asmundsons running around up here, lots more to keep track of and no time to make spare snowshoes to sell. Of course by that time, this first little one’ll be pretty much a man, helping out a good bit, himself. Weird thing, life...”
To which the tracker got no response. Einar, though hard at work and trying his best to be part of the conversation from time to time was obviously struggling, sleep stealing up on him and leaving his head to nod over his work with an increasing frequency which did not surprise Liz in the least, seeing as he’d got little if any sleep that past night, and hadn’t done much better the one before. Would have been good had she been able to persuade him to curl up in the warmth of the bed--seemed he couldn’t even come close to staying warm there in the cabin, even with the stove going and a bear hide occasionally draped around his shoulders--and take a good long nap until supper was ready, but she knew the futility of making any such suggestion. At least he was, so far, seeming willing to accept the occasional sip of broth when either she or Susan pushed it on him, was managing to get more of them down than not, and that had to be a good start. Susan had a plan though, leaving the bed where she’d been visiting with Liz and telling stories of her own children when they’d been babies checking to make sure that Einar was still awake--he hadn’t looked it, there for a minute--before carrying it out.
Stepping carefully past the two men, Susan took down one of the jars of Nutella from the honored spot up in the rafters where she’d watched Einar carefully stash it the day of their arrival, pressed it into his hands. “Eat. You need a snack before dinner, and this ought to do you some good.”
Einar thanked her, stared at the stuff, turning the jar this way and that and pressing it to his nose as if able to smell right through the plastic--which, incidentally, he was--but made no effort to remove the lid, setting the precious vessel aside after a time, still staring at it if in a trance.
“Well, don’t just look at it,” Susan gently insisted, placing the jar back into his hands. “Won’t do you any good at all unless you eat it.”
“Oh yeah, does me a lot of good just to look at it. Beautiful thing to look at, dream about, and it makes me glad just to have it here sitting stashed away safely on the shelf where I know I can look at it whenever I like.”
Susan could see that he was entirely sincere but wasn’t buying his reasoning, not as an excuse to avoid the snack, at least, opened the jar, gave him a stern look, and a spoon. Several minutes later she again turned her attention to Einar after helping Liz clean out one of the cloth diapers she’d brought--it was a bit challenging, considering the lack of running water in the place, but could be managed, and would save them from having to venture out so often in search of fresh usnea lichen to use as absorbent diapering material--to find him wedged between the water barrel and the wall, slowly working on his third spoonful of the rich hazelnut paste and trying his best to conceal the tears that had begun tracing their way unbidden and quite unwanted down the sunken contours of his face at the first taste of the stuff. Susan left him alone, glad that he was eating and not wanting to make things any more difficult by bestowing unwanted attention.