Though glad for the quiet and the temporarily empty cabin Liz didn’t really have anything to say to Einar that had not already been said, either in their conversation outside or by Bud or Susan subsequently, simply took the sleeping child and laid him in Einar’s arms, got herself seated behind him and held him, the two of them, chin resting on his shoulder as little Will woke and they made eye contact, father and son alone for a moment in their own little world, some of the tension leaving Einar’s body. For a long while they sat like that together but the fire was going out, Einar still chilled from his time outside and beginning to shake so much that Liz feared he might soon be unable to safely hold the baby so she rose, brought the blaze back to life and set some broth to heat. They could all, she was pretty sure, use a meal in just a while. When she returned to Einar he had changed position, scooting back and leaning against the wall presumably to prevent his toppling over as he appeared somewhat inclined to do, and he was talking to Will, who was wide awake but calm, content, studying his father’s face.
“This, you know, this right now is really one of the best times to go out on the trapline, fur is good and the snow is deep, travel’s pretty easy down in the valleys so long as you got snowshoes and know how to use them, break the ice, do your sets and come back through the next morning, take anything that’s got into ’em and start it all again…before you know it, you can end up with more than you can carry back, and have to stash some of it for the next trip…yep, that’s the way I used to spend some of my winters before you came along, little wild critter that you are, just walking the river and trapping the river and not spending one day out of six at home under my own roof, most of the time. Real good way to live, you know? No, of course you don’t know, not yet, but you will, because I’m gonna take you out and show you. This winter, the next one, until pretty soon you’re big enough to walk the line on your own little snowshoes that I’ll make for you, and it’ll be a little different from what I did all those years ago because then, of course, the fur market was such that I was able to take the pelts down into town couple times a year and trade ’em in for cash, buy a few of the things that I couldn’t too easily make.”
“Not much a fella can’t make, really, if you’re just talking about things necessary to keeping body and soul together, no, a man was created with the ability to pretty much produce what he needs in that regard, but sometimes there are little extras, you know, that make things easier or more efficient and might be available for purbhase if you have a good year with the furs, traps, snares, canning jars, spices and seasonings that just don’t grow around here no matter how a person might try…ha! You should have seen me, Snorri, trying to grow a cinnamon tree up there at my cabin. Had seen the things growing before, watched folks harvesting the bark and drying it and thought, ‘hey, why not give it a try, nothing to lose by giving it a try,’ so I tracked down a source of little trees, got me a couple and put them in pots because I knew there was no way I’d be keeping them alive outside over the winter up there at my cabin on the side of the mountain, not too much lower than this little plateau where we’re living right now, and they did fine for that first summer, really had me encouraged about the whole project but when winter came, seemed there was just no way I could keep them warm enough, no matter how I tried. Not even in the cabin. Was just away too much, and the poor little jungle critters didn’t even make it to December…got a little cinnamon bark out of them, but never tried that one again. So yeah, things like that I’d buy with the proceeds of my furs, cinnamon for my oatmeal, curry spices, ginger, but none of that’s really necessary to life, just nice to have from time to time, and it’s a good thing, too, because not only have fur prices stumbled and never recovered, but we’ve got this little difficulty where we can’t go down into town, too. So, the pelts will all be ours, and you’ll be wearing them every winter as you grow. What do you think about that? Pretty good deal, really, isn’t it? Yeah, I’d say so! We definitely need to get out there. You’re gonna love it.”
Liz had sat down beside the pair by that time, listening intently and somewhat in awe as Einar carried on a rather long and one-sided conversation with his little son--she had hardly expected him to speak at all for a good while, after the events of the day, and here he was giving a full exposition of life at his old cabin--until he stopped, glancing up and grinning somewhat self-consciously at the realization that she had been listening in.
“So, what about it? The trapline, I mean… You saw how well the parka worked to keep little Snorri warm out on the trail in that storm, so what do you say to coming with me in a couple days when our company’s gone and we’ve got the place to ourselves again, and setting up a trapline down in the valley, along the river? Beaver, muskrat, maybe even some mink and marten if we’re lucky, and really get stocked up on good, warm furs before the weather turns and the critters start shedding for the spring. Sound like a good deal?”
“Sure, in a few days like I said. Looked to me like that parka just couldn’t hardly have worked better for you and little Will, walking, carrying, feeding, the whole thing. No reason why we should put this off too much longer, especially with spring coming…eventually. Got to come eventually, and it’d be a real shame to let all the fur pass its prime and get all scruffy and patchy before we finally do get out there to take some. Don’t you think?”
She was silent, staring into the stove for so long that Einar began to think he wasn’t to get an answer, at all, before she spoke.
“They were right, you know, about some of it,” she finally blurted out, turning on him with eyes just short of overflowing with tears. “Even though I don’t like the way they said a lot of it any better than you do…well, I hope you’ll at least consider their words. Especially Susan’s. She just wants you to live, and though I know you probably can’t see the truth in what she said right now, I can see it. Especially the part about you being so far past your limits that you don’t even realize it anymore. I know that’s a survival mechanism for you--for all of us, under the right circumstances--and a very effective one, but it only goes so far, and like she said, you’ve gone as far with it as it will take you. Will you at least consider the possibility that she was right? Those numbers really don’t lie, and she wasn’t lying to you about them or what they mean, and I think you know that. Will you at least consider the possibility that you need to start doing some things differently, and in a hurry, if you want to go on living? And maybe think about putting some sort of plan in effect along those lines, before being so ready to run out on a new trapline?”
“Aw, Liz…yeah, I know I’m in a bit of a tight spot here--though you know, the scrawnier you are, the easier it is to work your way out of tight spots, so at least I’m ahead on that account!--and I know, too, that it must frustrate you to no end when my answer to everything is more resistance, just to resist harder, must not be trying hard enough to do it… Wouldn’t blame you one bit if you went ahead and cracked my skull with that rabbit stick, caved the cabin in around me and left on the plane with Bud and Susan in a few days. Not one bit.”
“Stop it. Tempting as it might be…that’s not what I want. Not at all. I want you, and your son wants you, even though he may not know it yet, not the same way I do, and what I want from you right now is to agree to wait a few days on this trapline thing so you have some chance of coming back from it alive. That’s what I want.”
He shrugged, shook his head and smiled at the child in his arms, who was beginning to grow a bit restless, root about in search of a meal. “You’ve got it.”
“Ok! Well, if we’re going out on the trapline soon, I guess we’d better be opening up that cache you hauled back here and really taking a look at what Bud and Susan brought us, on the chance that some of it will be useful out there!”