26 April, 2012
26 April 2012
Bud and Susan were gone. They’d left the cabin the previous afternoon, starting on the route Bud and Einar had planned to take them safely around the most avalanche-prone areas of the slope and up to the ridge without too much chance of being detected, and that morning, still curled up together beneath the bear hides, Einar and Liz had heard the plane come, circle, land and, only a few minutes later, take to the air again. Kiesl wouldn’t have touched down, Einar was sure, unless he’d seen sure sign that they were down there and ready for pickup, which meant that they were now gone. Relieved, trembling despite himself, after the nearness of that plane, Einar had reluctantly given in to Liz’s gentle persuasions as she held his arm to prevent him from rising, pulled the hides up snugly around their shoulders and moved little Will so that he was between them, their foreheads resting against each other as they watched in silent wonder the tiny movements of his breathing. Now the sun was rising, Einar becoming increasingly restless at staying so long in bed and as soon as he was sure Liz was asleep, her slow, regular breaths coming somehow in cadence with the baby’s, though far fewer, he eased over to the edge of the bed and crept to the floor.
Time to be moving, doing, an almost electric energy in him that day--goading, prodding, making stillness a thing nearly unbearable, something coming; he could feel it--at whose origins he really could not guess, weary and dragging as he’d been all through the previous ones. Something to do with their company leaving, he supposed, or with spring coming, which it definitely was, valley distinctly greening though the high ridges and basins which composed their kingdom would remain for some months still locked beneath their blanket of snow and ice. Months, if it had been an average year but considering the way things were going perhaps only weeks, though certainly more than a few of them, and the realization left him anxious and antsy about getting out on the trapline, visiting the river with what he expected would be its ready supply of beaver, muskrat and a number of other, smaller fur-bearers, and to do this before the thaw could begin in earnest. Though they had plenty to eat and a reasonably good situation, all things considered, there at the cabin, the thought that he had been allowing the winter to slip away from him was not at all a pleasant one and could, he supposed, probably account for at least part of the near-frenzy that drove him out of bed that morning. But not all of it.
Maybe it was the plane. Thing certainly had seemed to come out of nowhere, bursting onto the silence of the morning like a flock of startled turkeys and leaving him to grab for his atlatl--and the new rifle--before he realized what it was, and who, and lay back down beside Liz to listen to the whining, humming thing as it circled, lower and lower, landed, retrieving, they could only hope, the honeymooning and much delayed couple before taking flight once again and disappearing over the ridge, bound for Arizona. Or Culver. Kilgore hadn’t said where they were headed next, and Einar had not bothered to ask. Hadn’t wanted to get into that discussion again, the one about their climbing the ridge, also, the entire little family and being scooped up by that swooping plane, carried out of the mountains and out of the state to finish out the winter in the remote confines of Bud Kilgore’s mountain retreat, caretakers, of sorts, while he and Susan passed the remainder of winter and began the spring work at her home and greenhouses. Not a bad proposal, if one was to set aside the fact that they were wanted, he was wanted, and would almost certainly be had, too, should they begin allowing even such causal and distant contact with the outside world. Not a risk he wanted to take, nor a discussion he had any interest in re-hashing, so he had kept himself at a distance from the specifics of their guests plans upon leaving the basin.
Yes, must be the plane. Shuddered at the memory of that sound so close over their heads, checked the rifle where it leaned it the corner opposite the water barrel, its new home, finding a bit of relief at the feel of the thing in his hands. Had better get some breakfast going--Liz would be hungry, was always hungry these days, serving as she was as sole source of nutrition for a healthy and growing child--and then head outside with the rifle for the daily exercises which he had set for himself with the weapon. Wasn’t sure they were helping, could not help at times but think they might be doing quite the opposite, actually, for now in addition to his arms cramping up during the training, they had begun over the past day to do so at random times, as well, lower arms, fingers and now even toes--what few he had left--locking up for no apparent reason whatsoever and leaving him all but crying out in pain until, sometimes as much as several minutes later, the tension would ease and he could once again move his extremities. Not a good thing and he would have liked to be able to get it to stop, but was not entirely convinced of its direct relation to his exercises with the rifle. Seemed more like dehydration or some related malady, but no matter how much water he drank--so much, in fact, that Liz wondered what had got into him, was glad to see him drinking more as it seemed he was always behind, but somehow mistrusted his motivations--the cramping persisted, so he did his best to ignore it, went on with his training.
That morning it didn’t even matter, the attendant difficulty, and he got through his exercises with relative speed, persisting almost effortlessly through cramps that really ought to have given him pause and left him, perhaps, questioning the wisdom of the entire thing, calling cheerfully to Muninn at the appointed time and watching as the bird--who had been waiting, knowing the routine--sailed down on wide, silent wings to land on the wrist of his outstretched hand, providing him yet another challenge as he sought to hold out as long as possible against letting his arm droop under the raven’s weight. Managed to go for an awfully long time that morning, switching arms halfway through and barely even responding when the cramping began on that side, too, slow, measured breaths getting him though it. Done, and instead of sitting for a few minutes afterward as he’d been doing in recent days, catching his breath and taking in the morning, he returned quickly to the tunnel, scurrying through it with his rifle, raven following close at his heels and giving a raucous greeting to Liz and Will where they stood, baby in his soft sling of buckskin, held close to her chest as she worked to complete the breakfast meal Einar had set to simmer before heading outside. Her eyes looked sad when they met his, and he wondered if she was missing Susan. Figured she must be; didn’t even guess at the real reason. Well. A trapping run would surely cheer her up.
“Smells like spring again out there this morning, breeze coming up from the valley and I’m thinking either today or tomorrow’s gonna be the day to head down to the river. Got my old snares, the cable snares Bud brought us, the conibears, and it looks like we’re all ready to go! What do you say? You and the little one up for a thing like that?”
“Einar, sit down.”
He leaned the rifle in its corner, tossed a bit of food to the raven and sat, a bit of the animation leaving his face at something in her voice, a certain unaccustomed gravity, keeping silent, waiting for her to speak.
She clearly wanted to but did not, simply smiled, shook her head, scooped up a big bowlful of breakfast soup and pressed it in to his hands. “Eat.”