29 April, 2012
29 April 2012
Einar had no idea how long he remained out there in the sure, steadying embrace of that spruce as he tried to regain his breath from the reading of the section of transcript, the solid, tangible memories--present as the snow and the trees around him and a good bit more powerful at the moment than those more real realities--welling up and gripping him, dragging him down so that he didn't know if he would ever be able to find the surface again and leaving him even less certain that he really wanted to. At last he did move, arms flopping to the snow when he un-crossed them like the dead, numbed appendages he remembered dealing with just after being loosed from the horribly strained contortions they had forced his body into there in the bamboo cage, only this time it was because of the cold, and when he looked, the rope-marks on his wrists were nothing more than raised, white scars, lessened only slightly with time and gone quite purple in the chill of the morning. Still barely able to move his hands he rubbed the scars, beating numbed arms against his sides in an attempt to restore some feeling and function. Just like… No. Enough. Wouldn’t let himself go there. Done. He was done with it for the time, didn’t want to think about those things anymore, couldn’t, felt all hollow and used up inside, mind broken in a thousand pieces and scattered across the dry, barren remains of his soul where it stretched out bleak and empty to the horizon within him, a nothingness. He was nothing.
Liz was something, though, and so was the child, and it was little Will’s crying that finally brought Einar out of what might well have otherwise become a long and rather indefinite cold-aided stupor, the sort a fellow might not come out of in time if left to his own devices, not in the wind and snow and with his bones so near the surface as his were, at the moment. But he did come out of it, recognizing in Will’s cry the call of duty and heeding, responding, heaving to his feet and heading all wide-eyed and stumble-gaited for the cabin, there to offer up what was left of his fractured and vanishing self for diaper-changing duty. A simple thing, but a necessary one, and it was good. Something to hang onto.
She refused his offer--you’ll only poke him with the pins, warm up a little first, and then you can hold him--brought him instead to the stove and pressed a pot of tea into his purple hands but he couldn’t hold it, set the thing between his feet before he could spill its contents all over himself and sat there with chin on his knees, breathing the steam and shivering himself warm again while Liz tended to the baby.
Better. Could move again and was ready now to help with Will but Liz had it all under control, diaper changed and the little one sleeping warm and contented against her chest in the sling of soft buckskin, and he smiled at the sight of it, let them be and went on about his own work. Need to get ready for that trapline.
Preparing the traps and snares, he laid them out one by one against the wall of the cabin, checking each to see that it was in good condition and applying a bit of bear grease here and there to the new conibears--unused, from what he could see of them; a most wonderful gift--and straightening each snare, testing it to make sure nothing was binding or catching, nothing needing attention. Had his primary targets been creatures more sensitive to human scent he would have boiled the traps in a special solution, handled them only with gloves and stored them outside in a tree, but with beaver and muskrat it didn't too much matter either way, in his experience. Looked like everything was ready to go, then, their departure waiting only on Liz's readiness and he supposed really he ought to sit down and have a talk with her to see exactly what might have been the reason for her great reluctance that day, get some idea of when he might expect her to be ready to go. Or to let him go, for if need be he could certainly do the trapline himself, had simply included Liz in the plans because she had seemed anxious to do it when they talked in the past and he figured she would be ready to get away from the house for a while after those first weeks with the new baby, and her current reluctance puzzled him. Well, no better time than the present. A gentle hand on her arm where she stood doing something at the stove, and she turned to look at him.
“Need to plan this trapping run, so I got to know what you’re thinking. Today had seemed like a fine time to me but I could see when I mentioned it this morning that you thought it was a pretty bad idea to head out today. So, what is it? You don’t want to go at all? Need more time at home with the baby, think it would be too much trouble to do that hike with him? I’ll certainly understand if that’s the way it needs to be, this time.”
She gave him a sad little smile, shook her head and sat down beside the stove, pulling him along with her. His hands were still cold, felt like ice, and no wonder, for he hadn’t touched his tea. "No, it's not that at all. It's just that...well, I don't know how to say this."
"With words. Just say what you're thinking."
"Alright, I will. I'm remembering how difficult it was for you on the way up from retrieving the cache a few days ago, and thinking about the incident you had since then--which if I didn't know better I might think you had forgotten--where your heart quite literally quit beating for a little bit, as near as any of us could tell, and I'm wondering what on earth you're thinking trying to take on this trapline right now. It's like you aren't even able to see or recognize how things are going for you, or that you're probably going to fall over dead if you push it much farther. That's what I'm thinking."
Einar didn't quite know what to say to that, was genuinely baffled at the forcefulness of her proclamation, as he thought things had been going pretty well in that regard over the past few days, and had hoped she'd entirely given up the idea of worrying about such things.
"Well, you wanted me to wait a couple days to do the trapline, and I have. Doesn't that work?"
"I had hoped you would use those two days to eat and rest and get in better shape for the trip, but instead you're back to starving yourself and spending endless hours out in the cold with that rifle, trying to make your arms stronger while not giving your muscles any fuel at all to start rebuilding themselves. And because of that, you're just going backwards. Wasting away, losing weight I couldn't have imagined you had left to lose and leaving me wide awake sometimes in the night just listening to see if you're still breathing, and sometimes you barely are. So no, it doesn't seem to me those two days were enough."
"Aw Lizzie, it's not nearly so bad as you make it out to be. None of it. Whatever challenge there may be in the way I’m living, well, I need it to be there. Wouldn’t know how to get along without it. And I'm making some progress with the rifle, holding it out there for longer and longer at a time so it's working, this thing that I'm doing, and now I'm ready to go run that trapline, and would sure like you to come with me. If you're willing."
Liz was not certain she was willing, not the way things currently stood but neither did she want him going alone as she expected he probably would do, without her accompaniment. A real dilemma.