13 May, 2012

13 May 2012

With Liz’s special supper of stew and bread eaten and the remaining pieces of flatbread cooled slightly and spread with some of the Nutella left as a gift by Susan, the evening seemed to Liz to be going along quite nicely, and she wished they might continue sitting together for a while, give Einar a bit of time to work on his dessert, but he had other ideas, intending to finish assembling the rest of the beaver hoops before bedtime.  No special reason for the hurry, as they weren’t planning to leave in the morning for the first trapping expedition, but he’d got started on the project, and wanted to see it completed.

Liz understood, tucked Will into his sling and cleaned up the dinner things as Einar began steaming and bending the second set of willows, glad that he had at least managed to put away a bit of the supper stew and part of a piece of the wonderful smelling flatbread--the taste had been no disappointment, had in fact been one of the best things she’d experienced in some time--even if he had ended up leaving most of it for her.  Was a step in the right direction, and she knew better than to expect too much of him, too soon.  Thoroughly wrapped up in his beaver hoop project, Einar did not even notice when Liz took his untouched second piece of flatbread and tucked it away on the little shelf that stuck out of the wall on his side of the bed.  They each had a shelf, their construction having been an afternoon’s work for Einar one blizzardy day shortly before the baby had arrived, each consisting of a fairly thin shingle split from an aspen log, smoothed and sanded around the edges until it fairly shone.  These he had attached to the wall with two pegs each, and they served to hold such items as water cups, candles and other things that the two of them liked to have readily accessible in the night.

A time or two, Einar had even let his knife sit up there on the shelf during the dark hours, but mostly it stayed hidden in the bear hides with him, very close at hand.  Liz occasionally found herself wishing he might more often avail himself of the shelf, but knew what little sleep he did manage to snatch from night to night would likely be even further disrupted by any such request on her part.  Especially should he comply, which she expected he likely would.  That, or simply remove himself from the bed and leave it to her and the little one as he had more than once offered to do since the birth, and she couldn’t stand the thought of that, as he’d surely freeze himself to death down there on the floor.  Nearly did so some nights as it was, even tucked in securely with her beneath the bear hides, and she didn’t see how he would make it though the remaining cold times if exiled from their snug little nest.  Not that he would see it that way, would, in fact, almost certainly take the entire idea as a challenge should she ever mention it to him, after which it would become his personal quest to prove to anyone who might be watching--but, most importantly, to himself--that he was indeed up to the challenge, could in fact successfully spend a limitless stretch of nights not only outside the protection of the hides but without the benefit of so much as a blanket or sweater, during the course of which testing she would be all but certain to discover him one morning purple, still and about as close as a man could come to losing himself entirely to the cold, if not closer.  Not something she wanted to face, so she had never mentioned the knife despite her occasional discomfort at its nearness, now that the baby shared the bed with them, never suggested he sleep anywhere but in his usual spot.   None of which was particularly relevant to her present dilemma, which was a simple one and comparatively quite small, involving only her search for  the best way to get Einar to eat some of that Nutella-spread flatbread.  Leaving it on his shelf where the smell would drift down to him in the night and disturb his dreams with food-images--hopefully waking him and leading to a midnight snack or two; at least that was the theory--seemed by far the most likely method to succeed, so she did it, carefully folding the bread over and leaving it where it would be most easily accessible.

An entire hoop Einar had managed to finish while she’d contemplated the situation, this time wrapping the rawhide even more deftly and getting a better connection the first time around, without having to make any adjustments.  He was pleased with the work, could picture that hoop all filled out with a stretched beaver hide, sleek, reddish brown fur shining in the firelight and the glow of the fire coming through as a dull red light if he held it up fur-side towards the stove, a prize fur, the sort he would have been proud to take down and sell in the old days, but he’d be prouder still to have the thing to make a parka, mittens or hat for Liz, his beautiful Lizzie who sat singing on the bed, softly reciting some old ballad to the now-awake child as she put him in fresh clothes and prepared to give him what must have been his fifteenth or twentieth meal of the day, Mother of a Mountain Tribe, and he was filled with admiration for her and a thing that most people would probably call love, but he hardly understood the term.  Just knew that he wanted the best for her, for them, would give his life for that little family and must live it for them, too, and he shook his head, scrubbed a sleeve across his face to scour the burning from his eyes--doggone smoke, weather must be inhibiting the draft just a bit, or something--and turned back to his work.

Third hoop.  Lash together the willows, bend them, a slow, steady pressure exerted over the steaming pot on the stove, feeling the tension in the wood and working with it, not wanting the wands to snap, gradually flexing them until their ends met, at which point he took a length of rawhide in his teeth, holding it there while he wrapped with one hand, pulling down on the top of the mostly finished hoop with his other, lest it spring away and waste all of his work.  Finished.  Satisfied.  Wanted to do another, but Liz was looking sleepy, easing the baby down in his spot against the wall, woven rabbit blanket keeping him warm, and he could see that she was ready for bed.  The fourth and last hoop could be done in the morning.

One last thing he must do before turning in for the night, and Einar set his finished hoops aside in the corner by the water barrel, turned his attention to the jerky that still hung drying over the stove, its fragrance filling the cabin and leaving him wishing to leap up like the raven and pull down a string of the stuff, start eating.  He did nothing of the kind, however, simply checking each strip for dryness, taking down those which were finished and packing them away in separate rawhide bags which he marked by tying a bit of rawhide cordage to the corner of each so they wouldn’t have to open them up and sniff in order to know which were seasoned, and which not.  Wanted, the task complete, to go out and get the elk haunch, slice off another batch to fill the spaces he’d emptied, and he would have done it, probably working through much of the night, but Liz was calling him, holding back the bear hides and urging him to bed, and he went.  Plenty of time for all of that in the morning.

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