28 May, 2012
28 May 2012
Assured that Liz had been taking measures in his absence to prepare for their potential departure and proud of her for having done everything he would have done, and more, to make ready, Einar gave himself over for the time to the warming process, knowing he’d got to get it over with before he’d be good for much else, hands and feet stinging with the sharp bite of returning circulation and the trembling beginning to increase as stiff muscles loosened up a bit. Appeared he had somehow managed to avoid any serious frostbite sitting out there in the storm and on his long returning wander that night, fingers and toes clearly red and painful as he began warming, but not the waxy white which would have spelled real trouble. Einar was glad and a bit surprised, perhaps, that the damage had not been more significant considering the state of his legs, swollen to nearly twice their normal diameter after his recent attempts to increase his food intake, the trouble interfering somewhat with circulation to his feet as well as altering his gait and leaving walking a rather painful and difficult proposition, at times. Well. Appeared he’d come through it alright, could go on eating as he knew he must ultimately do if he wanted the swelling to go down and stay that way, though it was always tempting to simply quit eating again, knowing it would provide at least temporary relief.
No. Not this time. His long vigil out in the snow watching the stranded skiers had only served to reinforce to him the necessity of his regaining his accustomed strength and resistance to the cold, and though his first inclination was, as always, to try and accomplish this through further deprivation and physical challenge, he knew the long-term solution ultimately had to include eating and actually beginning to repair his body, some. Had pushed it just about as far as it could go, likely, and though possessed, as always, with an insatiable curiosity to see just how much farther he could push his boundaries, he was now a man with a family and had no business deliberately taking such things to their most likely conclusion simply to satisfy his curiosity about where the edge might lie, and just how long he could teeter on it, balancing precariously, before going over. Nope. Time to eat, and soon, for he must be ready should the rescue of the skiers bring unwanted company to the basin.
Much as he wanted to eat the meal Liz was preparing him, Einar could not do it just yet for there had come a time, as he knew there would come, when his entire attention was consumed by the intensity of warming, body trembling too hard to allow for much other activity and certainly precluding intelligible speech, Liz helping him through the whole thing with pot after pot of hot, sweetened nettle tea and not worrying too much aside from a brief period during which he seemed to be struggling for breath--feared briefly that his heart might not be taking too well to the warming, that the entire thing might be proceeding too quickly--for she had seen it all before. He would come through alright, and did, shivering slacking off after a time to leave him weary and still rather thoroughly chilled, but able once more to move about and carry on something resembling a normal conversation with Liz.
“Skiers must be in a pretty bad way by now. Quite a storm out there, and I didn’t see them eating anything.”
“They’ve got some shelter though, don’t they? The lean-to that the woman built, and they’ve got their ski clothes…and a fire. Why, they’re better off than you were! I bet they’ll last.”
“Guy’s hurt pretty bad. Broken ribs, coughing up blood, that can turn real nasty in a hurry, if it isn’t already.”
“Well, there’s nothing we can do.”
“At least with this storm, we can have a fire for a little while, warm the place up and do some cooking before we’ve got to go cold again.”
“Got to do that just as soon as the storm shows signs of letting up, because if they haven’t already got somebody in here on foot to do the rescue, they’ll fly in just as soon as the weather breaks, and it’s not enough for us to simply not have smoke coming out of the chimney at that time. Place has to be cold inside and out, so it doesn’t show on infrared. Just for a couple days, until we’re sure they’ve come and gone.”
“I’m going to make a bunch of stew today then, right now this morning, so we’re not stuck eating jerky and pemmican for three days. Not that I’ve got anything against either of them, they’re very good food and…”
A smile creased Einar’s cold-cracked lips. “You don’t need to explain. Variety is good. Go make your massive quantities of stew!”
With Liz busy over the stove Einar pulled down the orange envelope--left to sit for a time but not forgotten; he’d been thinking about it for days--from its place in the rafters, blew from it the accumulated dust and balanced it for a time in hands still unsteady from his long wait in the cold, considering, weighing the thing, and Liz came to him, put her hands over his.
“Do you have to? Right now?”
He answered gently, freeing himself from her grip and pulling out the sheaf of papers. “I do, today. Don’t worry, I won’t let it…pull me away, this time. Staying right here with you and the little one.”
“Thank you,” and she knew he was sincere in his intentions, but recognized also the difficulty he would likely have in keeping to them, once that thing started getting its claws into him. The skiers ought to help, his knowledge that they were still out there, presence still a potential threat to the quiet and solitude of life in the basin, and she hoped that knowledge would provide him further motivation when it came to keeping himself more or less in the present, ready to act on any threat that might come along.
Einar read it, then, the parts about Andy, spelled out there on the page in the spare, stark language of a young man who’d just come through his own weeks-long ordeal in the jungle, so bent on surviving moment-to-moment over those long days that he’d not had time to stop and think about any of it or begin coming to some deeper understanding, simply spilling raw, unprocessed data in response to his interviewers’ questions--careful, though, in some areas; he could see that he’d been holding back, knew it had been intentional--not leaving out much of anything. Best that way. Time has a way of distorting things, filtering them a bit and easing the hard edges, some, and Einar wanted the edges just then, the whole story in all its unmitigated detail. He wanted to remember Andy, the man’s life and his sacrifice. Sacrifice. You make it sound voluntary, Einar. Might have been, on some level, you’ll never know…but he was a prisoner just like you and I’m sure all he really wanted was to get out of there and get home someday to see his family again. And while he certainly conducted himself as a man--more of one than you’ll ever be--he was just a kid who never got to live his life, and no matter how you want to frame it or phrase it or twist it around, you can’t erase the fact that you had some part in making it so. Or at the very, very least, failing to prevent it from being so. Yeah. Go ahead and remember him, if that’s what you want. But don’t forget the circumstances. Got no right to do your remembering without including those. Best remember the whole thing. And he did.
After a time, finished reading but just beginning his own remembrance, for there were things that had never been written, Einar set the papers aside--why did you do this? She was right, maybe. Now wasn’t the time--Liz unable to overlook the grief in his eyes and she sat down beside him with Will in her arms, smiling when he arched his neck and wrinkled his little forehead in an attempt to get a better look at his father’s face. Einar saw, met his eyes and the hard lines of his face softened some; Liz almost thought she saw the beginnings of a smile.