08 May, 2012
8 May 2012
Will fed and tucked securely into his cozy basket-bed, Liz joined Einar out in the timber behind the cabin, not entirely sure what she had intended by insisting that she go along and knowing only that it had seemed essential that she do so, every bit as essential as making sure he continued to get regular meals. Otherwise, it seemed to her that any minimal benefit which might be gained from the increased eating would be more than erased by whatever it was he always did out there, and he would keep slipping backwards until there was nothing left of him. Might happen even if he really did intend to get things turned around for himself as he had told her, and she hoped to be able to prevent this by her presence. Einar did not like having her along, not on that particular journey. Didn’t feel free to do the things he needed to do with her watching him like that, for indeed he did believe she was there for the purpose of watching him, but figured he’d just have to make the best of things. Had to keep up with his arm exercises and at least some of the other things if he wanted to have the strength to accurately use that rifle, haul traps or do much of anything else, and besides, without that work he knew sleep would be a tenuous and evasive thing that night, and he really needed to sleep. Normally, not wanting to be too near the cabin when he did his work, he would have gone further but didn’t want to take Liz too far from the cabin with Will sleeping inside, so he chose his nearer location, the one he used when he didn’t have the time--or, more often of late, the strength--to make the hike to his preferred place, leading Liz to an area of heavily trampled snow that she could easily make out despite the fading light there beneath the heavy timber. It was clear to her that he must spend a good deal of time in that place.
Anxious to get on with things so they could return inside to Will Einar started with the rifle, lifting it over his head and down again numerous times--not too much weight at all, but certainly enough to be useful to him in his present condition--holding it out with one straight arm and then another for as long as he possibly could before moving on to a heavier length of green fallen aspen he had set aside for the purpose, alternating between lifting it over his head while standing and lying on his back doing the same until he could barely move his arms anymore, at which point, he stood and did fifteen more. Liz hoped he might be finished then, but he was not. Gulping down a quick handful of snow for a bit of moisture he went and stood then under an aspen, staring up at a high branch that could barely be made out in the dimness, measuring with his eyes and when he left the ground she could see that he had carried out this particular move more than once before, and he launched himself just high enough to get his hands around it, grunting when he was unable to keep his elbows flexed and as a result was nearly pulled down again when his weight fell on his arms, but he kept his hold, slowly struggling himself up until he could get his chin up over the branch. Many times he repeated this, Liz losing count because of the lack of light but wishing he might soon be done, as she couldn’t imagine how he was managing to complete one repetition, let alone keep them up like that. Back on the ground then, lying sprawled out in the snow for a moment nearly too exhausted to breathe before hauling himself quickly back to his feet and continuing with his exercises.
Liz couldn’t see much because it was by then quite dark outside but it was clear to her by the sound of Einar’s breathing how hard he was working, clear to her by the sound of things that he must be in a good deal of pain also, pushing himself too far, and that even with the effort she was sure he must be making to prevent her from observing such things. Wanting very much to interrupt she kept quiet instead, knowing he had made a big concession in allowing her to accompany him in the first place and determined not to interfere any further. Unless his heart actually stopped, and then she would certainly hurry in and try her best to…don’t go there. He’s going to be alright. Knows what he’s doing. I hope.
Done at last Einar sank to the ground, chin on his knees and hands trailing limply in the snow as he fought for breath and waited for his heart to begin slowing a bit so he could trust himself once more on his feet, Liz sitting down beside him. Somewhere along the line he had shed his parka and, much to her dismay, his shirt as well, and was soon trembling furiously as he began cooling down, teeth rattling in the chill wind that swept down from the nearby peaks. The situation was not helped any--to Liz’s way of seeing things--by the fact that he had once more sprawled out flat on his back in the snow and she helped him up, doing her best to brush the snow from him and draping the parka around his shoulders.
“Is this what you do every evening when you come out here by yourself?”
“Yep, pretty close. Varies some, day to day. Sometimes more, sometimes less.”
“Well then it’s no wonder there’s less and less of you as the weeks go on! I won’t tell you to stop what you’re doing because I know you probably need it, especially if I’m going to be asking that you eat more, but maybe you could…modify it in some way. Do just a bit less for a while. Is there any chance of that?”
“Not if I’m gonna be eating. No. Need to be doing more.”
“Why? Surely you can see that you’ll have a real struggle ever putting on any weight and letting your body start to repair itself so long as you’re putting it through this--or worse, because I suspect it’s probably a lot worse when I’m not with you, isn’t it?--every day. Looking at it practically, it just isn’t going to happen.”
Einar shrugged in the darkness, didn’t really know how to make her understand and was out of breath, anyway, after that little bit of talking, so he just put a hand on her knee to let her know it was alright, was going to be alright, he’d figure it out, and she took his hand, laid her forehead against his and they sat there together for a few minutes, silence saying more than speech as it so often did between them but Einar wasn’t getting any warmer, and as soon as his breathing had slowed and normalized a bit she pulled him to his feet, and he might have objected, tried to stay for a time there in the snow, had it not been for Will.
“Guess we better go see how the little one’s getting on.”
“Yes, it’s time to be getting back in. He’s probably still sleeping, but I don’t like leaving him for too long, even if we can see the place from here…”
Back in the light of the cabin--Will was, indeed, still quite happily sleeping in his bed of warm, insulating mountain goat fur--Liz took a good look at Einar and saw that despite the way the cold was affecting him, lines of weariness and hurt etched more deeply into his face than before they’d gone out, there was also about him a certain peace which had not been there before, a near-contentment that might have been little more than sheer exhaustion, but sometimes that’s the best a person can do. Seeing the change, she knew that Einar was probably right in saying he needed it, this exertion that was nearly killing him with each application. She wouldn’t be right to try and take it from him, would simply have to hope and pray that he would have the strength to endure the things he was putting himself through, manage to begin mending a bit despite them. A difficult balance.
Einar seemed concerned about none of these things at the moment--seldom was too concerned about them, in fact; life is what it is, and nobody ever said it was meant to be easy--his attention wholly absorbed in testing and sorting the hanging jerky, pulling down the stuff that had dried to a hard, brittle consistency and stowing it away in a hide bag, moving the still-leathery pieces nearer the stove to finish their drying, and Liz shook her head, checked on Will and joined him.