06 August, 2012

6 August 2012

Having fed Muninn--and Einar, who kept glancing at her simmering pot of supper soup and finally accepted a cup of broth after her repeated urgings--and finished filling the jerky-hanging strings, Liz searched through the piles of hides and furs which she had carefully organized on the shelves against one wall of the cabin, seeking and finally finding a large, beautiful wolverine pelt, saved from the animal Einar had trapped shortly before the child’s birth.  He’d tanned it and given it to her, a gift for the baby, and long had she considered its best use, finally deciding that it would be best honored and used by serving as the child’s first parka.  Setting the still-folded hide near the stove for inspection and measurement, she turned to Will, who had wakened and was demanding attention.

Einar, who seemed intent on keeping himself under-dressed and half frozen so long as he was stuck inside--not that he would have necessarily fared much better outside--left his jerky-slicing station and crept over to the hide, draped it around his shoulders, hunching over and staring at the wall as he absorbed a bit of its warmth, unmoving.  Liz found him thus several minutes later when she finished tending to Will, appearing deep in thought and very far away.  Which indeed he was, remembering the first wolverine he’d encountered some time ago during his first year on the run, the hand-to-claw battle which had ensued when he found the creature raiding his meager supply of drying jerky, a starving man fighting for his life, for the ability to go on sustaining it, and he had won, had worn that hide--and sometimes not a lot more; it had for some time been nearly all he had with which to keep himself warm--through so many long freezing months as he sought to go on eluding his pursuers and making a life for himself in that high, desolate country.  Rough times, for sure, yet he had got through them, had never had too much doubt of getting through them; why did there seem so much less certainty now that they had a strong, well-build cabin and trees full of stored meat?  Strange thing, life.

Liz put a hand on his shoulder, took the hide and spread it out on the floor, admiring the variation between the rich brown hues in its center and edges, and the golden ruff that ran around it in a near-circle, a real prize, and one she had been carefully saving.  “I’m thinking it’s about time to start making him his first parka.  What do you think?”

“Won’t he be riding in your coat for a while yet?”

“Oh, yes.  I guess for the rest of the cold season, at least.  And probably through the summer too, if I can make a cooler version out of deer hide.”

“The Inuits did that.  Hide, and later cloth.  Summer baby-carrying coats.”

“I’ll do it.  But still not way too early to make him a little parka, I think.  I’ll make it real large, so it fits him for his first couple of years, hopefully.  But look at him!  Four months old this week, according to my calendar, and already he’s moving around so much, getting ready to crawl, it looks like…”

Easing Will down onto the soft warmth of the wolverine hide on his stomach, Liz watched as he squirmed around for a moment before slowly but steadily raising himself.  He’d been able to support himself on his elbows and lift his head while in such a position for several weeks, and now was beginning to get knees beneath him also, raise himself into a position from which it appeared to Liz that crawling couldn’t be terribly far beyond his grasp.  Something of a scary thought, but she was glad to see him making progress, and in so many ways.  Movement, interest in the world, the little sounds he was making, always trying new ones and the way he occasionally attempted to mimic things he saw either her or Einar do--though, like his father, he seldom seemed willing to focus too long on a human face, often preferring to stare at Muninn’s beady raven-eyes--all of this seemed very encouraging.   She figured it must mean he was getting everything he needed, both nutritionally and otherwise, and this made her very glad.  Einar, also, had proven increasingly fascinated with the little one’s quick development, watching each change with the same wide-eyed wonder with which Liz had often seen him stare at a coming storm or observe the tiny motions of an ant as it navigated its way over a rough section of spruce bark; new worlds to discover for both father and son, and even now Einar stared at him in silent wonderment, faintest hint of a smile creeping across his furrowed face.

“I need to go out and get some more firewood before it gets dark tonight, in case the planes stay away and you decide it’s alright for us to have a fire again tonight.  Going to be a cold one, I think.  Can you stay here with Will for a few minutes?”

Einar nodded.  “Not going anywhere.”

Some time later Liz came back to find Einar down on the floor with Will, watching him most attentively as he lay flat on his stomach, staring straight at the child…a precious moment, Liz could not help but think, though her opinion changed somewhat when she heard the nature of the very serious one-sided conversation that was going on between the two of them.  Pausing in the tunnel before fully opening the door, it was all she could do to keep from laughing as Einar expounded on the theory and practice of guerilla warfare through the ages, the concept of relative superiorhty when numerically outnumbered by the foe and logistically disadvantaged…it went on and on.

Funnier still was the expression on Will’s face, one of dead-serious, intense concentration which might have very nearly convinced her that the little one comprehended every word and was deep in thought as to the proper response--had he been perhaps five or six months older.  Couldn’t possibly have possession of enough words just yet to make any sense of his father’s carryings on, though she had little doubt that he would, before too long.  The two of them were going to make quite a pair.

Not wanting to let any more cold air into the cabin she finished pushing open the tunnel door, getting a quick response from Einar as he went silent and rolled to his knees, facing her.

“Oh, don’t stop now!  I was learning a lot.”

Looking a bit sheepish, he spread his hands and glanced at the little guy, who had raised himself to hands and knees and looked keen on propelling himself forward to follow his father, though not yet quite able to manage it.  “They always understand more than you think they do, you know.  I can remember being…well, it couldn’t have been much more than a year and a half old, I’m sure of it, hiding under the table while my Dad carried on these long philosophical conversations with his guests, just fascinated by what I was hearing, and wishing I could be part of the conversation…  Well, he’s gonna be part of the conversation from the start, here.”

Liz smiled, stacked her load of firewood beside the stove.  I have no doubt that he is…

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