27 September, 2012
27 September 2012
Scurrying to snatch the scattered papers back up before Juni could get hold of them as he was sure she, as an investigator, would probably try to do, Einar was only partially successful, managing to get everything scooped back up in pretty short order, but of course greatly arousing her curiosity in the process, and before he’d got all the pages stuffed back in the envelope, she managed to get a glance at the title at the top of one of the pages.
“What are…” Question died in the air, Einar’s silent wolverine-snarl and a sudden frenzied rasping from the raven--the creature had appeared asleep, oblivious, but Juni was quickly learning that it was acutely tuned in to Einar’s existence, sometimes seeming to know his moods and anticipate his coming actions before he was himself aware of their approach--precluding further discussion of any sort
Maps. Liz had laid the finally-sleeping Will on the bed and was working busily to spread them on the floor, Juni crowding close to her as if in quickly shifting the focus she could plausibly deny having ever seen the transcripts in the first place, busy with other things, I wasn’t looking, for clearly he did not want her to have been looking, and the gleam in his eye was a dangerous one, accusatory; she wanted no part in whatever might lie behind it. Documents securely stashed back in their ceiling hiding place Einar joined the pair on the floor, crouching over the maps and watching as Juni traced out the borders--as well as she remembered them--of the areas where the search had not yet been focused. He got her a pencil.
“Here, go ahead and draw them in. Only the ones where you really remember landmarks and can be pretty sure.”
“Where did you get a pencil out here?”
“Got it from the doggone corner store. Can find just about anything there.”
“The corner store. If I should find myself in need of a pencil later, or maybe a new pair of snowboots or today’s newspaper to read, just where would I find this store?”’
“On the corner, of course. Down on the doggone corner. Up the ridge and through the giant cornice at the top, thirty paces to the left and over the thousand foot drop just beyond, that’s where.”
“Right. Where else? I’m surprised, actually, that you didn’t make the pencil out of a willow stick filled with charcoal for the lead…but that’ll be next year I guess, after whatever you have now is used up. I’ll just have to come up again next year and do a story on the booming cottage industry of primitive pencil manufacturing.”
A silent glare from Einar told her that she had in mentioning a potential future visit perhaps been joking about the wrong thing, her presence there not only an annoyance but a real threat to their way of life, and, as he probably saw it, to the continuation of their lives, in general. Back to the maps. Maps were safe, and besides, she had real information to offer then, information which even Einar in his silent, brooding intensity seemed to recognize as valuable, and appreciate. Probably a good thing. Maybe the only reason she was still alive, even. As difficult and dangerous an interview subject as the wild man had proven at their first meeting, there seemed about him this time a certain differentness, a hard, dangerous edge to the wildness in his eyes and a gravity about him that she struggled to define, but it alarmed her.
Perhaps, she told herself, she was seeing only the results of the pressure put upon a man by having a wife and child to worry about providing for under such difficult conditions, but she doubted that was the whole of it. Nor could she reasonably ascribe the entire change to the obvious strain of getting through the unrelentingly demanding requirements of daily life in what was visibly a seriously compromised physical condition. Though she had to admit that the extent of the change--deterioration, she would have to call it, except that he surely wouldn’t care for the characterization--had shocked her at first, physical struggle was nothing new to him; he’d been soaking wet, ill-clad and struggling with what had sounded like a pretty serious case of pneumonia when she and Steve had spent their night in his mine tunnel shelter, yet had at the time appeared surprisingly well adapted to life on the run. There was something else, something internal, and the investigator in her wanted to plumb those depths until she’d found and understood its source, but such exploratory peregrinations were, for the time, solidly beyond the realm of the possible, not to mention the remotely safe and survivable. Maps.
“Here,” she showed them, “is the only one I hadn’t explored yet when I ran across you folks up here. It was going to be next. They seemed to have different reasons for not focusing on each of the different areas they covered, but these two--yours and the last one--seemed least interesting to them of all, though without actually coming out and asking, I never really was able to find out exactly why. Whether they thought the terrain was too high and open and the cursory flyovers they’d done from time to time were plenty to have revealed any human activity, or for some other reason, the current leadership there just doesn’t see these spots as worthy of too much effort.”
Einar thanked her, and meant it, and retreated with the maps to the corner f`rthest from the stove, spreading them out on the bed and losing himself in study, seeking their strategy, needing to get inside the minds of his would-be captors and appearing entirely lost in the lines of those maps.
While Einar worked Liz made him a pot of the juniper berry tea whose absence had proven such a challenge over the unplanned night and day out in the basin, and he drank it while continuing his study, finishing the pot, dozing over the maps, knowing that he would within a few minutes likely begin experiencing the less pleasant effects of the tea, the sweating, brief rise in body temperature and the weird things it did to his heart rhythm--hadn’t told Liz about those, knowing she would want him to stop having the tea if she knew and lacking a good alternative--but unable, in the meantime, to prevent himself drifting off to sleep.
Juni, curious about the purpose of tea made from the berries of her namesake tree, watched as Liz poured them from the pot and carefully dried them for the next use, knowing that they had few left. “What’s that tea do? Help him sleep?”
“Oh, no! He’d never drink anything that he suspected might make him sleepy. Not even yarrow. I think he’s just sleepy because he’s worn out, and finally starting to get warm. The tea’s to help with swollen feet. Helps get rid of extra water.”
She nodded, had seen the struggle involved in removing Einar’s boots. “Edema? From the…starvation?”
“Why? You seem to have plenty of…”
“It’s got nothing to do with how much we have. He’s a good provider. We never lacked, all winter. It’s a complicated thing, and I don’t think he would like us talking about it.”
“Sorry. Maybe you could show me how you make cordage, instead. Are those nettle stalks up there that you’ve got bundled up near the ceiling? I’ve made dogbane cordage and some from yucca at a class I took one time, but never tried nettle…”