02 November, 2012

2 November 2012

Quiet in the camp as Einar very deliberately finished case skinning the beaver he had been working on, carefully turning the hide inside out as he worked and taking special precautions around the head area.  Though he would ultimately open the pelt up and lash it down flat on the round willow stretchers they had been using, he found it a good bit easier to flesh the hide if left intact during skinning, as this allowed him to slip it over the fleshing board like a sock.  Good, thick fur still, and the stuff ought to make some fine warm clothes for Liz and the little one for that coming winter.  Wherever they would be, then.  Wandering, likely, driven from their home by circumstance and traveling the hills in search of another place where they might be safe, settle down, spend a winter; it never ended.  Which brought him to the matter of Juni.  Why she had to bring up the question of her fate just then when everything was for once going so smoothly between the three of them he did not know for sure, but figured her natural curiosity simply wouldn’t let her rest with such a question unanswered, yet to be settled.  Was not himself entirely sure of the answer.  They would let her live, leave; he and Liz had settled that much between them, but they had not discussed a timeline.  Had brought her up to the cabin and given her leave to remain with them for a time in the hopes of buying a bit of time with which to get themselves better situated for leaving the basin, remaining meat dried, possessions cached and some of the high snow beginning to melt, and then--nothing particularly to do with Juni’s presence; it had simply been time--things had got awfully weird for him, and he’d lost his focus on most everything other than simply making it through one day and to the next.

That’s got to change in a real hurry.  We need a plan, here.  Priorities as far as what we’ve got to get done before she leaves, and a strategy for parting ways, too.  Have to find someplace to leave her, Liz and the little one and I just disappear in the night one time in an area where it’d be all but impossible for her to track us, hope she doesn’t know the way back up to the cabin from wherever that ends up being, so we’ll have a couple days to clear out before we have to start worrying about her either trying to tail us again or getting back to town and telling somebody what she’s seen, and where…  Which I really don’t think she’ll be doing, but a fella can’t be too careful.  

There was another option, Einar knew, one he had not seriously considered in the past but there it was before him so he gave it a bit of thought.  She could stay.  Either of her own free will at their invitation or, if she seemed unlikely to accept such, at their insistence, on a temporary basis until the snow was gone and they were better set to take their leave of the basin or, if things worked out well, for as long as she wanted.  She would, he knew, almost certainly accept such an invitation.  Seemed in no hurry at all to return to civilization--reasonable enough, he had to admit, as she was apparently quite intent on mastering the intricacies of the various skills which had made possible life in the wilds in times past, and how better to acquire these than by living them every day?--and would likely jump at the chance to extend her learning experience.   He would not have even considered such a solution previously, had, in fact, been quite resentful of her presence and intent on parting ways as soon as safely possible until…well, until last night, that’s when.  

He shivered at the memory of the night, strangeness and distance of the scene played out amongst cliffs, river and on the hill opposite their camp seeking once more to get its claws into him but he just gave a lopsided smile, scrubbed a sleeve across his eyes and went back to his work.  No reason to look too closely at those things.  He had critters to skin.  As for Juni, the decision did not have to be made just then.  They could give it a day or two, discuss it, he and Liz, and see what they could come up with.  Allowing her to stay indefinitely would almost certainly be a big mistake.  Even though she and Liz did for some unknown reason appear to be getting on a good deal better that morning than he had seen them do in the past…well, two full grown human critters plus the little one were plenty, so far as he was concerned--too many, some days, as there were times when he was hardly fit company for himself, let alone others--and the thought of adding a third adult on a permanent basis made his head hurt.  Too much potential for trouble, and though in the long run perhaps the statistical likelihood of success for their little tribe would be increased by adding another competent adult member, he figured they’d just have to do their best with what they had.  Besides, they weren’t simply trying to make a go at living life as a primitive mountain tribe.  They had, for any chance of long-term success, to do so without being discovered by the outside world, and the more people in their group leaving footprints and tearing up the countryside with their passage the greater the chance of eventual detection--and destruction.  Juni had to go.  Too risky any other way.  The particulars he and Liz could work out at some later time.

While Einar had been musing on the future Liz had taken a brief break from skinning muskrats, cleaned her hands and eased Will onto her back for a rest from his adventures crawling about the camp.  This had freed Juni from the duty of keeping an eye on the little fellow and allowed her, also, to take part in the skinning, and with Liz’s guidance she had soon done one muskrat and started on another, the entire project all but done.  They would now have to flesh out the hides and stretch them on the rings they’d brought along and others which they could build if necessary, and that would be it for the day.  A good day’s work, and no reason to think they might not harvest an equal number of hides the following morning.  Only a few more days of that, and they’d be ready to head back to the cabin confident that they had taken full advantage of the remaining weeks of cool weather and good fur, and put aside what was for a non-commercial trapper a fair quantity of hides.  And you’re definitely a non-commercial trapper these days, aren’t you?  Just need enough for your own family, that’s it.  Not opposed to a little trading now and then and it served me well all those years up at my cabin, the first one, when I was still living down on the edge of civilization and able to visit it now and then, good to have a little cash now and then under such circumstances, but really, this is best.  Working for a living, in its most literal sense.  Keeps a fella steady, his eyes on the real important things in life.  Or ought to.

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