Snow had, indeed, managed to blow and drift over the chimney opening so as to very nearly seal it off and cause a backup of smoke into the cabin, a fact which Einar, in the darkness, was able to ascertain with some certainty only after he’d got himself hauled up onto the roof and stretched out full length in the snow that lay white and billowy over its surface. Stand up, and he knew he’d likely as not be sliding before he could do anything to stop himself, snow blasted and polished by the wind until it was hardly deep enough to give any significant traction, so he had to stick to creeping. Feeling his way, finding the chimney and clearing, best as he could, the drifted and icy snow away from around it he began carefully inching back towards the edge of the roof, finding it rather suddenly when a particularly ferocious blast of wind and its attendant fury of airborne flakes temporarily caused him to lose all sense of equilibrium and go slipping over the rim of the roof before he could do anything to stop himself.
Well, that was one way to get back down, and at least he’d been done with his task before it happened. Would have found himself somewhat dismayed had he needed to climb back up there to finish digging the thing out, especially with blowing snow having already plastered itself against one side of his face and all but cemented that eye shut. Not so easy to find one’s way under such circumstances and with darkness still deep over the world, and Einar knew he’d have more than the simple furies of the storm to watch out for, should he remain too long outside. Was half surprised Liz hadn’t already come out in search of him, but supposed she might still be sleeping, in which case perhaps he could scramble in through the tunnel before she ever realized he’d been gone. Good thought, but not remotely possible, as she met him at the door, headlamp casting fragmented splinters of light out into the storm, where they danced fitfully between whirling flakes of snow and didn’t seem to make much of a dent at all in the thick, churning bluster of blowing snow. Einar grinned, took a halting step towards the door in an attempt to meet her there, at least, but it felt as though he was attempting to move through mud, through half-frozen water which was in the act of congealing around him, and his motions were in consequence slow, jerky, not at all what he was aiming for.
Must not have been moving quickly enough, for she grabbed him, all but dragged him into the cold, still air of the tunnel and began brushing snow from him. “Well, you fixed it. Smoke isn’t backing up anymore, but what were you thinking?”
“Thinking I…couldn’t breathe, and pretty soon nobody else would be able to, either. Had to fix the chimney. That’s all I was thinking. Isn’t that enough?”
She took his hands, numb, insensible but for the growing sting of returning circulation, warming them between her own. “Enough would have involved maybe throwing on some boots and a parka before charging out into the snow, but you just wouldn’t be yourself if you stopped to worry about such things, would you?”
“Nope. And you wouldn’t have anyone to holler at. Which wouldn’t be real interesting, I’m guessing.”
“Oh, sure I would. I’d still have your son. He may be sleeping all quiet and peaceful right now, but he’s starting to show some definite signs that he’s going to take after his father in a lot of ways, so believe me, I’d still have someone to holler at, even if you could manage to be a bit more sensible about snow and cold and all that. It wouldn’t be a problem.”
“I hardly think so!” With which she gave him a big shove in through the door, seeing that he apparently intended on crouching right where he was in that wet, snow-caked deer hide until he froze solid—not wholly a vain concern under present circumstances, for he appeared barely able to move as it was—should nothing intervene. Thawing, at Liz’s insistence, over a stove come roaring back to life with the clearing of its chimney Einar listened to the keening and buffeting of the wind outside, shivering as a little gust found its way in around the stretched deer hide he’d earlier put up as windbreak. Clearly not well-insulated enough, any of it, between the wind and the snow it seemed intent on dragging inside as it puzzled out every little crack and crevice, taking full advantage as it went.
The cabin floor was a mess now that the place was starting to warm and thaw things some, ridges and riffles of snow which had escaped Einar’s broom now melting to muddy the floor and leave them all seeking refuge on rocks, hides and on the bed. The problem could be solved, and he knew how, though as it involved his heading back out into the storm, the thing was to prove easier thought than accomplished, seeing as Liz had rather strong objections to his going anywhere else just then. Something about the wind, and his purple hands, and it being time for more stew, none of which made a tremendous amount of sense to him, as it had been windy all night, his hands were always one shade of purple or another, those days, and as for stew…well, hadn’t they all eaten just before bed. Seemed certain they had, yet here she was bustling about the stove with the remainder of Juni’s rabbit, a healthy portion of bear fat and some dried, pounded chokecherries, working to make another meal. She saw him watching in some dismay, the way his glance wandered from stew pot to walls to the slightly muddy mess that had recently been their good, dry dirt floor, smiled, shook her head.
“No need to go out there and do anything about it right now. See? The snow’s not coming in anymore. Not hardly, and soon not at all. I think the storm’s one by one sealing the cracks for us, from the outside.”
Einar nodded, somewhat disappointed to be robbed of the only halfway legitimate reason he’d currently had in his possession for leaving the cabin once more to contend with wind and snow, but unable to deny the logic in her statement. “Yeah, snow’s…pretty good insulator. All those air spaces. Front of the cabin gets plastered over with snow…we’re all set. Be so warm in here soon that you’ll…you’ll melt me and have to sweep me the side with the melted snow, so you don’t end up with more mud. Big problem. Don’t want more mud.”
“Oh, it’s not something that I’m particularly worried about right now. I doubt you’ll even thaw thoroughly over the next day or so, let alone melt!”
“Would sure hope not…”