The Cabin on Mount Henry
The Cabin on Mount Henry
By Tony DeLorger © 2011
The flicker of candlelight dances on the cabin walls. At the table the crisp white pages of a leather bound book are slowly turned in sequence, a lone finger following text, the words like musical notes wafting free in the evening air. A small fire crackles from the fireplace; occasionally a log drops and cinders stream upward, their red ember glow like fireflies swirling in an updraught.
The cabin is bare, filled with only essentials: a table, a washstand, bowl and jug, a cooking bench and a few pots and pans. Over the fire a pot stand that still wears the remains of bacon and beans, swung out away from flames, a wooden spoon idle at is side. In the corner a straw bed and blankets await John Heller, whose eyes are beginning to falter. The good books print is somehow shrinking in the soft candlelight, and old John rubs his eyes under spectacles that sit precariously at the tip of his bulbous nose.
He leans back and stretches, both arms outstretched, then slumps back, carelessly looking out into the blackness. The quartered windows are alive with reflection, the fire’s flames creating ever-changing patterns on the rippled handmade glass. Outside approaching winter howls through the pines, a blanket of stars soon to hide away behind snow clouds thick and dark.
A solitary owl hoots on a high limb, partially drowned out by the whirling wind, it too feeling the approaching season. It sits, fluffed up like a woollen ball; its eyes shut tight, a curved beak only venturing out beyond warmth.
John places a bookmark in his Bible and clears his thought, placing the book next to his bed, his spectacles on top. He then walks back to the table and with thumb and index finger extinguishes the candle. Over the fireplace is a picture of Mary, back when they were first married. She was pretty, her hair pulled back and plaited into a complex bun. It took her so long John thought, but she did it every day, seemingly without effort. He smiles with the warmth of the memory and proceeds to undress down to his long johns.
With a grunt and then a sigh John lays flat on his bed, dragging the blankets over himself. He strokes his long grey beard and then closed his eyes, wondering what the morrow will bring. If it’s a clear day, he’ll hunt and further stock the winter pantry, if not set some traps and then go into town for supplies. Come four weeks times there’ll be no track to follow and he’ll be cut off from everything. He thinks a couple of sacks of flour, some salt and maybe some tobacco if the budget permits. As he slowly drifts off he remembers that he’ll need some more bullets for that old rifle. Bears can be a problem at the beginning of winter, before they retire for their hibernation.
The list just gets longer as he slips into a deep sleep and the howling wind becomes the only sound of night. The fire is all but ash with a few embers producing a soft glow that somehow warms the small space. Tomorrow will have to take care of itself.