We had arrived at the cabin. “Yep. That’s it.” I said, driving almost to the front door. “Can you handle getting the light stuff out of the truck while I check for firewood and the like?”
“Sure.” She pulled her coat out and slipped into it. When she opened the door and stepped out it was into about a foot of snow. “Yawp! That’s deep.” She said. “Pooh, right over the tops of my shoes. The first thing I’m going to do is put on my boots. In back, right?”
“On top, if I remember right. Want me to get them?”
“Sure.” I mushed around to the rear and lifted the lid of the topper. I located her boots and a thick pair of socks. I went around to her side and knelt in the snow.
“You don’t have to do that.”
“But I want to. Hold your foot out.”
She did and I pulled her low-cut shoe off and added a wool sock over the first one. Then I unlaced her boot and eased it on her foot. When I laced it up to the top I did the same with her other foot. “Thank you, Chet.”
“My pleasure. Now, scoot!”
“I’m scooting, I’m scooting!”
She got busy pulling items from the truck and carting them into the cabin. The front door was a bit sticky, but a well-placed bump with her hip freed it. I went around to the back and checked the wood supply. Ted and I had cut and stacked a lot of wood this summer just in case either one of us wanted to use it. It was still there. I unlatched the little wooden flap door above the stack so we could reach through and grab wood without going outside. They kept it latched against critters.
I decided to have a bit of fun with Nora. When she went back to the truck, I slipped in through the wood door and sat in the chair in front of the fireplace. When she came in she stopped and stared at me. “How the heck did you do that? I didn’t see you come around front.”
“Magic” I said. “We old mountain men have our ways.”
She looked skeptical. “Yeah … right.”
I pointed to the little wood door. “That’s how.”
“Oh. Funny guy. How about it, you ‘old mountain man’? Care to make fire?”
I nodded and set about it. There were three huge Denver telephone books beside the fireplace. They were meant as fire starters. I used four pages to get the kindling going and then the dry pine took over. In ten minutes, the cabin was toasty warm. I finished helping Nora bring in all our stuff and stow it away on the rough shelves along one wall.
She was fascinated with the cold box. “What about bears? Don’t they bother it?”
“Bears? No bears around here this time of year. They’re all asleep in their dens now. We don’t bug them and they won’t bug us.” I drew a little water and fed coffee to the big cast-iron pot that hung over the fire. “Unless they smell their brother over there in that trunk.” I pointed.
She got up and walked over. When she lifted the lid, there was a huge bear head with mouth agape staring at her. She shrieked, and then burst out laughing. “It’s a bearskin rug!” She began hauling it out, spreading it over the hearth rug. “This is beautiful. So nice and warm” She sat down, and then lay back with her head on the head of the bear. In the light from the fire she looked delicious to me. Grabbing the arms of the bear, she pulled them crosswise over her chest, holding out one huge paw that still had the claws attached. “Rawr!” She growled.
Then she sat up and looked up at me, saying, “What?”
I guess I must have had some goofy look on my face because she suddenly got serious herself. “What are you thinking right now?”
Alarm! Alarm! You don’t really want to know, Nora. Not with two weeks ahead of us here in the cabin. I brightened up and changed the subject rapidly. “How about something to eat? I cook a mean dish of chili.”
She looked at me for a while and I began to get nervous. Then she smiled and got to her feet. “Sure! Which bag is it in?”
“Different bags and one frozen bit of Elk in the cooler.”
“Elk? Really? I have only eaten that once. For the chili?”
“Yup. It adds some zest.”
We busied ourselves making dinner. Our little moment in front of the fire was foremost in my mind the whole while. She seemed distracted also but that changed when she tasted her first spoonful of Elk chili. “Oh, wow! That’s delicious!” She said with enthusiasm. “I’m going to want more of this.”
“You don’t want to eat too much at once though. It has certain, um, internal effects that aren’t desirable.”
Her puzzled look told me she didn’t know what I meant. “It makes you gassy.”
“Oh. Okay. We definitely don’t need that with all the cold wind outside. We can’t open a window.” She snickered.
“Right. Have another hunk of bread.” I chopped off more for her to sop up the rest of her chili. When she popped it into her mouth, she burped.
“Oops. Sorry.” She colored a bit. I burped also and we broke into laughter.
“We make a great pair don’t we?” I said. “Before long we’ll be burping and farting all over the place.” That caused a renewal of our laughter.
We dipped a little hot water out of the big pot sitting next to the fire and washed dishes. This pot was filled with hot melted snow. I explained when I brought it in, filled to the brim, which if it wasn’t simmering, static electricity in the dry air would cause all sorts of problems.
“Like what?” She’d asked.
I didn’t say anything but, instead, scuffed my feet a little on the kitchen mat, and approached her. I neared the back of her hand with my finger and a huge spark shot out and zapped her. She jumped and rubbed the spot. “Oh, I see.”
"Yeah. We need to make sure it is never empty and doesn't boil, just simmers and steams a little."
Dishes done, we kept our conversation light and cheerful, skirting around what was coming – a discussion of our sleeping arrangements. We had individual sleeping bags and there were two bed frames with ropes strung for support, but they were pushed very close to each other. I offered to move one further away when we first saw them but she’d said nothing in response. I asked again. “We can worry about that later, Chet. Put out that lantern and let’s just sit by the fire right now.” I readily agreed.
I sat quietly and turned my thoughts inward. My current state of celibacy had been running for going on four weeks now. I am a lover of the opposite sex, but sometimes I simply don’t have the time for a mating dance. My current girl friend, not Nora but another named Tina, and I had had words back then and she spun off into another romance with someone else. I hadn’t replaced her yet so when the opportunity to take Nora on this trip arose, I vowed to play it very cool and I was going to stick with that plan. It wasn’t me that was going to make the first move.
I turned the knob on the side of the lantern and the mantel sputtered down to a soft glow, then died with a soft pop. I pulled the big bearskin around in front of the fireplace and sat down on it. We’d opened a bottle of nice wine I’d brought along and each of us had a glass. I sipped at mine while staring into the fire. I didn’t turn when I sensed Nora coming down beside me. “Can I join you?” She asked softly.
With my hand held out to steady her, she sat next to me in a Yoga position. I haven’t a clue how women manage to do that. I’m certainly not flexible enough to sit cross-legged like them with their ankles tucked under their butt. I’m sure that if I tried, my legs would break off at the knees. “Hi,” I said, looking over at her.
“Hi.” She replied, taking a sip of wine. “It’s so quiet here that I can almost hear my own heartbeat. Shouldn’t we be hearing the wind?”
“Most of the time it drops to nothing at night. Has to do with the heating and cooling of the mountains. It’ll pick up in the morning.”
“I just love staring into a fire. You see all sorts of things in the flames.”
“Really? Like what.”
“Oh, you’re so practical, Chet. Don’t you ever let your mind roam around and just let things happen?”
“Sometimes. Just now I was wondering why you agreed to come up here with me, alone, for two weeks. Tongues will wag, you know.”
“Who cares? I don’t. I’m old enough not to worry about what other people think. Besides, if I thought you were dangerous I wouldn’t have come.”
“Maybe I’m waiting for the next full moon to grow fangs and fur. What about that?”
“Might be fun.” She giggled and straightened out to lie flat on the rug. She crossed her legs at the ankle and leaned back onto my shoulder. She took another sip of wine. “But all good monsters have some sort of trigger that changes them. What’s yours?”
I thought a moment, and then rolled to face her. “Don’t know. Maybe it’s wine, and when I finish this glass I’ll ravage you.”
“Oh my! Whoever would hear me all the way into the deep woods like we are?” She held up her hands in mock surrender; then snickered. “Help! Help!” She said in a tiny, high-pitched voice.
We stared at each other for what seemed like hours. I could see various emotions cross her face and be reflected in the firelight on her eyes. I would have given a load of money right then to know what she was thinking. Her smile faded into seriousness and she lowered her head to my chest.
I felt myself drifting in a an almost dream state. I felt like I was standing across the room and watching the two people in front of the fire. It was an eerie feeling. I watched as his arm slowly began enclosing her shoulders and the palm of his hand caress her neck. I could feel it myself, but also see the other guy doing it. I set my wine down on the floor beside me. I’d had enough.
Sometime, about an hour later, I woke with a start. Nora was gone from my chest. A person cannot hide in a one-room cabin and she definitely wasn’t here. From outside, I heard the door to the privy slam and then crunching footsteps approached the door. It quietly opened with only one small creak and Nora came into the room. I opened my eyes and watched her as she moved about; preparing for bed I assumed.
She removed her coat and hung it on a peg beside the door. When she began to turn towards me, I closed my eyes again. Satisfied I was still asleep she unbuttoned the top two buttons of her flannel shirt. The brightness of her white bra stood out in the darkened room like it was phosphorescent. Somehow, in a method known only to girls she managed to take it off without taking off her shirt. Firelight highlighted the swell of her breasts as she buttoned her shirt and turned to tend to her sleeping bag.
She stole another glance at me, cocked her head, and decided that I was still sleeping soundly. Carefully she unzipped my bag and pulled it off the bed to cover me. When she bent over I got a full view of her breasts only inches above me. My resolve began to crumble. Still, I argued with myself, to do anything now might ruin our whole trip. I stayed unmovable as she pulled the bag up to my neck. To my surprise, she bent over again and kissed me ever so gently on the forehead. “Goodnight,” she whispered softly.