the short story project


D.D. Manners


Emmit is awakened by the chatter of his own teeth.  The temperature must have really dropped over night.  The quilts his mother made fought off the chill to a certain point, but since he had convinced his paw to build him his own room this past spring, he was further away from the fire now.  He wouldn’t dare complain though, his paw took great care in giving him his own room and he would just have to suck it up.  Paw left five days ago, to take the pelts he’s collected all spring to the frontier town to trade for much needed supplies, flour, sugar, coffe and chewing tobacco.  The natives keep their distance if paw gives them pouches of tobacco each time, they pay the homestead a visit.  His mother is in the main room cooking up the last of the cornmeal, so he and Lucy can have a hot breakfast.  He greets his mother with a quick peck on the cheek before heading out to milk the cow and get some more firewood.  He hurries with old Sue, warming his hands as much as possible before pulling on the first tit, “sorry girl, I know I’m cold too,” he tells her as she releases her warm milk.

Placing a few logs on the fire he can see his mother is worried.  “Don’t worry momma, paw is a mountain man who can take care of himself and he will be home soon” he tells her hoping she will relax.  “I know Emmitt, I know your father can take care of himself, but he should have been home two days ago, it’s never taken him this long before and I can smell blizzard in the air,” she replies with a touch of loneliness noted in her tone and in her eyes.  Emmitt sat by the fire and warmed himself before heading out to check paw’s traps, he had been left in charge of his mother and sister in paw’s absence and he wasn’t about to let paw or them down.  The wood pieces crackled and popped as the hot flames slowly ate away at them. 

Donning his scarf, gloves and his heavy coat made of buffalo hide he readied himself for what is sure to be a long day in the bitter cold that he is sure is ready to show her fury, he too can smell blizzard in the air.  His mother hands him a knapsack with a few pieces of hard tack and the last of the biscuits, telling him to be careful and to make sure eats something later.  Emmitt knows she is worried; her hug good bye was longer and tighter than usual.  Emmitt is aware that if paw doesn’t return soon, with the supplies they need, there is a good chance they may starve, so he grabs his bow and arrow just in case he gets lucky and sees some game out and about that haven’t gone into hiding from the storm that is coming. 

It was already starting to snow when Emmitt left the warmth of the cabin, the clouds to the north just over the mountain peaks were growing darker grey with each step he took.  The flakes pelted against his almost frozen cheeks, clinging to his eylashes.  His breath warms his face briefly before being sucked away by the cold wind.  A sound mightier than thunder is heard in the distance, looking in its direction, he watches the snowpack mountain peak tumble to the valley below, knowing nothing in its path survived.  With a sense of panic he hopes paw had already made his way past it, and with a sense of urgency he walks faster.  He looks around, scanning the ground for any sign of game.  Paw is counting on him to take care of momma and Lucy.  One large rabbit would mean stew for a couple of days, a deer would provide enough meat for two weeks if they were carefaul rationing out.

Finally! The tracks of a lonely deer are visible in the compacted snow.  After following her path for more than an hour he finds her grazing on a small patch of brown grass that hadn’t been covered by snow yet.  After watching her for a while with silent breath, he takes hold of his bow, retrieves an arrow, pulls back, aims and lets go.  Holding his breath again he watches the arrow glide on the air, hearing a solid thump he knows he’s hit his target.  He sighs deeply, knowing his family won’t starve this week.  Proud of himself he heads towards home; the blizzard is chopping at his back.

In the blizzard he has no way of knowing which direction to go, the usual landmarks were hidden behind the white that swirled so densely around him.  His prize was heavy but worth every tiring step he takes.  Is he lost he thought for a second, nothing looks familiar to him at this point, and should be able to see the cabin by now he thinks.  He’s colder than he’s ever been before, even the trees shiver from the biting wind passing through their naked branches.  Trying not to panic he moves forward, then stops suddenly with his nose in the air, it that smoke?  He must be close to home.  Squinting through the trees he sees a large form coming towards him at a run.  Can’t be a bear! Not big enough to be a buffalo he thinks, reaching for his bow, his eyes focus enough to make out the form.  Paw! his paw was safe and had made it home.  Hugging his son Paw looks at the treasure he had and congratulates him as if he was a man and not a boy of twelve.  Putting his arm around his son proudly, paw says, “lets get you out of this cold and have your mother make a good pot of stew.”  The glow from the cabin windows beckoned them to come inside and leave the cold out.  

Opening the cabin door his paw burst through it with an energy only mountain men were known for. “Maw hope you have something good on the fire both of your men are home and we are starving!”  Everyone sat together that cold evening warm in the little cabin while the blizzard had her way with the outside world.  Emmit knew that, that day he had done more than prove to his paw he was capable of taking care of his family, he knew his father saw him as more than just a boy.  

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