Outside was damp and the sun wasn’t yet up. He could hear a few of the men walking toward the lake, heading out early. He listened as the leaves were crushed underfoot. The smell of butter melting on the iron skillet filled him with a moment of joy because the eggs were now blistering in places and the slices of steak were browning. He used his knife to drop more butter in and placed muffins, face down, in between the eggs and steak. Using a towel, he gripped the skillet handle and tipped it first toward him and then away to let the grease mix with the butter and drain under the muffins and collect on the sides of them in the places where the grease and butter could not go underneath.
Soon he would wake the boy and they would eat. And then they would be the ones crushing leaves underfoot.
The average temperature during the day was 20 degrees. The air was bitter cold. The wind blew constantly from the north. Our faces turned red with wind burn by mid-morning. We all wore layers to keep as warm as possible. I grew a beard for the trip.
The orange hunting jacket was given to me. I could have purchased one for the hunt, but I didn’t because it warmed George to hand his old hunting jacket over to me. I happily accepted. I could have purchased a rifle for the trip. I didn’t. George had a rifle waiting for me. He preferred I use the old gun. He’d owned it years ago, sold it, and bought it back just before the trip. Some people truly do enjoy to give. I’ve not often been in the state of mind to be able to accept.
We drove Maine back roads to camp. We visited an old Saloon style pub that was built in 1895. The porch was beaten and perfect. Hard woods floors and a tired pine bar held mugs of beer for when we were ready. The bartender was heavy and smiled often. I thought to myself that happiness is found when we are content with ourselves and our surroundings. This bartender was doing a good job of being perfectly her. I hoped to myself that she’d never felt disappointment from outside judgment. Of course, that’s much to ask or hope for.
My beard is black with gray streaks. I like the streaks. I don’t wish to be outwardly perfect or find hair products to grow what I lost over the years. I take the streaks and the laugh wrinkles around my eyes as fitting.
We drove by a sign. It mentioned God and Hell and green.
Dark comes quickly that far north. Rick lit a camp fire each afternoon. It snowed nearly every time we stood next to the fire. Stories all around, filling the air, lost and weaving from one to the next. There wasn’t electricity to twitch our nerves. The sounds of the crunching snow underfoot spoke enough to keep me busy.
One night it became very clear. The temperate dropped to 12 and then lower. I walked with a few of the men to the edge of the lake and witnessed the sight of the stars. They were gathered in unpolluted formations.
I’m unsure if I mentioned this. To be sure- We drove by a sign. It mentioned God and Hell and green.