by Peter Lingard
There’s probably four feet of snow outside but it’s warm in here. The drifts on the north side reach the roof and that helps to keep the place warm. The lamp gives off a fair amount of heat but the fire in the stone hearth is my main source. Funny thing; the hissing from the lamp gives me a sort of inner warmth. That and the flickering of the flames. Together, they feel like company. I must’ve been alone too long. There’s no getting round it though, I do miss company. I saw a hunter a few weeks back but I didn’t let on I was there as he might have been hunting me. It was tempting. Ah well. I’ve enough firewood stacked up against two sides of the cabin to last me until the weather breaks and a three-quarters full fifty-five gallon drum of oil for the lamp and anything else. There’s food in the shed. It has to be the world’s biggest natural freezer and I’ve stocked it with deer, bear, rabbits, plenty of greens and a miniature mountain of potatoes.
I often think of a woman I used to love. Still love. Anita was special. She drove me round the bend sometimes but she was special. I’ve also been dreaming about her a lot. I have just about everything I need up here, except her. I wish she were here. It’d be tough putting up with her sometimes but I could always go for a walk in the forest until she settled. It’s a pity there wasn’t a forest handy the last time we were together. Just the other day I was thinking I’d give anything for one of her kisses; just a brush of her lips on mine, warm and tender and loving. And I felt it. Felt? I bolted up so fast, I banged my head on a shelf. I rubbed my head and then the lips that had felt her kiss. I whispered her name. “Anita?” There was no answer of course. I looked around the cabin, feeling like an idiot, pretending she might be here. She laughed and I spun around to where the sound came from. She used to laugh like that during foreplay; impish, challenging. I was being a fool and to cover my embarrassment, I opened a bottle of whiskey.
* * *
That was a few days ago and I’ve not completely convinced myself it was all in my head. I change from trying to rationalise things to daydreaming about her and then I hear her again. Come here, Anita says in that husky voice that turns me on. It’s my mind again. I mean, how the hell could I be hearing her? I’m alone and that’s the way I want it. Too many people would like to know where I am. Too many people have searched for me and I’ve eluded them all. How come I haven’t eluded her?
Don’t you love me any more?
Is she here again? “Of course I bloody do! Show yourself.”
Show myself. Don’t you remember me?
“Yeah, I do. I don’t want to, but I do. I remember your brown eyes full of mischief and your nose that your brother broke when you were young and the chipped tooth and your full lips that asked to be kissed and that dimple in your chin and your eyes that shone after we shagged and your nose with the bend in it and the scar on your top lip from when you fell off your bike and the hollow at the base of your throat and your breasts, your beautiful breasts – you never liked me to call them tits. You said they were so perfect, they deserved respect. You were right; they were perfect. All of you was perfect.”
Not any more though, am I?
“You’ll always be perfect.”
“You know why.”
“Let’s not go through all that again. You know.”
But I want to hear it. Say it.
“Why? I’m talking to myself.”
How very convenient for you.
“It’s my prerogative.”
Yeah, I suppose it is. This isn’t going the way I want it to. Let’s change the subject. Why don’t you open another bottle of whiskey? You have seven left which means you’ve only drunk five during the year you’ve been here. At that rate you could go a further year before you’d need to get another case. Nobody’d still be searching for you after two years. They’ll assume you’re dead.
“I might as well be. I missed you like you wouldn’t believe. Well, maybe you would like to believe.”
“What the hell does that mean, well then?”
It means I’m here for you. It means I’ll stay with you forever.
“Yeah. I’m not so sure that’s a good thing.”
Why not? Is there someone else? Someone I don’t know about? Is there a Hiawatha in this forest?
“Don’t be bloody stupid.”
So it’s just you and me then. Let’s have a drink to celebrate. I used to enjoy a drink with you.
“Just how do you propose to drink with me?”
Put two glasses across from each other on the table. You can drink from them alternately. Remember how I used to take a mouthful and transfer it to your mouth while we kissed? Pretend we’re doing that again.
It’s not so difficult. Let your mind go.
I put a pair of shot-glasses on my small table and fill them. “I guess that won’t be too hard seeing as how I’m already talking to you.” I laugh and I drink.
I almost believe the liquid comes from her mouth.
I take a sausage hanging from the roof timbers and chop it into sections. “Want some?”
No thanks. I never was big on stuff like that.
“What difference does it make? I’ll be eating it for you anyway.”
She laughs. You’re right. Enjoy. Time to fill us up again. I refill the glasses. Remember that paste I used to make? I made it out of ground oats, honey and whiskey and spread it on your body so I could lick it up. You liked that, as I recall. They were fun days.
“Yeah.” I empty my glass and start on hers. Hers?
You were a terrific lover, Joe. Best I ever had. What happened to us?
“I told you – I don’t wanna talk about it.”
I know, but you were my world. I’d have died for you. Well, I suppose, in a way, I did.
I’m here now, though. Here to help you get through your enforced solitude.
I top up the glasses. “Nobody asked you.”
That’s not true. You wish every day that I was here – and every night. I’ve been the same; wanting to see you, wanting to be with you.
“If you mean that in a biblical sense, it’s not going to happen, is it.”
It certainly can’t happen in here.
Her words make me look up, expecting to see her across the table, expecting a smile.
“You’re really playing with my head now.” But her words stick. “Why not in here, specifically?”
It’s too warm; far too warm. If I’m to materialise, it has to be cold.
Outside. You want to finish off the whiskey? It’ll keep you warm.
“Not that warm.”
I’ll make up for the rest. If we huddle in the snow I might materialise and think of the possibilities. I love you, Joe. Won’t you do this one little thing for me?
I down the last of the whiskey. “I suppose it’d be worth it. Do I take my clothes off?” I start unbuttoning without waiting for her to answer.
It would help. Wow, you’ve kept yourself in great shape. I can’t wait.
I stub a big toe on the way to the door and hop on one foot. I’m drunk, but what does it matter? Well… This is insane. But it’s Anita. Perhaps…
I hear her giggle. Never mind, the cold will take care of it.
I think I can feel her hand on mine, pulling me through the door and into what has to be twenty below. “Shit, it’s cold.” I trip over some firewood and tumble headfirst into a drift. I start to feel accustomed to the cold. It didn’t take long. Must be the booze.
That’s it. Open your arms and let me in.
I do as instructed and feel her settle on me.
You and me, Joe.
“Yeah, you and me.” The stars seem to be in motion. “Shit, I’ve had a lot to drink.”
That’s okay, Joe. You can sleep in my arms and we’ll be together again. Just let yourself go.
◊ ◊ ◊
When a youngster, Peter Lingard told his mother many fantastic tales of intrepid adventures enjoyed by him and his friends. She always said, ‘Go tell it to the Marines’. When he asked why, she said, ‘They’ve been everywhere and done everything, so they’ll want to hear about what you’ve been up to’. Of course, Peter joined the Royal Marines as soon as he was old enough and now has a seemingly inexhaustible supply of tales to tell.