James G. Piatt
The thunderous roar of the 5:30 AM local awakened the thin dark haired girl as it shook the tiny ramshackle shack. The iron horse shuddered violently, and the howl of the rusted rails reverberated throughout the room. Pieces of ice broke off and dropped from the tin roof to the frozen earth below making loud ringing sounds. Bitter cold lurked inside the hovel, the type of cold that bangs against your lungs like a hammer striking steel. The wind shrieked through the gaps of the plywood siding like the screaming of a crazed specter.
Rosie listened as the snarl of the metal monster running on rusted iron tracks faded into the distance, then slowly moved the stiff blanket aside from the thin mattress on the icy wooden floor. She winced as she heard her mother's labored breathing. She peered anxiously across the room where her mother was lying on an old Army cot. A dark green Army blanket covered her frail body. The thin face sticking out of the green woolen mass was colorless. Rosie sighed fearfully as she watched her mother's shallow breathing. She put on a pair of pants, cold tennis shoes, and a frayed oversized sweatshirt and went to the kitchen area. The room contained a small white painted wooden sink with a dull zinc basin. A chipped apartment size refrigerator containing a half-gallon of milk, a jar of grape jelly, a thin slab of Jack cheese, and two plastic cartons of rabbit stew, sat dejectedly inside. She set the jelly and two thin pieces of cheese, along with two pieces of Wonder bread on a chipped plate. She grasped a jug of water, covered with a towel to keep the water from freezing at night, and poured four cups into a dented aluminum stovetop percolator. She filled a used paper sieve with four scoops of coffee granules and turned on the hot plate. She held her hands over the plate for a short time savoring the warmth. A white mist appeared then disappeared from her mother's mouth like the hopes and dreams of what some in town called the brown, annoying poor. She had prayed that spring would come early, but instead there had been another snowstorm and a spell of blustery icy winds.
She had enrolled in the seventh grade at Jefferson Palmer School in mid-September, and had been harassed and embarrassed daily. Rosie's mother got sick during the last week of January, and sometimes when she coughed, she expelled small amounts of blood. Rosie had read about TB and was filled with a terrifying dread. She begged her mother to go to a doctor, but since her mother was an illegal, she refused to go and made Rosie promise she wouldn't tell anyone about her condition. She feared if anyone found out she had TB, she and Rosie would be deported to Mexico, a place of poverty and hopelessness for them.
Rosie's father, her eleven-year-old cousin, and four other people had died while crossing the searing desert through Agua Prieta into Douglas, Arizona. It had been near the middle of August and the temperature had been in the hundreds. Rosie and her mother made it safely over the border. Her mother eventually got a job as a maid in a motel for five dollars an hour and was given the shack to live in as part of her salary.
Rosie brought a cup of hot coffee with a dab of milk and two spoons of sugar to her mother along with a piece of bread with grape jelly and a piece of cheese. Her mother sat up, coughed and drank the coffee but refused any food.
"Rosie, mi pobrecita, tu comes la food, you need it por energy en la escuela. Sere' hoy aceptable, cuando se warm, I will eat mas adelante. " She spoke in broken English and Spanish, between coughing bouts. She asked; "Como es Jose, Rosie?
"Mama' muy bueno, estudiamos juntos, every day."
"That is muy bien Rosie, ahora vayas a la escuela, don be late! Do you tienes papeles y books?"
"Si mama'." Rosie stated obediently as she looked with dread at her mother's pale face and thin body
The two probably would have starved to death if it hadn't been for someone who left rabbit stew for them at night, during the past three icy months. They never knew who it was because the stew was left outside their door after the two had gone to sleep. It was frozen when Rosie transferred it to the tiny refrigerator when she got up in the morning. It was the only hearty meal they had each day.
Rosie trembled as she finished preparing to go to school. She had a mile to walk to school and the icy ground had several inches of frozen snow on it. She kissed her mother, put on her wool serape over her sweatshirt, and headed out the door. The cold wind hit her in the face like a slap from a cruel icy hand. She shivered and pulled the serape around her shoulders and face. She thought about school and frowned. She feared going to school, but knew her mother would worry if she didn't. She never told her mother the terrible degrading things that happened to her at the school.
The school was a redwood and brick three-room schoolhouse. One of the rooms was for the students from K through fourth grade and the other was for students from the fifth grade to the eighth. The third room was a place for meetings and where the two teachers ate their lunch, prepared lessons, and held meetings with parents. Miss Pawley taught the younger students and Mr. Krual taught the upper grades. The structure was warm from radiators carrying heat into each room from a new steam broiler. The heat was the only thing Rosie looked forward to at the school. The classroom was the only place she had physical warmth during the cold days and icy nights.
At seven forty-five, she reached the front of the school. She was freezing and her aching feet were soaked and icy cold. A white student sped past her and rudely pushed Rosie as he ran through the front door so he wouldn't be late. "Lookout you dumb Greaser, you almost made me fall!"
Rosie fell against the side of the door, shuddered, and tearfully stared at the boy. The coldness was deeper now, all the way to her soul. She couldn't understand why the white students hated her. She had never done anything to harm them. She reluctantly opened the door to the room, shook the snow off her serape and tennis shoes. She slid into her seat in the back of the classroom and slumped down in her seat as far as she could. If she could have melted into the desk becoming one with the wood, she would have.
"You're late again Alvarez, this is getting to be a bad habit. Are all of you people late to everything? It's always munyany to you people isn't it?" The teacher stated sarcastically. He put a red slash like a bloody sign of disgrace by her name in his black attendance book. She looked down at her soaked shoes as the white student that had pushed her aside laughed. The girls whispered to themselves and giggled as they stared back at her. She heard the name stupid greaser murmured by one of the boys, and then laughter by others around him. The teacher looked up at the boy, then over to Rosie, but said nothing. The other Mexican student in the class, Jose Ruiz, gritted his teeth and clinched his fists, but Rosie looked at him and quietly shook her head.
Vince Krual was about fifty-seven years old. He was small, thin and had a hawk-like appearance. He was bald on the top of his head, had brown hair over the top of his ears, and wore a thin mustache below a narrow bent nose. He had a cruel mouth and dark eyes that were close together giving him the appearance of an angry Ichabod Crane. He had been teaching for thirty years, the last ten of them here, and he had hated every minute of it for the past three years. He was burned out by putting up with spoiled children who didn't want to be educated, and now, he had illegal Mexicans! He didn't like the two Mexican children that had penetrated his school this year. He likened all Mexicans to locusts in a cornfield. He didn't think that US citizens ought to pay to have illegals from Mexico educated. He didn't feel that medical care and other social services should be offered to them either. He was not alone in his thinking in the small tourist town. The malicious prejudicial behavior on the part of the children in the class attested to that.
Today Krual was teaching pre-algebra to the six seventh graders, the fifth and six graders were doing deskwork and the eighth graders were writing essays they had been assigned. He put some figures on the board and then looked out at the six insipid faces staring at him. The white chalky figures, 2X-14 = -X +10 leaped out from the blackboard like an icy prophecy. Rosie shuddered, slumped further down in her seat, and looked at her desk. She silently prayed that he wouldn't call on her. She hadn't had time to do her homework. Her mother had an especially bad coughing bout and she had to keep her warm by sleeping next to her until she fell asleep. She stayed in her mother's bed until about 3:00 AM. She also had to work at the motel right after school until 9:00 PM. She was doing her mother's job, so she wouldn't lose her maid position. She had been doing this for about five weeks, every since her mother's sickness worsened. She never told Mr. Krual, but she knew he wouldn't have cared anyway.
Mr. Krual narrowed his eyes and looked at the seventh grade students, who were all looking down at their desks. He looked over at Rosie, and a derisive grin arose on his lips. "Alvarez, show how you solved the homework problem."
Rose looked up and a dark coldness enveloped her. "I don't know, Mr. Kraul."
"What was that, Alvarez? I . . . can't . . . hear . . . you." He stated in an exaggerated and mocking voice. The white students laughed. She heard a student say, stupid little dirty greaser.
She felt the redness from the humiliation rising in her face. She straightened up in her chair and said louder. "I don't know sir."
"This was a homework problem, Alvarez, didn't you do your math homework last night?"
"No sir," she whispered.
He got up from his desk and paced stridently to the rear of the classroom. He stopped next to her desk and loomed over her. "What?" He stated with a loud voice filled with malice.
She looked up at him with fear and disgrace in her eyes and whispered again. "No sir."
"You didn't do your homework again Alvarez? How do you expect to pass to the eighth grade if you don't do your homework? You Mexicans are all the same, none of you ever study!"
When he said this Jose got red in the face and clinched his fists. Rosie turned redder and looked down at her desk, the other students snickered.
Mr. Kraul stood over Rosie for a few more minutes, looking down at her with disdain. Rosie continued looking down at her desk. She had tears in her eyes that were running coldly down her flushed cheeks. He grunted and marched loudly up to the front of the room. He sat down heavily at his desk, took out a tablet, and scribbled something on it. He then motioned rudely to her. She got up slowly and walked with her head down toward the front. One of the girls put her foot out and Rosie fell hard to the floor. All of the students roared. Jose rose from his desk with anger in his eyes. A large eighth grade boy pushed on his shoulder and with a frown on his face told him to stay still. Rose got up from the floor and apologized to the girl. The class laughed. Mr. Kraul didn't say a word, but he had a heartless smile on his lips. She stood meekly in front of his desk and shivered as he glared at her.
"I suppose you know where you live don't you, Alvarez?"
She nodded, the students laughed again.
"Then go there and take this note with you. I want a meeting with your mother and you today at 4:15 PM." He hissed as he tossed the note rudely at her. It floated to the floor.
Rosie nodded, got on her knees, and picked up the page off the floor. She slowly walked out of the room but as she did, she turned around and said the number eight aloud. Only Jose knew it was the answer to the algebra problem, she had figured it out in her head.
Rosie ran with abandon out of the school into the other ice-cold atmosphere. She was crying and the tears fell like icy prayers down her cheeks. She trudged through the snow with frozen feet, not noticing the huge hirsute figure watching her from behind a pine tree. After another two hundred yards, she stopped to get her breath and put the serape more tightly around her head and neck. Her feet were numb and aching. Her body was wracked with the freezing cold that the wind was driving into her bones. She slumped down on a log, coughed and slowly bent over then fell into the snow.
"What are you doing out here, girl?" The large white man with a full beard asked as he stood next to her. A large white and gray dog with one blue eye watched in silence.
Rosie slowly looked up and stared at the man with a bitter dread. She remembered her mother telling her to stay away from the huge mountain man. She had also heard bad stories about him from some of the Mexican women in town.
"I . . . I . . . I'm going home!" She managed to stutter, as fear gripped her throat.
"Well, I'll take you home."
His dark eyes penetrated into the little girl's soul, and she shrunk away in fear. She started to cough again, and he put his large hand on her shoulder. She cringed at his touch and fainted over into the snow. The huge man picked her up, and put her over his shoulder. He and the one eyed dog hiked to a rusted pickup truck. He put her in the front seat and drove off, eventually passing the Alvarez's hovel. After driving about a mile, the man parked, put on a pair of snowshoes, put Rosie's body over his shoulder, and started trudging up a snow-covered trail.
Rosie's mother looked up at the clock and noticed it was 3:45 PM. She coughed and struggled to get out of bed. It was about 39 degrees inside the room and the cold crushed her chest like a huge weight. She labored to breathe. She grabbed at a chair but fell to the ice-cold wooden floor unable to move. Her brown eyes stared blankly at the cold tin roof, a small trickle of blood oozed from her mouth as the frozen wind swept across her body.
It was about 4:00 PM when there was a knock on the door of the hut. "Rosie Alvarez, are you in there? Mrs. Alvarez can you hear me?" The young female voice asked.
After a few more knocks on the door, Miss Pawley slowly entered the small room and saw Mrs. Alvarez lying on the floor. The blood that had been seeping from her nose and mouth was now solid. Miss Pawley felt for a pulse, threw a blanket over Mrs. Alvarez's body, and called 911. In about five minutes, a Sheriff's 4x4 SUV pulled up in front of the shack. A paramedic and Sheriff ran into the hovel and saw Miss Pawley sitting anxiously in a chair. An emaciated body was lying in front of her. The paramedic threw off the blanket and felt for a pulse. He noticed the blood on her face and ran back to get an oxygen supply. He put a mask on her face and started pumping oxygen into her limp body. Miss Pawley was crying as she talked to the Sheriff. She said Rosie was nowhere around, she didn't know where she was. The Sheriff took Rosie's description down on a pad and then he and the paramedic placed Mrs. Alvarez on a stretcher and carried her to the SUV.
Miss Pawley looked frantically at the paramedic and asked. "is . . . is she going to live?"
"I hope so Miss Pawley, luckily you came along. In another hour she would have been dead for sure. At least now she has a chance. She should have been in a hospital a long time ago! Living in this crummy icebox aggravated her condition."
Miss Pawley felt icy fingers reach through the cracks in the walls into her soul. She wrote a brief note for Rosie, placed it on the kitchen table and left. She followed the Sheriff to the hospital. She put her head on the steering wheel when she stopped. She thought back to when the three fearful Mexican children had entered the school in September. She got Paula Ruiz, a delightful little seven-year old girl with huge beautiful brown eyes, in her class. Mr. Krual got Rosie and Jose, who was Paula's older brother. She knew they were all children of illegal immigrants, but didn't care. She felt all children deserved an education. They were innocent. She knew that Mr. Kraul, and many of the citizens of the small tourist town, did not share her feelings. She tried to watch over Paula and the other two as much as possible. She had driven Rosie, Paula, and Jose home many times when it snowed. She found out that Rosie had walked to a motel after school to work and then walked back home in the icy snow late at night.
Miss Pawley had graduated with a major in English at the age of twenty and had worked in an insurance company. She decided that a business career was not what she wanted to do with her life, and opted to become a teacher. She quit her job and went back to school to get her elementary teaching credential. She was a beautiful young lady, very lithe and usually had a happy demeanor to her, however, not today.
A rap on the car window startled her. Jack Dooley the paramedic who was at Rosie's house, stood by her car door. Jack was about thirty-two years old and at one time wanted to become a doctor. He was a handsome man with a cheerful smile.
"Miss Pawley, Mrs. Alvarez is now in the critical care unit. She's awake. Do you want to see her?"
"Oh yes, Mr. Dooley, I would like that!"
"I'll tell you what. If you call me Jack, I'll take you up to see her."
She turned a little pink and said bashfully, "Alright Jack, and I'm Sammy."
"Yeah, I know." He said with a big grin.
When Sammy went into the ICU, Mrs. Alvarez saw her and slowly raised her hand.
"Oh Miss Pawley, they say you find me, and save mi vida, mucho, mucho gracias senorita! I haf been muy sick. Me Tolmara'n de Nuevo a Mexico? Er, weel they took mi back to Mexico?" She whispered hoarsely in Spanish sprinkled with broken English. Miss Pawley shrugged indicating she didn't know. Mrs. Alvarez nodded, coughed, and tears dropped from her eyes. "Miss Pawley, usted sabe donde esta' mi Rosie? Er, you know where is mi Rosie? Ella no volvi'o home from la escuela."
"I came over this afternoon to talk to her Mrs. Alverez, I don't know where she is either."
Miss Pawley talked to Mrs. Alvarez for a few more minutes, then left. It was snowing again, and the temperature was down to 33 degrees. She got in her car and drove over to the motel to talk to the owner about the missing girl.
"Rosie did not come to work after school today. I had to get Maria to take her place, I don't know where she is." Mrs. Steinberg sounded a little perturbed, but also somewhat anxious. "Do you think something is wrong?"
"I don't know. I hope not Mrs. Steinberg. Is there anyone around who might be a problem to her?"
"The kids at school have been giving her a bad time, according to Maria. They are just a bunch of mean brats, but I don't think they would do much more than run off at the mouth at her. However, Clara told me the other day she saw Hank Dalton, the mountain man, following Rosie home from school. He is a peculiar one, and could be a problem. I don't really know too much about him, however, I have heard terrible rumors about him."
"Do you know where he lives?" Sammy asked.
"He lives in a rustic cabin way up in the mountains. You have to take a steep trail after you park your car in the lot at the end of the Karmusk trailhead. Maria says you can't get there without skis or snow shoes."
"Thank you, Mrs. Steinberg, do you know where I can find Maria?"
"Yes, Clara and Maria have an apartment together above Davidson's grocery store."
Sammy thanked Mrs. Steinberg, and drove away. The snow was getting deeper and there were few cars left on the road now. Sammy turned down Main Street and headed towards the grocery store. She pulled over to the curb, got out, and walked over to the old wood fronted store. It reminded her of the old saloon in 'High Noon'. She shivered as the icy wind bit into her skin even through her bulky winter clothes. The lights were on inside the store making it look cozy and inviting. She could see Mr. Davidson puttering behind the old wooden counter.
Hank put some more logs on the fire and put another wool blanket around Rosie. When the room warmed up, Rosie woke up with a jerk. She shuddered when she saw Hank rubbing her feet, then she screamed.
"It's okay Rosie, I'm not going to hurt you I am just concerned about you. Your feet were cold as ice. I didn't want you to get frostbite. I have some rabbit stew and hearty dark bread for you too. You need something to eat. Put on these wool socks too. They will keep your feet warm."
Rosie shivered from fear and shrunk back from the huge bearded man as she stared at him with fearful eyes. She eventually put the socks got up from the chair, and eased carefully around Hank to the table. She could see the limbs of the pine trees blowing violently back and forth, looking like caged animals trying to escape. The howl of the wind screaming through the trees was eerie and frightened her. Hank handed her a bowl of steaming hot stew and a spoon. She hesitated, but being famished took the spoon in her shaking hand and started eating, keeping a watchful eye on Hank. She took a bite of the buttered bread with a dab of honey on it, and then ate some more stew. It tasted familiar.
"How about some coffee Rosie? I made some nice strong coffee, and I have real sweet canned sweet milk and sugar too." He smiled.
Rosie smiled slightly. Hank smiled back and got her some coffee, and poured her another ladle of stew. He then placed two more large slices of buttered bread, with honey on them. Rosie smiled anxiously, and continued eating as she kept a distrustful eye on him. Hank got himself a big bowl of the stew and buttered some slices of bread for himself. He poured himself a large tin mug of coffee, put in three spoons of sugar, and a goodly amount of rich canned milk. He then sat down on the other side of the table and started eating. Her stomach was finally filled and she felt warm for the first time since the cold had set in. She thanked the huge mountain man but was still distrustful based on what others had said about him. She got up and went over to the fire. Logs were blazing, and the warmth soothed her cold body and worried mind. In a few minutes, she was sound asleep in the chair. The gray and white dog was laying watchfully at her side.
Hank watched her as she slept and remembered hurtful events. It had been years since he had arrived at the mountain cabin. He had had his daughter, eight years old, with him at that time. That was after his wife had died of consumption. He shuddered as he recalled her getting bit by a rattlesnake that was nested in logs under the cabin. She was twelve years old at the time. The cabin was snowed in with about twenty-five feet of snow and there was one blizzard after another. Hank could not get her down to the hospital. He couldn't even get out the cabin for five days. He drained the venom from her neck as much as possible, and put an Indian poultice on it. However, he failed to get all of the deadly venom out, and the girl died in four days, just a day before the terrible snowstorms subsided. Hank buried her out back where she could watch the sunset and sobbed for hours over the grave. He didn't eat for five days, only drinking coffee laced with rum. He sat in front of the fireplace where he kept a small fire going and stared at it for hours as if in a trance. One especially bad day he went out into the ice-cold weather and staggered through the deep snow. Eventually the cold numbed his body and his mind and he fell face down in it. A large white and gray Australian Shepherd dog with only one eye came up to him and lay down beside him. The dog warmed his body and saved his life, they had been inseparable ever since. Eventually, the brutal images of the past left his mind and the mountain man picked Rosie up and took her into his bed, and the dog followed quietly along.
Sammy stepped out from the icy cold current of air into the warmth of the mercantile store. She saw Maria putting cans of soup on a shelf when she entered and walked over to her.
"Maria, I am Sammy Pawley, I need to ask you about Hank Dalton, can you spare a moment?"
"Oh yes Miss Pawley, Rosie talk at me about you before. I hear you save Mrs. Alvarez's life, and she safe in hospital now. I hear Rosie missing! Has anyone found her yet?" She asked in accented English.
"No, we haven't found Rosie yet, Maria, and they don't know about Mrs. Alvarez's condition, but she is alive. Can you give me directions to Hank Dalton's cabin, I have a feeling he may know where Rosie is."
"Oh, that is evil place to go Miss Pawley. He very bad man." Maria stated with a cold shadowy fear in her eyes.
"Why do you say that Maria?"
"I hear from Miss Abbey Stewart. She say he attack her. She say, she get away from him by running fast. She was good runner in high school."
"I see. Was she that strange girl that once worked at the local animal shelter?"
"Yes, she tall skinny girl with long nose and big front teeth."
"Whatever happened to her?"
"She get fired, I don know why. It was few days after she get fired that she tell police about attack on her by Hank Dalton. She left after that and no trial come."
"Hum, I see. Maria, I could use directions to Mr. Dalton's cabin. Can you help me?"
"I draw you little map, but Miss Pawley no go there alone. I don believe Mr. Dalton is sane in head. He is evil man."
After getting the directions to the cabin, Sammy went over to the Sheriff's office. The lone officer in charge said they had some serious automobile accidents on the steep snow-covered pass road and couldn't spare a man. He also said that it would be a bad idea to go see Mr. Dalton alone. Sammy nodded her head and walked out into the snow. The wind was blowing hard again sending a bitter chill through her clothes and into her bones. She shivered and pulled her heavy wool muffler tighter around her neck. When she got into her car, she called Jack Dooley. He was out on a call, so she left a message on his cell and then called the hospital.
"Yes, this is Sammy Pawley, how is Mrs. Alvarez doing? I see, that is good right? Yes I see, what? She is being treated for an acute case of bronchial pneumonia and is responding well to massive doses of penicillin. She doesn't have TB? Oh, that is wonderful. Tell her I am looking for Rosie and will call her as soon as I find her. Yes, thank you."
She put the car heater on high and drove slowly through the ice and snow towards Rosie's shack. When she reached the hovel, she went inside. Not finding Rosie, she got back into her car and took a road to the north. The snow was deep and the tires, even with chains on them and with four-wheel drive, had a hard time getting traction. The car slid often and she was barely able to keep it on the road. She eventually came to the Karmusk trailhead and stopped. She spotted an old pickup parked beside the road. She saw faint tracks from snowshoes, almost covered over with new snow, on a trail going up the mountain.
She got out of the jeep and looked at the path, it looked treacherous and she trembled. She got back in the jeep, put on a larger warmer parka with a hood, boots with fur linings, a fur-lined cap and fur-lined gloves. She took out a backpack, put in her cell phone, a liter of water, and power bars, along with a compass, and a flashlight. She grabbed two walking poles, put on her snowshoes, and started up the trail. After walking for thirty minutes, she stopped for a short rest, she did not see the large shadow or the white and gray animal with only one eye observing her from behind three large snow-covered Pine trees.
When Jack Dooley got Sammy's message after he got back from his second accident scene, he was not happy about her decision to go to Hank Dalton's cabin alone. He called the Sheriff's station and talked to Officer Mallory.
"Peter, this is Jack Dooley. Did Sammy come by there earlier?"
"Yeah, she did. She wanted someone to go with her to Hank Dalton's cabin. We were piled up with accident problems, as you know, and couldn't free anyone to go with her. The officer on duty told her not to go, but knowing Sammy, she probably went anyway."
Sammy started out again after her short break, and started trudging through the heavy snow. She sank down to her knees at times, even with the snowshoes. The cold bore into her body, and she shivered as the wind painted its white icy breath on her face. Two apparitions followed her at a distance.
Sammy started to go across a path. Snow-covered ice over a three feet deep rill cracked under her weight and she fell in. The icy water went through her clothes up to her waist, and the icy coldness took her breath away. She stood in the ice water, trying to catch her breath and started to get numb. Her gloved hands were so frozen she couldn't move them adequately to get hold of the side of the creek to pull herself out of the icy water. After a few minutes, she looked up and saw a huge man looming over her, she gasped, and fainted. Her body slowly sank into the icy stream. The coldness engulfed her quickly. She was too frozen to scream as she sunk to the bottom of the icy stream. The huge mountain man reached down and pulled her out of the ice water. He threw her unconscious body over his shoulder and started running back to his cabin. He carried Sammy into the warm front room. He took her jacket and shoes off and started unbuttoning her flannel shirt when Rose came through the door.
"What are you doing? Oh God, you are undressing Miss Pawley. Oh please Mr. Hank, please don't hurt her." She screamed.
"Dang it, Rosie, I am not hurting her. I found her in an iced over creek. She had fallen in, and she needs to get these wet clothes off immediately and get wrapped in a warm blanket or she is going to go into shock and die!" He said anxiously. Rosie nodded and said she would take the rest of her clothes off and dry her body off with a towel. He nodded his head and went into the kitchen to get some hot coffee. When he returned with a hot mug of coffee, Sammy was wrapped in a warm wool blanket and propped up in a chair next to the roaring fire. Rosie was rubbing her feet. In about ten minutes, Sammy woke up with a shudder and opened her eyes. She saw Rosie and Hank staring at her.
"Rosie, are you all right? Oh my God, has Mr. Dalton harmed you?"
"No, Miss Pawley, he saved my life and yours too. He found you in an ice creek and brought you here."
"Miss Pawley, drink this hot coffee."
Sammy looked at Hank, and slowly moved the hot mug of coffee shakily to her cold lips, she drank deeply. After a minute, her body started to convulse, then it settled down and color started to return to her face.
"Thank you, Hank, I would be dead if you hadn't come along." She said looking over the lip of her mug, between gulps of hot coffee.
"Well, you might have been pretty darn stiff anyway!" He laughed trying to lighten the atmosphere. "How would you like some of my rabbit stew? It is pretty good."
Rosie spoke up. "It's not pretty good, is delicious Miss Pawley!"
Jack Dooley arrived at the mercantile store and was told by Maria that Sammy Pawley had come earlier and asked how to get to Hank Dalton's cabin. He found out how to get to the Dalton cabin, and raced out of the snow-covered lot towards the road to the cabin as fast he could drive. In about fifteen minutes, he came to the area where Sammy's jeep and the old pickup were parked. He got out of his car and saw faint traces of snowshoe tracks. He put on a heavy jacket with a hood, snowshoes, and got a flashlight and a rifle, and headed up the trail following the tracks.
Sammy nodded and said hot stew would be wonderful. Hank smiled, went to the kitchen, and brought back a hot bowl of stew, along with some slices of buttered bread with honey. Sammy looked out the window, watching the snow coming down again, and tried calling the hospital again. This time the phone worked. Rosie got on the phone and talked to her mother for a few minutes then the phone went dead again.
"Miss Pawley, momma is going to be well thanks to you. They couldn't believe that Mr. Dalton is a hero, not a horrible person."
Hank laughed and his whole body shook, he then nodded his head and brought some more coffee with cream and sugar to Rosie and Miss Pawley.
Sammy took a bite of the stew. "Mr. Dalton, this stew is excellent." Hank smiled and went over to the fire, sat down and petted his dog.
The room got darker as the sun started to go down. Hank got up, lit some kerosene lanterns, and then sat back down by the fireplace after he threw two more large logs on the fire. The lanterns sputtered as they threw flickering shadows on the walls of the cabin. When Sammy was through eating, Hank told her and Rosie that he had some smaller sized Levis, heavy flannel shirts, white socks and some small fur lined boots in the second bedroom. He said they had been his daughter's clothes. He said she was twelve at the time but was big like him. They sat down by the fireplace and in a few more minutes, all three were asleep from the warmth of the fire.
Jack Dooley burst into the room and pointed his rifle at Hank. Sammy and Rosie woke up and screamed. The dog leaped at Jack and the gun went off into the ceiling. Just as Jack turned around and started to shoot the dog, Hank grabbed the rifle out of his hands and knocked Jack to the floor. Hank told his dog to stay in the corner. He obeyed, but stared at Jack with his watchful blue eye. Jack got up and saw that Hank held the rifle in his hand.
Dooley looked over at Rosie and Sammy and said. "Sammy, Rosie, are you both okay?"
Both of them nodded their heads and told him about how Hank had saved their lives.
"I can't blame you for trying to shoot me, Dooley. I haven't been very social for a long time now, actually ever since my daughter died. You can't blame people for having negative thoughts about you if you aren't very sociable." He said as he leaned the rifle next to a wall.
"A lot of the negative things about you came from Abbey Stewart. She said you attacked her," Dooley stated.
"Oh yes, Miss Stewart. A very mean young lady. She used to beat the dogs that came into the animal shelter."
Jack looked over at the beautiful white and gray Australian Shepherd sitting quietly in the corner, and he noticed that he only had one blue eye. The other was clouded over. He looked at Hank and asked. "Was your dog one of those she abused?"
"Yes, Gray lost an eye when she hit him with a shovel. I witnessed the attack, and told her supervisor. She got fired. I guess telling lies about me was her way of getting even. Anyway, Old Gray got well and escaped, that was a long time ago. He found me lying in the snow drunk and passed out, that was soon after my daughter died. He saved my life."
The three looked at Hank and then at the old dog now wagging his stump of a tail as if he knew what Hank was saying about him. They all looked outside the large front windows as the moon shone through them, the snow had stopped, and the moonbeams danced across the white meadow leaving trails of gold elfin tracks. Sammy smiled at Jack and leaned on his shoulder. Rosie leaned over on Hank and fell asleep with her head in his lap. He smoothed her hair just like he did with his daughter. His plans were to ask Rosie and her mother to move into his cabin now that he longed for company once again. He also planned to have a very serious man-to- man talk with one Mr. Krual.
Early in the morning, while everyone was still asleep, the sun came out and its rays glimmered through soft light clouds, covering the area like an ancient white quilt. Hank woke up, turned on the battery-powered radio, and listened to the weather.
"Well folks, it looks like the last storm of the season is finally over. The forecast for next week is mild and warm. Spring is on its way!"
Dr. Piatt earned his BS and MA from California State Polytechnic University; one of his MA concentrations was Existential Literature. He earned a doctorate from Brigham Young University. He is a retried professor. Twenty-six of his short stories have been published by Literary House Review, Greensilk Journal, Magic Cat Press, Welcome to Wherever, Static Movement, Orchard Press Mysteries, Tainted Tea, Suspense Magazine, Black Petals, Everyday Weirdness, The Medulla Review, and others.
James G. Piatt recently published his début novel, The Ideal Society by Write Words Inc. in October 2012. The story concerns the travails of those who survived World War III, the first global atomic war, which devastated the earth. The Science Fiction philosophical/thriller is filled with opposing moral principles, passion, peril, and death. It involves the age-old arguments between free will vs. determinism; the existence of God, sexuality, spirituality, and the struggle man has in coming to terms with these critical concerns. The paradoxical questions and dangerous situations that are experienced by the eight neo-humans freed from having their brains programmed are those that have always confronted, taxed, and beleaguered man from the beginning of time in his search for freedom and that which he truly is. For further information, and ordering, visit the web site, www.writewordsinc.com.