“Answer to Prayer”

“It’s okay,” said Cheryl. “That’s my husband, Mike.” She rushed to his side and pulled the blankets back revealing the unshaven weathered face of a very sick man. She sat on the edge of the bed next to him, then reached for a worn towel draped over the side of a chipped wash bowl. She dipped it into the warm water and with gentle strokes wiped his sweating brow.

“He was seriously injured in a fall,” she said, wiping away her tears. “Among other things, he has several broken ribs and a badly broken leg. We have tried to set his leg, but something isn’t right. He’s in a lot of pain and burning up with fever. I must get him to the doctor in the village.”

“Can you call the doctor and have him come here?” asked Kate.

“There aren’t any phones way out here,” she answered.

“I have an old one,” said Willy. He pulled it from his pocket and held it up. “Do you have service?” He asked.

“What do you mean?” Cheryl asked.

“You know… cell service.”

”Uh…, no one sells telephones to people who live in the back country, there aren’t any phone lines.”

The gang was puzzled; Tali was the only one who got it. “What year is this?” she asked.

“Well, it’s 1951, but what a strange question.”

“I’m sorry,” said Tali. “I got a little confused when I bumped my head. Just checking to see if I was in my right mind. I’m okay now,” she said giving the rest of the gang a look of don’t ask.  “So, how can we help?”

Cheryl didn’t hesitate. “A couple of hours ago I hooked up the dogs to our sled to take my husband to a doctor. I had no idea how I was going to manage but I had to try. When I came back in to get him and the girls, the dogs took off with the sled in tow. My heart sank; that was my last hope. All I knew to do, was pray. And now here you are. You’re the answer to my prayers,” said Cheryl with hope filled eyes.

“We’ll help any way we can,” said Kate as she sat on the bed and put her arm around Cheryl.  “Yeah, for sure,” said Ben.

“Thank you, thank you!” She stood to her feet and wiped away the tears. Then, her kind face took on a determined and serious look. “We should leave right away. My husband desperately needs a doctor and it’s twenty miles to the village. If we don’t leave now, we won’t make it before dark. The tundra is no place to be after dark.”

“Better get goin’ then,” said Ben.

“Mike can’t do much for himself. I’ll need you boys to help me get him on the sled and make him as comfortable as possible. It’s going to be a painful ride. And I have no idea what trouble we might have on the trail, so I’m hoping all three of you boys will go with me.”

“Yeah, we’ll go.” “No problem.” “Count me in.” came the responses. 

“Would you girls stay here and watch over April and Autumn?” asked Cheryl.

“Yes, of course we will,” answered Tali. “We’ll keep Bandit with us.”

“Yeah,” answered Jold, “he’ll keep ya safe, he’s telepathic ya know.”

Cheryl reached above the door and took the Winchester 30/30 hunting rifle from the rack and handed it to Ben. “We might need this; do you know how to shoot?”

Ben place the butt of the rifle against his shoulder, tilted his head to look down the sights and pointed the barrel toward the ceiling. “Yes, I do, I’ve been shooting guns for as long as I can remember, my dad taught me.”

“Good, it’s loaded.” She strapped the holster belt with the Colt 45 around her own waist, then grabbed the double-barreled shotgun. “This is a twelve-gauge loaded with slugs instead of buck shot. There are more shells on the shelf over there. It can take out a bear. I’m leaving this with you girls. Do you know how to shoot?”

“Yes, we do,” said Kate. “Tali and I know how to shoot. We can use it if we have to.”

“Okay then, let’s get the sled loaded,” Cheryl said as she gathered blankets and handed them to Willy. “Ben, you and Jold help me get Mike into some warm clothes. It will take all three of us; he’s a big guy.”

Willy made the sled as comfortable as possible. Then came back in to help with Mike. It took all four of them to carry him to the sled while trying to protect his broken leg from further injury.

“We’ll have to straddle each other on the sled. Ben, you ride standing on the back. Willy and Jold, you guys scoot as far back as you can. I’ll sit in front of you two. Mike will lean up against me. He won’t have to bend his leg that way. Ben, once we’re all loaded, get the bear skin blanket from the bed and use it to cover Mike; we need to keep him warm. I’ve got food, water, and other supplies in a big backpack inside.”

“Our backpacks have food and water too,” said Ben.

Cheryl turned and went back into the cabin. Ben followed. She knelt in front of Autumn and April, pulled them close and hugged tight, “I love you.” Then she looked toward Kate and Tali. “Please, take care of my girls, they’re all we have.”

“We will,” said Tali, “we promise.”

Cheryl stood and hugged Tali and Kate, then strapped on her backpack. Leaning next to the door was a post about four feet long and three inches by six inches square. It looked like a super big 2×4 to the girls. “This is better than any deadbolt,” said Cheryl, picking it up to demonstrate. “Just push it against the door when it closes and drop it into the metal brackets on each side, like this. “Clunk” It’s strong enough to keep a bear out.” 

She looked into the eyes of Tali, then Kate. “I’ll be back soon, I promise.”

She walked out and took her place on the sled. Ben gathered up the bear skin and followed. He wrapped it around Mike and Cheryl kind of like a giant burrito. It was tight, but they were all in. Ben took his place in back. “Is everybody ready?” he asked.

Cherl spoke up. “I’ll give the dogs the commands, they know my voice. Grab hold. Mush,” she commanded, “then Hey.” The dogs understood and started pulling, turning the sled back the other direction down a well-used trail. Ben waved to the girls as they pulled away.

Tali closed the door. Kate picked up the post and dropped it in place.  “Looks strong to me,” she said.

Tali and Kate sat down next to the frightened little girls. Each inviting one of them to sit in their lap. “Your mom wants us to take care of you while she’s gone. She’ll be back soon,” said Tali.

“Are you hungry,” asked Kate. They both nodded yes. “Well, let’s find something to eat.”

Against the wall beside the sink was what looked like a fifty-pound bag of dog food, but it read, Farmers Brown Rice. On the shelf were a dozen quart sized cans of beans. Hanging from the ceiling by a rope was something wrapped in burlap. Autumn pointed to it. Tali peeled back the burlap and found the hind quarter of some animal. Maybe a deer or and elk.

“Well, looks like rice, beans and venison are on the menu for supper. Let’s get cooking,” said Tali. She loved cooking with her mother at home and knew exactly what to do. An hour later they were sitting at the table with more than they could eat. Autumn and April gobbled it down; they hadn’t eaten all day.

Four spoons and a couple of knives were the only utensils in this cabin. Kate laid her spoon on the table next to her plate and lowered her head, looking down at the table she folded her hands as if to pray. “Wonder how long it will take the boys to get to town and back. We could be here a long time.”

“Yeah,” said Tali.

“We better have a plan,” said Kate as she looked up at Tali. “I’ll bring in some of that firewood that’s stacked up outside. Maybe you could check out the food situation and figure how long it will last.”

Kate made several trips, piling up a monster stack of logs next to the stove. She wasn’t about to go outside after dark to fetch wood. Tali asked Autumn and April if there was any food she had not yet found. They nodded, no. “Looks like that bag of rice, those cans of beans, the slab of meat hanging from the ceiling and what we have in our backpacks is everything. I think we have enough for about a week. I’m sure they’ll be back before then,” she said. “Bandit can eat leftovers; he’ll be fine with that.”

“So, what should we do now?” Kate asked the girls.

“Mom usually reads to us,” answered Autumn, the older of the two, as she pointed. No TV or computer here, but on the floor in the corner next to the bed were stacks of books. Kate looked through them.

“Cheryl and Mike must be readers,” she said. “Look at all these books, there’s a bible, an old catalogue that says Sears on the cover, never seen one of those before, and at least a dozen novels. And here’s a stack of children’s books.”

“Would you girls like for us to read you a story?” ask Tali.

They nodded yes, then Autumn ran to the stack of books and pulled one from the pile. “This is my favorite,” she said. The title was The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, by C.S. Lewis. She handed the book Tali.

“I like that one too,” said Tali. 

Good thing that Kate and Tali were campers. The sun was going down and it would soon be dark. This wouldn’t be the first time they had used lanterns to light a room. But these lanterns were super old fashioned, the wick sat in a bowl of oil and had to be trimmed just right to keep from smoking. It didn’t take them long to get it right.

They all huddled on the bed as Tali read. The faint howl of a  wolf could be heard in the distance. Before they made it through the first page, big crocodile tears dripped from little April’s eyes. “What’s wrong sweetie?” asked Kate.

“I’m afraid,” she answered. “I don’t want the wolves to get me.”

 

 

 

 

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