The Cabin

         He built the cabin from red pine, blue spruce, and caulk. He spray painted the triangular roof a dark green

to make it uniform with the trees. It appeared as though a platoon of tall, trim soldiers had made its short, fat lieutenant self - conscious enough to dye his hair.

         The conifers around the cabin stood shoulder - to - shoulder. Only the thriftiest ferns survived on the so-called lawn, their tiny fronds pinching bits of sunlight as the canopy shifted in the breeze. The floor itself was a cushy orange carpet, something out of the Ď70s. Expired pine needles covered the decomposing sludge below. The trees and ferns sucked nutrients from their deceased ancestors with grizzly indifference.

         Fifty feet west of the cabinís door leaned a dead log flying an American flag. Weather faded its stripes and tattered its fringes. Safe from hippie arsonists, Old Glory endured.

         The same distance from the cabin on the east side, the generally leeward side, squatted a boxy outhouse over a ten foot pit. Along the perimeter, between the outhouse and flag, sat a tool shed and several trucks and tractors in stages of disrepair. The vehicles looked tawny and green, covered in patches of rust, tarp, and needles.

         He met friendly neighbors and those who kept to themselves. The porcupines proved outgoing -- overly so with his dogs. The deer, avoiding him at first, grew amiable after he started a pile of beets beside the flagpole. The itinerant turkeys hung out for a few weeks at a time and then disappeared for months. No men visited. Friend or foe, they couldnít sneak up on him there -- or within ten miles of there, for that matter.

         He stayed outside during the day. For food, he gardened and hunted. The ground had too much sand and too little sunlight, so he mostly hunted. He liked animals better than people, but he could kill them just the same.

         When he decorated the interior of the cabin, his sensibilities tended toward sparse and static. Time magazines, decades out of date, lined the dust-covered shelves. Spider webs spanned every corner, their architects long departed. He slept on a cot, his dogs on the floor near the stove. At night, he listened to CCR hits. When the record player broke, he fixed it with a coat hanger and duct tape. The rpm were off but so was the silence.

         The cabin provided all he needed: four walls to block out nightmares and a high ceiling for someone sick of ducking from blasts in the jungle, spit on the tarmac. In short, it gave him a retreat to be proud of.

         As the years passed, he even started to consider that the VA shrink had been right about something, that time did heal all wounds. Then came the winter when he learned time was a shitty medic.

         It started when he found both dogs frozen in a snow drift. Ice rimming his eye lids, he dug them out and buried them beside the flag the same day. It ended a month later, when the cabin stabbed him in the back with sharp, frigid gusts.

         Furious at the draft, he approached the wall. The logs showed cracks and decay. When he went to his cot and covered up, the cabin sent him creaking threats, saying no one would save him, no choppers could land there. He stood up and hurried to the gun rack. What was the point of shooting? More holes would only make it worse. He searched for matches to rekindle the stove or burn the whole place down Ė he hadnít decided. Where had he placed them? The cabin breathed harder, spoke louder.

         He threw on his boots and rushed into the night. The commotion scattered the few animals who had survived the blizzard. The canopy blocked the clouds that blocked the moon and stars. The ground was dim and knee-high. Striding through the deep, crusty snow took away his breath. The air, too bitter to gulp, had to be sipped. A click away from the cabin, exhales outnumbering inhales, he collapsed.

         His jacket ripped in the fall. He lay face down in the snow and felt the cold within and against his chest. The pines just stood there, unwilling to help. He saw nothing. He heard nothing. The flag was too stiff to flap. He smelled something, the outhouse. The pile of his shit, after years, now neared the surface.

         The cabin sat somewhere in the distance, the wilderness ready to reclaim it. He was alone, completely alone, and no longer wanted to be.

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