Night again, and he is in the den, the cave, having hiked down to Mrs. Rickets, his hairy body covered in a civilian suit, and climbed back with the heavy flats of canned goods strapped to his back. When he returned in the afternoon, he ate, then perused the woods, finding berries, finding kindling, finding nettles. Now he sits on the rock at late dusk, the horizon a sweet, smoothly blended gray/blue/white color, the color of nothing else exactly, maybe some bird’s feather. He watches the wind, the clouds, and smells lichen, pine, and the stony tint of dry limestone. He sees bats chasing midges, feeding, hears the crack of a branch and returns inside, speculating on what animal had crept past his hideout.
Fire. The dark comfort, a known quantity that wisely circumscribes a distance with its stern warning of pain on the skin. His hide protects him from it. It’s not the same sharp sting as when he was pale and smooth. A man. A weak, vulnerable man.
He hangs the kettle above the fire, sits on the mat and looks at the two crates.
An indifferent, woolly face, one side of lit by the fire’s flickering flames. A continuous beard from the ears, down the jaw, to the neck. Abandon in the eyes. Mad laughter echoes off stone and out into the mountain night.
Tea steeps and in time, he pours. A steamy chunky stream leaves the spigot, falling into a tin mug. Clutched, sniffed, sipped.
Falling back on his bed of mossy sod. Gagging. Rattling phlegm. In time, he sits up, recovering his breath, testing his clear airways. Then shouting “Woo!”, he stands and moves to the woolen blanket he’s laid on the stone, which is his dinner table, his bed, his sitting place. His new and permanent home.
On his haunches, he extends his legs behind him, hands on the ground, back arching. He begins loudly drawing in long strands of air through flaring nostrils. When his lungs are full, he changes position, lengthening other parts, bending elsewhere. Then forceful release, bellows-like, through pursed lips, cheeks puffed. Now the neck reaches, the eyes close, and the deep draw renews, as if trying to draw in an ocean current. Muscles flare, tendons stretch, and now like a heating steam…