“Fel!! Fel! Open up … it’s cold out here and I can’t see to get in!”
What on earth?! I opened the door and then had to move fast to avoid Cor taking me down as he fell face forward in a mighty crash. At least I thought it was Cor … I was sure it was his voice. Problem was the man was buried under a bear. OK, not the whole bear but the skin.
I had my knife in hand and when I didn’t see any threat I thought it was just him being silly. Sometimes the boys of my town would drape an animal skin over themselves and then come to the long house trying to scare us but as I helped him to untangle himself where he was rolling around on the floor I realized it was something different all together. When I finally managed to lift the bear skin off of his face I got a wiff of fumes that were so thick and strong they probably cushioned his fall.
“Cor!” I yelped falling back for a moment to let the smell thin out a little bit. “Did you fall into a vat of Jonah’s spirits?!”
He moaned as he sat up. “Don’t you laugh.”
I hadn’t been up to that point but the look on his face in the firelight was enough to set me off. Cor doesn’t do drunk very well. I told him, “You better sober up or Francine is going to have a fit.”
After Cor and Francine made up a few days back things had settled down nicely. In fact they were back to billing and cooing enough to turn a sane person’s stomach; which is to say they were back to where they used to be. I couldn’t believe that Cor would mess that up.
“Francine is why I …” A noxious burp almost had me gagging.
“Ugh. Point that breath some other direction will you? Preferably outside the cabin if you don’t mind.”
Sounding pitiful he said, “I would if I could but she won’t let me.”
I shook my head. “That bear skin came off a male bear, not female, and if you will just hold still I’ll get it untangled from your legs and you can leave.”
“You’re still laughing aren’t you? Well, you won’t be laughing when I tell you it ain’t the bear that I’m talking about.”
Drunk he may be but Cor wasn’t completely senseless so I grew cautious. I got him untangled and watched him use the table to get to his feet then weave his way to the door almost running into the frame. He looked back at me piteously and said, “It’s stuck.”
I shook my head and went over to see what he was going on about. The cold air was coming into the cabin faster than the fire could push it out. Whatever he was on about I wanted it over with so I could close the door that he had fixed. And yes, he’d fixed it himself explaining that he believed if he broke something then he was responsible for repairing it or making it new somehow. He called it being personally responsible for the consequences of his actions. I called it being just bull headed enough to make people forgive him for acting like a donkey’s behind.
Outside the cabin a little ways down the path was a wheel barrow piled high with stuff and on the top of the pile was a rocker. Looking closer I realized the wheel was hung on up a root. “Oh for pity sake. I’ll pull, you push … where do you want this stuff? And hurry up, I’m in my night clothes and it’s turning off colder that a gravedigger’s daughter.”
Another burp made me really glad we were standing outside where the fumes could waft someplace besides the fire where they might lead to an explosion they were so powerful.
“Here,” he said looking like a hound trying to curry favor.
“Here here. It’s for you,” he said going back to looking grumpy.
“Hmmm. Well I might can see why the rocker would fit here since you kinda broke the other one but since I don’t have a garden growing inside the cabin I don’t see why the barrow belongs here.”
Cor groaned. “Don’t Fel. My head hurts and this is such a mucked up mess and I need to explain it.”
We got the wheel barrow to the cabin door but instead of bringing it inside he brought what was in the barrow inside, starting with the rocker.
“Cor! Stop swinging that thing around. Just set it down and I’ll move it. Remind me to put a bell on you so that I can tell if you are heading to the spirit cellar. You are a menace when you are drunk.” I gurgled another laugh and he leaned against the doorframe for a moment and groaned.
“I’m telling you it’s not funny,” he grumped. “Here, take this stuff so I can tell you what she is up to now.”
He handed me a pile of sacks and crates then shut the door, barred it, and leaned against it. He started to slide to the floor but I caught him up and then turned him and said, “It’s time for you to go Cor. Go sleep it off.”
He really groaned pitifully then. “Fel I would if I could, I swear I would, but I can’t because she won’t let me.”
“Seeing as how I don’t see anyone stopping you …”
“All you have to do is look off towards the main house and I’m sure she is watching through her window … standing guard to make sure I don’t sneak back to the house. For all I know she has someone watching us and if word gets back to her our whole plan is going to fall through. You think the stink she just made the other day was bad? If she gets wind of our agreement I can’t guarantee either one or both of us won’t wind up like that grizzly did.”
Beginning to get concerned I said, “You mean Francine.”
“Of course I mean Francine! Who else could turn our nice, simple agreement into being akin to getting skinned alive?!” He stumbled to sit in the chair but it was full of stuff and so was the rocker so he settled on the edge of the bed, holding onto the post to keep himself from sliding off. In a drunk monologue where everything turned into one long sentence he lamented, “First she acts the way she acts then she acts like she has lost her mind then she is sorry and goes back to acting the way she is supposed to act then out of the blue she gets a bug that we aren’t a ‘real’ family like she grew up with and she won’t … won’t … well she just won’t until I spend a week in your bed so she can prove to that deranged family of hers that she’s doing things all right and proper! A … whole … flaming … week!”
I was flabbergasted. The problem was that the last sentence seemed to be the last I was going to get out of him. He’d fallen backwards on the bed and no matter how I poked at him he wouldn’t wake up. The breath coming off of him was turning my stomach so I finally just took his boots off, dragged what clothes off of him I could and rolled him into the bed so he wouldn’t catch his death of cold and leave me in an even worse pickle.
I stood there looking at him, shaking my head. He would give me news to drive me nuts and then pass out. How like a man.