Part one of a two-part story.
At first it was but a gentle wind that had quietly crept out of the northeast, bringing with it huge white fluffy flakes of snow.
Stopping to watch, a solitary figure lingered on the trail for a moment, taking in all the beauty and serenity of the countryside as it was transformed into a scene that looked like something on the front of a Christmas card.
Soon, a much harsher, colder wind began to blow, the kind that sends a shiver down your back and makes a person regret they ever ventured out in the first place. With this wind came a blinding snowfall.
Within a matter of minutes, things had turned into a complete whiteout. It was at this point he realized he’d lingered too long.
A grim sense of forbidding began to shroud his thoughts. Then he remembered a small log-trapper’s cabin not far ahead. He walked ahead in earnest as the snow swirled around him. At first it appeared, then disappeared and, a moment later, reappeared less than a hundred feet ahead. In minutes he was at the door. The was no lock.
Stepping inside he looked around. One open room, small but orderly. A table and one chair sat not far from the entrance. A stove was set up by the back wall. A number of canned provisions, a couple of pots and pans, a large metal tin containing an unopened box of salted crackers, a box of table salt and a can of pepper were stored on two rough wooden shelves to the right of the stove on the back wall. On closer inspection, there was also a can opener, a can of ground coffee and a box of sugar cubes wrapped in aluminum foil. Thank you for small miracles, he thought to himself.
Several books, a number of old, tattered and torn Field and Stream magazines and what appeared to be a chess set lay on another single, armless chair that sat against the wall opposite the table.
Light from the only window in the little dwelling, cut into wall by the door, fell on the table, as if it had been positioned there strategically. The whole place looked comfortable and inviting. A wood box beneath the shelves by the stove was full of dried wood. An axe leaned against the box. A coffee pot sat on the top of the stove. In a manner of minutes he had a fire going strong and the room began to warm. A coffee pot of snow from outside was quickly turned into a fresh pot of coffee. Even his feet were finally beginning to warm up.
On the table there was a matching metal cup and plate, blue enamel with small white flecks, a spoon and fork but, oddly, no knife. Oh well, no matter, he had his trusty old Puma belt knife on his hip. There was also an older-style red Coleman lantern with well more than half full and wick in place, as well as a baking soda can filled with wooden matches on the table. Looking around he noticed two more metal cups, hanging by their handles on the hooks of a coat rack near the door.
A wooden bed sat in the far corner opposite the entrance. Close to the stove but far enough away from the cold air if the door had to be opened. A rolled up sleeping bag and a pillow lay on the bed. All the comforts of life.
After going though the provisions on the shelf, it appeared that canned pork and beans on crackers, hot coffee and pineapple slices for dessert were pretty much the only things on the menu. Hunger is the best sauce.
As the winds blew and snow swirled outside, he lit the Coleman lantern and settled in for the evening. Rolling out the sleeping bag, he made himself comfortable. He started reading an article about fishing for sea-run cutthroat trout in one of the eight-year-old Field and Stream magazines, only to discover part-way through there were missing pages.
Returning the magazine to the chair he picked up the chess board. On top was a small cardboard box containing wooden chess pieces. He walked over to the table, moved the lantern a bit and began setting up the board, each piece in its right place. But why had he bothered, he thought to himself, after all, chess is not the sort of game that one can play by themselves.