Dave’s red and white spoon arced across the still water of Birch Lake and landed with a “sploop” sound. He’d taken only three cranks on his reel when the big northern slammed the spoon. Dave heaved the rod up and back to set the hook, and then just hung on as the fish made its first run. After fifteen minutes of give and take, he was able to pull the long, slender fish alongside the boat. Donny, the Oji-Cree guide, carefully slid the landing net under the fish’s tail, and then lifted it into the boat.
“Looks like about fourteen, fifteen pounds to me. You want another picture?”
“No. I’ll remember this one without a picture. This one’s going to be the last one, for this trip anyway.”
Donny used pliers to remove the hook from the toothy mouth and then eased the big fish back over the side. With a flick of the tail, the green and yellow spots disappeared as the fish dove deep. Dave hooked the spoon in the lure keeper of his rod and laid it across the seats as Donny started the outboard. In an hour, the small floatplane would wing its way back to Red Lake, and Dave would be sitting in one of the seats and on his way back home.
The Cessna could seat five passengers plus the pilot, and had already made one trip that morning to take three of the guides and the cook back to Red Lake. Donny had stayed behind to close up the camp for the winter. He’d suggested one more time on the lake for all the men while they waited for the plane’s return. The other three said they had had enough fishing for a while, and stayed in the lodge to play cards. Dave had welcomed the chance for one or two more fish before leaving.
The Cessna hadn’t yet arrived when Donny expertly eased the boat in and shut off the outboard. Dave tied the stern line while Donny did the bow, and then stepped out onto the rough dock.
He turned back to face the lake. It was going to be hard to leave this pristine wilderness, this place of peace, this place Julie had wanted so much to see. Dave had felt coming here was a little wrong. They’d been married only six years when Julie had been taken from him. It was unusual for a woman of twenty-six to suffer a brain aneurysm but not unheard of, the doctor said. He also put his hand on Dave’s shoulder and assured him it had been almost instantaneous and she hadn’t suffered.
He wished somehow he hadn’t suffered too, but all they’d had was each other and now Dave had nobody. Children hadn’t been possible. Julie had some sort of female problem he never did fully understand, and she didn’t want to adopt. Instead of contentedly raising babies into adults, she contentedly lavished all her love and attention on him.
Her sister was responsible for this fishing trip, and Dave was going to thank her when he got back. Julie had loved fishing, and they’d often talked about a fly-in trip someday. Margie finally got tired of his moping around and sat him down for a talk.
“Dave, Julie wouldn’t want you to be this way. She loved you more than anything, and it would make her feel awful to see you like this. Go do something to get your life back on track.”
“Like what? Without Julie, it wouldn’t be much fun.”
“Take that fishing trip you two were planning. I know she’d want you to go. Maybe once you get up there, away from the house and all her things, you’ll be able to think things out and let her go.”
“I don’t think I’ll ever be able to let her go.”
“Now Dave, I’m Julie’s sister, remember? She and I weren’t all that different and I know how she thought. She wouldn’t want you to forget her, but she would want you to go on living. You can keep her in your heart, but you need to think about you, too.”
So, he’d made the reservation and arranged for a two-week vacation from work.
The week had been enjoyable, but lonely in spite of the other three men sharing the one cabin on the lake. He’d joked with them over a beer or two after dinner, and enjoyed Donny’s company on the lake, but at night, sitting outside by himself and listening to the loons, there was still a feeling of being without a part of himself.
It would be good to get back home, he thought, back to their home and all the things he and Julie had enjoyed together. In the months she’d been gone, Margie had tried to get him to clean house of those things, but he couldn’t bring himself to do that, not yet. Yes, she had been right that the constant reminders were eating away at him, but he didn’t care.
The plane appeared over the horizon of dark green pines and eased down onto the water. As Dave waited with Donnie and the other three men for the plane to reach the dock, there was a cry from behind the cabin. They all rushed toward the sound.
Samuel, the caretaker who lived at the cabin during the fishing season sat on the ground clutching his leg. An axe lay on the ground beside him, and blood oozed from between his fingers. One of the group, a doctor from Minneapolis named George, ran up and carefully pulled Samuel’s hand away. A small geyser of bright red erupted from Samuel’s pant leg.
“Somebody get me some towels. He’s cut an artery. Go tell the pilot we have to get him to a hospital fast.”
In a matter of minutes, George had wrapped Samuel’s leg with the towels. Two of the group carried the man to the plane and sat him in one of the rear seats. George climbed in beside him with an armload of clean towels.
“We have to take off now. If I can keep him from bleeding too much, he’ll make it, but we have to hurry.”
The tall, slender pilot pulled off his ballcap and shook his head.
“Somebody’s gonna have to stay behind then. I’ll never make it off the lake with another man on board.”
Dave watched the plane taxi out to the center of the lake, turn into the wind and slowly pull itself into the air. The pilot had brought the news that Donny’s mother was ill, so Dave had stayed behind so Donnie could go. Three hours, the pilot had promised. Dave uncased his light casting rod and spent the time catching small northerns from the end of the dock.
Five hours later, just as the waning sun began to stretch the shadows of the tall pines on the ground, he heard the plane returning. He quickly packed up everything. In fifteen minutes the plane was back in the air.
Twenty minutes from the camp, the pilot swore.
“Dammit, I fixed that last week.”
“Oh, I got no oil pressure on the gauge. Engine seems fine, so it’s probably just the wire came off the sending unit again, but I better go down and check it.”
“You mean land?”
The pilot laughed.
“Unless you wanna fly this thing while I hang off the wing and have a look. Don’t worry. I’ll set her down on that long lake off to the left there, check it out, and then we’ll be on our way.”
He spoke into the microphone on his headset.
“Red Lake, this is Chuck.”
The radio hissed for a second and then Dave heard, “Red Lake, whatcha got Chuck?
“I gotta set this thing down and check that gauge again. Gonna be on Trout Lake, but not for very long. If everything’s OK, we’ll be there in another hour or so.”
He turned to Dave.
“Shouldn’t take me long. There’s a little beach on Trout where I can pull ‘er up and take off the cowling. It’s an easy fix, and – what the hell…
The engine had sputtered.
Dave hadn’t really been worried up until that point. A chill ran down his back when Chuck said, “we’re losing airspeed. We’ll never make Trout. I’ll have to use Shabumeni instead. Hold on to your ass, man, cause this is probably not gonna be pretty.”
Chuck banked slowly to the right and then keyed his headset again.
“Red Lake, this is Chuck.”
After listening to the hiss for a few seconds, Chuck tried again.
“Red Lake, this is Chuck. Answer, dammit.”
He turned to Dave.
“Bobby’s probably taking a leak. I’ll call him after we land and tell him where we are. That’s Shabumeni right up there. I’m headed for that big bay on the left.”
The massive pine, older than Chuck and Dave put together had pulled at the rock with its clawing roots for longer than the rock could stand and the roots had finally been ripped from their grip by the weight of the snow load five years before. The trunk had rotted away from the stump, and when the ice went out that spring, it carried the waterlogged trunk with it.
Had it been an hour earlier, had the shadows of the pines not made the water almost black, Chuck would have seen the tree floating just below the surface. Dave didn’t see it at all. He only heard Chuck yell, “Holy shit”, as he pulled back on the yoke trying to get the Cessna into the air again. The seat belt held Dave upright when the float caught the tree trunk and spun the plane sideways. It didn’t do anything to keep his head in position. It hit the side of the plane and everything went black.
Dave woke up when he breathed in cold water. He coughed it out of his lungs and then looked to see what had happened. To his left, Chuck was already underwater. Dave released his seat belt and then managed to release Chuck’s. He pulled the man above the surface and felt for a pulse. There was none. Still holding Chuck’s shirt to keep him above the surface, Dave opened the cabin door and pushed until it banged against the side of the plane. By climbing up on the side of his seat he was able move high enough to sit on the side of the plane.
He knew it took too long to bring Chuck out of the plane and onto the wing. Though he tried the artificial respiration and heart massage he’d learned in a first aid class years ago, by the time he was exhausted there was still no response from Chuck. It was only then he looked to see where they were.
The plane was only about twenty feet from the shoreline, and had evidently sunk as far as it would. One of the pontoons had sheared off when it hit the submerged tree and was floating nearby along with the wing that had been sheared off my the impact with the water. Dave swam out to pull the pontoon alongside the plane. Now he needed to keep it there.
He remembered that on the flight to the lake, one of the men had asked Chuck what would happen if the plane crashed. Chuck had just laughed and said he’d never crashed yet, but there was some survival gear in the tail compartment. Dave cautiously made his way down the side of the plane, and when it began to teeter, slipped into the water again.
The compartment didn’t hold much, but then, he supposed Chuck wouldn’t have needed more than the hatchet, coil of rope and tarpaulin he found there. After sticking the hatchet through his belt, Dave swam back to the pontoon and tied it to the side of the plane with one end of the rope. With the other end, he tied Chuck’s body to the pontoon.
He was half way to the shore when his feet touched bottom, and Dave made quick work of getting the pontoon and Chuck beached. After laying the body on the ground, Dave went back to the pontoon. He was wet and cold, but he knew he’d never survive the night without shelter and warmth. On his second trip to the plane, he retrieved his clothes, rod and reel, and tackle box, piled it all on top of the pontoon, and pulled it to shore.
Another swim brought the wing to shore too. After that, he searched through Chuck’s pockets for anything that might be of use. The small pocket knife would be a backup to his own, and the cigarette lighter would let him start a fire. He found Chuck’s wallet, but stuffed it back into the man’s breast pocket so he could be positively identified once Dave was rescued.
Though he was shuddering from the cold water and the chill of the dusk breeze, Dave managed to cut some dead pine branches with the hatchet, and after several tries had a fire going. He warmed himself up as much as he could, changed his wet clothes for dry ones, and then cut more branches. In half an hour, he had a framework over which he draped the tarpaulin.
Dave didn’t manage to sleep much that night. He kept wondering why he hadn’t died along with Chuck. The next morning he rigged his rod and reel, and in a few minutes had a smallmouth bass and a northern ready to clean. He reflected it was a good thing he liked fish, because it looked like that was all he’d have to eat until they found him.
That morning, he laid Chuck beside a large pine, and using a birch sapling he chopped flat on one side, dug until he hit rock. It wasn’t very deep, but it was deep enough to cover the body. A rocky outcrop near the shore had been broken by the winter ice and yielded enough large rocks to weight the wing down over the shallow grave. After he finished, there was nothing to do but wait for the searching aircraft he was certain would come. Dave kept his fire burning so the smoke would lead them to him.
He waited two more days before the first doubt of rescue crept into his mind. On the third day he began to worry. By the time a week had gone by, Dave was certain help would never come, and started to think about the future.
He knew winter came to Canada early and stayed late. It was only mid-September, and already the nights were chilly. The light jacket that had been part of the outfitter’s list of required items kept him warm, but Dave knew in another month or so he’d have to have heavier clothing and better shelter or he’d freeze to death. Food would be a problem too, because the lake would freeze over. For a few weeks, he could chop a hole through the ice and fish that way, but the lodge owner had said most years the ice on the lakes was three feet thick by Christmas.
As the weather continued to cool, Dave began adding clothing from his bag in an attempt to stay warm. Soon he was wearing all three sets of pants he’d brought and all four shirts.
By what Dave calculated to be the first of October, his day activities were becoming limited by the increasingly cold temperatures. It was freezing cold at night, and fishing was becoming harder. The colder water temperature had caused the northerns and bass that normally hit his spoon quickly to become sluggish. Where two weeks before, Dave had only to make a few casts before reeling in a fish for breakfast and another for lunch and dinner, he had to spend almost half an hour to get even one.
That half-hour chilled him to the bone, and he’d spend the next half-hour warming up by his fire. He’d clean the fish by the fire, cook his breakfast, and then take the hatchet and go gather more firewood. That task took longer as well. The colder the temperature was, the more wood Dave had to burn and that meant he had to chop and carry more. He’d burned all the dead wood close to the shore, so now, he had to walk into the forest to find more.
The exertion of chopping and then carrying wood back to camp kept him warm in his light jacket, but Dave knew that was a dangerous warmth. His body was burning calories to generate that heat, calories he should be replacing by eating more, except he was eating less because the fish were harder to catch. To compensate, Dave took down his tarpaulin shelter and used it to wrap himself up at night as he slept beside his fire. The stiff material wasn’t a very good insulator, so he was still cold, but between the tarpaulin and the fire, he didn’t freeze to death.
A week later, it was too cold at night to sleep wrapped up in the tarpaulin, so Dave again used it to make a small tent only a foot away from his fire. The heat from the fire was reflected a little by the tarp and it did seem warmer inside his little tent. Sitting inside, Dave could stay reasonably warm during the day. The nights were becoming unbearable though. When Dave laid down to sleep, the frigid ground seemed to suck the heat from his body and he’d wake up with his teeth chattering. He’d add more wood to his fire and warm up, then try to sleep again.
It was two weeks later the lake froze over. The ice on the lake covered the water so he couldn’t cast but wasn’t thick enough to hold his weight. For the next three days, Dave went hungry. On the fourth, because he was so hungry he didn’t care, Dave ventured out on the frozen surface with his hatchet. He could feel the ice moving under his feet, but it didn’t break. A few feet from the shore, he began gently chipping away at the ice, and after a few minutes, broke through to the water beneath.
The ice was only about three inches thick, but it seemed solid enough, so Dave enlarged the hole until it was about a foot in diameter. Once that was done, he cautiously walked back to his camp and retrieved his fishing rod.
It felt odd to be sitting there jigging his spoon up and down through the hole in the ice, but half an hour later, he hauled a northern of about five pounds up through the hole. Dave didn’t take the time to unhook the fish. He just lifted it by sticking one hand through the gills and walked back to his fire. After warming up his hands, Dave dressed the fish and hung it over the fire on a stiff branch. He waited until the meat turned white, and then ate the whole fish.
He went back to his hole in the ice that afternoon, and had to chop out the ice again. This time, he caught two smaller northerns. Every day for the next week was the same. Dave would chop open his hole, jig a spoon or jig in the water until he caught something, and then go back to his fire to warm up while the fish cooked. By the end of the week, he wasn’t waiting until the fish cooked all the way through. He just let it warm up and then eat it as fast as he could manage.
Each day, the ice got a little thicker, and each day, it took longer to chop through to the water. In another week, the ice was a foot thick, and Dave couldn’t get through it without making several trips back to his fire to warm up again. Two days later, the hole froze over during the time he was getting warm again, so Dave stopped trying.
The first few days, Dave’s stomach felt empty, but it wasn’t like he was hungry. It was just an empty feeling. He sucked on ice from the lake and the water helped relive that feeling but made him colder on the inside. After a week, the empty feeling was gone too.
When the weather had been warmer, Dave had collected as much wood as he could, but his supply would last only a few days, so he had to keep trying. He’d already cut all the dead trees near his camp, and it was too cold to walk very far from his fire. Dave began cutting the live trees. He could only manage one small tree a day and that required several trips back to his fire to warm up. After two weeks though, he couldn’t manage even one small tree a day. The cold and not eating were taking their toll on his body and it was difficult for him to even crawl out of his little tent. It was the day he didn’t feel strong enough to get out he realized his ultimate fate was only a matter of time.
It was calming, in a way, to know he was going to die. Right after the crash, he’d been confident someone would search until they found him. Surely after they’d checked Trout Lake and didn’t find the plane they’d expand the search to other lakes on their probable flight path. About two days, a week at the most, he figured, and they’d find him. He’d be back in Red Lake and heading home with a great story to tell everyone at work.
After that week, Dave had begun to worry. He remembered Chuck had turned off their flight path to get to Shabumeni, so any search probably wouldn’t look there. They’d be looking at the lakes and forest from Trout Lake back to Red Lake. It didn’t look as if he was going to be rescued and that meant he’d die there.
He couldn’t die, not now. He had a lot of things he wanted to do before that happened. Dave had never been a religious man, but that night in his camp on the shore he promised to himself and any higher power that might exist that if he was rescued, he’d try to put Julie into his past and get on with his life.
Now, death seemed inevitable, and Dave didn’t have to worry about being rescued or getting on with life or anything else. In the delirium induced by hunger and the cold, he reasoned if he had to die now, this was a good place to do so. It was a place Julie would have liked. As he lay there inside his small tent and fed his fire, he wondered if Julie was there like she’d said she’d be.
She’d always watched the TV shows where people stayed in buildings that were supposedly haunted, and had once said her spirit was going to stay with him when she died so she could make sure he was OK. Dave had first thought she was joking, but Julie said she really believed spirits could stay to be with the people they loved. Maybe Julie had been right. Maybe she was there with him. Maybe she was the one who woke him up before he drowned after the plane crash.
Dave smiled at that thought because it reminded him of something else Julie had said.
“If I go before you, I’ll keep watching, and when you’re ready, I’ll help you join me. I want you to do the same thing for me if you go first.”
Maybe she was watching him, right now, that very second, and was just waiting until he was ready. Dave decided then that he was ready to join Julie wherever she was. That was the most comfort he’d felt since the plane crash. He didn’t have to try to get on with life without Julie. He’d get on with life as a spirit with Julie’s spirit by his side. They’d stay there on the lake for eternity, together, in a place they both loved. When his fire burned down that afternoon, Dave didn’t try to add more wood. He just watched the last red ember go out and then laid back and closed his eyes.
A while later, Dave suddenly felt his body grow warmer. He’d once read that just before you freeze to death, you feel warmer. It was supposedly the body diverting all its efforts to survive to the brain and vital organs, but now he knew the real reason that happened. That had to be Julie making him feel better while helping him to be with her. Dave closed his eyes and let his mind drift to what they’d do once they were together. After a few minutes, his mind went blank.
When Dave woke, he was warm almost to the point of being too hot. Is this what being a spirit is like, he wondered. Are you warm all the time? Being warm all the time would be good, especially since I was so cold before, but not this warm.
“Julie”, Dave mumbled as he opened his eyes.
That question was answered by the quiet scuffle of feet and then the touch to his forehead. The fingers were soft, soft and warm, just like Julie’s had been.
“Be still”, a woman’s voice said. “You need get warm.”
That voice wasn’t what he remembered Julie sounding like. Did being a spirit change your voice? If this woman wasn’t Julie, where was she? Julie had promised to help him join her, but if she wasn’t here, how could she do that?
Dave moved his head to see where he was. He didn’t know where you went when you became a spirit. He’d always ought you just stopped being until Julie had said it was being like you always were but not many people could see or hear you unless they were other spirits. If that was true, he should have been back in his little tent beside his fire, but he wasn’t. He felt something warm and soft against his back instead of the cold, frozen ground, and what he saw above him wasn't the tarpaulin he’d used to make his small tent.
There were rough hewn logs that formed the joists of a log cabin and above those, rafters and purlins made of smaller logs and covered with wood shakes to form a roof. As he turned his head, Dave saw a log wall and the stone fireplace that sat on that wall. The fire was the reason he was warm. He couldn’t see the woman who had touched his forehead and spoken. He’d have to sit up to do that, he figured, so he tried.
The soft touch came again and pushed him gently down.
“No get up yet”, said the voice.
If the woman wasn’t Julie and this place wasn’t his tent, that meant he wasn’t dead and a spirit. If that was the case, who was she and where was this place?
“Where am I?” he asked.
“How did I get here?”
“Who are you?”
“I Kishdadee. What you name?”
“I’m Dave, Dave Mosley.”
The fingers touched his forehead again.
“Dave feel better now?” the voice asked.
Dave didn’t know if he felt better or not. Before, when his fire had died, he’d welcomed death as an end to his suffering and a way to reunite with Julie. Now that this Kishkadee woman had brought him to her cabin and saved him, he was more confused than anything. He wasn’t really rescued. He was just back where he started except he wasn’t alone and he wasn’t freezing. Part of him was thankful not to be dead even if he had no idea of where he was or who this woman was. The other part was thinking it would have been better if he’d just died.
“I don’t know. Why did you bring me here?”
“I not want you die.”
The fingers felt his forehead again. They felt warm and soft.
“Outside warm now. Need eat. Warm inside.”
The liquid in the spoon she held to his lips was hot, but Dave still slurped it down. He wasn’t sure what it was, but the aroma had awakened his stomach to the fact he hadn’t eaten in a long time. He felt the warmth travel down to his belly and then spread outward. After a dozen more spoons of the broth, he felt full for the first time in weeks, but still craved more. Kishkadee tipped the spoon to his lips one more time and then stopped.
“Enough now. More make you sick. Later you eat again.”
Dave tried to raise up then. He hadn’t yet seen the woman and now that he was warm on both the outside and the inside, he wanted to see who had rescued him. The woman gently pushed him back down.
“Not strong yet. Stay in bed. Soon you get up.”
All Dave could do was comply, but not because it was what the woman had said he should do. As soon as he raised his head, he felt dizzy and his vision started to blur. He realized then just how close to dying he must have been, and the thought was sobering.
Once he’d closed his eyes back in his little tent, he’d descended into nothing – no thoughts, no feelings, no nothing. It was as he’d always believed. You just shut off and that was it. Julie might have been right about becoming a spirit, but that hadn’t happened, or at least, it hadn’t happened like she’d said it would.
Julie said he’d see her beckoning to him to join her before he died. When he was ready, his spirit would leave his body and go with her. Together they’d walk into a bright light and eternity together.
Dave hadn’t seen anything before he entered the blackness of unconsciousness. Maybe that happened first, he didn’t know, but since he was willing to join her, he thought he should have seen Julie. He hadn’t. Instead, this woman had brought him to her cabin, warmed him up and fed him.
As Dave lay there he started to wonder if his promise to himself and any supreme being who might be listening was the reason the woman had saved him. There had to be some reason why she was there, apparently near to his camp, and some reason why she had found him. Dave drifted off to sleep trying to decide if Julie had been wrong.
When Dave woke again, the cabin was dark inside except for the red glow of the coals in the fireplace. He tried to push himself into a sitting position with his arms, but quickly stopped when he felt the same warm, soft hand on his chest, pushing him back down.
“No get up. Sleep.”
Dave had felt her hand on his bare chest and a quick feel there told Dave he wasn’t wearing a shirt. He felt lower and discovered he wasn’t wearing his pants or underwear either. Evidently the woman had undressed him before putting him in her bed. He just hadn’t realized it before.
Just trying to sit up had made Dave realize just how weak he really was. He drifted back to sleep thinking he’d somehow have to muster the strength to put his clothes back on. He couldn’t stay naked with the woman around. It just wasn’t right.
When Dave woke again, sunlight streamed through a window he couldn’t see and lit the inside of the cabin. He forgot he wasn’t dressed and tried to raise up, but got off balance and rolled to the floor instead. He heard a chuckle behind him.
“You not strong like think. Fall off bed.”
Dave felt the cold wood planks of the floor under him and remembered he was naked. He covered his crotch with his hands in embarrassment. The woman laughed again.
“You funny. I see before. No be afraid.”
“Why did you take off my clothes? I need them back.”
“Warm up faster with no clothes. They cold, but warm now. I bring.”
It was difficult, but with her help, Dave managed to put on his shirt. That effort was tiring, a fact that surprised Dave. Kishkadee held out his pants then, and helped him put in first one leg and then the other. He pulled them up his legs as far as he could, but couldn’t stand to get them up the rest of the way.
Kishkadee stepped behind Dave.
“Now, I help get up.”
Dave felt hands under his armpits pulling him up. Once he was sitting on the floor, the woman walked in front of him and held out her hands.
“Take hands. I pull you up.”
Dave didn’t immediately reach out for her hands. He couldn’t because he couldn’t stop looking at her.
She was wore a leather dress of a type he’d only seen in books about Indians, and though the dress didn’t fit very tight, it was obvious she was very much a woman. She was bent over to reach him, and her breasts made twin, rounded mounds in the soft leather. The dress didn’t hug her waist, but it did form itself around her round hips.
She was smiling at him, a smile that beamed from white teeth in a sensuous mouth. Above that was a small nose, sparkling, dark eyes, and arched eyebrows all framed by a mane of shining black hair that cascaded over her shoulders. Kishkadee was a very beautiful woman.
His concentration was broken by another chuckle.
“You want stay on floor? Hard eat on floor. Better eat on table.”
It took all the effort he could muster, but with her help, Dave rose to a crouch and then stood up. He was shaky, but after she pulled his pants up and buttoned the button, she helped him the short distance across the cabin to a small table with three chairs, one at the end and one on each side. She pointed to the chair at the end.
“You sit here in man place.”
Dave didn’t realize how much his body had deteriorated from the cold and lack of food. By the time Kishkadee had walked him the short distance from the bed to the chair, he was nearly exhausted. All he could do was put his arms on the rough wood table for support until his head stopped spinning.
Kishkadee left him to go to the fire place and returned with a bowl half full of the same broth she’d given him before. She sat the bowl in front of Dave and handed him a metal spoon.
The broth was good, and the broth from the night before had brought back his hunger. He was half-way through the bowl when Kishkadee sat a blue enameled cup in front of him.
“Drink. Make you strong.”
The cup contained a tea that tasted a little sour, but Dave drank some and then went back to his stew. When he finished, he asked if he could have more. Kishkadee shook her head.
“Little now, more later.”
She was smiling when she said that, and Dave found himself smiling too. While he didn’t know anything about this woman, he found he liked her. When he realized this, he shook it off as just his reaction to being rescued. He’d have felt the same way about anybody who’d taken him someplace, warmed him up, and gave him the first food he’d had in weeks.
He did want to know more about her, though. He’d ranged pretty far into the forest for firewood when it was warmer and hadn’t seen any signs that anybody else was there. She had to be relatively close or she wouldn’t have been able to get him to her cabin. When he looked at her, he couldn’t figure out how she’d managed to do that anyway. The woman couldn’t have weighed more than a hundred or so, and he normally weighed about a hundred and eighty. He’d no doubt lost weight, but still…
“Kishkadee…did I get that right?”
“Kishkadee, where is this place?”
“By lake where you camp.”
“How did you get me back here? You’re not big enough to carry me.”
“Bring over ice on sled. Not heavy that way. Hard get you in house on bed, but I strong.”
“How did you know where I was?”
“See smoke one day and go see.”
“If you knew where I was, why didn’t you show yourself?”
“Other men would come get you and find me. Mother say not trust men.”
It didn’t look as if anyone else lived in the cabin and Kishkadee hadn’t said anything about anybody else until then. He was starting to wonder how this woman managed to live by herself.
“Kishkadee, how long have you been here?”
Kishkadee walked to the wall of the cabin beside the door and touched it with her finger.
“Mother make mark every spring after I born. I make mark now every spring.”
Dave saw her moving her mouth as her finger tapped each mark. When she finished, she turned and smiled.
“I twenty and six.”
“You were born here…right in this cabin.”
“Father look for gold with other men. Made Mother house here to be close.”
“Where are your mother and father now?”
“Father go fight war, not come back. He dead. Mother with spirits now.”
“Your father went to war? Which war?”
“Not know. I only baby then. Mother say he go place called Inglunt. Say Army man come tell her he dead and give her letter and Father’s book. I show you.”
Kishkadee went to a small trunk beside the bed. She took out and opened a wooden box, and came back with a small leather bound book. She handed it to Dave.
“Not know how read English words, but look at picture sometimes to see Father.”
The little book was actually two small paper books inside a leather cover. Stamped on the leather cover were the words “CANADIAN ARMY” and below that, “SOLDIER’S SERVICE AND PAY BOOK”. Dave carefully opened the cover and found a Canadian soldier’s identification card for Corporal William Henry Hughes.
William was born in 1921 and the identification card was issued on January 10, 1942. The war he’d fought in had to be WWII and the “Inglunt” Kishkadee had spoken of had to be England. The Canadian Post Telegram he picked from between the pages told him William had been part of the Canadian forces on D-Day. The words were apparently written by William’s commanding officer and were short and to the point.
“Mrs. Hughes, it is my sad duty to inform you that your husband, Corporal William Henry Hughes was killed in action in France on June 6, 1944. Corporal Hughes was a brave soldier who died fighting for his country. Our company will miss him greatly. An officer will contact you soon with Corporal Hughes’ personal effects.” Captain H.G. Oglethorp
Dave turned to Kishkadee.
“This says your father was killed in 1944. It’s 1969, and if you’re twenty-six now, that means you and your mother lived here by yourselves at least from the time you were a year old. Why didn’t she move back with family after your father died?”
“Mother Anishinabe. Father white man. In Anishinabe way, father family take wife and baby if father die, not mother family. Mother not know where Father family live, so just stay here.”
“So, when did your mother die?”
Kishkadee counted her marks again, then turned and smiled.
“You’ve lived here by yourself since you were sixteen? How did you survive?”
“Mother father no have son so he teach Mother man things. Mother teach Kishkadee how do things like Anishinabe woman and Anishinabe man. She teach how find plants and how hunt and fish. She teach how make dress from deer and how dry meat. She teach how trap fox and beaver for warm fur. I learn good.”
Dave found himself smiling back.
“She evidently taught you to speak English too.”
“Mother teach Anishinabe words, but Father want me talk English so she teach English words for Anishinabe words. When I watch you, I hear you say English words, so talk English words.”
“You watched me? For how long?”
“Many times since I see smoke.”
“And you didn’t show yourself because your mother told you not to trust men? Why did she say that? She must have trusted your father.”
“She say when Father leave, he say he be back soon, but he not come back. When Army man come, he say they bring Father home, but he in place called Franz. No one sing and pray for him so he find good life after he die. Mother say not trust men ever again.”
Dave’s next question was one that had been eating away at him since he woke up and realized he wasn’t dead.
“If you don’t trust men, why didn’t you let me die.”
Kishkadee’s face turned from a smile to a serious frown.
“You not believe if I say. Mother say no white people believe.”
“Try me. I might.”
“I have dream. Woman say you dying and she want me help.”
Dave felt the hairs on the back of his neck stand up.
“Who was the woman?”
“Not know. Just say I help you not die now.”
The look on her face was the same look Julie had when she talked about becoming a spirit, a look that told Dave Kishkadee truly believed she’d been asked to help him by the woman in her dream. He hesitated before asking his next question.
“This woman…did you see her?”
“What did she look like?”
“She have yellow hair and eyes like sky, and she young like me. She say she not want you die for long time.”
Dave sagged back in his chair and felt his throat grow tight. Julie was blonde and had blue eyes.
“Did the woman say why I shouldn’t die?”
Kishkadee shook her head.
“No. She just say I help you not die now.”
Dave couldn’t help staring at Kishkadee and she noticed.
“Why you look at me? I say bad thing?”
“No, you didn’t say anything wrong. I just don’t know if I can believe what you’re saying.”
“Why not believe? Kishkadee not lie.”
“I know you aren’t lying. I can see that in your face. It’s just that the woman in your dream was a lot like Julie.
“Who is Julie?”
Dave took a deep breath.
“Julie was my wife. She died about a year ago and she had blonde hair and blue eyes. She always said if she died before I did, her spirit would watch over me. What you just told me was that Julie came to you in a dream and said it wasn’t my time and you should help me. I didn’t think that was possible.”
“Then woman in dream was Wife Julie. Wife Julie want you live.”
“I just never thought spirits were real.”
“Spirits real. Spirits talk to Kishkadee sometimes. Mother, Father, now Wife Julie. Mother teach how listen to spirits.”
Dave wondered if Kishkadee was just a little off from living alone for so long. He’d experienced being alone for only a few months and was starting to have some weird dreams at night. He decided he should just agree with her for now and decide what to do with her once he got back to civilization.
“I guess I have to believe you, and I thank you for doing what you did. Now, how do I get to a town so I can get home?”
Kishkadee shook her head.
“Not go now. You not strong yet. Walk long time in summer to find people but it winter now and too cold to walk. In Spring maybe you start fire again and men see smoke.”
Dave shook his head.
“I can’t stay here until Spring. My family will be worried sick and I have a job to get back to. I already tried keeping a fire burning for weeks but no planes flew over. I doubt that will change next spring.”
“Sometimes things happen you not think happen. We see…in Spring. Now, you go rest in bed.”
For the next two days, Kishkadee wouldn’t let Dave do anything except eat and stay in bed. At first, she only let him eat more of the broth like before. Dave could feel his body responding to the food, even though it was only liquid. After two days, he started to feel hunger again, real hunger, so Kishkadee added a small piece of some kind of meat and one small root she said was a cattail. Dave ate it all and asked for more, but was always met with the same smile and rejection to his request.
“After no food, insides need learn how eat again. More tomorrow.”
Also after two days, he felt the urge to relieve himself but didn’t exactly know how to tell Kishkadee. Rather than try, he got out of bed and started slowly for the door. She stopped him before he got half way.
“Not go outside yet. I have way.”
She reached under the bed and retrieved a porcelain chamber pot with a lid. She handed it to Dave and grinned again.
“Kishkadee use when too bad go little house outside. You use now. I not look.”
With that, she went back to the fire where she was cooking something in a cast iron pot. Dave unzipped as quietly as he could and stood over the pot. It was embarrassing to know she’d hear him, but there was no holding back. The relief he felt afterwards compensated somewhat.
Kishkadee waited several minutes after he finished, then picked up the pot and went out the door. A minute later, she came back in and put the chamber pot back under the bed, then turned to Dave.
“When you need go, use pot. I empty after you done.”
That afternoon as the sun dropped below the treeline, the cabin started to get dark. Kishkadee took three small bowls from the shelf by the table and lit the wicks of the candles they contained, then asked Dave if he was hungry. Dave grinned.
“I could eat a skunk right now.”
“Skunk smell and taste bad. Today I kill bird called mashkodese in Anishinabe. Mother say Father say spruce hen. She say Father like mashkodese. I think you like better than skunk.”
Dave made his way to the table with Kishkadee helping him though he really didn’t need her help. Once he sat down, she brought him a plate with a small bird roasted to a golden brown and about the size of the cornish game hens Julie had loved fixing. Beside the bird was a small heap of what had to be wild rice. Julie had fixed wild rice sometimes and this looked the same.
Kishkadee sat down beside him and smiled.
Dave looked up from his plate.
“Aren’t you going to eat too?”
“Woman eat after man. It is Anishinabe way.”
Dave was embarrassed to sit there with her watching him.
“I can’t sit here and eat by myself while you watch me. Why don’t you eat with me? I’d like it if you did.”
“White women eat at same time as men?”
“Yes. We like women to eat with us.”
“Kishkadee part white. White part want eat with you.”
Kishkadee got up and went back to the fireplace, then returned with a plate with another grouse and rice. She sat down and grinned.
“Now, we eat like white people.”
Dave’s first thought was that Kishkadee had marinated the grouse in gin, but then he realized she would have no way to get gin. The piney taste was there though. He’d had chicken with juniper berries once when he and Julie had splurged and gone to a fancy restaurant. He’d liked the piney aftertaste then, but after the first bite, he decided Kishkadee’s spruce grouse was better than that restaurant chicken. The rice was good too. Kishkadee had seasoned it with some of the juices from the roasting grouse. It wasn’t butter and salt like Julie used, but it tasted great.
Dave was shoveling in a forkful of rice when he heard Kishkadee chuckle. He looked up to see that same smile.
“Better than skunk?” she asked.
“You’re a good cook, Kishkadee. This is great.”
“I happy you like. Maybe you like other food I fix. We see.”
After they finished eating, Kishkadee washed the plates and forks and put them on the shelf beside the table, and then said it was time for them to sleep. Dave didn’t need reminding. After eating the first real meal he’d had in he didn’t remember how long, he was starting to nod off.
Dave stood up and walked back to the bed, pulled back the blankets, and rolled in. He watched Kishkadee bank the fire for the night, and was almost asleep when he heard her moving around near the bed. He opened his eyes and saw her pull the dress over her head and hang it from a peg on the wall, then blow out the candle that sat in on a small shelf on the same wall. The bed shook a little when she climbed in, and Dave felt the movement of the blankets when she pulled them up to her chin.
He supposed she’d done this every night and he was just too exhausted to wake up. That was all well and good, but now…
“Kishkadee, why are you in bed with me?”
“Only one bed. Too cold sleep on floor.”
“But you’re naked.”
“Always sleep with no clothes. Sleep good that way.”
“But I’m a man and you’re a woman.”
“You still sick if not already know Kishkadee woman.”
“But a man and a woman in bed together…if they’re not married that’s just asking for trouble.”
Kishkadee patted Dave on the arm.
“Kishkadee not do anything to you. Go sleep now.”
As Dave lay there and listened to Kishkadee breathe he reflected he wasn’t concerned that she would do anything to him. His concern was that she already had done something to him, something he didn’t think could happen again.
He and Julie had had a very satisfying sex life. After the “once a night and twice on Saturday and Sunday” frenzy most newlyweds experience, they’d settled down to about four times a week. Those times were times for both of them loving each other with both their minds and their bodies. Julie readily accepted his touch and returning that touch with her own. Foreplay was a favorite thing with them – passionate kisses exchanged while fingers stroked each into the height of arousal.
At first, Julie would then lay back, open her thighs and beckon to Dave with a breathy “I want you now”, but after they’d been married for a year, she changed. Instead of beckoning him while she lay on her back, she’d drape her thigh over him and then guide his cock to her entrance while they lay on their sides. When that became their normal position, he’d asked her why she liked it. Julie had kissed him and then said it let her have more control than being on her back and she could make the experience better for them both.
Dave had realized that was true. On her back, Julie couldn’t do much more than rock her hips into his thrusts. When they lay on their sides, she could control how deep his cock sank into her depths and she could dictate his speed. She could also use her hands to stroke his back, and once she learned he liked the touch, would lift her thigh high enough she could squeeze his ass cheeks. Everything she did in that position was an act of pure love and exquisite pleasure, the culmination an experience in becoming lost in each other as the waves of pleasure swept them away from everything except the throbbing of their bodies as they climaxed.
Dave didn’t think any woman other than Julie could cause the arousal he’d always felt when seeing her naked, but Kishkadee had. Though the light from the single candle wasn’t very bright, Dave hadn’t missed her full breasts with small, dark, taut nipples, the narrow waist that widened into sensuous hips, or the small patch of black hair that covered her sex.
That sight had stirred his mind and his mind began stiffening his cock. By the time Kishkadee had climbed into bed, Dave’s erection was full and rigid, and part of his mind said it was wrong to feel that way. Another part was telling him it needed to feel his cock stroking in and out of her and to feel the shattering orgasm that would follow for both of them. Dave struggled with those conflicting thoughts until he finally fell asleep.
After another month, or at least what Dave thought was probably a month, he was almost back to his old self. Kishkadee made sure he ate until he was full after that first couple of weeks. Dave knew he was gaining weight. After the lake had frozen over, Dave had to cinch his belt in by another hole, and by the time he’d decided to die, two holes. Now, he was back to one hole tighter than normal, and after he ate, even that felt a little snug.
Half the time, Dave had no idea what he was eating, but Kishkadee would always tell him if he asked. It might be rabbit, spruce grouse, beaver, or deer. She might serve it with more wild rice or what Kishkadee said were cattail roots. What Dave did know was that the food, while unfamiliar, was good.
There wasn’t much difference in any of the meals, be they breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Sometimes, if Kishkadee had made a stew, it would be the same for all three meals. About once a week, she made some type of flat bread using either ground, dried cattail roots or ground wild rice. Once Dave had tasted and complimented her on one of these flat breads she’d flavored with maple syrup, she started making it about once a week
It was a little after that when Kishkadee said they needed meat and that Dave should go along. Dave was excited. Except for a quick trip a couple times a day to what Kishkadee called the “little house outside”, he’d been cooped up in the cabin for weeks. He didn’t know how he’d be able to stay outside, though, because he’d nearly frozen to death in the clothes he had before and it was just fall then. When he asked Kishkadee about that, she grinned.
“You almost same size as Father. You wear Father clothes, not get cold.”
Kishkadee opened the trunk beside the bed and pulled out a pair of heavy canvas pants and a long, fur coat. She held it up to Dave and smiled.
“Pants keep legs warm. Coat from bear keep rest warm.”
After he’d put on the pants over his jeans, Kishkadee held the coat open while Dave slipped in one arm and then another, and then closed it over his chest. The “buttons” were actually little wood toggles on one side that fit into leather loops on the other side of the coat but they kept it closed. The almost black hair that covered the entire coat was long and glossy, and Dave felt like a mountain man he’d seen once in a movie.
Kishkadee then took a fur hat from the trunk and put it on Dave’s head, put on a similar coat and hat from pegs on the wall beside the door, then grinned again.
“Now we ready.”
It was the first of several trips Dave and Kishkadee made over that winter. Dave was already amazed at how simple Kishkadee’s life was, and wondered how she was going to kill a deer. When she said they needed to hunt, Dave had looked for a rifle or shotgun, but saw none. What she showed him was both simple and effective.
Kishkadee led the way through the snow between the trees until she crossed another trail through the snow. Kishkadee pointed at some small tracks in the snow that went between two tall maple trees.
“Deer go here to river. River not freeze like lake. We catch deer when go to river to drink.”
Dave watched as Kishkadee tied one end of the rope she’d brought into a slip knot and then threaded the other through the knot to form a loop. She used small vines to support the loop about three feet from the ground and between the two trees. She then tied the free end of the rope to one of the tree trunks. She stood back to look at her work, then turned to Dave and grinned.
“Deer come drink in morning and put head in rope, then try run away. Deer pull hard and choke.”
She stuck out her tongue and made a choking sound.
“We come back tomorrow to see.”
It took two days, not one, but on the second day they checked the snare, a doe deer lay still on the ground. Kishkadee approached the deer slowly and from the back, then used a stick to poke it in the eye. The deer didn’t move, so Kishkadee untied the rope from the tree and then removed it from the deer’s neck.
Dave figured they’d drag the deer back to Kishkadee’s cabin. Instead, Kishkadee sank to her knees and began singing in what he assumed was the Anishinabe language. When she stood up, he asked her what she’d been doing.
Kishkadees face was serious.
“Deer die so we have food. I pray to thank her.”
An hour later, Dave was helping Kishkadee drag the gutted deer back to her cabin. That night, as Dave ate fresh deer liver grilled over the fire and cattail flatbread, he thought Kishkadee’s hunting method would be considered cruel by most people back home.
It was cruel in some ways, but no more cruel than life in the wilderness was for any animal or person. That Kishkadee had thanked the deer made him realize that while the way Kishkadee had killed the deer was cruel, she had done so with a reverence for the deer’s life. He knew people who had little reverence for the lives of other people, let alone reverence for an animal they were going to eat.
The winter passed slowly for Dave, though as the days passed, he began to enjoy living like Kishkadee lived. It was a quiet, simple life with no worries about what anyone else thought or concerns about things they didn’t have. By the time the first days of spring began melting the snow that covered the pine trees outside, Dave realized he was happy in spite of his situation.
Kishkadee was an intelligent as well as pretty woman. As they talked each day, her English began to improve though Dave hadn’t tried to help her with that. She was just listening to him and then changing her manner of speaking to be more like his. Occasionally, she’d ask him about how he said something or about the meaning of a word she didn’t know. She’d repeat it, then smile and say “is this right?”
It was more than just having someone to talk with. It was the way she seemed concerned about his every need and wish. He couldn’t bring himself to actually admit it, but in the back of his mind was the memory of how Julie had been the same way.
Once Kishkadee discovered the foods he liked best, she would fix them at least once every six or seven days even if it meant braving the cold and snow to find spruce grouse or to snare a few rabbits.
Dave had brought only a pair of deck shoes and one pair of hiking boots for the trip, and neither of which was very warm if he spent much time outside. After that first hunting trip, Kishkadee tanned the skin from the deer they’d caught and then sat by the fire in the afternoons for several days working on something. She wouldn’t tell him what it was, but one afternoon before they went out to snare rabbits, she handed him a pair of calf-length moccasins lined with rabbit fur.
“These keep feet warm. I make like Mother make for Father.”
Not the least of his pleasures was watching Kishkadee just move around the little cabin. The gentle movement of her breasts under her leather dress and the sway of her hips spoke to Dave of sensuality and desire. In the dark eyes that flashed at him when she laughed were the sparks of what he imagined would be an erotic fire within the woman.
At first, he made these observations just as he had observed other women when with Julie, just an observation without any thoughts of pursuing an attempt at verification. As time progressed though, Dave began to wonder if Kishkadee was really those things or if it was just his imagination. Of course, he didn’t try to find out. Kishkadee had made no indication she wanted any attention like that. Dave explained her lack of modesty when she undressed every night and climbed into bed beside him as the result of living by herself for so long without a mother to tell her otherwise.
The day the ice on the lake started to break up turned Dave’s thoughts once again to getting back to civilization and then home. Those thoughts intensified one sunny and relatively warm afternoon when he and Kishkadee went back to his old campsite to retrieve his fishing equipment.
The plane was still there, about twenty feet from the shore and trapped in the ice. The tarpaulin had collapsed under the weight of the winter snows, but once they pulled it to the side, Dave’s rod case and tackle box were still there and undamaged. Dave picked them and his hatchet up and they started back to the cabin. They were under the trees when they heard the drone of a small aircraft overhead. Dave turned to run back to the campsite in hope the plane might see him and ran into Kishkadee as she stood behind him. She reached for him as she stumbled backwards, and Dave caught her. They ended up standing there, her arms around his neck and his around her waist.
For a few seconds, neither said anything. Dave then let his arms drop as he apologized.
“I’m sorry, Kishkadee. I just wanted to see if I could get that plane to see me. If they did, they might come back.”
Kishkadee smiled, but the sparkle in her eyes was gone.
“If they come back, you will leave?”
“Well, yes. I have to get back to my job and everything.”
“They will come back after the ice is all gone. I dreamed it.”
With that, Kishkadee turned and started walking away. Dave picked up his rod case, tacklebox and hatchet and followed her. He wished Kishkadee really had dreamed it and that the dream would come true, but in his logical mind he figured the plane was just some pilot flying from one place to another and not really looking for anything on the ground.
For the next week, the weather warmed up above freezing during the day and melted most of the remaining snow. The lake ice was showing signs of melting, and Dave had hopes of starting out for someplace with a phone or radio so he could get back home. Then, Canada played a cruel trick and plunged them back down to freezing temperatures day and night. Kishkadee assured Dave it was only a temporary change, but a heavy snowfall on the second night of the freezing weather dampened his spirits.
During the next three weeks, Dave spent some time outside fishing what open water there was, and Kishkadee grinned when he brought her the first two northerns he caught.
“Now we have fish to eat. I fix like Mother fix for Father.”
After that, they had fish made into a stew or roasted over the fire at least once a week. It wasn’t fish fillets breaded in cornmeal and fried like at the fishing camp, but it was still good.
At last the sun beamed its warmth down and melted the remaining snow and the lake ice began turning black. The dark color increased the speed at which the ice melted and soon the lake rippled with the breeze and Dave saw minnows flitting in the shallows. A week later, the frogs woke up from their winter sleep and he heard them croaking as he lay in bed beside Kishkadee.
He went with her the day she showed him how to tap the maple trees to collect the spring flow of sap, and then showed him how she boiled that sap down into thick, sweet syrup. When the first green plants appeared, Kishkadee showed him how to pick identify the edible plants and those she used for medicine. Their diet began to include some of these edible plants, and to Dave, they were better than any salad he’d ever had.
It was on one warm afternoon when Dave was fishing he heard another small plane. He couldn’t see it, but it seemed to be in the area of his old camp and it stayed there for several minutes. The sound would get higher in pitch, then lower, and then higher again. That could only mean the plane was circling the area. Dave began running in the direction of his old camp, but halfway there, the sound of the engine got lower and then lower still. Dave turned around and walked back to the cabin hoping the plane had been looking for him.
When he told Kishkadee about the plane, she smiled.
“Maybe they come back some day. I happy you stay with Kishkadee until then.”
Kishkadee walked away then to begin making their evening meal, and she didn’t say anything more to Dave about him staying with her. That night, after he’d watched her undress, then blow out the candle and climb into bed with him, he thought about what he’d do if the plane did come back.
He’d leave, of course. He had to get back home so his family knew he was all right, and he had to see if his job was still there. Chances were it wasn’t, but maybe his company had something else he could do. If not, he’d look for another job. It might take a few months, but he had enough money in savings to tide him over.
The thought of what Kishkadee would do after he left then caused him to frown. Would she just go on living in her little cabin like she always had? It didn’t seem right to Dave to just leave her there. She seemed to be very self-sufficient, but if she got sick or got hurt, there would be nobody to help her. Dave knew he’d wonder about that every day once he got home. He’d lived with her too long to just forget about her. He’d worry about her every day once he was home.
He thought maybe he should try to convince her to come with him, but then he realized that probably wouldn’t turn out well. Kishkadee was a beautiful and desirable woman on the outside, but on the inside, she was more wild than tame and wouldn’t fit into regular society very well. She’d be a curiosity to some and shunned by others as an uncivilized savage.
She was also intelligent and would quickly figure out she didn’t belong. That would just make her unhappy, and Dave couldn’t do that to her. Over the months, he’d grown to love her smile and laugh and the way she loved the life she lived. He wouldn’t be able to contend with seeing that smile go away and knowing she longed to be back in the forest living the only life she knew.
Kishkadee’s voice snapped him out of those thoughts.
“I have dream last night. Wife Julie tell me men will come back tomorrow to get you.”
“You saw Julie in your dream.”
“Yes. She say you want to go with them but that not what you should do. She say you should stay with Kishkadee.”
Dave half smiled. He didn’t really believe Kishkadee had seen Julie in a dream or that Julie had told her he shouldn’t leave. He figured Kishkadee just didn’t want him to go and was either making it up or had really had the dream but it was caused by what she wanted to happen, not because Julie’s spirit had really spoken to her.
“If they do come back, I’ll have to go, Kishkadee.”
He felt Kishkadee turn on her side to face him.
“Wife Julie tell me you would not believe me. She tell me I have to show you. She tell me how to do that.”
“Oh. What did she tell you to do?”
Kishkadee didn’t say anything. Dave felt her move closer, and then the light touch of her soft lips just above his eyebrow. He felt the same touch to his other eyebrow then. Dave had been sleepy before. Now he was wide awake. Kissing above his eyebrows was something Julie had done to tell him she wanted him. It wasn’t what anyone else would consider erotic, but it had become that way between him and Julie.
As Dave lay there wondering why Kishkadee had decided to do that, he felt her fingertip stroke his cheek, then trace around and touch his lips. That was another thing Julie always did when they made love. He started to speak, but the finger tip pressed his lips gently.
“Shhh. Don’t talk.”
Dave felt Kishkadee’s small hand slip inside his shirt to stroke his chest and then begin undoing his shirt buttons. When she pulled his shirt open, then leaned over and kissed his left nipple, Dave was so stunned he couldn’t do anything but lay there. Julie had done that as well. The first time she’d done that, she said if her nipples were sensitive, his should be too. Dave had discovered that night that Julie was right. It wasn’t something that instantly raised his cock, but he did feel it and it was erotic in some ways. When Kishkadee did it, it made him feel the same way.
Kishkadee moved her lips to his other nipple and her hand to the waist of his pants. A moment later, her soft hand touched his cock. She didn’t jack it. Her fingers just stroked the skin on the underside of his cock head. Even if Dave had wanted to, he couldn’t have stopped the tingles that started stiffening his shaft and making his cock head swell.
He was thinking, though. Everything Kishkadee had done so far was exactly how he and Julie usually began making love. When he and Julie were first married, she knew all about sex, but they still fumbled for a few months until they figured out what aroused the other best. He knew that since Kishkadee had lived alone with her mother since she was an infant, and after her mother died, by herself, she couldn’t possibly have any experience with men or sex, yet she was arousing him just as Julie had by using the same touches Julie had used.
Kishkadee gently pulled her hand from his stiff cock and undid his belt buckle and then the snap and zipper. Dave was so baffled by what she was doing he couldn’t resist, and lifted his hips so she could slide them down his thighs. He raised his legs then so she could take them completely off. Once she’d done that, she lay back down and draped her thigh over his body and moved closer until he felt coarse hair brush his leg.
Kishkadee kissed his cheek, and then pulled his hand to her chest. He felt her full, firm breast against his fingertips and then the way it moved when Kishkadee squeezed his hand. When her nipple slipped past his finger, Kishkadee caught her breath, and Dave felt her push her sex tight against his thigh and then move up and down a little.
Dave was still stunned, but realized he couldn’t let Kishkadee do this.
“Kishkadee, stop. You don’t have to do this.”
Her voice was the same murmur Julie had used when they made love.
“Wife Julie say this is how you know she was in my dream. She say she help me and she say tell you to do with me like when you lay with her.”
With that, Kishkadee pulled on Dave’s hip until he turned on his side, then reached between them and circled his rigid cock with her hand. He felt hair brush his cock head, then Kishkadee moving a little. A second later, his cock head slipped between the satin lips of her sex. Kishkadee moved again, and he felt his cock head sliding into the wet warmth between her inner lips.
It didn’t go in very far, and Dave knew that was because Kishkadee was a virgin. He didn’t intend to rob her of that just because she was somehow mimicking how he and Julie had made love. He started to pull his cock back, but didn’t get the chance. Kiskadee took a deep breath, then forced her body down over his swollen cock head. It didn’t burst through the tightness that time, and after another deep breath, Kishkadee did it again. She yelped when his cock head slipped inside her half way down Dave’s length, but then eased up until he almost slipped out of her.
After that, Kishkadee began stroking her body over Dave’s cock. He was certain it had to hurt for her to do that, but she wasn’t doing anything to indicate that. Instead, she was breathing deeply with each stroke and trying to get his cock inside her as far as she could. He even felt a familiar rocking of her hips when their bodies met, the same rocking Julie had done when they made love in the same position.
Those little rocking motions pushed Dave’s conscious mind into the background, and instinct took its place. He unconsciously began pushing up when Kishkadee pushed her passage over his cock. With each stroke he made, Kishkadee would either moan or gasp, and the little rocking motion would become stronger. Dave felt his cock sliding through Kishkadee’s snug passage and then into something very soft and yielding that seemed to suck at his cock head when he pulled back out.
Kishkadee seemed to feel that as well. Her little quiet moans became louder, and instead of gasping, she started to pant. Dave felt her arms pull him tight against her breasts and then her lips on his as she kissed him. That kiss seemed to intensify what she was feeling, just as it did with Dave’s feelings. He slipped his hands down to her firm hips and began pulling her as tight into each stroke as he could.
A few moments later, Dave felt Kishkadee’s passage get wetter and slipperier, and then the squeeze around his shaft as she began to tense. The contraction loosened, Kishkadee cried out, and then gripped his stroking shaft again. When she tensed again, she arched into Dave, cried out, and then her legs began to shake. Dave couldn’t control the surge that raced up his cock and splattered inside Kishkadee, not the first, nor the second, nor the third. Her body was arched into him, holding him deep inside her, and the contractions around his shaft forced him to gasp at each spurt.
When Kishkadee stopped shaking and relaxed, she didn’t pull herself off his cock. Instead, she kissed him on the eyebrows, then his cheek, and then on the lips while keeping herself impaled. She kept doing that until Dave’s cock softened enough it slipped from the wet embrace of her passage, but stayed close, her full breasts pressed into his side and chest and her face nestled against his shoulder. She was still like that as Dave drifted off to sleep wondering how Kishkadee had known to do that, the same way Julie had been after they made love, if Julie hadn’t really told her.
He woke the next morning with the dim light of morning coming through the single window of the cabin and alone in the bed. Kishkadee was standing naked in front of the fireplace. The flames were just beginning to lick at the small twigs Kishkadee had used to stir the coals from the night before back to life. When she heard him throw back the blanket, she turned.
He saw tears in her eyes, and rose to walk to her and take her in his arms.
“Kishkadee, what’s the matter.”
“You will leave today. I saw it in my dream last night.”
“I do have to leave.”
“I know. Wife Julie tell me that.”
“I don’t want to leave you here alone, but I really don’t have a choice.”
Kishkadee wiped her eyes.
“No worry about Kishkadee. I will be like always. Now, time to eat so I fix.”
With that, she pushed him away and got dressed, then picked up her stew pot and walked out the door to the lake. Dave got dressed then and followed her out the door. He was half way to the lake when he heard the drone of a plane.
This time, the drone kept getting closer and closer. A few minutes later, he heard the drone go quieter and then stop altogether. That could only mean the plane had landed. He looked at Kishkadee. She smiled and said, “They come for you. Go.”
When Dave walked out of the trees and into his old campsite, he saw another Cessna tied up at the shore and a man poking around the fallen tarpaulin he’d used as a tent. A second was looking at the plane sitting in the lake. A third, a man he recognized as Donnie, was looking at Chuck’s grave. He yelled, “Hey. I’m over here”, and started running.
Dave wasn’t surprised that his job had been filled in the time he’d been away. That was OK, though. Since he’d been gone only about ten months, his money in the bank and his 401K were still there. He wasn’t so fortunate with the house. Since he hadn’t been able to make the mortgage payments, the house had been foreclosed by the loan company and then sold. Margie had put all his furniture and other things in storage, but he had no place to live. She offered her spare room, but Dave didn’t accept. He had other plans.
Margie told him his house had sold for about fifty-five thousand more than the mortgage and the money was being held in escrow until he came back or was declared dead. Dave contacted the mortgage company and after jumping through some hoops to prove he was really David Michael Tilson, deposited the check in his checking account. He then went on a shopping spree to replace his clothing and to purchase some other things he knew he’d need.
A week later, the same Cessna that took him back to civilization landed on Shabumeni lake at his old campsite. The pilot helped Dave unload all the boxes he’d stuffed into the plane, and then asked if he was sure he wanted to stay. Dave just grinned.
“There’s no place else I’d rather be. Besides, I have the radio, so if I need something, I can call you.
He was still grinning when he walked from the campsite to the cabin. He didn’t know if Kishkadee would be there or not, but he had a plan for if she wasn’t. He’d just wait inside the cabin and surprise her when she came back.
As it was, he didn’t have to use that plan. He walked into the small clearing around the cabin and saw her down by the lake. He yelled, “Kishkadee, I came back.”
Kishkadee almost knocked him down when she ran up, put her arms around his neck and sobbed into his shoulder. Dave held her tight for a while, then pushed her gently to arm’s length.
“As soon as the plane took off that day, I knew I had to come back. I still don’t know about your dreams, but I know I can’t live without you. I also knew you wouldn’t want to go with me, so I had to come back. I won’t leave you again, at least not for as long. We need to talk about what I want to do now. If you agree, I’ll do it. If not, well, I liked living like we were and I can keep living like that forever. I want to marry you no matter what you decide.”
Kishkadee wiped her eyes, then smiled.
“Then you have two wives, Wife Julie and Wife Kishkadee. We take care of you like good wives should.”
Dave didn’t argue with her about that. If Julie was really a spirit who talked to Kishkadee, he could live with that. If she was just Kishkadee’s imagination, that was fine too. He just knew he’d found another woman he’d grown to first like and then love even though he hadn’t realized it until he got in the plane and flew to Red Lake.
The fishing resort he built on his old campsite does a brisk business during the summer months. It took some doing what with convincing Kishkadee to leave her cabin for the nearest town so they could be legally married, and then helping her wade with him through the mass of government paperwork to qualify him for a permanent resident visa. She clung tightly to his arm most of the time, in awe at the sights she’d never seen before. She didn’t let him go until they’d finished everything and were back in her cabin.
The law required that the Canadian spouse sign a statement agreeing to provide for the needs of the visa holder for at least three years, and that was another hurdle. Dave taught Kishkadee how to write her name. She grinned after Dave explained the statement and she signed the paper.
“See. I said Wife Julie and Wife Kishkadee would take care of you.”
Once Dave was granted permanent resident status, he found out who owned the land on that part of the lake. It turned out to be the same mining company Kishkadee’s father had worked for. The mines had played out long ago, so it was relatively easy for Dave to buy a hundred acres that surrounded his old campsite and Kishkadee’s cabin. It took another year before he was open for business.
He and Kishkadee don’t live at the resort. They still live in her little cabin, though Dave had to add two rooms. Their son was born a year after they were married, and their daughter eighteen months later. Kishkadee refused to go anywhere for their births, saying that her mother had told her what to do. Dave didn’t argue with her because he knew that was useless, but he did radio Red Lake and had a midwife flown in to help her.
Dave and Kishkadee are proud of them both. They named the son David William after Dave and Kishkadee’s father. Kishkadee named their daughter, and her choice brought tears to Dave’s eyes. As Kishkadee lay on their bed with the little girl in her arms for the first time, she looked up at Dave and smiled.
“I will call her Julie Memengwaa, Julie to honor Wife Julie, and Memengwaa to honor my mother. Memengwaa means butterfly in Anishinabe.
Little Dave is now taller than his dad and acts as a guide for the resort clients. He lives at the resort year-round with his wife Nancy. Julie is as beautiful as her mother, and ended up marrying one of the clients when she was twenty. She now lives in Toronto, but spends at least a week with them every summer.
Dave and Kishkadee spend the winters together doing what they did that first winter. It’s the life Dave always dreamed of when he was stuck in a cubicle in an office. He loves the freedom and being outdoors with nature. More than he loves those thing though, he loves Kishkadee.
She’s gotten more like other women since she’s been exposed to the resort clients, but the innocent young woman who saved Dave’s life is still there, still taking care of him and still talking with Wife Julie once in a while.
The other day, she told Dave that Wife Julie said they were going to be grandparents. He didn’t believe her until the pilot of the next plane full of clients gave him a package of mail from their post office box in Red Lake. Inside a pink envelope was a card from Julie, and on the card was a cartoon stork holding a baby in a blanket with its beak. The baby was holding a sign that said, “Congratulations Grandpa and Grandma. I’m on the way.”
Kishkadee just grinned when he showed her the card.
“See, I told you.”
“Yes, you did, just like you’ve told me everything else that was going to happen. Do you suppose you’ll keep talking with Wife Julie.”
“Yes, until she comes to help us go to the happy land with her. That won’t be for a long time though. She told me we have more things to do before that.”
“Did she say what things?”
“No, but she will. I’ll tell you when she does.”
Dave went outside for an armload of firewood, and as he looked out over the lake and saw the eagle swoop down, grab a fish swimming too close to the surface and then struggle to regain flight, he smiled. He knew he’d die someday, and just like when he lay in that tarpaulin tent freezing to death years ago, he figure this was the place to do it. Julie would have loved it here, he loved it here and Kishkadee loved it here. He was happy to be here. Eternity was a long time, but if he had Julie and Kishkadee with him, he’d be happier yet. It would be a vacation from life with two women he loved and it would last forever.