The Lord is Close (Part 8)
The little girl raised up her head slowly as she remembered where she was. The afternoon sun dappled through the forest canopy above her. Buddy, the hunting dog, had been curled up next to her and she could still feel his warmth. He looked up at her sleepily as if questioning what she was going to do next. Hunger pains hit her stomach. Rolling out the corner of the blanket, she took two of the apples she had stored. She gave one to Buddy and began eating the other one. Buddy smelled of it and then sort of held it between his paws and started biting it. He looked so funny that the little girl laughed and Buddy gave a short bark in response. Buddy made quite a mess of his but he licked up every last bite so the little girl gave him the rest of her apple core after popping some of the seeds out to the ground. He finished it too.
They both stood up to survey their surroundings. She hadn’t noticed the enormous oak tree last night that stood towering over the soft green moss that had been their bed. It was no longer alive. The pine trees now provided the shade that they enjoyed. It had naturally been hollowed out by animals and deterioration. She wondered how large the interior was but she was afraid to go inside. It was big enough to be a tiny house for her, she thought.
She turned around and took a view of the forest. She could only see trees as far as she looked. She wondered how far she had walked and whose woods she was in. It was such a peaceful place that she didn’t want to leave.
“Let’s stay here for tonight, Buddy,” she said out loud.
He wagged his tail as if he understood.
“We’ll make it into a little home,” she said with a smile.
The little girl started walking down the hill careful to keep looking back to make sure she did not forget how to go back to the tree. At the bottom of the hill, she found a stream. The first thing she did was get a drink. She wondered if it was clean enough but was too thirsty to think about that for long.
Next she gathered some large stones. She put them in a pile by the stream and then took them two at a time up the hill. She placed them in a circle in front of the tree. Then she gathered sticks and lots of pine needles and layered them inside the circle.
She went back down to stream and found a couple of large rocks. This is going to be loud she warned Buddy. She closed her eyes and turned her head and hit two of the stones together very hard. They did not break but fell to the ground. She picked up two more stones and hit them together. This time one of them broke in two. She examined it and was happy to see that it now had a very sharp edge. She smiled to herself, happy with her accomplishment. She took the sharp rock back to her new fire ring along with one large and one small stick. She used the sharp rock to scrape at the sticks to remove the old bark. She sat on the larger stick to hold it steady and carved a groove in it with the rock. When she was satisfied with it, she laid some pine straw next to it and began pushing the other stick in it back and forth. Most of the things she knew, she had learned from books but this trick she learned from her grandfather last summer. It began smoking so she knew that she was doing it right. The dog lay down and watched her soulfully. She kept doing it for a long time. Finally, she saw little red embers which she dumped onto the pine straw. She gently blew at it until a flame appeared. She picked it up and transferred it to the fire ring placing it on top of more pine straw. She gathered some larger branches nearby and kept feeding the pine needles until the larger branches caught.
Finally, she looked at Buddy and said, “It’s time to look inside the tree. Are you ready?”
He looked expectantly at her. She picked up one of the long skinny branches that was on fire at the end and stuck it inside the tree.
“Ooooohh, it is beautiful,” she marveled in quiet voice.
The tree was perfect inside. There were no huge spiders or wasps or anything that she had imagined. The floor was covered with leaves but that could be cleaned.
After carefully placing the stick back into the fire, she began to gather the tall brown grasses that grew nearby. She pulled at a vine that was hanging from a tree but it wouldn’t budge. Using her new cutting rock, she rubbed it across the vine until it easily tore apart. Next she tied the brown grasses with the vine to make a sort of makeshift broom. It wasn’t necessary for her to go inside the tree to sweep out most of the leaves and debris. As she cleared more of the floor, she then stepped inside and swept out the corners.
From the shadows something ran across her foot and she squealed. Buddy jumped inside the tree but it had already escaped. He put his nose to the ground and searched for it but whatever animal had been living there was gone. She felt a twinge of guilt for taking his home. She wondered if the small animal would come back.
The soft green moss extended into the tree for a few feet and then became dirt. I will make a bed in the back for me and Buddy and the moss will be our rug, she thought. She wandered outside to gather more of the brown grass.
She gathered great arms full of it and laid it against the back of the tree and then put her blanket over it. When she was happy with her bed, she began to notice that her stomach was grumbling. She stoked the fire with more wood and contemplated about food.
Finally, she decided that she had read enough stories about survival that it was about time she tried out some of the ideas. She broke off a green trim limb and sharpened the end of it to a point with her cutting rock.
She and the dog walked down to the creek. It wasn’t very large but it had several jagged edges that created pools. It had to be spring fed as the water was very cold and clear and it rippled on the top as if it were being pushed up. There was a group of shiny fish clustered together in one of the little pools. She did not want to take a life but hunger drove her onward towards her goal. She quietly leaned over the pool, careful not to block the sunlight filtering through the trees. She knew that the water would distort her view and that the fish would appear larger and closer to the surface of the water than it actually was so she prepared to put forth her strongest effort. She aimed and stabbed as hard and fast as she could. She opened her eyes to look and wondered if she had been successful. The water was now muddy and all of the fish had left but as she lifted her stick out of the water, one fat little fish was now only barely moving as the life left him.
Careful not to waste her efforts and lose the fish, she brought it quickly over the bank and carried it up to her new little home. Buddy followed along behind her. She slid the fish to the center of the stick and laid it across the rocks so that it hung over the fire. She knew that she should clean the guts out of it but she was too hungry to wait or worry about that.
She sat down to watch it cook and Buddy slipped off into the forest. He came back a short while later carrying a squirrel. He laid down on the leaves nearby and ate his supper.
After the fish had sizzled and browned, she took it off the fire and picked at it with her fingers and inhaled the delicious aroma. Under the skin was white delicious meat. She ate around anything that didn’t look like it was white and put the rest of it in the fire to burn. She knew that fish bones were not good for dogs to eat.
After she finished eating, she wandered around but never very far. She found some wild blackberries and had her fill of those. She wished she had something to put some water in so that she could take a little back to her camp. She gathered up some more wood so that she could keep the fire going through the night without having to look for sticks in the dark.
As the darkness began to close in, she listened to the sounds of the forest change again. She put some more wood on her fire and went to lay down on her new bed. Buddy came inside with her and lay down as well. They both drifted off, lulled to sleep by the owls and the cicadas.
It was not quite morning yet when they were roused from their slumber by the low, tortured sounding scream of an animal. They both sat perfectly still as they listened. The haunted wailing sound grew closer. The little girl put her hand on the dog’s back and felt his fur rise up and a low growl emanated from deep within him.
To be continued…