This is Part II of an earlier post called The Cabin. The whole story will be posted in pieces over the coming days and weeks.
Inside the little house the furniture was sparse, the kitchen ill equipped, and the decorations Spartan. Two beds on old, metal frames. An overhead light, two floor lamps, and a reading light clipped to the bookshelf that stood between the beds lit the evenings once the sun had dropped behind the hills. In between the cold windows of the right wall, there were shelves. There were enough shelves to keep all their clothes, their framed pictures, their trinkets, and their cookware. The cookware was kept on the shelf closest the kitchen, as this was how it was designed to be. In the back right corner was the refrigerator, and looking left, counter space and a deep, cast iron sink with a built in drying board and plenty of space for dirty dishes too, but that was rarely utilized. Under that counter was much of the food, but there actually wasn’t much at all. To the right of the icebox, along the right wall, was a window, then the shelves holding the few copper pots and pans, an assortment of empty fruit jars, assorted plates and bowls, and two large, ceramic mugs. Dividing the kitchen from the rest of the room was an island of pine, a single, wide slab sliced from a once great tree. The varnish of it shone in the morning light, and in the evening reflected the overhead light and glowed with a comforting sheen. In the middle of the pine slab was the propane stovetop and oven. The fridge ran on propane too, though that was because it was old, not because there was no electricity. On the contrary—there was plenty of it, and phone lines, and Internet cables, and a small satellite dish on the roof bringing in untold TV channels and on-demand movies. But they came for peace, so each Monday, they would unplug the modem and not turn it back on until the following Sunday night when they gave themselves two hours of online time apiece, on the clunky laptop that Sarah had gotten from her sister. The phone was left plugged in, but rarely used, and the TV cable was permanently unplugged because there was no TV to plug it into. When the landlord had driven his truck down the long, dirt driveway after handing over the keys, the girls had loaded the TV into their little car, driven to a thrift shop, sold it, and used the money to pay the second month’s rent. When it was time to move out, Sarah knew she would have either wooed the landlord into letting it slide or earned enough to buy it back. But Lucy was slightly worried—it seemed dishonest in a way, though she figured the landlord was cheating them anyway, and she loathed the idea of a television.
Entering this house, this cabin, this place of peace, you cannot fight the urge to speak quietly and say yes to the offer of tea. Kick off your boots, shake the powdery snow from your pant cuffs. Your jacket goes on a wooden peg next to the door, next to the Mackinaws, next to the puffy coats with duct tape patches and coffee stains, the bins of work gloves, wool hats, and soft scarves. Take a seat to your right, near the woodstove. Here, in the front right corner of the house, is the center. It’s the north side, yes, but it doesn’t matter because this place is reserved for the evenings and cold dark nights and the fire roars then. The woodstove is the centerpiece—soapstone and cast-iron, it holds and emits heat endlessly, as the coals never snuff out completely. Each afternoon the fire is kindled anew, and the matchbox rarely opens because the coals are still alive, glowing dimly, then brightly once a wad of newspaper and a firm breath alight on their orange surface. Sometimes the color of the coals is the same as the sun setting just behind your right shoulder, but then flames spring up into a flare that it is more reminiscent of noon. Once it starts to roar, though, the damper clamps down and the orange glow returns, the flames roiling about, barely visible behind the smoky glass door. Oak and axe, yesterday’s paper, a filling and expelling of the lungs, and the house is warm.