A Man on an Island Ch. 04


"Oh," Kate said a little thoughtfully, "I thought you were going for a phony Russian accent there."

They looked at each other and burst out laughing.

"Anyway, it's gonna be a shitty night out there," Cale said, "I've already turned up the propane furnace, but I want to get that stove damn near red hot if I can. The power out here isn't that reliable, I've found. There are too many trees overhanging the lines. With that wind, a rotten branch coming down, and that stove would be about it. It'll do the job just fine, but I'm not fond of cooking on it if I can avoid it, though I can also use my old camping stove out in the shed." he chuckled, "I've done it often enough."

"Cale? Where's the bathroom? I've been in the car for hours, and ..."

"Right through there if you think you can get there now," he pointed. "Sorry my place is a bit on the rustic side. It's an old farmhouse that I'm restoring some, but for now a lot of it has that Fred Flintstone charm even still.

Oh, and be sure not to slide your feet on the flooring. I haven't gotten around to getting it sanded down and clear-coated yet, so splinters are a threat. The floor is cedar. Splinters from that can be awful."

He watched her carefully as she stood up a bit uncertainly. "Hey, if you need to, don't be afraid to ask for some help getting there and back, and I'll walk away from the door."

"No, I'll be fine I think." Her feet were complaining to her of their abuse in the snow, but they were coming back. Her hands were a different story, but she managed the deed, and stared at the bathroom sink. She opened the door, then put the plug into the drain, and filled the sink with warm water as she spoke to him, "I was driving up to visit with my cousin, but I got a bit lost. I saw your house, and thought that I could maybe get directions, But then I got stuck - "

Cale dashed to the bathroom at her cry of pain. He found her holding her wet hands together, her eyes were squeezed tightly shut as she wrung a couple of her tears from them. She sobbed once, as he grabbed them to rub them lightly, "I should have warned you not to try that, I've done it once myself."

Kate nodded, and gasped as he rubbed, "I know better than this myself. Oh, .... "

After a minute where her hands were only throbbing, she looked at him, "My name is Kate by the way, and thanks for all of this. What now?"

"The chair," he sighed as he pointed with a soft smile, "Back to the chair with you."

She hung her head to go along with the joke, "Yes sir..." and trundled off. Before she could sit again, he took her coat and hung it up

"Please Kate, I think you'll only need the blankets now. The stove will be hot enough in a minute to make you want to push your chair back pretty soon. Just take a break. I've got to split some wood for a minute. I can see we're going to use up a ton of what I've got stacked in the shed."

Kate nodded and looked down suddenly as she felt some weight on her feet. Rufus was there looking up at her. His tongue hung out a bit, and he looked friendly and obviously was. She just hoped her allergies didn't switch on now.

Kate watched as Cale closed the glass doors and walked toward a wood pile of sawn tree sections. He picked up a section and placed it standing on end on a large section of flat rock, and held a large steel wedge in one hand and the strangest heavy axe that she'd ever seen in the other as he appeared to be searching for, or reading something in the end of the wood. Satisfied, he placed the wedge and tapped it with the flat part at the back side of the axe.

With the wedge standing up, he hit it a few times as the wedge was driven through the wood. He repeated this process until he had a pile of broken wood on either side. One time, the wedge went clear through the wood with one impact and rang when it hit the rock below. She saw the spark from where she sat. Cale stopped to examine the thin end before shrugging and getting back to it. He stopped to remove his work jacket.

At this point, Kate realized with a shock that he hadn't even taken this off as he'd looked after her until now. She also noticed that his pants were wet along with his workboots. She shook her head. When he began again, he only used that axe now on what he'd already split, and the wood flew apart as he worked.

She'd never seen anything like it. One swing, or at most two, and the halves were sailing through the air and he was often reaching for the next piece before they'd come to rest. If they didn't come apart cleanly, he just pulled them the rest of the way apart with his hands and tossed the pieces down. His flannel work shirt steamed in the cold air of the shed. When he'd finished, she turned to stare at the flames in the stove, and then his name hit her at last.

This was the man who Sylvia had spoken of in the summer.

Wow, she thought, trying to picture the men who she worked with doing this. That would have been funny. Kate wondered what Cale looked like under that beard. It suited him, but she was just curious. She reached down carefully to pet Rufus, but found him licking her hand before she could get there. He returned her look with a happy, yellow, and almost rakish gaze.

Cale opened the door and brought in his coat to hang up next to hers on a hook. He went back out and began to stack the wood that he'd split, but brought in a large armful from elsewhere in the pile.

"I've never seen an axe like that before or how quickly you knocked that wood apart." she said.

Cale shrugged, "Just parlor tricks, if you know how. It's easier than bashing your brains out trying to get a few sticks to burn. That's not an axe, it's a splitting maul. I almost never use an axe to split wood unless it's like 25 below. The maul works by its weight and shape, it's more boat-shaped, and that forces the wood apart if you know how to see where the wood wants to be split. But when it's really cold, it works too well, and I've come close to putting a piece through that door there. Frozen wood splits easily with a regular axe then."

He looked at Rufus and remembered something, "Oh buddy! I'm sorry, come on, Rufe." He walked to the front door and opened it up as the dog bounded past him, stopping to see if he'd follow.

Cale shook his head, "No way I'm going out to play now. You just do your thing and come back quick, Rufus. And don't even think about looking up any of your girlfriends tonight."

The dog looked at him with his head tilted, but wearing what must pass for a wide grin.

"Yeah," Cale laughed, "Yeah, I'm on to you. You won't find any of them out there anyway. They're all hunkered down tonight. They've got way more sense than you. And no peeing on the porch, either!"

Rufus looked contrite and trotted off to return momentarily.

Cale handed Kate a dog biscuit, "Show him this and tell him to take it nicely, so you still have your hand afterward, though I'm kidding about that part. But just watch what he does with it when he gets it."

Kate did as he instructed, and the dog's eyes lit up. He almost pulled his lips back to gently take the biscuit before sinking slowly to the floor. Rufus looked at the biscuit for a few moments, and then actually began to carefully nibble it. Kate looked at Cale, "I've never seen a dog do that. He could eat that in one bite."

He smiled, "He could eat ten in one bite and they probably wouldn't even hit the sides on the way down. I didn't teach him that. I don't know where he was before, but he always appreciates any kind of treat if he gets one."

"What kind of dog is he?" Kate asked, remembering the grin on Rufus.

Cale shrugged as he shut the door, "He got his size and wiry coat from an Irish wolfhound for sure. The rest? Well, I've got a pretty good clue that it's the animal that they were originally bred to hunt. He showed up here when he was still a big puppy, obviously wild, but wanting my friendship. We get along pretty well, though if it were summer, he sure wouldn't want to be cooped up in here all day."

Kate smiled, "Places to go, girlfriends to do?"

Cale laughed a bit ruefully, "Something like that, I have no doubt."


Cale excused himself to change into dry clothes and came back wearing jeans and a T-shirt. Kate found herself trying not to be obvious about it, but he just drew her eye wherever he went. He seemed to be made of more flat planes and angles than curves. Cale saw her glance at him several times, and wondered if there was something that she'd like.

He felt more awkward than she did, he'd always been this way, but he didn't want her to feel uncomfortable. He knew he looked rough, and if they were in this situation, he was worried that she'd be frightened of him. He glanced at her things and figured that to a woman like her, he must seem like something out of a horror film – the crazed cabin killer or some such nonsense.

It was almost funny to Kate. He'd catch her looking at him, and would just raise his eyebrows a tiny amount as though he waited for her to ask for something; a blanket, a cup of tea or coffee, hot chocolate, something. Kate was no stranger to having men around her – it was that way all day long in her occupation. She'd never seen one like him though.

She wondered about that for a few moments. Then it hit her. The executives and office lizards in her arena of work spent a lot of time and money purporting to be the successful male. This one did nothing of the sort. He knew what he was and that was the end of it.

No advertising campaign needed. Then again, she thought, there was nobody looking other than her, but she did like what she was looking at.

"Good to get those wet pants off," he said, as he placed his boots near Kate's a bit away from the stove. He turned to catch her look again, and she looked down. She hoped that he didn't ask if she wanted something. She was damned if she knew herself, right this second, though she almost smiled as the thought came to her that if he offered another foot rub...

She pushed the thought aside as she noticed that he was quiet, and it came to her that this man was actually rather shy with her and had been forcing himself to speak.

Kate looked at him, "You were running around all of this time in wet pants on a day like this. Thank you for everything, but ... hey, wouldn't it be my turn to rub your feet now?"

He laughed, "My feet were only wet. Yours were something to worry about and not leave as they were. And no rubbing my feet. They were in those boots since before five this morning, and in work socks and insulated boots, that would probably constitute a biological hazard. Nice thought, though." he laughed.

Kate smirked evilly at him, "I might have really just wanted an excuse to see if you're ticklish, I'm not saying it's so, but..."

The wind moaned for a second and she looked out the window, "I don't think I've ever seen such a hostile day. I picked a good one to be stupid outside in."

Cale smiled back at her, obviously pleased that she seemed to be feeling better. He didn't know her from anybody, but he'd been a bit worried. On a night like this, the hospital seemed as though it was in another country, and would likely be full of road accident victims anyway.

Cale put the kettle on and got started with something hot. "It'll get rough out there later on, Kate. I've seen some nights when you couldn't see a foot in front of you because the wind just never lets up for a second.

As odd as it might sound, I kind of like those nights. They make me appreciate what I have. This place is well over a century old. Now, I don't know what the original builder was thinking, but the whole ground floor is made out of squared logs a foot thick. That means that they must have had a great supply of trees thicker than that. The second floor wood is eight inches square. The place might not withstand a nuclear strike, but for anything else, I'm pretty much set."

As they sipped, they looked out at the storm and the winter scene that was quickly disappearing in the evening gloom. "So where were you headed, Kate? Let's see if I can get you where you wanted to go."

"My cousin has a place near here someplace," she said, "I've only been there once, and that was last summer. Well, I hope it's around here someplace. Maybe I've missed by miles, I don't know."

"Well a name might help," Cale remarked dryly before smiling, "a name, an address, something more specific than 'my cousin'."

Kate shrugged, "It doesn't matter all that much, Cale. I didn't call beforehand, so it's not as though she's waiting by the front door worried to death. She's not expecting me."

They looked out as they heard a somewhat distant roar that was coming closer. After a few seconds, they saw the blue lights and the blowing white cloud that signaled the passing of a heavy road plow.

Cale exhaled, "I knew that I could count on that guy. I don't get how he figures it out, but damn near every time that I'm about to go someplace, he comes by and plows me in."

Indeed, Kate saw that there was now a good-sized wall blocking their access to the road that was perhaps nearly as tall as she stood.

She turned to Cale, "I'm stuck here now, aren't I?"

Cale sighed and nodded, "If I'd had a chance to clear the driveway before this, I'd say that you had a good chance before Pete the Plow Demon there showed up. But I'll have to plow out the drive to get to what he's donated just now. From what I see there, I'd be at it past midnight, but if you absolutely want or need to go, I'd do it. But it's still snowing, and the roads are still a mess, and your car is still stuck."

"And I don't really know where I'm going, either," she shrugged, "I can't recognize any of the things that I saw on the road last summer."

He looked at her, and she could see the sincerity on his face. "Kate, I don't know what I can say to you, but you're obviously very welcome to stay the night. I want to assure you that you're safe here. Well, maybe not from Rufus, since he seems to have taken a shine to you. I know I look like some crazy mountain man, but under this fine veneer of civility, I'm an electrician, which is close but not quite as bad."

He shrugged, "I might not be a man of letters, but I know a few," he said beginning to count off the fingers of one hand, "A is for apple pie, B is for Boston cream, C is for cake, D is for donuts, and like that."

"E," she said, "What about E? E for escargot?"

He shook his head, "Never had any, so it's not on my list. Elderberry pie is, though. And by the way, why would you tell me - a strange guy that you don't know from Adam - that your cousin isn't expecting you?"

Up until that moment, Kate wasn't really pleased at being unable to leave. First she felt nervous about it, before thinking that he didn't seem odd or anything. And he was obviously correct. She wasn't going anywhere, and she wouldn't ask the guy to work like a dog all night to get her on the road when there were no roads in any shape to get around on. The thought crossed her mind that her being able to leave had probably been a small contributing factor in her present "never have been" status.

It was a bit uncomfortable like this, but she found him to be quite likeable and even charming in a way, and he'd been kind to her so far. The thought of staying held a tiny promise to maybe be a bit of an adventure in her same-same life. He'd even pointed out what she'd missed, and he was right. She shouldn't have made the statement, so that made up her mind to stay if she could, and not even tell him her cousin's name.

In a moment that she really couldn't explain to herself, she decided to go with the adventure aspect. With Cale and his nutty dog, this felt a lot more like a snow-day at school.

She smiled at Cale, "Don't you dare try to get all of that done tonight. Look, you're sitting here with a possibly whackjob woman who showed up uninvited by getting stuck in your driveway and then wandering around frozen stiff. I'm thankful that you did what you did, and so far, I don't think you're strange. If you can be a gentleman, and you have a place where I can sleep alone, I'd be happy to stay - as though I really have much choice."

He smiled, "Ok, I think the best thing to do would be to set about making us some dinner. There are a couple of options, but for a night like this, and after what all we went through - and by the way, if you don't come down with a hell of a cold from that, I'd be amazed - I can think of only one proper meal that fits this circumstance in my own mind. It's what I like to eat on a night like this after dragging my half-dead body home from work through a blizzard. I just hope it suits your obviously sophisticated palette."

She laughed a little, "Obviously sophisticated?"

He shrugged, "Your coat on that peg there is worth at least a grand, and probably more like two grand. I don't even want to think about what those fine leather boots cost, and we have to find a safer place than the floor for them the way that Rufus keeps looking at them, and that's a maxed-out Cadillac CTS stuck out there in the snow, the first Caddy of any description to be in my driveway, stuck or not. So I'm obviously out of my league here, and wondering if my preference would be good enough."

She found herself liking him and adopted a sniffy high-class posture and tone, though he could see that she had trouble holding it, "That depends, serf. It all depends upon what it is that you're offering for me to pass my sophisticated judgment on. I'd have to be the one to judge, since that's all we rich snots do, after all."

She finished with a laugh at herself. "And hey, I might just be a rich bitch who's escaping from her boring banker husband for a wild weekend in the boonies."

He shook his head with a smirk as he pointed, "No ring, and no ring imprint where the huge diamond would normally be worn as a badge, and you're not wearing pearls. That type almost always wears pearls."

She thought for a moment, "Well then, I just might be a successful promoter out here scouting for talent."

He tilted his head, "Not alone, and not in that car. And the Porsche wouldn't have made it this far anyway."

"Well," she said, "How about if I were a woman who manages male strippers, and I'm still on the hunt for talent?"

Cale looked at her, liking the game, "That's possible, but really unlikely. You'd never have to leave either Toronto or Montreal to do that. The hopefuls would come to you."

He nodded, "I've seen the ads. Why did you mention that one?" He laughed, "Nice try, but I'm not looking for that kind of work."

Kate sat in quiet thought for a bit and then raised her finger hopefully. "A high-priced call girl, lost on the way?"

He looked down, shaking his head with a smile, "Now you're just trying to hurt me. And I have to tell you it's working."

Kate sighed, "Alright, I'll fess up. I happen to be the madam of a really, really exclusive and expensive brothel, and I've gotten stuck in the snow, and now I can't believe my luck at finding you, how's that?" she asked him with a smile.

His eyes got huge for a second, as they filled with love, "Then would you please marry me?"

They laughed at each other until she launched herself out of the chair to bowl him over where he sat on the floor. He looked up in amazement as Kate leaned on his shoulders with an evil slow smile on her face, "Ok then. I'm really a demonic vampire who's going to love you to death - your death, just to be open about it - while I suck every last drop of your sweet blood out of you." Kate had no idea why she'd done it, but it was a lot of fun, and her hands seemed tiny on his shoulders like this.

She felt herself shake from Cale's laughter, "Then you'd better get the order of that straight, succubus girl, Some parts of me need a lot of blood just to function for what you want."

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