In times like this, Marcus knew that talking and keeping people alert was one of the best ways to avert disaster. He went to talking her though the task at hand. Namely hypothermia and how to avoid it.
“There are four stages of hypothermia” he said as he wandered around and started gathering branches and sticks. “Mild, moderate and severe. mental confusion, shivering. This is the part where you feel cold.” He took out his steel and set it on a flat rock nearby so he’d be have it to hand.
“Ok-kkkay” said Jessica.
“Now, you’re past that, because you’re having trouble controlling your shivering. If you weren’t, I’d be less concerned. you’re probably a bit confused and your lips and ears are turning blue, which indicates at least moderate hypothermia.” Marcus dug through his pockets seeking something. He pulled it out. “Aha! wait, damn.” he said. That’s not what I wanted. Well, here, eat this.”
“A film canister?” She said confusion on her features.
“No, what’s inside it.”
“What is inside it?”
“Crushed potato chips mashed with dates”
“Calories kid. It’s an easy way to transport them. You need fuel to burn; speaking of which” he pulled out a film canister wrapped with several layers of duct tape.
“nope. Waterproof matches and kindling.”
“W-wwwere you a boy scout?”
“Nah, but I like the books.” Marcus started making a rat’s nest of the duct tape- first tearing it into small strips and then making it into a loose bundle. “I like the Civics lessons, but I never went in for the ‘God’ part of the whole ‘God and Country’ part of the scouts. Seemed silly to exclude all those Atheists, Buddhists and others who might want to go camping.” He struck a match and set it to the bundle, which now hung loosely underneath a pile of kindling on a flat rock. The smell was bitter and acrid. The burning plastic of GI Joes who’ve met a magnifying glass at noon on a summer’s day.
“Now, the stumbling and difficulty that you’re having moving might be because of the log that fell on your foot, but it might also be because you’re in wet clothes and nearing severe hypothermia. How long were you in the water?”
“A few minutes-s-s-s, I think.” Marcus blew the flames gently to give them life. They grew and Jessica found almost dove toward the small bit of heat.
“Careful there. Don’t knock it over. I’m going to add bits of wood. I need you to lean over and blow on the base of the flame. Think you can do that?”
“Y-y-yeah” she said. Good, giving the girl something to do would keep her occupied and might lessen the effects of shock. He got up to get the wood and brought it back.
“Not bad. You already figured out you have to coax the fire out of the wood. Lotta people try and blow like its birthday candles and cause no end of trouble.” Marcus placed the wood next to the fire and started adding some. Then he grabbed the blanket and his mittens from the ground and gave them to her.
“Alright, next step. You’re gonna strip down outta those wet clothes and wrap up in the blanket.” Jessica nodded dumbly. “Next, you’re gonna wear mittens on your feet and we’re gonna try to prevent frostbite from getting more than just a little bad. If something turns black, chances are, it’ll have to go.”
“O-okay.” She said.
“Now me, I’m going to keep myself occupied with the fire here, so you don’t have to worry about me sneaking a peek and remembering things I’m too old to be thinking about.” She actually guffawed. Marcus couldn’t remember the last time he’d heard a guffaw, and certainly not from a chit of a girl who had no business being this far out by herself, being chased by wolves. That was an oddity he’d explore if it seemed important when-
“Umm, Mr. Marcus…” She sounded worried.
“Just Marcus, no Mister. What’s wrong Jessica?”
“I can’t get my boot off.” Of course not. Why would he think it would be otherwise?
“What’s wrong?” He asked.
“I think it’s t-t-too s-s-swollen.” She said. Marcus moved to the boot, took it in his hands and cut the laces and the tongue with the multitool he kept on his belt.
“Hey! Those were expensive boots!” She said. Anger pushing the shiver out of her voice.
“Yeah? They worth more than your foot?” She mumbled something. “Didn’t think so. Listen girlie, so far I’ve been kind to you. Don’t take that kindness as weakness. When I want to know how to get lost and nearly kill myself of hypothermia and a broken ankle, I’ll ask you. Until then, you’re in my woods, so you’ll do as I say and you might just get out of here in one piece with only minor extremities lost.” She winced and made a controlled exhalation, as he pulled off the boot. To her credit, she didn’t whimper or cry of fuss too much once it was off and she got to the business of removing her frozen, soaking clothes.
Marcus busied himself with the fire until it was a roaring blaze.