Marcus approached the truck and found Amos and Jessica chatting away inside. He smiled. Amos wasn’t a bad sort, and his talkative nature would help make the ride go more quickly (for Jessica at least). Seeing them getting along made Marcus decide to invite Amos to keep the girl company. He took off his snow shoes, slid them behind the bench seat and got into the driver’s side of the truck.
Then he passed Jessica a small wet lump.
“Your clothes,” he said by way of explanation.
“Oh yeah, thanks! That’ll probably make things easier after I’m done at the hospital.”
“Amos, you want to drop your Snowmobile over at my place?”
“Yeah, sure Marcus.” He got out of the truck and went over to it. “See you later!” Amos was practically wagging like a golden retriever. Then he paused. “Say, why don’t I just take my truck and meet you in town?”
Marcus sighed, but it was no surprise really. When had he ever invited Amos (or anyone really) to help him or join in anything? Well, not in the last 50 years, and it doesn’t really count when it’s your own son. He’d worked with people sure, told them what to do, commanded them and told them what they were going to do, and it had worked. But when had he last asked, requested, or invited someone to join him.
Hell, even at the Ely steam, he just nodded and moved aside to let someone in. He’d have to think about that. After all, there’s no reason to be unkind, when kindness will serve just as well.
“Let’s just meet at your place Amos. It’s on the way to town and I’m sure we could use your company.”
Amos swelled. “you got it! you won’t have to worry. I’ll be right behind you. Okay! Well….” Marcus rolled up the window as the man outside nearing retirement dithered in excitement.
Oh right, that was why. I mean, there’s not being unkind and then there’s inviting this sort of foolishness. He grunted slightly in what might have been a laugh. A few yards down the road, Jessica spoke.
“You don’t really like him, do you?”
“Him? He’s alright. He just,”
“Talks a lot.” she finished.
Marcus nodded. He knew she could see him.
“My dad’s like you.”
“I doubt that.” he said with a half-smile.
“Never has a word kind or unkind for anyone, but when there’s trouble people bless their lucky stars that he’s around.”
“He tries to be all stern and stone, like he’s trying to be The Man With No Name. But underneath it all, he’s a good guy.”
“Thank you, by the way,” she said. “It really was stupid of me.”
“Yes. It was.” he said and did not ask about the wolves. The truck pulled up to the driveway and just afterward, Amos pulled up. Apparently being deprived of an audience hadn’t affected him, and he seemed to have been monologuing on the snowmobile. Jesus the man would talk when no one listened.
“I don’t want to be rude,” Jessica said, “but is there any way we could have him not come with?”
Marcus was surprised for a second.
“I just need some time to think and some quiet to do it in. Oh, is that rude of me?”
“You think I’m gonna argue?”
“Great can you… …oh, you mean I have to tell him.”
“Hey, you’re old enough to get chased by wolves into a ravine, you’re old enough to tell the nice man who helped rescue you that you want him to go away.”
“You’ll get no argument from me mind, but he did make it possible for you to get back to the road and I wasn’t exactly sure how I’d get you back to the truck before hypothermia set in. Again.”
she inhaled through her teeth. “Okay.”
“Besides, the man works for the city in the permit office, making sure people fill out paperwork properly. This is probably the most exciting thing that’s ever happened to him. He is a hero after all.”
“What? But you…”
“Did what needed to be done. Same as him.” Damn my overinflated sense of fairness. Outside the truck, Amos’s face was starting to go from smiles to concern.”
She opened the door. “Hi Amos!” she smiled brightly, “Thanks for rescuing me. I don’t know what I would have done if you two hadn’t come by.”
Amos’s big round face reminded him of the Parsee man in the Just-So story about the Rhinoceros and the currant cake. “…and he smiled one smile that ran all round his face two times.” In the book of course, it had be an ominous portent, but Amos was smiling a smile as bright as the sun who shone in “more-than-Oriental-splendour.” Hmm… I should re-read Kipling, Marcus thought as they drove on to the Hospital to find treatment for the girl.
Meeting Jessica had been thirty years ago and Marcus still remembered her whenever he read Call of the Wild. She had grown up and gone off to have kids of her own. She even visited during the summers for several years, the gap between each a visit longer than the last. Eventually he’d learned that the wolves chasing her on her snowmobile- that’s right. She’d been on a snowmobile not snowshoes- the wolves chasing her on the snowmobile had been a group of local teens who’d fancied themselves tough.
Later Marcus found out that one of the boys had been the one to alert Amos that the girl had fallen off the ridge. He’d had a crush on her, but didn’t have the status to openly stand against his friends. When Jessica fell, they’d all scattered and marcus even managed to track them down because of the paint from their rides one or two had left on the trees in their haste to leave.
Jessica and the boy (Thomas, was it?) had been seen together in town for awhile, but eventually it was clear that his bravery had been temporary and she had no desire to be saddled with a man who couldn’t hold his own and stand up for what is right except in extreme circumstances.
It was good, Marcus thought. That girl had been pretty brave, and had gone on to do good things. Even working as a Wilderness First Responder for awhile during college. She saved several people during that time and whenever the writers at the local paper got wind of it they printed an article.
Marcus kept every one in a binder, though he never showed any outward sign he was aware of her work when she visited.
Eventually Jessica went and moved to the city, where she did something laudable with bringing city kids out to the wilderness to show them the stars or something.
Of course, he never thought about it in these terms, but there were a good number of people who wouldn’t be alive today if he hadn’t been there to save the girl.
These were the types of stories and rumors that circulated around the Iron Range about Marcus, the last of the old-time trappers. A guardian of the woods who appeared in town for supplies every few weeks in the guise of a grumpy loner.
These stories were the real reason that the Journalist had sought him out. It was a good story. A man who did what needed to be done and didn’t much think about the consequences; a man didn’t ask for a reward, or attention and had mostly gotten what he’d asked for.
Such a shame, thought Janet. Everyone should get to know the effect they have on people. She paused outside the door of the house and was about to knock, when she saw the curtains twitch and the door opened to reveal a man of about 75 or 85 who was all smiles and joviality, and whom retirement seemed to have agreed with.