For whatever reason the snow didn’t want to come this winter. Light skiffs would fall and almost as quickly as they had fell, they would blow away. The temperature however didn’t seem to want to warm up from above minus 30. It didn’t mind dipping below that, my feet permanently frozen for this month and the next.
Wolves didn’t howl around the cabin this year, I didn’t hear the elk calling either. It was as if we were frozen (pun intended) in time. For the month of December I was given more freedom to head off and skid by myself, decking for myself now. I really enjoyed this. At the time it gave me the extra head space I needed to let my mind wander while pulling trees to the road. I watched my decks grow and compared them to Dangles. His were uniform and tall, “Take pride in your decks.” How many times had he said that. He would run his decks until he couldn’t do it without coming straight down anymore, he was fearless. I ran mine a bit but preferred to deck with my blade and grapple.
I loved the Tigercat for this. It is such a great piece of equipment. This would be the last few days that we would work together for the season. He went off to load logging trucks, while I stayed skidding and decking. At first, I was happy to not hear his voice anymore. Then, very quickly.. I missed him deeply. His voice never went away anyways, even to this day I still hear, “Work with structure, Don’t cross your tops, Fill your mitt (grapple)” etc. Though the weather was bitter, the scenery was stunning. Each new piece of a block had sun dogs pointing up to the sky. Slave showed me pictures he had taken at home, where the same thing was happening.
The puppies were getting bigger, learning to walk and opening their eyes. Slave thought I was a cruel human for making the decision to give the puppies away at four weeks old. He was adamant that we keep them until they were eight weeks old. My main concern was Yus, and I could see her fading. Any moment she had out of supervision she would attempt to kill them. She was not doing well. He was still up when I left for work in the mornings at this point. I would come downstairs to find him chain-smoking and drinking wine outside on the deck, glaring us down as me and the new guy backed out of the driveway. “What’s his problem?” he would ask,
I didn’t have words.
Finally, I had had enough.
Slave was vaguely talking about leaving to a new workaway host but wasn’t doing anything about it. Still convinced he needed a car and job first. He also knew about my plans to spend Christmas in Quesnel and wanted to spend Christmas with me and my family. This resonated in my head and made me feel sick. I didn’t want him there. I texted Dangles that the puppies needed to go. He met me halfway to the cabin and he was so, so happy. He named his puppy Piper. He screamed (with joy) and told me he missed me, and headed back to town with his tiny four week old pup. I texted everyone that had asked for a puppy and told them they needed to go, that I needed to get them away from their mom. Some people backed out last minute, which was okay. Even just having less then the original nine seemed to be helping. Yus was starting to really take a dive and she didn’t mind if Finley was around them anymore. Finley took his job as Uncle very seriously. He loved them and was absolutely fascinated with them.
Christmas was creeping closer and closer, and I was done.
I told Slave to pack his shit one day and that I couldn’t spend one more day with him watching and glaring, judging and sleeping in my bed, waking me every half hour to tell me I was snoring. I didn’t fucking care anymore. I didn’t care that he didn’t have a place to go. He was a grown man, he could figure it out. I didn’t care anymore. He made me feel as if this was all my fault, that he wasn’t glaring he was simply watching, how could I be doing this to him right before Christmas, what kind of person was I?
Not a Christmasist that’s for damn sure.
What about the dogs? who would take care of them? Keep the cabin warm? Didn’t I have more projects for him?
Even though his bags were packed at the door, I felt like mine were the ones that were packed for that guilt trip.
I drove him to a mutual friends and gave him one last forced hug and left. He looked like he was going to cry. I didn’t give a fuck. I was going to sleep in my own bed alone tonight. I was going to sleep. I wasn’t going to be woken up for talking, screaming or snoring. I wasn’t going to be watched anymore. I wasn’t going to be sharing my home with someone that seemed to be bent on putting me down lower, and lower.
Left alone with our mutual friend, he confessed to her that he wasn’t sure what he had done wrong.
I drove home alone, with my “shit music” blaring.
Later he would continue to text me, quoting lyrics of my “awful, shit music” turning me off to it from then on and in search of new.
I lay in my bed alone with the fire crackling and the last remaining puppies whimpering downstairs for their unresponsive mama. I didn’t feel the freedom I expected to. I felt him there, next to me in my bed watching me, downstairs at the table I felt him, there watching me. On the deck. I tried to think hard about the last time I felt comfortable with another persons touch, a hug, a brush of arms. I felt sick with myself. I absolutely hated myself and what the cabin had become. I had a hard time learning how to sleep without waking up through it.
Soon enough the last bit before Christmas was over and It was Christmas Eve.
I borrowed a truck from work (I didn’t trust my truck at this point, it needed love) and loaded the last two puppies, a very thin, frail Yus and a fat and sassy Finley. I drove straight to the vet. Yus came in weighing just over forty pounds (for reference, as I write this she is healthy, normal and weighs just over sixty pounds). She had an infection, intestinal and vaginal (devils in the details, friends) and she had a parasite from eating her favorite delicacy. Live mice. I had “de-wormed” her many times before with store bought stuff, but there’s apparently a kind of parasite that only mice carry, that those store bought brands didn’t cover. The vet agreed with me that it was best to be getting the puppies away from her, and that the puppies were very healthy and he agreed with my decision of letting them go to their forever homes at only four weeks old. He said if I had waited another week we would be talking about putting Yus down.
I was in between Prince George and Quesnel when I started to feel really annoyed with Finley. He was leaning against me squishing me to the drivers side door and I kept asking him to move, of in which he ignored. Finally I went to push him.
And he attacked me.
I pulled over in complete shock. He had done this in the past, the same thing, out of the blue, but never while driving. Before I had shrugged it off that, he was a dominant dog, or it was because he was young, or before he was fixed, because he wasn’t fixed, because of his accident.
It was him.
It was something in him.
He moved away from me and sat on his own for the rest of the drive and I tried hard to process what had just happened. Not Finley, he was a good dog. He wouldn’t do that. I pushed down feelings of wanting to abandon him on the side of the road. I couldn’t believe he would do that after all I had done for him, especially after his accident. Both Layla and I had literally carried him in and out of the house, up and down the stairs, cleaned his wounds, nursed him back to health.
I got to Quesnel and checked my phone and saw that a couple in Prince George wanted the last two puppies. I left Finley with my Mom and drove back to Prince George to bring the puppies to their new owners. They were really nice people and seeing the last two puppies go to them felt good. I met up with my Dad and we went for “Christmas Dinner”, at the White Spot. He seemed happy to see me but was really worried about Yus. Her tiny frame, heavy nursing chest and sunken eyes were a sore sight to see. He showed off his new apartment to me and I told him to open my Christmas present to him. Dog paraphernalia (he loves dogs, like me) and the nice things I thought a fellow logger might like to have. Fresh socks, pajamas, lottery tickets, books, gift certificates etc.
Yus and I left his place and headed back to Quesnel – I smirked at the idea of if German Slave had come along for this. He would have hated all this “senseless driving” and “shit radio”. I listened to Christmas music on the radio and talk shows. It didn’t feel like Christmas and it hasn’t for a long time, I felt good though. I let Yus rest her head in my lap while I drove.
I tried to watch a movie with my Mom but I felt myself nodding off. I brought in my things from the truck, unwrapped Christmas gifts, yarn, books, laundry (taking full advantage of electricity for a few days) and went to bed. I couldn’t wait to have a real sleep, Thank God Slave was not here.
That, was my Christmas gift to myself.
I woke up at 4:30 in the morning and felt like I was hit by a train. Finley limped heavily up to the side of my bed and putting his big face in mine, almost to say he was sorry for attacking me and almost to say, “Hey get up, it’s Christmas.” I couldn’t fall asleep again so I went to the kitchen and drank cup after cup of coffee.
Oh yea, Christmas.
It took me a long time to move, to shower, to try and take care of myself. I finally got those presents wrapped, minutes before they would be opened anyways. It felt weird to not have Layla with me. It was nice to not have puppies underfoot for what felt like the first time in a long time. Family remembers remarked how scary and unwell Yus looked. She had started her first day of antibiotics Christmas morning and I could see a faint light come back in her eyes but others only saw her rib-cage and gaunt eyes.
We had Christmas dinner and all I could feel were the grips of exhaustion, only just beginning to tighten their hold on me. Still, I wanted to watch some movies (the only time of the year I do), do some laundry, knit.. write.
I knit part of a hat, watched three movies, and went to bed.
I packed up my things, my gifts, some food and drove home with Yus & Finley. With the added space of not having two puppies with us they seemed to share the space better and slept most of the way home. I caught hold of a radio special about .. love. The long drive home felt like a half hour had passed. The beauty of talk radio. I returned the work truck and drove home to the cabin. I suddenly saw the cabin with new eyes. The plastic on the walls, the dust, the dirty dishes, dirty floor, stove and couch. It smelled like stale smoke (I had quit smoking a week earlier) and for some reason rotting onions. I smelled the rotting onion smell on Slave before he left, so I imagined that was him I was smelling. Suddenly I hated it so much. I vowed to change everything, everything he had looked at or touched. I put the dogs outside and pushed my bed off of the loft. I slept the next couple of days downstairs with the dogs before bringing the mattress and boxspring to the dump. I let the dogs destroy it first for added extra extra. I slept either on the floor or the couch for the next month. Everything that was upstairs got fired off of the loft and I washed the floor until my hands were raw. He was still there. I could feel him there, hear him there. I stained the floor upstairs and polyurethaned it. I washed everything. I brought the couch, too, to the dump. That helped significantly. He couldn’t be on the couch glaring at me if there wasn’t a couch.
I burned candles, the ones he didn’t like and burned incense.
On New Years Eve, I slept.