(NOTE: I had mistakenly posted the rough draft of this part previously. Fixed now.)
The breeze was light, sun warm. Very nice day for this far north. Thomas leaned back against the post at the corner of the cabin, closed his eyes as his head spun with the memories of how he ended up somewhere near the coast of Finland, near a town they called Sauvo.
The whole world was falling apart, but not the same pace in every place. It was all a jumbled mixture of government edicts, hiding and clandestine meetings with Bibles, dogs barking in the night and travel. Then it was a long string of trucks, flat rail cars, woodland trails, wading through swampy river bottoms — it was all confused. The only good part was he had only himself to worry about. His wife and left him years before.
At some point Tom ended up on the East Coast in a bar full of fishermen and the like. He remembered distinctly singing Christmas carols as some sort of defiant act, and getting the patrons to join him in rousing choruses for which most could hardly remember the words. It was literally singing for his supper, but he was careful not to take all the offered drinks from the merry men.
He ended up on a cargo ship. Hardly capable of seaman duties, he worked in the kitchen, taught classes on anything he thought he knew better than the crew, and sang at dinner whenever they asked. Tom had been careful to sing songs he could get them to join in, because his voice was only passable. Aside from the singing, it was his ability to fix the battered old computers and some of the electronics on the ship which made them glad they had dragged him along. He never told them it was mostly intelligent guessing, recalling what he could from what had been a major hobby in his youth.
But the one thing which endeared him to the ship’s officers was his imposing size and dislike for getting drunk. A good bit bigger than average, Thomas had been a football lineman in school, and had stayed in decent shape through his adult years.
There were a few port calls, and too frequent trouble from a small portion of the crew, and Tom was always sent along to ride herd. They insisted on staying out way too late in Helsinki, then tricked Thomas into getting on the wrong bus. Instead of the port, he woke up in Sauvo. He didn’t even have a passport, and knew better than to request one at that point. US embassies had become forbidding places under the new regime back home. But he got directions back toward the coast. Maybe he could find a fisherman to take him out the ship, which wasn’t scheduled to leave for a week, yet. It was a long walk and he was nearly out of Euros.
There on some lonely road just outside a tiny village, as the sun was going down, he saw the skid marks leading off the pavement and into a shallow but steep sided draw. There was still patches of dirty white and snow banks here and there in the higher elevations. In the bottom the truck sat just short of some old gravel road, buried up to the tops of the tires in snow, a pool of half-melted white protected by the deep shadow of the draw. Where he stood at the edge of the road was just about even with the top of the freight trailer.
The Finnish chatter meant nothing to him, but it seemed no one was really interested in getting the rig out. Finally, he decided to ask in English if he could help, simply because it would help him pass the time and forget his own problems. Maybe he could get a meal or a ride out of it.
Near as he could make out, there was a general strike of some kind. Since there was no loss of life or serious injuries, there would be no emergency services. The only towing rig available was an old farm tractor, too small to handle a loaded truck and trailer. Apparently the load was a major supply run for the area. The driver was not involved in the strike, but the only other people around were mostly retirees and the like. This was vacation land, and still sparsely populated that time of year. Yet, even the unloading of a truck was covered by union contracts.
But Thomas wasn’t.
It took him a few minutes to hike around to the small gravel road down near the truck. He stashed his sea bag in the limbs of a nearby tree, then waded out to the back of the truck. After a bit of haggling with the truck driver to avoid outright payment for services, he opened the tailgate and proceeded to look over the freight. He knew his late-middle-aged muscles were going to hurt an awful lot tomorrow, but he had done plenty of such work in his youth. Eventually, between him and the truck driver, the freight was off and stacked on a tarp in the middle of the gravel road a few meters away. It was midnight, but the old man with the tractor had waited, watching in amusement the heavy work. Then it was time for the shovel work, making less abrupt the slope on the side of the gravel bank.
With a lot of careful maneuvering between the old tractor and the truck, eventually it was hauled out upon solid ground. By dawn, he was nearly dead, but the truck had been reloaded and was trundling slowly down the gravel road. Tort liability laws prevented him riding the truck, but it was going in the wrong direction for him, anyway. Only a small part of the load was coming off here in the village. The driver did leave him with a “donation” at least.
It was all he could do to keep from laying down in the snow under the tree where his bag was stashed. Tom had hardly pulled the bag all the way out when an old woman signaled him from the pavement above. She said in the odd lilting English of the Finns something that included the word “breakfast.”
That was all he really needed to understand.
Today I begin posting another fiction series.
On my other blog, I offered a spiritual discussion of where my stories come from. In short, they are sanitized versions of what comes out of my internal fantasy engine. I don’t much care about power and wealth, so my fantasies are typically about people and places, and things I simply wish I could do.
Light Switch takes a look at the process of internal operations of the soul.