Eben looked at the sky and then looked at his watch as if to confirm one of them had the correct time. Summer was coming to a close, the last days of August were throwing a dusky shadow over the valley below. The oaks and madrones on the valley floor were starting to drop a few leaves in anticipation of the annual change of seasons. “Still enough light to put in another hour’s work, might as well start on the finish trim in the master bedroom.” Eben directed his voice to no one in particular since there was no one to hear it. He examined two crosscut saws the selected the sharper of the two and picked up his finishing hammer and a box of nails. Out of habit he set the three items on a side table and then took his measure to the room in question and started to lay out the moulding. Eben enjoyed the challenge of measuring and then cutting the wood moulding so that there was little waste. He had an eye for fine detail and made each cut as perfectly as he could. Finally the light started to fail to the point where he could no longer sure of his measurements. Time to quit for the day.
He walked over to his camping trailer and poured water from a glass jug into a large basin. Then after removing his shirt began to lather up his hands in the basin and started to wash his arms, neck, face, and chest. Eben wet a towel with more water from the large demijohn and wiped the soap from his skin. “Time for a beer and a bite to eat.” He lit the camp stove burner and places a couple of very thick strips of bacon in the pan and cooked them to the preferred done state and set them on a plate. Dicing some potatoes, onions, and spinach Eben began to saute them in a gentle heat. When the mixture was done he placed it along side the bacon and turned off the burner. Then Eben retrieve a cold bottle of beer from the ice chest and opened it. Holding his plate of food and silverware in one hand and the beer in the other he sat in the old camp chair and faced the sunset, or what was left. The bright light has already faded to blue and the sounds from the forest increased in brightness and intensity as the nocturnal denizens started to stir. “Still have about another two weeks of work left. If it don’t rain I might gain a day or two and be gone just after Labor day. Pity, it comes late this year.” He took a few bits from his plate and then a sip of beer or two. The food was getting cold and the beer warm. Eben’s thoughts were somewhere in between. He finished his meal and washed the plate and silverware, really no more than knife and fork. Then Eben put everything into the storage bins he kept under his lean to next to the trailer. Finally he took another beer from the ice chest and sat back down in his chair. No clouds in the sky and the fog was still out to sea several miles. “Later tonight it will creep on cat’s feet through the forest and lay shimmering on the branches. The redwoods look a bit parched, should be able to drink their fill tonight.” The moon was on the rise and about to flood the clearing with its bright light before settling behind the ridge late tonight. Eben had spent the past three months building this house starting from the clearing of the few trees that had to be sacrificed for the building. Cement, stone, and mortar had gone to lay a foundation and a few of the walls, wood frame the rest. A few more sips of beer and he laid his head back against the trailer, thinking about nothing in particular.
“I wonder what happened to Joanne, never really knew her. Maybe if I had stayed longer. Maybe. No, it would never have worked out. Just can’t stand spending all my time just making money. And a waste of my love trying to make time with all the jaspers she was entertaining. No, it’s been almost ten years. I don’t think she would ever have been mine. No, not mine. I’ve got to have my freedom, that’s all.” He opened another bottle and took a sip. Closing his eyes Eben tried to picture her face and failed. All his dreams seemed to turn out the same way, year in and year out. He had run around with other but it always turned out the same way. Each face was a blurr like a car coming at you high speed, you blinked and it was gone. A Great Horned Owl could be heard in the distance, a silent hunter that could swoop down in an instant and pluck its victim from the comfort of safety. “Maybe that’s what love is like. Some Great Horned Owl waiting to swoop down and pluck your heart out, then fly home and feed it to the kids. Maybe.
“Beer is nice, beer is good,” he was thinking as he opened one more bottle. “It doesn’t fog your head like whiskey.”Eben’s thoughts moved toward the present and then to the future. “Yeah, maybe two more weeks. Money in the sock and time to head north. I should run up and see Paul in Bend. It’s been a while. See how married life is. Bet he’s a changed man, all locked up. What’s it been,Paul, two, maybe three years. Bet you can’t find the door anywhere, Paul. You and me, we had our freedom. Then it was gone. Well, for you, I’ve still got mine. Yes sir, I’ve still got mine.” Eben gathered up the empties and placed them in a trash barrel. “Yeah, two more weeks and I’m gonna put me on a highway, one more time.”