A Cabin with No Fireplace
Elton lived in a cabin with no fireplace. He still knew heat from the bars of his space heater and the scratchy blankets on his bed, and he still knew comfort from the overlarge sweaters he wore, but he just wasn’t so sure that any feelings of warmth came out truthfully from his heart.
In the woods surrounding the cabin lived the Pokatee. At night, Elton carved quacking ducks from bars of soap while he squinted out at the Pokatee’s blue-tinged campfires. During the day, when Elton glimpsed the Pokatee, they were slinking in among the trees in their costumes of wood and plaster and the amber lights of their eyes were all that showed of their faces and all that showed of the rest of the Pokatee was their enormous hands with just three fingers that looked coated in spider fur and flickered like snakes. It made Elton somewhat uncomfortable to be the only human living in the midst of what was obviously the part of the forest belonging to the Pokatee.
Elton never liked to think he even had any core of emotion, but sometimes broken ptarmigan would crash land in the woods surrounding the cabin and Elton would have to rescue the ptarmigan from the hunger of the Pokatee. As long as Elton walked out from his cold cabin with a fist-sized stone that he tossed in the air and caught one-handed the Pokatee would leave him alone. Elton would walk out and scoop up whatever stunned ptarmigan while the Pokatee, hidden behind nearby trees, made a ruckus sharpening their dinner knives.
But then the ptarmigan always half-flew, half-hopped away to unknown fates just a few nights from Elton taking them in, and Elton knew it was because the ptarmigan could eat seeds from the false-pewter bowl of seeds Elton put out for them and the ptarmigan could preen their feathers on the hewn legs of Elton’s one-and-only table but they could never ever warm their ruffs by sitting near the blank cabin wall.
“A good load of bricks,” said Elton, as he sat in the evenings and carved soap ducks and kept an eye on the Pokatee and mused on what he figured was the first step in getting the ptarmigan to stay.