The air outside was very cool. The weatherman announced that it was twenty degrees Fahrenheit. A week ago, the temperature had been in the sixties at midnight. The world outside had definitely taken on a different look. Several inches of fluffy white snow covered the ground. The trees were bare; the last of the holdouts having lost their leaves during the previous week. The sky was a neutral gray and the sun was preparing for one final hurrah before it would begin to sink in the west.
As I headed for the door, I stopped and studied a robin that had hopped into the rain gutter. Another one joined him, and together they proceeded to sip the melting snow as it dripped from the edges of the roof. Very resourceful of them, I thought, as I headed out into the chilly weather waiting to greet me.
I walked over to a pile of leaves that I had forgotten to gather several days before. From all the traffic around the area, it was easy to tell that the deer had found the pile inviting and had been using it as a bedding ground during the cold fall nights. They would need to find another place to sleep, I said to myself. I brushed off the snow, collected the leaves, and then placed them into a container.
The pond was frozen except for a small area about 20 feet long and about six feet wide. I heard a splash as the muskrat dove into the deeper water. I guess I must have caught him by surprise. He would soon be unable to keep the water open, as the temperature was due to drop into the teens.
After I had rolled up my hose and completed several other chores, I grabbed a chair and sat down to study my surroundings. The full moon had begun to rise in the east and I noticed how wintery the sky looked through the tall naked trees. Their luxurious covering of leaves were now gone and they were exposed as only barren reminders of their former splendor.
A rabbit hopped out of some brush and headed my way. He evidently didn't see me, as I was sitting very still. He stopped by the area where I had raked up the leaves. The ground was now bare, supplying the critter with a small supply of greens.
The wind was cold on my cheeks. I watched the clouds of warm vapor that were being expelled by each breath that I exhaled. It was indeed cold, but it was also beautiful. I sat an enjoyed the quiet that surrounded me. I found it to be very refreshing.
As the darkness overtook me, I headed for the house. The yellow light being given off through the windows looked very inviting. I guessed that Dawn was busy in the kitchen getting something ready for dinner. I was hungry. It had been a long day.
As I opened the door, the warm air and incredible smells hit me full in the face. I couldn't quite guess what was baking in the oven, but it smelled great. I kicked off my boots and hung up my jacket. Then I proceeded to walk down the hall.
"Is that you honey?" a beautiful voice rang out.
"Yup, it's me," I replied.
"I'm taking a bath. Would you mind coming in here and washing my back?"
Now, that was a silly question if I have ever heard one. "I'll be right there," I replied as I slipped off my long sleeved shirt so that I wouldn't get it wet.
I opened the door to a scene that every man cherishes. There was my beautiful wife, sitting in the tub, with a few fluffy bubbles placed in strategic places. "The things you make me do," I grumbled, as I grabbed the cloth and began washing her back.
"Did you see anything interesting while you were outside," my wife purred.
I told her about the various critters I had spotted.
"I'm so glad that we moved out here, away from the city," Dawn stated. "Every day we learn or see something new. I never realized how interesting every day can be. Today, while I was in the kitchen, I bet fifteen seconds didn't pass before a bird flew past the window."
I gently washed her back and marveled at the beauty of it as the water flowed over her skin. I loved the way it tapered as her lower back joined with her hips. I carefully washed her neck as she held her hair up and out of the way.
"What a beautiful neck you have," I said softly into her ear.
"You men!" she replied. "It's only a neck."
"I think I had better wash your front. It looks like it could use a good washing."
"What do you mean by that?" Dawn giggled as she rested back on her arms, exposing her luscious chest.
I decided to lay down the wash cloth and instead ran my soap covered hand over her breasts. Dawn leaned back and seemed to savor the special treatment she was getting.
"How come you have that huge smile on your face?" she asked, a little twinkle appearing in her eye.
"Right now, I'm a very happy man," I replied, as I continued to do my duty. I could feel a very intense desire starting to take root in my being.
"Are there any other areas that need washing?" I asked. Of course I had a specific area in mind.
"Would you be so kind as to get the bottom of my feet," she cooed.
"If I must," I replied.
I was a little disappointed, as that had not been the area that I had in mind. However, it afforded me an opportunity to gently wash and caress her beautiful feet. I slowly washed and rinsed between her toes, gently cradling each foot in the process. Just as I was about to proceed further, the phone rang.
"Could you get that?" Dawn sweetly smiled as she spoke.
"Don't go anywhere!" I stated, as I rose to grab the phone.
It turned out to be my best buddy asking if he could borrow a chainsaw. I learned that his saw had developed a problem in the gas line and he didn't have the time to figure it out.
As I ended the call, I saw Dawn walk to the bedroom with a towel wrapped around her waist. She glanced my way, and then lowered the towel as she walked into the bedroom to dress.
What a lucky man I am, I thought, trying to lock that vision in my mind. I remembered the stories of various friends who were constantly complaining that their wives never teased or flirted with them anymore.
Several minutes later, the bedroom door opened and Dawn headed for the kitchen wearing tight blue jeans and a plaid cotton shirt.
"Dinner will be ready in just a minute. Wipe that grin off your face and go wash up," she commanded.
I did as I was told and then returned to the kitchen and helped to put the plates and utensils on the table. Dawn had made a wonderful salad using some of the last of our garden vegetables. The bread had been freshly made that day and it was accompanied by bread and butter pickles.
Dawn had marinated some of last year's venison and then fried it, smothering it with onions and green peppers. It was a delicious meal and I complemented the cook by giving her a gentle shoulder rub.
"After you rest your stomach, why don't you go out and get the tree," Dawn asked. "I seem to be getting in the Christmas spirit and feel like doing some decorating. I'll have some warm cookies and cocoa waiting for you when you get home."
"What if I get eaten by a bear?" I jokingly replied. "You never know what kind of creature might be lurking in the woods. Why just the other day, I saw some scratch marks on one of the trees."
"That will be the first time you have ever been afraid of going out in the woods," Dawn replied. "Just take your Bowie knife along and I'll cook him for dinner tomorrow night."
I smiled to myself as I watched the news and glanced through some magazine articles. I'm so fortunate, I remember thinking, as my eyelids grew heavy and I felt myself begin to doze off. I heard a honk outside and knew it was just Tim letting me know he had picked up the chainsaw. Later on in the evening, I'd have to show Dawn just how appreciative I was.
I must have rested for about twenty minutes before my eyes opened once again. I clicked off the game show which had come on, and headed for the closet to get my winter gear. I passed Dawn in the kitchen and gave her a big hug.
"Pick out a tall one that is not too wide," were her instructions. "And check to make sure there aren't any animals living in it like last year," she laughed.
I grabbed my saw and headed out the door. The brisk cool air felt refreshing against my face. The full moon was now higher in the sky. I noticed some sparkles on the ground as the moonlight struck the snow crystals at just the right angle. It would be a great night for a walk in the woods, I remembered thinking. I'd take any excuse to take a walk in the moonlight.
I headed across a field and spotted a deer leaping into the trees. I marveled at the way that the light played across the area before me. I passed a creek that had not completely frozen solid. I watched with interest as the water flowed under the clear panes of glass- like ice.
I headed for a neighbors field who sold trees to the city folk. I had a standing agreement that allowed me to take a tree and then pay him the next time I saw him. The only stipulation was that I could not cut a tree that was marked by a ribbon. I guess some folks liked to come out during the summer and find their tree. Then they would mark the spot on the GPS so that they could find it later.
On one of my other hikes, I had found the perfect tree. Fortunately, it was in a location where I was sure no one else would look. I figured it wouldn't take me much longer to find the tree, cut it down, and then begin the process of lugging it back to the house.
My walk took me through a thick stand of pines that had become too large to cut. The moonlight was unable to pierce through the thick branches and I reached in my pocket for my flashlight. I suddenly remembered placing it on the shelf while I put on my gloves. "I'll just have to do the best that I can," I said out loud, as I carefully made my way through the trees. I knew that it would only be a few more minutes before I would once again be able to see by the bright light of the moon.
Suddenly, I stopped. A large dark object was positioned in the path directly in front of me. For a moment ... I froze. I remember being not quite sure as to my next move. Initially, I didn't really know what the object might be.
I felt a sharp pain in my shoulder as the creature's claw tore through my jacket. I felt blood begin to flow from the open wound. I tried to turn, but the creature came at me again. I felt more pain as the monster took my forearm in its mouth as I tried to protect my face.
A million thoughts ran through my head. Is this really happening? Is this how it will all end? What will happen to Dawn? Will I live to see Christmas? Why was this bear attacking me? I had encountered bears in the woods before. Each time, we had always gone our separate ways without any incident.
The pain was incredible. I tried my best to block it out so that I could attempt to think of some way to make an escape.
The huge beast took my head in its jaws and began gnawing on my skull. I could hear the teeth scraping against the plate of bones. What is that terrible sound, I remember thinking? Being in my head only amplified the sound. Along with the sickening sound, I also felt sharp pains. When I realized it was my own head; I almost passed out.
A quiet voice told me to go limp.
"It will just make me more vulnerable", I remember thinking.
"It's the only way", the voice replied.
Having no other plan, I allowed my body to go limp and managed to curl myself up into the fetal position. I felt the bear take my leg in its mouth. With the utmost determination, I resisted the urge to yell out. The pain was unbearable.
The bear batted me back and forth for a while and then amazingly let me go. I could still feel his warm breath and knew that he was near. It took every ounce of will power that I could muster to refrain from screaming out because of the pain.
I thought I heard the bear move away, but I couldn't chance taking a look. I stayed in my position for a long time. Despite the overwhelming pain, I began to feel very tired. Instinctively, I knew that if I dozed off, my life would be over. No one would find me in this thick stand of trees for a very long time. Snow had begun to fall and my tracks would soon be covered.
After what seemed like ages, I decided to take a look around. Wiping away the blood that was running down my face, I failed to see any sign of the bear. I slowly got up and looked around, once again scanning my surroundings for any indication that the creature was still present. Despite the darkness under the pines, I failed to see anything that might be the bear. My leg started to wobble and I almost fell. I soon realized I would need to find a stick to lean on, if I was going to attempt to walk.
I decided to head for the dirt road that was about a quarter mile away. If I could make that, I might have a chance. It's amazing what the human body is able to endure. Sure, I was in fairly good shape, but my life giving blood was oozing out of my open wounds. I slowly and painfully began inching my way toward the road.
The pain was unlike anything I had experienced before. The only thing that kept me going was the image of my lovely wife. I wanted to experience being in her arms once again. I begin to feel a coolness taking over my body. I continued on in a blur of pure determination. The last thing I remember is feeling a hard surface under my boot. After that, everything went black.
When I awoke, I was in an ambulance and on the way to the hospital. The paramedics had removed my blood stained outer clothes and were examining my multiple injuries. The fact that it was cold out may have helped, as some of the blood had frozen.
One of the attendants noticed that I was awake. "What attacked you?" he asked.
I mumbled that it was a bear. I saw him look up with surprise and glance toward the driver.
"Well, it appears that you were very lucky. There are multiple puncture wounds, but it looks like the main arteries escaped injury. I think your heavy clothes may have helped to protect your body. We're almost at the hospital and you wife is on the way."
Dawn, my sweet Dawn; I wondered what she was thinking. I thought of our conversation just a few hours before. Now here I was, covered in blood and full of holes. There were so many questions and thoughts running through my head. I didn't have much time to think. I felt a cloud enveloping me and I drifted off once again.
The next time I came to, I was in the hospital. Everything looked so clean and white. I felt a soft hand touch my face and turned to see Dawn standing by the side of the bed.
"Hi baby," she said. I could see the tears in her eyes.
"I didn't get the tree," was my response.
That opened up the floodgates as the tears mingled with the laughter.
"I love you, honey," was all she could muster.