“I’m starving.” Karen groaned.
“I know but I think we’re almost there. Unless you want me to find you some slow food.” Brett said.
“Yeah you know, bugs, plants and stuff.”
“Uh, I’m not that hungry.”
“Yet.” Brett mumbled.
“I just realized, is there going to be food at the cabin? Ours was in the backpack that took a swim.” Karen asked.
“That’s a good question and we are about to find out. There’s the cabin.” Brett pointed through the trees.
“Finally, I just want a sandwich and a nap.”
“Let’s stop for a second to see if anyone is already here.” Brett said as he motioned toward a spot in the trees.
The couple stepped off the trail and looked for any signs of activity at the mid-century log cabin. The morning was quiet, and the early sunlight beamed hazily through the tall pines towering over the small cabin. After a few moments of tranquility, the mellow sounds of nature were broken when a rooster called out in the distance.
“Was that a chicken?” Karen asked.
“Sounded like lunch to me, but yes, it was.” Brett snarked.
“Why would there be a chicken out here?”
“Maybe there’s another cabin over there, or maybe it’s just wandering. They are technically a jungle bird.” Brett shrugged, “But that’s good to know. I remember hearing an old story from medieval times where invading armies were looking for food for the hungry soldiers. They would raid villages and demand all the livestock, but the villagers would hide the animals in the forest and claim to have none. The soldiers learned to carry a rooster on patrols to catch the villagers in the lie.” Brett answered.
“How would carrying a chicken catch someone telling a lie?” Karen asked.
“Easy, they would walk around the forest near the village squeezing the chicken and it would squawk. The chickens hidden in the woods would answer back and reveal their location to the patrol.”
“I bet that didn’t work out so well for the poor villagers.” Karen replied.
“Probably not… I don’t see anyone moving around at the cabin, let’s get closer.” Brett suggested.
The couple moved cautiously toward the log structure using trees as concealment until they found the edge of the wooden porch.
“Shhh…” Brett held his finger over his lips as he peered into the first window.
“What do you see?” Karen breathed into his ear, trying to see over his shoulder.
“It’s dark but I don’t think anyone is here. I’m going to try the door.”
The spring on the old screen door creaked as he reached inside for the rusty knob.
“It’s locked, let’s try the back.” He whispered.
The pair snuck around the corner of the cabin toward the back door when Brett startled.
“Wait!” He pushed Karen back. “The door is open.”
Karen was breathing heavy again. “Careful.”
Just as they reached the opening and looked in, a large black mass came crashing out of the doorway in a storm of kitchen debris.
“Bear!” Brett yelled as he ran back around the house roughly dragging Karen for at least the third time in the last two days as she screamed in terror.
“Where is it?! Where is it?!” She yelled as she frantically searched, her gaze darting all around the cabin.
It took a moment for him to answer. “I think we scared it away.” Brett huffed as he looked everywhere at once.
“I think you got that backwards.” She said, trying to calm her adrenaline.
“Let’s go see if there’s anything left inside.” Brett said, trying to regain his composure.
“Ok, tell you what, why don’t YOU go ahead and let me know when it’s clear.”
A minute later Brett looked out the door and waved her in. “It’s all good, c’mon in.”
As she made her way through the doorway, she finally noticed the deep claw marks where the bear had broken the door open. Her eyes followed the trail of debris that used to be a neat and orderly country kitchen.
“Wow, what a mess. Did the bear do all of this?” She asked.
“Looks that way. There’s nothing left to eat.” Brett replied as he searched the open refrigerator.
Karen’s whole demeanor changed from hopeful to despondent. “Now what are we going to do?”
Brett gave up on the search for anything edible. In the distance, he heard the rooster again.
Karen noticed a new look of determination in his eyes. “What?” She said.
“I think it’s time to go check on that chicken.”
“Do you think whoever owns it will share some food with us?”
“We have to eat.” He said with a shrug. It was all he could think to offer her in that moment.
After a quick search of the cabin for anything to possibly barter (or fight) with, they struck off into the woods with a pointy walking stick and an old kitchen knife they had found in the mess.
“I was hoping we could find something to offer in trade, not an immediate confrontation. This doesn’t feel right.” Karen said.
“This is where we are right now. Maybe we can just ask neighborly-like and they’ll help us out.”
Even Brett didn’t believe in his own words, but he was trying to put on a brave face.
As the couple made their way through the woods towards the occasional crowing of the rooster, they soon began to hear the clucking of hens.
“Wait, there’s a fence and some animal pens.” Brett said as he squatted down.
“Are those rabbits over there on the left?” Karen whispered.
Brett took his eyes off the dilapidated mobile home and followed Karen’s pointer across the yard of garbage that ranged from old tires to a strange pile of rusty appliances.
“Killer rabbits, runaway!” Brett joked.
Karen looked at him quizzically.
“Monty Python? Holy Grail? No, nothing?” Brett tried to explain the movie reference but got crickets in return.
Karen’s expression went from confused to judgmental with an uncomfortable pause. “Focus, let’s get out of here. I am not about to end up on a hook.”
“Don’t be so dramatic. I’m sure the guy who lives here is very nice.” Brett replied.
“Ok then, you go knock on the door and ask to borrow some chicken and while you’re at it get some eggs for breakfast. Maybe trade this nice pointy stick for it.”
“I have a better idea. Stay here.” Brett said as he took off at a crouch toward the rabbit hutches.
“What are you doing?” Karen hissed.
Ignoring her, Brett moved from junkpile to junkpile until he arrived at the rabbits. He took a moment to make sure the coast was clear before he chose his target.
“Hey there, easy, easy, come to daddy.” He said as he opened the cage door and grabbed at a large white rabbit. After a short chase around the hutch he caught it by the nape of the neck and pulled it out.
His plan was working pretty well until the flock of guinea fowl realized he was in their yard. Then the panicked screeching began.
The rabbit panicked again and began scratching and jumping for freedom at the noise, shredding Brett’s bare forearms with its sharp nails.
The noise of the guineas alerted a big angry dog, who luckily was on a cable run tied between two trees.
Brett took off running and didn’t skip a step as he ran past Karen, who was still hiding behind the bush. “Come on!” He yelled as he flew past.
Karen didn’t know whether to run or stay put, but when the trailer door flew open and a big man with a shotgun took aim at the intruder running away with one of his rabbits, she made up her mind that it was time to go.
With two quick blasts of the 12 gauge, the splatter of pellets impacted the trees as the couple ran for their lives.
They didn’t stop running until they made it back to the cabin and slammed the back door.
They fell against the door wheezing from the cross-country run.
“What’s wrong with you?” Karen snarled.
“I thought you were hungry.”
“I am but that axe murderer shot at us!”
“Ok, we don’t know he’s an axe murderer, and it’s only one rabbit. He had a bunch of them.”
“Did you stop to think that a person who lives next door and had no problem shooting at us might just pay us a visit? He knows we ran this way.” Karen explained.
In a moment of enlightenment, Brett suddenly realized the predicament he had just put them in.