Ok guys here is a start to part three - as usual I'm hoping you'll make comments and suggestions as the story unfolds. Mike Part 3: Chapter 1: Christmas: The few days between the return from Stagford and Christmas morning went swiftly for the Adams. Without Mandy’s trauma touched presence, the mood in the cabin returned to light hearted happiness. Amid so much deprivation and misery, Bob was profoundly grateful for the multitude of blessings that they enjoyed. Christmas was always a time of celebration and thanksgiving. Gifts were given to celebrate the gift of salvation offered by God to the world through the birth, life, and death of Jesus. Unable to shop for material gifts to express their love for one another, the family found that this Christmas was somehow more meaningful than all the others before. They spent the morning first in worship, then shared a brunch of pancakes with maple syrup, honey, and lots of the newly purchased butter. Bob gave Nancy a poem based on the 12 days of Christmas recounting twelve reasons that he loved her and promising a dozen dozen ways to show it (a 12 minute backrubs, a 12 minute foot massage, 12 pails of water hauled and heated for a long hot bath, etc.) Bob received certificates to redeem from Rob for one full wood box and a day off from chores from Nancy, lovely home made cards from both and a can of dark roast coffee from the pantry that Nancy said that she “had been saving” for him. Rob was given “new” books that he had not been interested before, but that his reading level had now reached. The gift included read aloud time from each parent as well. He was also given permission to use a full 50 rd box of 22-short cartridges to target shoot whenever he wanted and his own set of snares so he could set up his own trap line. He also received the one thing that he had said that he wanted the most: his very own jumbo pack of toilet paper! He had been dreading the day when the reserves of TP ran out. In fact, the last case was already open, but his mind was now at ease after calculating that he had at least a six month personal supply. They spent the afternoon in Haven enjoying more roast pork than anyone could hold. With Virgil’s help Bob had returned to the feral pig carcass and brought the entire hog (less hooves and head) back to the hamlet. There it had been skinned and washed, then spitted and slow roasted all day from dawn until Christmas dinner. Willing hands turned the spit almost continuously. The huge sow provided more meat than the community had seen in one time for quite awhile. The roast pork was served with the remaining potatoes from a fifty pound bag that the Abbott’s had bought for a few dollars at a potato farm on the far side of Millersville in the fall. The peelings were saved to plant in the spring because only the intact eyes in the skin were needed to sprout new plants. Bob and Nancy provided applesauce for all and the coffee and sugar for after dinner drinks. There was plenty of goat milk on hand and a good time was had by all. After the meal, followed by hours of conversation and games, the party broke up just as it began to snow. It was the white Christmas Nancy had hoped for after all. By the time the family walked the four miles home, their coats and hats were covered in white. It kept snowing all of Christmas night and most of the next day. Fat flakes weighed down tree limbs and lay like a thick fleece over the entire world. The family slept peacefully in their beds as the fire burned in their warm stove. All was well. The next day, Bob began to feel ill. He didn’t exactly hurt. He just didn’t feel good. On the 27th he ran a fever and his joints ached. At this point he closeted himself in the bedroom and redeemed the chore free day coupon. He surmised that he had picked up an infection in the village. He hoped and prayed that he had not brought whooping cough back to Haven and his own family. He spent much of the afternoon sleeping and declined food. Nancy insisted that he drink and take the medicines that they had stockpiled against just such an occurrence. He did, more to keep her out of the room than to relieve his own symptoms. The precious antibiotics had been saved from previous prescriptions and preserved against this time of need. He reasoned that isolation from him was the best thing his family could do to preserve their health. So he shut himself in the bedroom for three days taking nothing but soup and encouraging Nancy to sleep in the guest bedroom recently vacated by Amanda. Alone in the dark and unable to sleep from an increasingly persistent cough, Bob looked out over the moonlit yard under its shroud of white. He was grateful for both the antibiotics and for the over the counter cough relief and fever reducer on hand. It was only when the medicine was in effect that he was able to sleep soundly. As each dose wore off he would awake coughing but he dare not take more of the medicine than he absolutely needed. He needed to save some in case his family developed the same symptoms. As he watched the clock willing the minutes to go by until he would take the next dose he viewed the stark moonlight and shadow balance of bright white and blue blackness, he had an overwhelming feeling not of his own mortality, but of some other impending doom. Something was coming. Something that he knew he could do nothing more to ready himself for, yet he could not rest. When he could not sleep, he prayed. God heard him, and gave him peace from the fever dreams. The fever broke and the cough decreased. He spent a fourth day in isolation, then washed the blankets and clothes himself in hot water with a generous amount of bleach. Then he washed the floor and wiped down the furniture with a solution of the same. Finally he bathed in hot water with strong soap. When he felt that he had done all that he could to disinfect himself and the room. He emerged from the cocoon to do his share of chores with the goat herd. Although he was not 100% over the illness, he did not think that he would be contagious anymore. The rare times that he used some of the remaining tissues, they immediately went into the blazing woodstove. The isolation and disinfecting tactic seemed to work as no one else in the house, or Haven came down sick. Some thought that Bob’s long walk in the cold to Stagford and back must have weakened his immune system enough for a virus to take hold. Bob figured that he had been exposed to something in the village that the others had not been exposed to. Either he was not yet contagious when he associated with them, or they had been spared from exposure because he had immediately changed out of his bloody clothes and bathed after returning home covered in pig blood. No matter what the reason was, he was grateful that God had spared the others from the days of cough, aches, and chills. Although he and Nancy kept their own medicine chest well stocked with relief from most flu-like symptoms, they did not have enough to share with even the small community at Haven. He doubted that the oldest and the youngest there could survive a battle with the virus without those symptom relievers. After the flu passed, the family settled into a comfortable routine of patrolling the surrounding hills while maintaining their trap lines. It was a full two weeks before a fresh dog track was spotted and that belonged only to a single animal. Every few days, the snares, shotgun, or rifles brought in small game or birds. It snowed several more times and in early February, the snow was still deep when Bob and Rob were stalking red squirrels. The little animals provided only enough meat to flavor a decent pot of soup, let alone make a meal, but Bob was inclined to let Rob harvest them anyway. It gave the boy a chance to practice his rapidly developing hunting skills and extended their larder. Besides, Bob liked the fat grey squirrels better. They reminded him of playful cats and any red squirrel in the pot meant more feed for the grey squirrels still alive. They were waiting for one of the noisy little animals to come back around the tree it had chattered at them from, when they paused and looked at one another with curious faces. Something unusual was in the air. Something they were unaccustomed to. Something they had trouble identifying immediately. The distant sound of an engine was winding closer.