“Maybe we should start a fire.” Norma Peters’ breath hung in the cold air as she spoke to her husband across the table.
Normally, the dining room would have been off limits during December. Ralph had built the room onto the back of the cabin after Roger and Alma moved to Idaho, hoping the family gathering space would be enough to lure the young couple home on occasion.
It hadn’t worked out that way … Roger and Alma were busy, they said. Busy making a home, busy starting a family, busy making money.
And so, Norma and Ralph settled in to their homestead there on the edge of the Beartooth Mountains and hunkered down for the last few years of their lives. Summers in Montana were splendid, and they’d often while away the long evenings in that abandoned dining hall.
They spent most of the winter in bed, though. Heating the cabin was hard work, and it made little sense to keep the dining room warm. Instead, Ralph walled off the door with a stack of logs early each fall.
By Christmas, when they sometimes headed out to visit Roger and Alma, the forgotten room was just that — forgotten.
There would be no trip this year, though.
For one thing, there was no invitation, but then there never was.
No, there would be no trip because Ralph just wasn’t up for it — a shell of himself. And so cantankerous!
Why, during their last big fight, he got angrier than Norma had ever seen him before. She thought he might do something dangerous.
She’d had no choice, really, though she might have swung the ax a bit harder than she intended.
“No, I guess you’re right,” she said to her dead husband. “I guess a fire is not a very good idea.”