Angel Flight - Cover

Angel Flight

Copyright© 2023 by UtIdArWa

Chapter 20

Time goes by. At first, it hurts, and the pain can be unbearable, especially at night. That’s when the loneliness comes. It follows you like a shadow. Sometimes sharp-edged, like on a sunny day. Other times, it is dull and fuzzy, like the shadow thrown from a candle. But it is always there. There are times when something happens, and the first thing that comes through your mind is she would like to hear that, or I should tell her, then you remember, and the hurt returns. But after time, the days begin to blend to become undisguisable. But still, in the back of your mind, the pain and loneliness nag at your mind.

I had just finished repairing a section of corral fencing and was leaning against the top rail, catching my breath, and watching the Colts play.

“How’s it going, Matt?” A voice spoke up from behind me. I turned and saw something I had not seen in years. She was changed, grown older, maybe even wiser if what I saw in her eyes was true.

“Kathy,” I exclaimed, “Baby girl, what are you doing here? It’s not safe here for you. They can connect us and come after you even after all this time.” I glanced down at her hip. In a military style, thigh holster was a very mean-looking Glock. At least some of my teaching had stuck with her.

“It’s OK, Matt. They’re all dead and gone now. The last one lost his protection and was taken out by an old enemy. I’ve talked to the witness protection people. They agree that it’s over.”

“Well, I pray you’re right. Just the same, I’d keep my eyes open and my powder dry. Now, what in the hell are you doing up here? Where’s Suzy?”

“Suzy is still up on her daddy’s mountain. She’s still got some things to do there. She sends her love and wishes you’d visit. But either way, she plans to come home sometime in the spring. As far as why I’m here, take a look over there.” She pointed towards the cabin.

On the front porch was a group of 6 or 8 kids about the same age as Kathy. Some were dropping their packs on the porch and stretching. Others were at the trough washing up. They were laughing, joking, and having a wonderful time. “These are my friends, students, and teachers. We planned to start a community in the wild country and decided we needed the wisdom of one of the best off-grid people in the country.”

“Kathy, that’s bull, and you know it. I just live day to day and stay alive as best I can. I have learned lessons that had to be taught to me repeatedly. If you plan on doing this off-grid thing, you’ll be doing the same thing.”

As we were speaking, we walked slowly towards the group on the porch. Kathy was subtly holding me up. Her arm wrapped in mine. When we got to the porch, several others joined her and helped me into an Adirondack chair next to the fire pit. One of the kids was building a fire. I was not sure, but it looked like he was trying to show me the hardest way to start a fire and doing a damn good job of it. Soon, he had a comfortable blaze going after I handed him my lighter.

I glanced over towards the spring house. A boy and girl were prepping a couple of rabbits. They had already gutted them, and she was in the process of skinning one. They were having a good time of it. I noticed the girl had rolled the skins and set them off to the side. Meanwhile, the boy was putting his knife to good use, breaking down the parts.

The rest of the afternoon was storytelling time. They would ask questions, and I would answer. Those kids were good at interrogation. They were asking questions that would lead to longer and longer answers from me. Soon, I was the only one talking.

About dinnertime, Kathy brought out a large pot and, with the help of several others, started serving dinner. I tried to get up and get my fair share, but a sweet young thing who said her name was Rebecca gently pushed me back into my chair and gave me a bowl of stew and a piece of cornbread. “It’s rabbit stew, Daddy Matt. Kathy said it’s your favorite.”

I am sorry to say, I did not do justice to that stew. I ate as much as I could, and it was the second-best rabbit stew I had ever eaten. But as it got later in the day and the sun started going down, I found it harder to keep my eyes open. I knew when they lifted me up and carried me into the house, and put me to bed. I was grateful for the early bedtime. I knew tomorrow would be a busy day. Before I could plan anything, sleep closed in on me.

When I woke up, I was shocked. It was daytime. It had been several years since I had not gotten up before the sun. For the last several years, I have had to get up four or five times during the night. But that was not all. I was not in my bed. I was sitting up against an aspen in my favorite grove. The wind was gently blowing through the leaves, rattling them. The sound of those leaves had always calmed my mind. The weather was running strange in the aspens. In the grove, it was bright sunlight on a hot summer day. But it seemed like a fog was drifting through the trees. They had a grey, indistinct look.

“Getting up kinda late, ain’t ya, son?” A voice to my right and behind me asked. He was a big, tall, thin man with a whipcord strength that a lifetime of riding the range would give a man. He was sitting on a big black, his right leg cocked over the saddle horn.

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