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*This short story is an entry for the Literotica Earth Day contest. I hope you enjoy it and, if you do, please remember to vote!*
Joe hefted the metal cylinder and, for the first time in a long time, smiled. He knew the cylinder’s contents were worth their weight in gold. Of course, a chemical analysis would still have to be done, but his instinct and experience told him he’d found what he’d been hunting for.
He opened his backpack, carefully placed the cylinder inside with the rest of his gear, and zipped it shut. As he slung it over his shoulders, he looked up at the gray, overcast sky and knew there were only a couple of hours of daylight left. He had to get out of the forest. Had to find a place where he could get a cell phone signal.
Joe knew that if he didn’t get word of his discovery to his employer by tomorrow’s noon deadline, the cylinder’s precious contents wouldn’t be worth their weight in mud.
A sound came from the brush on the game trail behind him, and he silently kneeled and wrapped his hand around his rifle. Still on one knee, he leveled the barrel as a figure emerged from the path.
A young woman, her dark hair in pigtails, limped toward him. Her eyes went wide with alarm when she saw the weapon aimed at her.
Joe blinked in surprise as he quickly lowered the gun. “God damnit, I thought you were a bear! What the hell are you doing way out here?”
She put her hand to her chest, trying to calm her pounding heart. “I’m hiking. You scared the shit out of me!”
Joe’s eyes narrowed in suspicion. The girl had on hiking boots and a small backpack, but otherwise was only wearing a small pair of khaki shorts and a tight, baby blue t-shirt; far too little gear for her to be wandering, completely alone, this deep into the wilderness.
“Who are you with?” he said.
She took a sip from her water bottle, and said, “Me? No one, I’m hiking alone. I came in by the — “
“No, I mean who are you with. What organization?”
“You expect me to believe you just happened to stumble upon me in the middle of nowhere?” he said, and strode toward her.
She took a step backward, trying to balance on her good ankle. “Look, I think I’m lost. If you can just show me — “
Joe reached out and grabbed her backpack strap, yanking it off her shoulder.
“Hey! What the fuck are you doing?” she said.
“Let’s find out who you really are,” he said, turning away to shield the backpack as she tried to grab it back.
He held out his elbows to fend her off as he tore open her pack, digging for her identification. And then he saw it, a metal cylinder just like the one in his own backpack.
“Well, well,” he said, “funny thing to take hiking.”
“Leave that alone!” she cried, punching his back as she desperately tried to grab the cylinder.
He unscrewed the cap, and when he looked inside his face went pale. The contents weren’t what he’d been expecting, but he immediately recognized them.
“Give that back,” she cried, as she pulled it free from his hands, “that’s my father!”
“I’m — I’m so sorry,” he said, as he watched her carefully screwing the cap back into place, making sure not to spill any of the ashes.
“Are you fucking crazy?” she said, tears streaming down her face as she carefully put the cylinder back into her backpack.
Joe wondered if he was. He’d only been back on the job for a month and he could already feel the old paranoia returning. “No, like I said…I’m sorry. The work I’m doing out here…it’s very sensitive, and there are people who — “
“I don’t give a fuck what you’re doing out here,” she said. “Just show me what direction I take to get out of here.”
“Yeah…get out. That’s what I was trying to ask you before you fucking attacked me. I’m lost…I hurt my fucking ankle…I just want to get out of here.”
Joe went to help her put her backpack back on but she twisted away from him.
“Hey, it’s cool,” he said, holding his hands up to show he meant no harm. “I shouldn’t have grabbed your pack like that…I’ve just been under a lot of pressure. I’m actually heading out now too, so if you want I can take you out with me. I’m Joe, by the way.”
She hesitated, and then reluctantly nodded as she wiped the tears from her cheeks. “Okay…I’m Kailey.”
“This way, Kailey,” he said, and headed down the game trail.
He hadn’t gone more than fifty feet when he looked back and saw her limping, trying to catch up to him. He walked back and said, “Put your arm around my shoulder, I can help support you while we walk.”
She shook her head as she took a step back from him. “I’m okay. I’ll keep up.”
Joe knew the look in her eyes. She had the same fierce determination his daughter had. He knew she’d rather crawl back than admit she needed his help. He stepped off the path and found a large, fallen bough. He stepped on it to break off a four-foot length, and then stripped off the smaller branches. He leaned on it to test its strength, and when it didn’t give Antalya travesti he handed it to her.
“Thanks,” Kailey said, and continued down the path using the walking stick for support.
They walked through the forest in silence until Joe finally broke it. “Is that why you’re out here? To spread your father’s ashes?”
She glanced up at him, wincing in pain as she stepped over a large root, and he could see the bitterness in her eyes. He knew she was still angry over what had happened earlier, but she finally answered him.
“He said he wanted his ashes to be spread somewhere that made me think of him. And I remembered how he used to bring me here camping when I was little. But I got lost, and I didn’t want to leave him somewhere that I’d never be able to find again.”
Joe nodded in understanding. “Once we’re back at the road I can drive you to your car. There are some clearings I saw on the way up that might be a nice place to spread the ashes. I can show you them if you want?”
Kailey agreed, and looked up when a tiny raindrop struck her cheek.
More raindrops struck the soft forest floor around them, and Joe stopped to pull out his rain gear.
As he pulled it on, he saw Kailey just watching him, hugging herself to keep warm in her shorts and t-shirt. “Didn’t you bring any rain gear?”
She shook her head no.
“You really shouldn’t go hiking without being prepared for rain.”
She gave him a patronizing smile, and said, “Thanks. I’ll remember that for next time.”
Joe looked up at the dark sky and knew it was going to be a wet one. He took his Gore-Tex jacket off and tried to hand it to her. “Here take mine.”
She shook her head no.
“Please, take it. You’ll get soaked without it.”
The rain was coming down harder, and she squinted as the drops hit her face. But she still shook her head no, and said, “I don’t want your jacket. I just want to get out of here.”
Joe sighed as he put it back on and headed down the path. The forest was growing darker and the rain had become a downpour. He continually had to stop as he waited for her to catch up, soaked and limping behind him.
After an hour he checked his watch; they’d only gone half as far as he’d hoped. At this rate they’d never make it out of the woods by nightfall.
He shifted his backpack, feeling the weight of the cylinder inside, and checked his cell phone — still no signal.
He’d hoped to make his report tonight, hoped to confirm his findings. But he knew if he was up early enough he’d still have time to make it out to his truck by mid-morning. The deadline wasn’t until noon.
“What’s wrong?” she said, when he stopped in front of her.
“We’re going to have to look for a place to camp tonight. With the speed you’re going we won’t be out before it’s dark,” he said.
“Camp? How are we supposed to camp?”
“I’ve got a small one-man tent and sleeping bag. You’ll have to share them with me.”
She laughed out loud. “There’s no fucking way that’s happening.”
“Listen, I’m trying to help you,” he said. “There’s no way we’ll be out before dark and we can’t keep moving once night falls.”
He had to shout so she could hear him over the rain, which had turned into a torrent. She was completely drenched and was shivering. Biting her lower lip as she tried to decide, she said, “What about the cabin?”
Joe wasn’t sure he’d heard her correctly over the pounding rain. “What did you say?”
“When I was trying to find my way out I came across a cabin. Maybe we could spend the night there?”
“A cabin? Why didn’t you go there for help in the first place?”
“It didn’t look like anyone was there, and if someone was there…I didn’t feel comfortable knocking on their door when I was all by myself. I figured if I kept going I might find a place where I could get reception on my cell phone and call for help.”
“No cell phone reception out here,” he said. “Can you find your way back to the cabin?”
“I think so.” She limped past him and said, “Follow me.”
* * *
Night was just falling when they finally reached the cabin, silhouetted in a clearing. The windows were dark and they hurried beneath the overhang to get out of the never-ending rain.
There was a note on the door and Joe pulled a small flashlight from his pocket to read it.
“What’s it say?” she asked, as she tried to stop her teeth from chattering.
“It’s from the owner. He says we’re welcome to use the cabin, but to please leave it the way we found it.”
She nodded in understanding as Joe pushed open the unlocked door.
He swept his flashlight around the single room and saw it was unoccupied. The only furnishings were a table, two chairs and a small bed.
There was a lantern on the table and Joe quickly pumped the handle, turned the fuel valve and lit it with his lighter. As the mantle caught with a white-hot flame, light flooded the small cabin.
Joe adjusted the brightness and moved to the wood-burning stove. İstanbul travesti There was firewood, kindling and old newspapers stacked nearby and he soon had a fire going.
As he closed the cast iron door, he looked back and saw Kailey still standing, soaked and shivering, by the door. Her dark pigtails were dripping.
“You’ve got to get out of those wet clothes,” Joe said.
She shook her head. “I don’t have any dry ones, I’ll just sit by the fire.”
Joe reached in his backpack, careful not to disturb the cylinder, and pulled out his extra pair of thermal underwear and a dry fleece shirt. “Put these on,” he said.
She shook her head again. “I’m fine.”
He stepped toward her and held out the clothes. “You’re not fine. You’re freezing and you need to get warm. Put these on.”
Before she could say another word he shoved the clothes into her arms and turned his back.
Joe had meant to give her some privacy, but as he looked up he realized he could see her reflection in the cabin’s small window. Before he could say anything, she’d already pulled her wet t-shirt off.
He tried to look away. He was twice as old as Kailey and had a daughter about the same age, but he couldn’t help watching as she unhooked her bra and slid it off, revealing her small, pert breasts.
He felt his cock stiffening as he watched her bend over, pushing her shorts and panties down. His eyes were drifting along the curve of her perfectly shaped ass when she suddenly glanced over to see if he was looking.
Joe quickly averted his eyes, staring at the bed and hoping she hadn’t noticed him watching her reflection.
If she had noticed, she didn’t say anything. And a few seconds later she told him he could turn around.
Joe was a foot taller and a hundred pounds heavier than Kailey’s five-foot nothing, buck-ten frame, and his oversized clothes dwarfed her.
He fought back a smile and tried not to laugh as she posed for him with a smirk on her face. His long underwear hung baggily on her tiny frame and the legs were so long that they stretched over her bare feet like slippers. The sleeves on his fleece shirt dangled from the ends of her arms and he stepped forward and rolled them back until her slender hands peeked out.
“Is that better?” he said.
She nodded as she pulled up the oversized long johns, trying to keep them from sliding down, and said, “Thanks.”
He turned to pick up her wet clothes but hesitated when he saw her soaked bra and panties.
Sensing his embarrassment, she scooped them up and hung them off the bedposts to dry, and then laid out her shirt and shorts on the floor in front of the wood stove.
Joe didn’t know why he was so embarrassed at seeing her panties. He regularly did his daughter’s laundry and folded and put away her underwear all of the time.
He checked the shelves and found cooking utensils but no food. He filled a pot with water and set it on top of the wood stove to boil.
Fifteen minutes later he handed Kailey, who had her feet tucked underneath her as she kept warm on a chair in front of the wood stove, a steaming mug with a spoon in it.
“What’s this?” she asked, taking a quick sniff.
“Instant chicken noodle soup,” Joe said.
Kailey made a face. “Umm, I’m a vegetarian.”
“Well, I’d be surprised if there’s any meat in there. I think it’s just bouillon. And it’s all I had left in my pack — it’s either that or plain crackers.”
She sniffed the soup again and took a small sip, and then a bigger sip.
“Good?” Joe asked.
Kailey glanced up and nodded yes, but as she went to take a third sip she spotted a white chunk floating on top and picked it out with her fingers and wiped it in disgust on the edge of the table. “Was that chicken?” she asked.
Joe answered, “They say it is, but I’m honestly not that sure.”
She held the cup, enjoying the warmth in her hands. “Anyway, this is nice…thanks.”
“Not a problem,” he said, and sat in the other chair, sipping his soup while he watched the flames through the wood stove’s grate. He glanced over at Kailey and noticed her necklace had a small frog for a charm.
“You like frogs?” he asked.
“Huh? I don’t know, why? Is that what you’re cooking next?”
He laughed. “No, I just noticed your necklace.”
“Oh!” she said, blushing with embarrassment as she lifted the pendant to look at it. “Yeah, I guess, but that’s not why I have this. My friend gave it to me. It’s from an environmental thing called ‘How to Boil a Frog’.”
Joe’s eyes narrowed. “You an environmentalist?”
“Me? No, not at all. I mean, I want to help the environment and stuff, of course, but I don’t do all the things my friend does. He belongs to all these different groups…you know, save the planet, save the whales…that sort of stuff.”
“He’s your boyfriend?”
Kailey smiled and shook her head no. “We’re just friends, he gave me the frog so I’d remember to recycle.”
“What does recycling have to do with a frog? İzmir travesti Is that like Woodsy Owl? You know, ‘Give a hoot — don’t pollute’?”
Kailey laughed. “I have no idea what you’re talking about, but the frog isn’t just about recycling, it symbolizes what we’re doing to Earth. We’ve got too many people using up too little planet, much too fast. ‘How to boil a frog’, is a metaphor for what we’re doing to our planet, and to ourselves.
“It’s like, if you want to cook a frog you don’t put it in boiling water, it’ll just hop out. You put it in cold water and then turn on the heat. The frog doesn’t realize that the water is getting hotter until it’s too late. And we’re the same, with what we’re doing to our planet, we won’t realize the danger we’re in until it’s too late.”
Joe smiled. “You remind me of my daughter. She’s always telling me the same stuff. But I think we’re getting better, you know, with recycling and stuff. I think our planet’s going to be okay.”
“Oh I know it will, it’s not the planet that I worry about, it’s us. Earth is still going to be around long after we’re gone, just like in that movie Wall-E. It’s humanity that’s in trouble, not the planet.”
Joe arched an eyebrow. “I thought you said you weren’t an environmentalist. Anyway, I don’t think it’s quite as serious as you’re making it sound, or that you need to be that worried. I’m a lot older than you, but I’m sure we’ll both be long gone before anything like that ever happens.”
“Probably, but I still think we should start taking steps now to try to stop it. I don’t think it’s fair for us to leave a mess for future generations to clean up,” she said.
“I agree,” he said, “but it isn’t like your generation is the first to try. My parents were both hippies and they were fighting to save the planet way back before either of us were even born.”
“Oh, that’s so cool,” Kailey said, and looked wistfully at her backpack. “My dad was kind of a hippie too.”
Joe leaned over and grabbed her pack. Before Kailey could object, he reached in and pulled out the canister containing her father’s ashes.
She jumped to her feet. “What are you doing with — “
But then she stopped, and watched as Joe reverently placed the canister on a shelf above and behind the wood stove. “I thought your father might like to enjoy our shelter too,” he said.
Kailey’s eyes welled with tears, and she smiled. “He’d like that. He’d really like that.”
Joe sat back down as she wiped a tear away with her sleeve, and leaned over and reached for her sore ankle. “Let’s take a look,” he said.
She quickly jerked her foot out of his reach and hugged her legs against her. “I’m fine.”
“Oh, sure, I was only…” Joe shut up. He could only imagine what was going through her mind, trapped alone in this cabin with a man twice her age that she barely knew.
He stood up and moved his chair a few inches farther away from hers. “Are you done with your soup?”
She nodded and handed him her empty mug.
After he put the dishes on the counter he sat back down and they were both silent as they watched the flames leap and listened to the firewood crackle inside the cast iron stove.
Joe watched as Kailey undid her pigtails, leaned over and combed her fingers through her silken black hair, which shone like obsidian. She saw him watching, and sat up and swept her long hair back over her shoulders. As he opened the grate to put some more wood on the fire, she said, “Thanks.”
Joe glanced up at her and for the first time noticed the color of her eyes, a beautiful shade of jade. “For what?” he said.
“For, like, everything. The clothes, the soup…rescuing me.” She listened to the rain drumming down on the cabin roof, and said, “I can’t imagine where I’d be right now if I hadn’t been lucky enough to find you out there.”
“Glad to help,” Joe said. “And I’m sorry again for the way I grabbed your backpack.”
“Yeah, you did kind of freak me out a bit,” she said.
“It’s just with the job I do…you get kind of paranoid,” he said.
“Your job? I thought you were out here hunting?”
“I’m hunting, but not for animals. The rifle’s just for protection; I’m a geologist.”
“So what are you hunting for, rocks?”
“Not rocks, coal.”
Kailey blinked in surprise. “Coal?”
Joe nodded. “For a mine. There’s a ridge near here and, if the samples I found today show what I think they’re going to show, we’ll be mining coal from it.”
Her jaw dropped. “A mine? They’re going to buy these woods and tear them up?”
“They don’t have to buy them; they already own them. The company I work for has controlled the mineral rights for a while, but every geologist they’ve sent into this area has had their samples come back negative. The mineral rights expire at noon tomorrow and the company isn’t sure if they should renew them or not. That’s why they hired me. I’ve got a reputation for finding coal where others can’t.”
“And did you?” Kailey whispered. “Did you find coal?”
Joe nodded. “A huge seam. I don’t know how no one else spotted it before.”
Kailey tucked her feet underneath her and crossed her arms. “But…coal, why do we need coal? Can’t people just use electricity?”
Joe smiled. “Where do you think the electricity comes from?”
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