Here is an unedited snippet of MD's story. I hope you enjoy it. Oh, if I make my deadline, it will be released November 14th. We'll see if that happens.
MD wrinkled his nose against the onslaught of cold air nipping at his tender skin. His burrow of quilts and blankets kept the rest of his body toasty warm but the icy chill of the room nixed any idea of sleeping in. That is if he wanted to keep his nose from freezing and falling off.
Turning over onto his back, MD peered around the room in the dim light from the coals glowing through the grate of the wood stove. MD sighed and watched his warm breath come out of his mouth in a cloud of white. Sighing again, he gave up on letting his mind drift, not thinking about anything in particular. The time had come to stoke up the fire and begin the day.
Reaching an arm out from under the blankets, MD grabbed the socks and jeans sitting on the wooden chair next to the bed. It took some maneuvering and wiggling around, but soon the chilly clothing covered his lower half. After snagging a T-shirt and long-sleeved flannel shirt, he made quick work of finishing dressing. Only after donning the protection of clothes and letting the warmth of his body and the covers heat them, did he venture out into the icy room.
Minutes later he had a fire roaring in the cast iron stove and the old fashion percolating coffee pot sitting on top. The wood stove heated the cabin and when he opened the door in between, it also warmed the patient examining room. Most of the time MD used the wood stove to cook his food on. The gas cooking range in the corner had run out of liquid propane last week and the latest Alaskan snow storm had carpeted the area with three feet of new snow, delaying the gas truck from making it into Minto.
Solar panels on the roof gave the cabin and examining room electricity. A backup generator stood ready if the four hours of weak sun couldn’t keep the batteries juiced up. The examining room also had an electric heater to keep the room warm enough so the medications wouldn’t freeze. MD had learned early on in his time in Alaska that more times than not a snowmobile drove up to his door and he ended up going to the patient, leaving the room unused.
Two hours later, MD had his first patient of the day.
“I’m sorry for bothering you, doc.” The woman winced when MD inserted the needle into the meat of the ragged, bleeding cut. “I thought about wrapping it up myself and letting it heal, but I think there’s something still in it.”
MD put on special magnifying glasses to study the wound splitting open the side of the older Athabascan woman’s hand. Kendra Whist’s had been using a handsaw to cut up the bones of a caribou when it slipped.
“I believe you are right.” MD blotted up blood from the sides of the wound. “I can see a couple of bone splinters in there.” Looking over the rim of the glasses, he smiled and said, “Let’s give the Novocain a couple of minutes to do its job. Then I’ll clean it out and stitch it up.”
“Thanks, doc.” Kendra studied MD for a moment. “Most people come to Alaska because they’re either running away or searching for something. I would ask which person you are, but I can see the answer in the shadows lurking in your eyes.”
MD became mesmerized by the knowledge and strength in the older woman’s eyes. One day he hoped to be half as strong as the proud native Alaskan in front of him.
“So what is the answer?” he asked.
“Both,” she answered. “Years ago, my younger brother went out into the forest to check his trap line. At sixteen he felt he was invincible and chose not to take anyone along. Thirty miles from home his snowmobile refused to start. He decided to walk to a cabin he had passed on the journey in.” A line formed between the woman’s eyebrows. “He didn’t make it a mile before the wolves were on him. He managed to shoot one, and they all ran off. But they weren’t finished hunting him. As he walked he could see them prowling amongst the trees.” Kendra’s eyes hardened. “As one, the six remaining wolves would dart out and attack him. Over and over he fought them off. By the time he had traveled the five miles to the cabin, they had reduced him to dragging his bloody, battered body across the snow.”
Engrossed in Kendra’s story, MD asked “Did he live?”
“When he didn’t return home after three days, my father and his brother went out and began searching.” Kendra watched MD use a tweezers to pick out two bone splinters out of the wound. “He ended up spending almost five days in that cabin.”
“Don’t the people up here leave a fire prepared along with food and water in those cabins?” MD pulled another splinter out and laid it on the tray sitting on a rollaway table.
“Yes, as long as they leave the cabin the way they found it, they may use it until they are ready to move on.” Kendra answered. “We were lucky my father found my brother when he did. My brother was very sick. Some of the bites had become infected and he had lost too much blood.”
“Wow,” MD paused holding the bottle of disinfectant over the wound. “Did they manage to get him help?”
“They had taken a sled with them and loaded him into it,” Kendra answered. “When they got him home they flew him into Fairbanks for treatment.” Kendra paused as she watched MD scrub out the cut. Finally, she spoke, her voice a mere whisper, “My brother’s stay at the hospital lasted over a month.”
“His injuries must have been extensive,” MD observed as he threaded the surgical needle to begin closing Kendra’s injury.
“It wasn’t so much the injuries of his body that were the trouble, it was the haunting demons of his mind,” Kendra stated. “Back then they didn’t have a fancy name for it, but today they call it PTSD. Even though he was now safe, my brother continued to be hunted.”
MD watched the needle in his hand jerk and begin to shake. Setting the sharp edged piece of equipment down, he struggled to lift his eyes and meet Kendra’s gaze.