Episode 6 – Donkey

Layan’s Cabin – The Ridge

Cresting the ridge and seeing smoke gently puffing out of the chimney, Jaak decided that there was still just enough daylight left, to make a quick visit to Layan, before heading back down the trail to his cabin in time for supper. Jaak knocked on the door. He heard the sound of Layan’s staff approaching.

Tap, tap, tap, tap…

Layan: Well hello there young cub! What brings you up here again on this fine snowy day?

Layan noted the slightly disheveled appearance of his young friend, his wet jeans and the odd bits of twigs, cones and pine needles still stuck in his fur.

Jaak: Oh hello Layan – well, um I sorta needed to take a slight detour off the school bus this afternoon from the fire circle road.

Layan: Oh? Is that so?

Layan raised one eye-brow with a quizzical expression.

It looks like you came straight up here through the trees and via a snow bank. Thar up to his old tricks throwing kids off his bus again?

Layan gave Jaak what could only be described as a ‘hard-stare’. Jaak considered the old snow cat for a moment. Layan seemed to have the same knack that his mother had possessed – seeming to know exactly what had happened without him needing to utter a word.

Bidden to come and sit on a chair by the stove to dry out his wet jeans, Jaak suddenly found himself again stumble-tumbling all of his pent up words out to Layan – like the sudden torrent of water and debris released from a breached beaver dam in the spring thaw.

Mom’s accident. Moving to the valleys. Leaving his friends behind. The difficultly of adjusting to life in the valleys. Feeling cut off from the modern world. Finding it hard to make new friends in the valley. The school bus. Thar. The spit-wad boys.

His Dad.

Jaak: …Dad. He… he… can just be so… so…

Jaak’s words trailed off. His mouth had already got him into trouble once today and he found himself unable to use the word he really wanted to.

For his part so far Layan had been the perfect listener, only making the occasional – ‘mhms’, ‘hmms’, and ‘I sees’, as he made his sweet coffee, and found a tin of cookies.

Layan raised a knowing eyebrow.

Layan: F**king stubborn?

Jaak, as if suddenly jolted back to the reality of his surroundings, and who he was talking to, looked up and met Layan’s eyes. Although he did not know why, a spark of full and complete understanding was passed between them.

Jaak’s ears flattened.

Jaak: Yeah. F**king stubborn.

For a few minutes silence fell between them, and the tin of cookies was made somewhat lighter. Layan was a patient host.

Jaak’s ears suddenly perked up again and he looked up at Layan.

Jaak: Layan? Could you help me to make a stone powered generator?

One of Layan’s eyebrows shot up.

Layan: Oh? Well… that is an interesting proposition. The slight problem is that despite being mined here in the valleys cyan stones are not that easy to come by – not impossible, but their use and distribution is tightly controlled by the Committee of Resource Allocation – CoRA.

Layan paused for a moment his eyebrows creasing in deep thought, his paw-hand on his chin.

Hmm. A power generator eh. Well. I wonder if we could get that old steam-powered donkey engine that’s next to your cabin going again…?

Layan: Those old steam donkey engines were once used to drive the winch cables that hauled out logs from the forest. If we could get that old donkey fired up again, the flywheel could be connected up to a generator which could then charge up a bank of batteries. This would provide enough electricity to power lighting or charge up your phone.

Jaak: Wow! That sounds great! I wonder if my Dad will be ok about that…?

Layan: Oh, I think you should be safe with the donkey engine, it is not exactly new technology is it?

Layan gave a loud chuff-chortle

Tell you what, tomorrow’s Saturday. You get off home now before it gets dark and I will come down in the morning and take a look at that old donkey with you.

Jaak’s cabin – next morning

Early the next morning the sun crept its way up the valley announcing the new day – firmly chasing away the chill darkness with its magenta glow. The sun’s rays found a chink in the curtains and danced their way across the room to where Jaak still slept. Jaak began to awaken, lost somewhere in that place between sleep and wake, where laughing spit-wads intermingled with cookies that did somersaults into steaming mugs of sweet coffee, all while running through the trees and never quite getting to the land of Steamtopia…

Jaak opened his eyes. His room. His bed. His home. He could hear the sounds of his father readying himself to leave for work. Jaak’s Dad worked in the valley mines. He was the engineer in charge of all the machinery and also for the structural integrity of the mines. He had a fierce reputation for precision and safety. Although it was Saturday, Altai worked long hours and was usually gone before Jaak got up in the morning and often worked late into the evening. The door to the cabin clunked, and then Jaak heard the sound of Altai cranking over the engine to their old pick-up truck. Most people in the valleys owned at least one pick-up truck and they varied in age from brand new double cabs, right though to the classic “50’s”.

Jaak remembered his discussion with Layan the evening before, and swung himself out of bed. He didn’t know when Layan would come, but he figured he should probably not be still in bed when he arrived. He pulled on his jeans and shirt, and interrogated the larder for any signs of breakfast.

Jaak was just finishing his last piece of peanut butter and jam toast – spread thickly right to the edges – when he heard the familiar tap, tap, tap… of Layan’s staff on the deck. The tap, tap, tap... transformed into a rap, rap, rap… on the door.

Jaak: Good morning Layan! I made a pot of coffee with lots of sweetened milk from a can, just like you showed me. Want some?

Layan: Good morning to you young cub. Why yes I would love a mug of your coffee – just what’s needed after an early morning trek down the hill! Let’s sit in the morning sun out here on the deck and we shall make our splendiferous plans together!

Soon the two friends young and old, were sitting on the deck chatting happily and scheming together over two steaming mugs of hot sweet coffee.

Previous – Episode 5 – Bingity-Bangity
Next – Episode 7 – Steamtopia

3 thoughts on “Episode 6 – Donkey

  1. Ian Fox 2 September, 2020 / 18:16

    There it is. I’d been thinking that Jaak was taking this move just a bit too well. Seems he’s been bottling his feelings up.

    • Craig 2 September, 2020 / 18:22

      Oh yes, Jaak is a little bit of an internalizer when it comes to his feelings, but if you pop his cork – well… you can certainly get an earful.

  2. Craig 18 July, 2022 / 14:30

    Fun fact: They say authors often weave bits of real life into their stories – the bit about peanut butter and jam spread thickly right to the edges – let’s just say I might know someone who does exactly that.

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