Chapter 8

                                                   
 Sleeping With The Snake

Ben awoke and realized he was lying on the ground. He shook his head. What happened? He couldn't tell how
long he had been out. He looked around but couldn't see anything in the pitch blackness of the night. Clouds
were covering the moon. He sat up slowly and listened for any indications of danger. All was silent.

He staggered to his feet, lost his balance, and put his hand forward. He felt a wall. "I don't believe it!" he
exclaimed. He felt his way along the wall to a corner. Then he remembered his flashlight. He fumbled through his
backpack until he felt the smooth, round tube. He flicked it on.

There he stood in front of Isaiah's ... no, his cabin. "What a relief!" He went inside. Home at last! "Home?" he
blurted out. "Okay! So, this is home now."

Ben was exhausted. He dropped himself onto the bed. He relaxed for the first time in a long time and drifted off to
sleep.

Ben awoke with a start. Something was moving on the bed. He felt something cold and slimy brush across his
ankle. He jumped from the bed and slammed into the wall. Recovering himself quickly, he ran for the door, which
was now visible because his eyes had adjusted to the darkness. He ran outside and stopped.

The moon was now shining brightly. He could see the cabin in the moonlight. He watched as the snake slithered
its way out of the door and off into the woods. He cautiously made his way back into the cabin and found his
flashlight where he had placed it on the table in the center of the room. He used the beam to locate some
matches - he remembered where Isaiah kept them - and lit the kerosene lantern hanging from the ceiling over the
table. He searched the room until he was satisfied there were no more snakes. He closed the door tightly and
curled up on the soft padded chair and stayed there for the night. Sleep came at last but not very restfully. He
jumped at every sound.

                                                                              Chapter 9

                                                                         Learning To Fish

Ben woke up aching all over. His head hurt from his collision with the cabin wall. He had a crick in his neck from
sleeping all twisted up in the chair. No way was he going to climb back onto that bed. He trembled as he thought
of his close call with the snake. And, by the way, he was going to have to find which snakes, and spiders, were
poisonous and which were not. This was not going to be easy.

Ben walked over to the table and sat on one of the kitchen style chairs. He looked around at his new home and
took stock of what was there and what was needed. Isaiah had left plenty of canned goods on the shelf. There
was some breakfast cereal but, of course, no milk. Where would he keep it with no refrigeration? There was no
electricity and no hope of ever having it in this place. He took a box of cereal down and began to eat handfuls. It
was stale but edible and nourishing. This was going to be a new life. Survival - not comfort, not progress, not
climbing the ladder - just survival.

He noticed a torn piece of a brown paper bag on the table. It had something written on it. It was from Isaiah.
Bin. I ges yu lernd yu cant go bak. let God help yu. ther is a stor. thay is nise peepel an wil treet yu gud. follo the
river north til yu git to the bote ramp. then go to the rode. the stor is on the left.  isaiah
Isaiah thought of everything. I guess that's where he got his supplies, Ben surmised.

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Ben scouted around the vicinity of the cabin, venturing out a couple of miles in each direction trying to get some
sense of his location. He wanted to familiarize himself with his surroundings so he wouldn't get lost again. He
located several berry patches and ran across numerous snakes and alligators, each minding their own business
and paying little heed to Ben as he moved cautiously out of their way. He observed several deer, one group
apparently a family with three fawns. Squirrels scampered through the trees. Woodpeckers pounded their
constant pecking; Blue-jays and Carolina Wrens searched the forest for worms and insects. Ben was enjoying
the wildlife for the first time in his life. He had never paid attention to all the wonders around him.

Mid-afternoon he fetched some worms from the fertile spot Isaiah had shown him. He picked up his fishing poles
from where he had dropped them when he knocked himself out against cabin. He picked up his hammock and
strung it up between two oaks nearby. This might not be so bad after all, Ben mused.

He hiked down to the fishing spot on the riverbank. He took one cane pole with him and stored the other under
the cabin - checking for snakes first, of course. He sat on the old 'fishin log', as Isaiah had referred to it, tied on a
hook, slid a worm onto it and dropped the line into the water. Soon he felt a tug on his line. He pulled, felt some
resistance, and then it slacked. He wrinkled up his face and pulled his line out of the water. Worm and hook were
gone. A fish jumped at that moment as if to acknowledge his ineptness. He tried again, tying a few more knots
around the hook this time. The big wad of knots looked like a lead sinker on the line.

After close to an hour Ben got another bite. This time he jerked the line so hard the fish came out of the water
and flew back over his head, somehow popped off the hook, and went flopping through the woods. He chased it
down, picked it up, and immediately felt the fins gouge into his fingers. Blood streamed from his wounded hand.
Carefully, Ben attempted to lift the fish without injuring himself again, which was difficult, because the fish was not
cooperating. The fish was flopping around like a ... well, like a fish out of water. Finally, Ben managed to get his
finger under the gills and lift his fine catch. It was a good size fish and would make a nice meal.

Ben took his catch back to the cabin and laid it on the outside table. He went inside to get his new hunting knife.
When he returned, the fish was gone. Panic gave in to comprehension when he heard it flopping around on the
ground underneath the table. He retrieved the floundering fish and once again placed it on the table. He stabbed
it in the head to kill it. He couldn't bring himself to gut the fish while it was alive.

He started scaling the fish and flipped scales all over his face, in his mouth, his eyes, and his ears. He placed the
knife just under the gills and pressed the handle down. The head slid off the edge of the table. Then he placed
the blade at the edge of the neck against the backbone just as he had watched Isaiah do it. One clean swipe
down the backbone and the fish would be filleted. He pulled the blade toward him. It caught on the bones, and
then broke free with a jerk. Ben felt the blade slice into the skin across the knuckle of his left forefinger. He
dropped the knife and grabbed his hand. Blood was pouring everywhere. He lifted up his hand and looked at the
knuckle. The skin was peeled back to reveal bone. He gritted his teeth and patted the skin back into place. He
threw the bloody fish into the bushes and ran into the cabin. Finding a rag, he wrapped it tightly around his left
hand. Fortunately, there was a roll of duct tape on top of the bureau. He rolled several layers around the cloth
covered hand. The bleeding stopped.

Ben decided to just open a can of pork and beans and eat that. He searched everywhere for a can opener -
hand-operated, of course - one with the winding crank on the side. Finally, he recognized one of those old
fashioned can openers that had a pointed blade with a little guide across the middle of the blade. He pressed the
blade into the edge of the lid until the guide rested on the ridge of the can. Then he pumped the handle up and
down, and began the task of separating the lid from the can. Mid-way through the cut the can opener twisted and
bent the jagged edge of the lid upward. The fingers on Ben's right hand raked across the sharp metal. Blood
gushed again. Ben wiped off the fresh blood and poured the beans into a plate. After he ate he went to the
padded chair and curled up to sleep. He was still afraid of the bed.