Martin had just come back from fishing in the large lake Alsik, which lay by the end of his grounds. He had his own path down there, with a small jetty where his little wooden boat with motor was tied. He had caught four trouts.
Enough for dinner.
He had put the trouts ready for cleaning on the steel kitchen table, by the sink, while starting the fire, over which he cooked most of his food all year round.
A different sound of whisking through the bushes than usual caught his attention, and he was instantly alert.
What was this?
He had lived here for three years now. He knew all the sounds and all the scents. He knew which time of day the various birds and forest animals woke up and would pass his place.
This was a sound he didn’t recognize.
He did recognize the scared squeaking from birds flapping about in the bushes though.
The sound stopped and soon everything was quiet again.
He turned his attention back to the fire he was lighting.
Perhaps it had just been a stray cat.
The fire was catching well on, so he returned to his trouts and turned on the water tap so he could rinse them well. He put the head and fish guts into a bowl. He would throw it to the gulls by the lake later.
Suddenly he heard a low growling a few meters away.
When he turned his head he saw the most beautiful blue-eyed, black and white Border Collie sit nicely, with its tongue gasping out its throat.
“Where the hell did you come from?” Martin asked growling, well knowing the dog wouldn’t answer him. He turned back to his fish. He sensed the dog sneaked nearer, and when he looked at it again, it was only about a meter from him.
It growled slightly again, licked itself around its mouth, and sat impatiently looking at him.
‘“Who are you?” Martin asked and reached out for a piece of cut off fish. “Are you hungry?”
“Woof!” the dog answered.
Martin smiled slightly. “Here you go.” He threw a fish head which the dog adroitly caught mid-air. He loved dogs. He loved animals in general.
His parents had often suggested that he got himself a dog, both for company and for protection.
But he didn’t want the responsibility.
Dogs cost money, they would need vets which would mean he had to go into town and talk to people.
He was not going to get a dog.
The dog enjoyed the fish and was soon ready for more.
“It was not exactly meant for you, dog. One more and then you better go home.” Martin threw one more fish head to the dog and took one of the steel bowls on the kitchen table and filled in some clean, cold water. Then he put it on the ground, dose to the dog.
As soon as the fish was eaten, the dog dashed to the water and slurped eagerly. A satisfied sigh, and a burp in the end and the dog looked happy and sat back down, wagging its tail.
Martin grinned. “Was it that good?”
The dog wagged its tail even faster and kept staring at him.
He had finished cleaning the trouts and had put them in a box with a lid, to take it to the refrigerator.
The fire wasn’t ready yet.
He washed his hands and dried them in his shorts. Then he squatted down and looked at the dog. “Want to say hello?’’ He reached out his hand and the dog rose and came closer.
It sniffed at his hand and licked it a couple of times.
“Do I taste like fish?” He scratched the dog underneath its chin.
Oh, it enjoyed that. It closed its eyes and pressed downwards to his hand for more. Suddenly its ears flinched and it turned its attention backward. The next second it ran off with the speed of a rocket.
“Bye dog. Thanks for the visit.” Martin rose. He still wondered where it had suddenly appeared from.
After dinner, Martin did the few dishes there were and went inside to get a towel.
The past few days, the water in the lake had warmed up a little so he had started to swim there once or twice a day.
He picked up the bowl of trout leftovers and walked towards the lake.
The gulls knew by now that when they saw him with the bowl, he was bringing something good for them to eat, so they were already greeting him from a distance.
He emptied the bowl at the usual spot, and the gulls flocked around it. He continued to the jetty, put the towel there, the bowl and his sunglasses too, and walked down to the end, where he left his bathing slippers, drew a deep breath and jumped into the cold and wet element.
It felt great. It had been quite hot all day so cooling down now felt good.
Even though his home was inside the woods and in shadows, it became rather hot during the day.
Turning around in the water to take a back swim, he sensed a shadow through the corner of his eye and looked up. Up there. On the plateau above the slope, the dog from before sat looking down at him.
He watched it for half a minute, wondering where it belonged to. Then he heard a voice calling and the dog turned around and ran off. He wasn’t able to distinguish if the voice had been male or female, but at least he now knew that the dog had an owner. He continued swimming until his muscles felt tired. Then he went for the jetty and crawled up the steel ladder and walked towards his towel.
As he turned the corner up the path, the dog was now standing there.
This time there was a person with it.
He couldn’t distinguish whether it was a girl or a boy. Short black hair, a nose ring and a piercing in the eyebrow and lip as well, black baseball cap, black t-shirt with a bleeding rose print and denim shorts.
The person just looked at him without any facial expressions. Just looked.
“This is a private area,” Martin growled. “You’re trespassing.” He passed by and didn’t look back. He was annoyed.
There was a clear and visible private area sign at all ends of where his grounds would have an entrance. Usually, people respected it.
But not this young lady.
As he had passed her, he had realized it was a young teenage girl.
The dog was probably hers.
When he came back he took the fire hook from the ground and ruffled it about in remaining glows and put some small pieces of wood into it and covered them with ember to make it burn a bit stronger. Then he went to the kitchen sink and poured water into his kettle, and brought it to the fire and put it on the grill. Then he went inside to change into dry clothes. He wondered where that young girl suddenly came from. He had never seen neither her nor the dog anywhere before. Not that he was in town that often, but still. They were new to the picture. He put on joggers and a t-shirt. He skipped socks and went straight into runners.
It was getting cooler outside at this time of day.
Now he just wanted some coffee and read a book by the fire before he went to bed.
“Why are you living like this?”
Martin jumped. He hadn’t noticed the girl when he came out.
“Because I want to. And you’re still trespassing. Go home.”
“Grump.” The girl didn’t move.
Martin put his mug on the wooden table and unfolded his camping chair. He tried not to take notice of the girl. Obviously she was neither good at obeying orders, nor respecting other people’s privacy.
“What’s your name?” she then asked.
He glanced at her. “Why?”
She shrugged. “I’m curious. And its common politeness to introduce oneself when you meet new people.”
He sent her an annoyed look. “You haven’t. And this is my private area. You’re not invited.”
She sat down on his chopping block. “So what is it?”
“What is what?” Martin checked his kettle. It was hot but not yet boiling.
“Your name?” the girl answered patiently.
“Can’t see its any of your business.” He grabbed one of the other mugs and held up while looking questioning at her. “Coffee?”
He left the fire and went to the sink to clean the mug and dry it, then he put the coffee powder into it and brought it back to the fire. He didn’t really know why he had done it. Instinct from when his parents came by, perhaps.
The dog wagged its tail every time he looked at it.
“Your dog visited me earlier.” He sat down in his chair.
“Her name is Molly.” The girl reached her hand to scratch the dog’s head. “Did you feed her fish?”
Martin glanced at her and checked the kettle again.
It was boiling now so he took it and poured the hot water into their mugs, then he put it on the ground behind the fire. He used the same teaspoon to stir both coffees. Then he put one of them on the table closest to the girl.
He looked at her for a few seconds this time. It was difficult to estimate her age. She looked older than fourteen, but younger than seventeen.
Anna would have been fourteen now.
He looked from her to the dog. “Would she be interested in a bone?”
“Probably. As long as it’s not rotten.”
Martin smiled a little to himself. Then he put down his mug and turned around and walked inside.
His mum had brought him some bones to cook soup on, but he could spare one for the dog. He took the largest one and closed the refrigerator. Back outside he squat and called the dog.
Molly rose and walked slowly to him wagging her tail.
“Here you go.” He scratched her neck a bit and rose.
“You like my dog but you don’t like me,” the girl stated slightly indignant.
“I like animals but not people,” Martin replied and sat back down in his chair. “What do you want from me anyway?” He didn’t look at her. He just wanted her gone.
“I’m just bored. We just moved into the little brown cottage down the street. I don’t know anyone.”
Martin glanced at her. Then why did she insist on knowing him of all people? “ There are plenty of social people further down the street.”
“I’m not social,” the girl said. “I’m just bored.”
Martin frowned his forehead surprised for a second. “Well, if you’re going to be here, at least be quiet.”
“Okay.” The girl nodded.
He looked at her. “Have you eaten?”
She nodded again so he turned his attention to the book he had brought out to read and opened the page he had come to. Through the corner of his eye, he saw she picked out her mobile phone from her pocket and sat fondling it.
No sounds from it though.
After a while, Martin no longer noticed the girl. He was so deeply into reading that he didn’t really notice anything. Not even the gnawing sounds from Molly eating her bone. So he was a bit startled when the girl suddenly spoke and rose and he looked at her.
“My dad just texted me. I have to go home.” She looked at him and he rose. “Thank you for not sending me away.” She reached out her hand and Martin was slightly surprised that he actually returned the gesture. “I tried, but you didn’t,” he replied with a smirking grin. “My name is Martin,” he then said quietly. “What’s yours?”
“Karina,” she replied. “See ya.” She took her hand back and clapped her leg to get Molly’s attention.
“She can take her bone home.” Martin put his hands in his pocket.
Karina smiled. “Thanks. Goodnight.”
A few seconds later, Martin was alone again. He returned to his book and soon he was lost inside it again and he didn’t give the girl any more thoughts that evening.