A Minor Detail



A Minor Detail


 Jeff Rider spoke first once Aaron Kneeler came in from the runway.  “Well, how’d it go?”

“Just fine,” Aaron replied. “It was smooth flying all the way out there and all the way back.  David was real happy to get there.   But, it seems kind of lonely to me, spending an entire summer all by yourself. I guess it’s just a matter of different strokes for different folks.”

“Yeah, and he sure took a lot of gear.  I think our boy will be doing a lot of fishing and hunting.” Jeff surmised.  “I could enjoy that too, if I had a partner to do it with.”

“Well, I need to get going again.  There is a couple waiting outside to go to Fairbanks,” Aaron told him.  “They plan to take one of those scenic tours offered by the Far North Tour Bus Company.  You know about them?”

“Oh, sure.  They’ve got a hell of a racket.  Fill up a bus full of tourists and spend a day making what amounts to a month’s wages.  Maybe  I’ll start a company and give them some competition.”

“Yeah, when you decide to do that, you give me a call, okay?”    Aaron said.  “I’ll see you again tomorrow.  Take care.”

“Yeah, you too.  Safe flying.”


David Tidwell wasn’t sure he had cut enough fire wood for the winter. As he chopped more he knew it would never be enough; or probably not.  It was going to be a long winter.  He was shaken by his earlier realization.   Depressed was too good a word.  He was borderline panicked.  When he thought about his predicament, he was terrified. Surely, he had not really made that mistake.  Surely, he had not completely forgotten.

The temperatures could get as low as 25 degrees below zero. Alaska was a beautiful place in the summertime.  It was beautiful in the winter as well, as long as you were prepared for it.  David was not sure he was prepared.  He had several buckets of fish he had caught from the nearby lake.  He had some meat from the coyote he shot last week.  It would be easy to keep it frozen. But how was he going to provide food enough for the length of an Alaskan winter?  A matter of seven to eight months?”

            After cutting firewood for several hours, he cleaned all the fish he had caught over the last several days. Right now, he had no ice.  Soon, he would be encased in it.  It was late July and already the nights were getting cold.  The days were still a little warm.  It was 62 degrees this morning when he got up.  It had been 40 degrees when he awoke in the middle of the night to go outside and pee.  Soon, it would be colder. Much colder. David cursed himself and shook his head in disbelief. He had never been one to pay attention to details.  He always over looked them in favor of the big picture.  His big picture this time was to spend a summer alone in the Alaskan wilderness, fishing, hunting and foraging, all alone.  He wanted the solitude, the aloneness.  He had never been any good at making friends or acquiring a girlfriend. It took him months of knowing someone before he felt comfortable with them. He could never think of anything to say to prolong the conversation.  He thought that maybe he was supposed to be a loner.  He was supposed to live all by himself.  Now was his chance to try that out for an entire summer. 

            When he first arrived at his campsite and roughly made cabin he was ecstatic.  He had brought all the gear that he could think of for surviving an Alaskan summer.  He had knives, he had fishing gear, including a net for large volume catching. He had guns and ammunition.  He had several changes of clothes and soap to wash them with.  He had a bow and several arrows.  David even had an axe to chop his firewood and a set of buckets to temporarily store the fish he would catch. He had all the toiletries he thought he would need.  He had matches and a propane powered mini-barbecue grill. He had hiking boots and a compass for when he wanted to explore the surrounding hills. 

            Now, he wasn’t sure any of this was going to be enough.  It was supposed to last him all summer. David grabbed his hunting rifle and headed out to the surrounding wilderness, a new determination coursing through his veins. He didn’t want to think about it.

            Several hours later, still empty handed, David returned to the cabin and his predicament was once again dominant in this thoughts.  He couldn’t stop thinking about it.  He had really enjoyed the flight out here.  He had enjoyed the first couple of weeks before he realized his mistake. He had enjoyed telling his sister of his plans and how spiritually fulfilling this was going to be.  David’s parents had both died in a car wreck several years ago and now all he had left was his younger sister, Nancy.  She absolutely loved him and was always good to talk to.  Whenever David was feeling down, he could count on her to cheer him up again.  Oh what he wouldn’t give to talk to her again.

            David finally reached the conclusion that he had indeed forgotten to arrange a flight back at the end of the summer.  The man who flew him out here had just assumed that he had done that because David had not mentioned it to him. So he didn’t say anything.  He dropped David off and innocently flew back to Fairbanks, with not a thought of what David was going to do at the end of the summer.

            Now, when the cold weather began, David was going to run out of firewood.  He was going to run out of meat to eat. He was going to find it impossible to stay warm in sub-zero temperatures. He would not be able to hunt for the amount of snow that an Alaskan winter dumped on every inch of the state. He would get cold, hungry and tired of trying to catch fish through holes in the ice over the lake. 

            How could he have forgotten that detail?  How could he have been so stupid?  No one in the world knew that he had no way to get back to civilization, no way to survive the frozen forest land of Alaska in the depths of winter.  He resolved himself to just give it the best try he could.  He would survive as long as he could.  He would leave a diary for whoever might find his cabin someday.


            Nancy Tidwell phoned the Alaska Trails Airplane company in Fairbanks.  “”Hello, I need some information about a customer of yours that you had in late May of this year.”

            “Ok,” Mary Helstrom, the secretary replied.  “How can I help you?”

            “You all transported a David Tidwell to a remote cabin in the mountains northeast of Fairbanks.  Do you have a record of him?”

            “Let me look at my computer for a minute and we’ll see.  Yes, here it is. David Tidwell, June 23rd.  Now what did you need to know?” Mary questioned. .

            “”Do you have a pick up time scheduled for him?” Nancy pondered.  Is there an order for when you are supposed to go back and get him?”

            “No, I don’t see that on my computer.  There is no other flight scheduled for him. 
Are you saying he’s stuck out there with no way home?”

            “That’s exactly what I’m saying.  He’s out there all alone and winter is approaching.  Someone has to go get him. “

            “Well, we can certainly do that,” Mary replied. “When did you want to go?”

            “Tomorrow,” Nancy answered.  “First thing tomorrow morning if possible.”

            “That’s not a problem,” Mary said confidently.  “Be here at 8:00 sharp and we’ll go find him tomorrow morning.”


Richard Patterson

Richard Patterson is a freelance writer living in east Texas. He writes poetry, short stories, and essays. His main motivation for writing is that he thinks there are multiple realities that we all can access happening all around us all the time. Writing helps him to open up some of those realities, especially with his short stories. His stories have been published by several online magazines, namely Down in the Dirt and Academy of the Heart.

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