Deceitful Survivor – Morgan A. Carter

It came. After weeks of wondering if it was coming, the storm finally arrived to Duluth. Preparing for a storm isn’t challenging to say the least if you only had yourself to take care of. All you need is a good amount of fire wood to keep warm, some fine elk or beef stew, and a bottle of bourbon to knock you back till the weathers passing. For Benjamin Midge though, not only did the seasoned farmer provided Duluth his kind service of sweet corn, fine barley and sheep wool, he also provided for family. So it was his top priority to have his family secure, warm and fed. Especially with the storm being predicted to be the worst to ever hit Duluth, or the state of Minnesota itself.

Benjamin Midge used his 3 sons to aid him, from chopping trees firewood, to hunting elk and a few rabbits for their mother to prepare for dinner and to preserve some for another time. When the wind that whistled through the woods  and mass field of corn and barley became stronger, Benjamin stopped gathering chopped wood and checked his pocket watch from his trousers. It was 4:22pm, the time the snow began to shower down in it’s slow twirling fashion. Benjamin ordered his sons in the house as he guided his sheep in the barn while carrying spare chopped wood over his shoulder. He then locked the barn up and put the key back in his coat pocket. The wind became more fierce, making Benjamin lean his body weight forward, planting each step in crushing snow as he powered his way up the path then up the wooden steps to his front door.

The warmth of his home rushed the blood to his face, but what really warmed him was the kiss of his lovely wife Caroline. “You stink,” She said taking her husband’s drench wool coat.

“Me stinking means there’s food on that table and wood to burn. So I did my part.”

“So did I. Dinners ready.”

“I know, smelled it from outside,” Benjamin said with a big smile showing his teeth through his thick black beard. “Lets eat”.Caroline stopped her husband in his tracks by reaching over his shoulder and gently turning him around saying, “Your not sitting at my table smelling like kill mister. Go wash up, and tell the boys to do the same. Then maybe we can sit around the fire, and read books or tell stories to the kids. You know they love to hear about the crazy adventures in your younger days. They loved those stories the most.”. She rested the coat on her arm and moved one step closer to her husband to twirl her hand in his hanging beard. She then continued saying, “You know, this storm may keep us stuck in here for a day or two but at least we have time with the children. Like Joshua. Ever since that little Rosey Sweeten came along I barely get to see him. After his yard work he’s always running off down the road to see her.”

“Caroline, Joshua is gonna be 17 in spring, which is just weeks from now and I can’t wait, I hate the snow. But he suppose to be taking a liking in a gal like Rosey. He’s becoming a man, let him.”

“I remember the day we brought him home. I was 16 then, Jesus a young gal I was.”

“And a young man I was. That was 1875. Seems like yesterday but you make it seem that way, you’re still beautiful.”  Caroline pulled Benjamin close by his beard and kissed him softly from his honest words. He then said, “Lets just hope this storm doesn’t kill us.”

After the Midge family ate roasted Elk that was served along with potatoes smothered in gravy from the meat, they gathered in the living room. Benjamin threw a log in to feed the flame and began his figurative story telling as he usually does when he has his whole family around to entertain on the dull green sofa. As he was describing his first bear encounter with his grandfather, the day he received his grandfather’s pocket watch, a very sudden and disturbing knock came from the front door. Benjamin stopped his sentence and the whole room grew chill. All eyes were on each other, unsure of who would be traveling in a storm no human would possibly survive. Benjamin check his pocket watch, it was 6:32pm. The bang came again, echoing down the hall into the living room. Bang Bang Bang. “Benjamin! Who’s at the door?”, Caroline said holding her youngest child Toby on the sofa.

“Pa, who is that?”, said his oldest Joshua.

Benjamin gotten hold of the room’s tension by putting his hands up silencing the chatter, then began to walk slowly to the front door. Getting closer to the door, he rolled up his sleeves and try to see through the small window above the door. From what he observed from the small view was something standing there, with an awkwardly wide body frame. At the door Benjamin unlocked it from the top latch to the bottom, placed his body on it slowly and opened it a half inch, just enough to see. At the door step was what appeared to be an old man caked with snow, face beat red from the cutting wind, and weak. The man shivered so frequent, he was jiggering in his thick bear coat. The man then said something to Benjamin, but he couldn’t hear him from the high winds, so he made him repeat again with the man saying, “My names Joe! I was coming from Canada and was robbed of all my things. They took my horses mister. Im…Im afraid I’ll die out here. Please mister, can you help me?”.Benjamin liked people, but never random wondering strangers. He read the man, thinking to himself if he was worth losing food and burning more wood not knowing how long the storm would carry on. While deciding, Caroline hollered from the down hall in the living room, “Benjamin, you’re letting in the cold! Who’s at the door? Benjamin!”. Caroline’s shout forced Benjamin to decide quicker, so he opened the door wider, letting the man in and then closed it and latched it backed up. After, he helped the quivering man take off his thick bear coat that was heavy and hard from the freezing cold. The coat also appeared to be a very filthy with a strong mildew smell screaming out of it and then mixing in with the foul scent of the old man which started to lingered in his home. Before hanging up the coat in the closet, Benjamin asked the man for his boots as well and pointed to the living room that illuminated fiery light from the fire place. The man followed the blooming light into the room and saw Caroline and her children curled together on the couch like chicks in a nest. “Oh my. Seems like the nice man has a family.” The man said rubbing his stick arms to keep warm as he looked at them. “Benjamin!”, Caroline called. Benjamin ran into the living room following the call from his wife saying, “Yes dear?”.

“Who did you let in my house?”, Caroline asked despite the guest being in the room.

“This is Joe….” Benjamin stopped, not remembering the mans last name so he asked the man and the man said, “Just Joe. No last name.”

The youngest child still wrapped up in the arms of his mother abruptly asked, “Why no last name mister? You have no family?”.

Before Caroline could correct her child for questioning a him, Joe answered the boy saying, “No. I never once had a family. I only had my 2 horses, Darrick and Bow.”

Hearing that the man hadn’t had a family or last name made Benjamin uncomfortably curious. He wondered why so he asked, “No family? No name? How the hell can I trust a stranger with no people or origin? Where you from anyway Mr. Joe?”.

Joe turned his head to face Benjamin, still shivering said, “Im from Hallock sir.”

“Then why you tell me at the door you were coming from Canada? And if you’re from Hallock, why didn’t you prepare for the storm? Everyone seemed to know about it.”

Joe laughed loudly, like what Benjamin told him was the punchline to an exaggerated joke. But when seeing that everyone in the room was quiet and only looking directly at him, he regain himself calmly and finally answered saying, “Im a fur trader….or at least I was. I had some business in Canada in which I attended to. I thought the storm was going to come tomorrow evening, but I predicted wrong and was caught in it. I believed I would’ve made it home if I wasn’t robbed for all I had.”

Caroline, sad to hear about the Joe’s lost and unfortunate circumstances said, “Well thats okay Joe, cause we have enough here for all of us and thats including you. We’ll love to help a man in need.”

Benjamin gave Caroline a look of discomfort, letting her know he didn’t fully trust Joe to let him eat and stay. Caroline ignored the look her husband gave her and commanded her youngest son to get a blanket for Joe in the closet up stairs as she made him something to eat in the kitchen. Joe sat down right in front of the fireplace, looking straight into the flames like it was the first time he seen heat in person, the only source to eliminate the splintering cold. Benjamin walked over and plopped into his dark brown arm chair in which he always sits, placed in front of the fireplace but with a wooden table in between that was built by his middle son Benny. Adjacent to him was his 2 sons on the sofa.

Benjamin studied Joe. Seeing his long spiky spine stretched down is slender back, pocking out his under shirt. His ribs were visible as well, every breathe he took seem to expand the rib cage even wider, making his hips appear tiny. Benjamin unlocked his eyes when Toby came down and laid a knitted blanket onto Joe’s back having it fall and hang on his broad skinny shoulders. Joe then wrapped the blanket around him and thanked Toby. After, Caroline came in from the kitchen with a bowl of beans and potatoes. Joe received the bowl like it was his last and thanked her like she was the lord and savior and began eating. Caroline then introduced the family to as he ate starting with her youngest, “This is Toby, my sweet heart, he’s 8. In the middle is Benjamin Jr. but we call him Benny, he’s 12 and so smart. Then my oldest Joshua, he’s 16 turning 17 this coming spring. And Im Caroline. We’re the Midge family.”

Joe looked up from his bowl of food and turned his body from the fire place with some food particles resting in his thick brownish white goatee. He gave them all a big smile and after swallowing said, “Beautiful, strong boys you have there Mrs. Midge. I know you must be so proud”.

“We are. I wished I got at least one little gal, to dress up in nice dresses and go flower picking with. But Im blessed with these maniacs. I know you said you were alone Joe, but why not any children of your own?”.

Instead of answering he put another spoonful of mashed up beans and potatoes in his mouth and peered around the room. His eyes peered over from the logs stack together near the fire place, then to the brick mantle above of the fireplace that was elegantly decorated with dolls dressed in knitted dresses and lined up neatly. It was like they were placed there to give the home a little more life and fun by Caroline, being that only a women would care about home decor. “You have a wonderful home Mrs. Midge.”

“Thank you. “Hows you meal?”.

“Very good. Im thankful.”

Joe turned his body slightly to fully face all of them then continued saying, “Thank you all.”

The warmth from the fire ceased the radiant red skin away on Joe’s face to now sores becoming visible on his face. “You don’t have to thank us, we’re helping a man in need. Anyone would need some caring,” Caroline kindly said.

Outside the wind picked up causing the house to sway a bit, creating creaks in the floor boards and ceiling. “So what kind of fur you sell?” I been wondering where I can find me some long hair beaver fur so I can make a coat with. I been trying to get my husband to go fetch me one for me but he never comes around to it,”Caroline said.

Joe laughed while chewing the swallowed and said, “I can get you anything you need my lady. At a price of course.”

“How lovely.” Benjamin jumped in the conversation stating, “We don’t have money to spend on fur for a coat that only will be worn for the last weeks of the winter. Its a waste.”

“Benjamin, we can afford….”

“Thats enough Caroline,” Benjamin said interrupting his wife but yet staring at Joe. He then asked him, “How were you robbed? Mr.Joe.”

“Benjamin Edward Midge Sr! How rude of you to ask our guest that,” Caroline said sternly.

“Caroline quiet”, Benjamin said. He then continued, “So how were you robbed Mr Joe?” Joe finished his bowl of food and placed it on the floor which made Caroline get up and walk over to him and reach for it. When grabbing it she whispered, “Sorry for his rudeness,” and walked into the kitchen. Joe then spoke to Benjamin with his sons listening saying, “After I sold some fur in Canada as well as purchase some to sell here, I was being spied on.”

“By who?”, Joshua asked inquisitively.

“Joshua, let the man finish, no butting in. Continue Mr.Joe”, said Benjamin.

Joe continued where he left off, “I didn’t know who they were, all I knew was that they been made sight of me. Im assuming they thought I had some money…in which I did. Anyway, as I was worried about being followed I also was  conscience of the weather ahead. When seeing the clouds thicken with heavy snow begin to fall fast I panicked. I had my 2 horses Darrick and Bow make a move on it. The winds were so strong it tilted my carriage every turn I made. When I made it to the Two Harbors I was desperately looking for shelter for the night and completely forgotten about being chased. Before I knew it they cut me off track, and had me at gun point. They took my horses and carriage with all my belongings it .Everything. They made strip down to my undergarments and walk in the storm. I came across a bear coat that was left stranded in the middle of the road, but it managed to keep me warm enough .”

Caroline came back in the room with a tin cup of coffee that was still warm from after dinner. Handing Joe the cup she sympathetically said, “Im so sorry to hear that, good lord. You been through so much Joe. Im glad you found us before you froze to death. I have more coffee brewing don’t be shy to ask for more”.

Benjamin gazed at his wife as she sat down and said, “Alright now Caroline. Dinner, coffee, now you sorry for the man’s condition right now? Let me just get to know our guest more before you feed him the whole house.”  
                          He brought his attention back to Joe and asked, “Why doesn’t a man that deals with merchandise keep a weapon to protect himself?” Joe first thanked Caroline with a nod then took a sip from his black coffee. After swallowing he answered, “I did but I was at gunpoint. They would’ve killed me if tried something”.

“Hmm. For a money making fur trader you sure are boney”.

“Yeah real boney”, Benny added. Benjamin continued speaking, “You’re malnourished. Looks like you haven’t eaten in weeks. Like you survive on air or something”.

“Benjamin!”, Caroline again shouted.

“Shut it women,” Benjamin commanded. He then waited for Joe to respond. Joe took a gulp out of the cup and looked too embarrassed to answer. After swallowing he said, “Things been rough lately. So I haven’t been eating as much as I should.”

“I bet. You don’t appeared to be as old as I first took you Mr. Joe now that I see you all warmed up in the light. But anyway, why you leave too attend business knowing this storm was about to strike?”

Strongs winds brushed the house, again making the house creak as before. Joe then answered, “Like I said before Mr. Midge. I thought I was gonna be back sooner. But I was wrong.”

“Now being that your belongings is gone, how you gonna get back on your feet? Especially with no family around?”

“Benjamin why are you questioning this poor man’s business. Its awfully rude, your never like this”, Caroline darted in.

“Because I think Mr. Joe full of shit”.

The accusation brought a frenzy in the room with everyone looking at Benjamin. “No, no Mr. Midge!”, Joe pleaded. He then put the tin cup down and cupped his hands and begged saying , “I am no liar Mr.Midge. Just an honest fur trader from Hallock…” Benjamin cut off Joe saying, “Hallock is North east from here. Why did you travel down here from Canada and end up here if you were heading back home?”

“Once again mister, I told you I was being chased so I panicked and try to go another direction to lose them.”

“I Thought you panicked and traveled another way because of the weather?”. Joe became stuck, trying to speak with no words coming out. “I was a cluster of things Mr. Midge. I was scared for my life and also trying to beat the weather.”

He finished his coffee and asked for another cup. Caroline got up to grab the kettle in the kitchen, causing Benjamin to say, “Caroline , sit down.”

“Its coffee , its the least we could give,”Caroline said leaving out the room.

Benjamin then continued with Joe saying,“ I don’t know how long this storm is gonna last. One, two days maybe? We only prepared enough for us 5. So  if you stay tonight, you sure are leaving once the sky shines light.”

“Im thankful for all you and your family kind sir.”

When Caroline came back in the room with the kettle, Joe bounced up like a spring to assist himself with he coffee instead. But by pouncing up cause him to bump into her and spill the steaming hot liquid all over the logs near the fireplace. “Shoot!”, Caroline said in reaction. Joe picked up the kettle off the floor and immediately apologized. Caroline tried to clean the spill but Benjamin said, “No. Since you caused this Mr. Joe you can clean it.”

“Yes Mr. Midge”, Joe agreed.

“Great, the logs are wet and now the flame is going down,” Joshua said. 
“Yeah,” Benny said right after.

“Don’t worry boys. Mr. Joe is gonna fetch those for us as well.” Caroline, tired of her husbands crude attitude against Joe said, “No, I’ll clean the mess, and Benjamin will get the extra logs in the barn”.

She then grabbed kettle out of Joe’s hand and continued, “You been through enough today from what I heard, regardless of what my husbands thinks or says. Please excuse him. He’s never liked this to people.” Benjamin then said, “Well, I am when a stranger bangs on your door late in the evening looking for shelter. Seems like a savage to me and I can’t trust savages around my family”.

“No,” Joe said. “Why do you take me as some kind of savage?” Before answering Benjamin looked at his oldest son and said, “Joshua go in my coat, get the key to the barn and get those logs for us son. Im not done talking to Mr.Joe.”

“Ahh, but pa…”

“Do as I say boy”.

“Yes sir,” Joshua said before getting off the couch and leaving out the room. Benjamin then continued with Joe saying, “Everyone knew about this storm. Even if they happened to be traveling on some sort of business, Im sure they would’ve known or heard about it and prepared for it. You said you were at the Two Harbors? Does that mean you came back in the country through Grand Marais?”

“Yes Mr.Midge, I sure did.”

“Heard Grand Marais is bustling with french folk coming from Canada, all to buy fur. It wouldn’t even make sense if you went to Canada if you could profit well there. But lets say you did, how didn’t you find shelter anywhere but here?”.

“I was being chased”, Joe said tensely but still remained innocently calm.

“Yeah, to rob you and they did. I got that. But why just you and not those other money making merchants? Why did they want only your 2 horses and carriage? With all due respect Mr. Joe, but you don’t look nor smell like you have any kind of money”.

“Enough! Caroline screamed. Benny and Toby startled by their mothers high pitch shout. “Benjamin you been on Joe ever since he came through the door. For no reason. I never seen you act like this, never.”

“Yeah pa. You’re never this upset at anyone”, said Benny.

Benjamin took his eyes off Joe and looked at Benny and said, “Cause out of all the stories I told you and your brothers, I never told you the one about savages. If I did you’d understand . All of you would. I think Joe knows what Im saying deep down, I just hope Im wrong about that thought or even about my behavior tonight, for the sake of us.”

“Alright. Like I said, enough,” Caroline said cutting in again. “You may sit Joe.” Joe sat down in the same spot and smiled at Caroline as she walked in the kitchen.

“Pa?,” Toby said getting his fathers attention.

“Yes Toby?”.

“Can you tell us the story about the savages?”. Benjamin let out a small laugh and said, “Yes. I feel as though I have to now. Lets wait till your brother comes back in with the logs.”

Benjamin began to stare at Joe who happened to be looking into the fire like it was an show entertaining his eyes. Though Joe may seem tender, kind and evidently harmless, something about his presents made Benjamin hostile and on guard. Not because he knew Joe wasn’t someone to trust, its cause he smelled the smell savages carry, seen the sores on bodies of people who lived vile from them being wanted men by law, or unwanted by anyone at all. Benjamin also heard the similar lies a savage tells all just to be trusted. Once a savage is trusted they bamboozle whoever however they can, taking everything, leaving none for anyone.

Moments later the flame went down and so did the temperature in the room resulting in Caroline and Toby to get more blankets from up stairs. Joshua still hadn’t came back in with the logs and his brothers were still waiting to be told the story.

“Can you tell the story already pa? Joshua is taking too long,” Benny asked impatiently.” 
Joe agreed with Benny about hearing the story and seemed very interested. Benjamin ignored Joe, and said to Benny,“You should go help your brother, he most likely needs it.”

“Ahh pa! He’s a mighty man right? He can handle it.”

“Benny do you hear those winds? Give your brother a hand and don’t give me any fuss”.

“Listen to your father Benny”, Caroline followed up.

Benny listened to his parents and proceeded to get dress and head out into the storm.

“Maybe I can assist your sons Mr. Midge”, Joe insisted.

“No. I rather you here where I can see you?”, Benjamin said.

Joe readjusted himself on the floor and rewrapped the blanket around him. He then looked at the dying fire and said, “You know, maybe the weather overwhelmed the boy. Maybe something else did. I believe it should’ve been me or you to go out there Mr.Midge. Not those boys.”

“My boy is just fine. He and his brother will be right back.”

“And then you can tell us the story pa?”, Toby said.

“Yes, when they get back.”

A while later, the room was silent. Caroline sipped tea as she stroked hers sons hair till he drifted off into sleep. Joe was completely still, eyes still focused on the small dying light on the burnt logs, like he was using whats left of the flame as a timer. Benjamin checked his pocket watch. It was 8:04pm. It was getting close to bed time and the house was getting much cooler. Joshua and Benny been out there for a while gettin the logs out the barn.

“Go get those boys Benjamin. They’re gonna be in a world of hurt if they’re out there playing around. Im tired and the house is cold as Ice, “Caroline said unamused.

Benjamin didn’t trust to leave Joe along with his wife and young son, but he had to checked on why his other sons were taking long. He listened to his wife and gotten up from his arm chair, went to the closet near the door and began to put on his boots, hat and coat.

Leaving out, the screaming wind immediately push the front door shut close. The wind was so strong, Benjamin had a hard time keeping balance while walking in the quickly piling snowing. The bright white clouded night made everything appear visible, but still hard to see clear from snowflakes constantly getting in the eyes. The door to the barn was opened and was constantly banging against the barn. Benjamin knew something was wrong when he looked inside the dark barn and seen no sign of anyone. Benjamin began to call both of his sons names as he stepped in the pitch black space of the barn. There was an oil lantern in the back middle of the barn, where the sheep usually huddled. While calling for his sons and walking to get the lantern, Benjamin went between the sheep huddle and spread them out but after they dispersed two bodies were uncovered. Benjamin couldn’t breathe or believe what he saw.  He couldn’t scream nor feel either. He was dead at heart. Joshua and Benny were slain. Benjamin dropped down to the floor and tried to pick his boys up, but both their necks were snapped, freely swigging as their father tried to get a hold of them. Finally a scream came out the mans body and echoed throughout plantation. He then heard Caroline and Toby scream. Which caused him to drop his dead sons and jump up. Turning Around Benjamin seen 2 massive men over towering him. Both bearded, hideous giants possessed the same sour stench Joe had and they walked up slowly to Benjamin, backing him into the back of the barn. Backed in the wall, Benjamin was trapped as the men closed in on him. Once the one on the left extended his arms out to try and strangle him, Benjamin reached to his side grabbing the oil lantern and struck the massive man hard causing him to grab his face and cry out in pain. The other managed to punch Benjamin to the ground with a the hard blow. He began stomping him on the ground. The commotion inn the barn made the sheep stampede out and into the storm. On the ground, Benjamin seen a plow propped against the wall to the right of him as he was being kicked. When the man went for another kick, he rolled over and grabbed the plow and swiped the man off his feet with it. Benjamin then got up with the plow and stabbed in the mans shoulder piercing it in the ground. Right after, he then sped back the fastest he could to the house to save what’s left of his family.

Limping  his way down the hall and into the living room he seen Joe standing facing the dead fire, with the remainder of his loved ones at his feet. Joe then turned around, wiping the blood off him by using his own garments. He then looked into Benjamin’s eyes and laughed loudly, the same weird way he did before. Benjamin dropped to the floor and crawled to his dead son and wife and buried his head into them. Joe looked down at the destroyed man that was near his feet and said, “This would’ve been over sooner if I knew exactly who was in here, but it all ended beautifully. Thanks for the home, food and new clothes I soon will be wearing. And thanks for the field, I can make lots of money here, start a new life here as a farmer…who woulda thought.Its hard being on the run with no place to lay your head, no food promised to you, but thanks to Midge family I don’t have to worry. Ain’t that right Darrick and Bow.” The two massive men walked inside the house and standing over Benjamin, one with a wound in his should and one with a half bloody face. The 3 savages stood over Benjamin. Joe then kicked Benjamin over to see them and said, “I told the boys I’ll have this house by the time the flame died, seems like my timing was perfect. It’s too bad you weren’t able to tell that tale to your family, the one about the savages you speak of. It sounds like a good one, especially when it ends with the savages surviving.”

Throughout my life I have always been  interested in exploring my imagination and showing others around me my creative thoughts however I could. I began writing my ideas down, along with several short stories and a manuscripts for a few years now and I have enjoyed expressing myself on paper. I want to share my stories because I strongly believe they are worth the read and time. Someday I want my visuals to come to life, but writing is just the beginning to any idea. I’m 23 years old, very focused and I am dedicated to this craft. I’m also hungry for progression, working hard everyday to figure out how to entertain the everyday man.