In the Cabin – True Image

“There it is,” boomed the giant, startling me out of my daydream. “My cabin.” My eyes followed the broad sweep of his long arm.

“It’s… it’s different to what I pictured.” I wouldn’t have told him for the world that I’d had to pick up my jaw from the ground.

And it certainly was different. What I had imagined was a dark, cramped log cabin with a leaky roof and broken window panes, complete with a gloomy atmosphere. But this, on the other end of the spectrum, was a two-story house with light brown brick walls, lace curtains hanging in the windows, a neat little porch, and a row of well-tended rose bushes. All the windows were filled with a warm glow that seemed to be beckoning me.

The giant must have felt the lure of the cabin too, for he suddenly stirred from his reverie and said, “Well, come along into the cabin, then. No use freezing out here when it’s warm in there.”

I followed the giant up the porch steps and through the door. Once inside, I found myself standing next to a dinner table, covered with books of all sizes, placed in the centre of the small kitchen. On the far side of the room were a lounge and TV. A smouldering fire was burning in the wood-heater along the back wall.

The giant slammed the door shut and then rubbed his hands together. “I’ll put some more wood in the fire,” he said.

He strode towards the wood-heater, but suddenly stopped in his tracks. “Look at your feet!” he bellowed, concern showing in his face.

I looked down. My bare feet were all muddy and scraped from my trudge through the bush. “I-I threw away my shoes.”

“I know. I can still feel the lump where one of them landed.” The giant’s blue eyes studied my face carefully.

I squirmed a little under his gaze.

“The bathroom is through there,” he said, pointing. “Go ahead and wash up. Dinner will be ready in a minute.”

Mud smeared the floorboards as I tip-toed to the bathroom. I fumbled for the light switch and, once I had it flipped on, quickly went in and closed the door behind me.

I heaved a big sigh. Well, that progressed quickly. I wonder what dinner with a giant will be like. And will there be anyone else joining us?

I hoped not. One stranger was enough to deal with.

I wondered whether anything in this bathroom would give me an idea of who else lived in this place.

Feeling like some sort of detective, I tentatively opened the wall cabinet above the basin. There were three shelves inside. On the top shelf were two large bottles of mouthwash and a packet of toothbrushes.

That’s a lot of mouthwash for one person… or perhaps there was a special price.

The next shelf down held an old razor, shaving cream, aftershave, and deodorant. There didn’t appear to be any evidence of a female living in the cabin.

However, on the bottom shelf, there was a single bottle of perfume among the various bottles of medicine and tubes of antiseptic cream. Its cap was shaped like some flower. “Rose” was printed in gold writing on the front of the bottle.

Overcome by curiosity, I gently removed the cap and sniffed. I closed my eyes. The scent was heavenly.

All of a sudden, I sensed that this must have been a very special and intimate gift. I had no right to go rifling through bathroom cabinets and personal items. I grabbed the rose-shaped cap and screwed it back on the bottle. I silently returned it to the shelf, careful to make sure it was positioned the way it was before, and closed the door. The mirror attached to the door reflected the guilt in my pale, oval face.

My greenish-grey eyes stared back at me in stern disapproval and condemnation.

You hate it when people pry into your life… and here you are, prying into another person’s life. What do you think you’re doing?

A loud knock on the door gave me the shock of my life.

“Food’s just about ready,” announced the giant.

“O-okay, I won’t be a minute,” I called back, trying to sound cheerful but failing miserably.

I left my reflection and started cleaning up my feet with a damp washcloth I’d found on the edge of the small bathtub in the corner. I wasn’t sure what to do with it after that, so I rinsed it and put it back. I dried my feet with the bathmat, combed my hair with my fingers, and left the bathroom. I noticed that the floorboards were already mud-free.

A weird sight greeted me when I stepped into the kitchen. My strange host was standing by the stove, stirring the contents of a large pot and wearing a faded pink floral apron of all things.

I bit down on my tongue and tried not to smile in case he saw me.

“I hope you haven’t lost your appetite,” boomed the giant without turning.

“I don’t think there’s any chance of that.”

The kitchen was silent, except for the scraping sound of the wooden spoon as the giant forced it round and round. I watched until the sight made me feel dizzy. I turned away, and as I did so, a large photo hanging on the wall near the front door caught my eye. It drew me closer and, before I knew anything, I was standing directly in front of it.

The photo was of an extremely tall man with dark hair that was just starting to grey and, standing next to him, was a little woman with curly blonde hair and a sweet smile. The man’s face, to my surprise, was clean-shaven. Both the man and the woman were dressed in white and looked very happy. In the bottom right corner, the words “Robert and Valerie Jones – 10th Wedding Anniversary” were printed in neat handwriting. I knew without even having to read it that this woman owned the perfume. Kindness and sweetness glowed in her face. I was completely mesmerised by it.

“Beans are served up!” the giant announced.

I reluctantly turned back toward the kitchen. “Beans? You mean, like, baked beans?” I had hoped that, because the cabin wasn’t as bad as I had imagined, the dinner would be better, too.

“Of course. On a cold night like this, you need beans and toast! Nothing else fills you and warms you like beans do.” The giant – or Robert – threw some pieces of scorched toast onto the two plates set on the bench. Then he dolloped a great amount of butter onto the toast and began vigorously spreading it.

He stopped and quickly looked at me through his bushy eyebrows. “Did you want butter? I should have asked before putting it on!” he bellowed, frowning.

“I-I don’t care.”

I secretly wondered just how loud he could shout if he got really angry. I didn’t want to hang around long enough to find out.

The perfume bottle! He might notice that I moved it. Suddenly, I wasn’t hungry anymore. I wished I’d never come here.

“Clear away some of those books, would you please?” he instructed.

I did as he told me. The books were covered in thick blankets of dust. I coughed as I carefully stacked them to one side. I wished that I could get a cloth or a vacuum cleaner and get rid of all the dust. Then I would organise the books in alphabetical order, like I had always done at home. And I’d definitely tip those beans into the bin.

Why doesn’t this Valerie lady keep things in proper order?

After I had cleared enough space, Robert set out the steaming plates of food and the cutlery. Then we sat down on chairs either side of the table.

He glanced at me for a second and then closed his eyes.

“Thank You, Father,” he said in a softer tone than I’d heard him use before.

I quickly shut my eyes and waited for him to continue praying. But, he didn’t.

That’s the shortest grace I’ve ever heard.

I cautiously opened one eye. He was picking up his knife and fork to start eating.

I hurried to do the same. Beans or no beans, I needed food. With a slight grimace, I cut a portion of bean-covered toast and picked it up with my fork. I’d only just put it into my mouth when Robert laid his cutlery back down on his plate with a clang.

“I’ve forgotten my manners. My name is Robert Jones, but you can call me Bob,” he said, extending his hand across the table.

My mouth was still full, so I just dumbly nodded and shook his hand. Once I had chewed and swallowed my mouthful, I finally managed to say, “I’m Veronica.”

“Privileged to meet you.” A friendly smile cracked across his face. “And, of course, you’ve met Hezekiah, haven’t you?” He motioned in the direction of the front door. “He’s too much of a handful to keep indoors. Besides, Valerie—” he stopped abruptly.

Questions crowded in my mind – about both Valerie and Hezekiah.  But, I sensed that the less interesting of the two was the safest. I still felt guilty about snooping in the bathroom.

“Why… why did you say that you needed to know my name before I could wrestle with Hezekiah? I mean, you let me come into your cabin when you didn’t know who I was. I don’t get it.”

Bob chewed his food slowly and contemplatively. “Yes, I can see why you’d find it strange. You see, one day, Hezekiah and me were out in the bush – where we were today – and a group of youngsters were passing by. Probably about your age. One of them saw us and figured that he’d like to play with Hezekiah. I was busy watering plants, so I let the boy go ahead. Before I knew it, the whole gang was playing with Hezekiah. And everyone was enjoying themselves. But, then they got impatient with him because he got tired – he’s not as young as he used to be, you understand – so they started prodding him with sticks and kicking him. I yelled at the little nuisances to leave him alone… and you should have seen them run. But poor Hezekiah was whimpering and limping when I got to him.

“I tried to find out who those kids were and their parents’ names. I figured that if I could find the parents and tell them what happened, maybe they’d teach their kids a lesson. But, I couldn’t remember what the kids looked like – I’m no good with faces – and I didn’t know where to look. So, ever since then, I always ask people for their names before letting them play with Hezekiah.”

By the time Bob had finished his story, I was scraping up the last few beans (which actually weren’t too bad, by the way) with my knife and fork. I quickly glanced up at him. Almost wistfully, he was staring slightly off to one side of the table. He opened his mouth, but then closed it again. Without saying a word, he looked down at his plate and continued eating.

A moment later, he abruptly said, “Why don’t you sit by the fire while I finish eating and wash up? After that, I’ll drive you to…” He paused and looked at me squarely. “Where were you planning to go?”

Blast! I hadn’t thought about that.

“Well…” I stalled. “Could you just drop me off at the train station?”

Please let that be the end of the interrogation.

“At this hour?” He rubbed his chin. “You got someone to meet you at the other end?”

“Oh, of course!” I almost grimaced at how unconvincing I sounded.

He gave me another of his piercing looks before grunting, “Good,” then turned his attention back to his food.

Relieved, I got up from my chair and walked towards the welcoming flicker of flames. My tired body ached with every step, so I was glad when I was finally able to collapse onto the lounge.

I’m so exhausted, but I should really try to figure out where I can go from the train station. Friends? Family?

My eyes wandered across the room, from the cramped stairs along the right-hand wall to the glowing wood-heater in front of me. Strange memories and thoughts floated around in my mind as I watched the hungry flames consume the wood. Once or twice, a picture of my dad came to me, reawakening the question I had asked myself for as long as I could remember: “Why did Dad leave us?”

It was a question I had hardly any hope of having answered. And even if the mystery were to be miraculously solved, I felt certain that the truth would be ugly; that he still wouldn’t want us. There would not be any fairy-tale ending for my family. Dad was gone, Mum had let me down, and now I had to deal with the realisation that there was no one I could trust… not even myself.


Waves of hopelessness, compounded by exhaustion, swept over me. I curled up on the lounge and tried to control the violent sobs which shook my body. I vaguely remember hearing the light clatter of dishes and the deep tone of Bob’s humming before sleep claimed me.

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