From the author: the man who lives alone in the woods makes breakfast with his friend
The Man Who Lives Alone in the Woods has cleared the ground for his latest palace. Fallen branches which have been cut neatly and stacked against a pine tree to dry, wait for the man to start his fire.
His shoes are waiting inside the van. They're warm under the belly of his best dog, only dog, Black Dog With Bat Ears. His feet are turning blue in the icy creek that runs through his palace, and he is gathering rock for a stove.
These are good rocks. Big rocks shorn flat by the mountain he stands on, worn smooth by the water he stands in. He hurls them out of the stream until he has enough to tame a fire. He makes a low circle of them, and deepens one stretch of the circle like a harbor. He chooses the flattest stones for his small inlet, and lays them like a mason so they will not shift. He would prefer to make the whole pit so methodically, but methods come better after breakfast, and this is his first day in the palace.
Black Dog with Bat Ears jumps down from the bed inside the van. He has forgotten the man's shoes, but there is warmth in his fanged smile.
Metaphorical warmth is better with a fire, and the man brushes his dog away from the tiny flame that flickers against the biting cold. The tinder catches and fire billows quickly up the tower he made of kindling. He adds wood from his stack and smoke floods his palace because the wood was freshly gathered and too green.
His squints against the particulate, and goes back to his van. The dog follows and reminds him to pull on his shoes.
His feet prickle as the warmth returns them to life. Black Dog noses through his store of foodstuffs, and he nods his agreement. Peanut butter breakfast, and jam, over pancakes. He mixes his batter as the fire burns down to coals.
The man rakes his coals to the little harbor of rock and sets his pan above it. He cooks three pancakes. The first, a little underdone, he tosses to Black Dog, who snatches it from the air and devours it in one swallow. The second and third, he turns onto his tin travelers plate and smothers in peanut butter and jam. As he eats his breakfast, he relaxes into the quiet loveliness of this wooded place, the swift stream, the cliffs that rise from the ground only a short hike away.
Snow is beginning to fall as he cleans his plate, and the man who lives alone in the woods is not prepared for harsh conditions. He suggests to Black Dog that they break camp soon, and find another palace further south, or at least a little further down the mountain.
Black Dog wags his hindquarters along with his tail, then bounces intently onto his forepaws. The man takes a stick from the top of his firewood and arcs it cleanly toward the stream.
The man again agrees with his dog. He will stay another day in this place. They are warm enough together.