Brian recalls how two years before, he and his friend, Terry, had been fooling around in the park. They pretended they were lost in the woods and talked all afternoon about what they would do in that situation. Of course, they imagined they had all kinds of equipment to help them, but he remembered that they had decided the best shelter would be a lean-to. So now, Brian begins to decide how to build one. He finds on the far side of a ridge a scooped out area under a ledge. The ledge makes a perfect roof over a spot that really isn't a cave, but gives protection all the same. Besides the overhang, there is a small sand beach leading to the lake and his water supply.
Once he finds his shelter, he becomes concerned once again about finding food. He searches his mind for any TV shows he may have seen about surviving in the wilderness and remembers one on a course that Air Force pilots had to take about surviving in the desert. He recalls how they used a watch crystal to reflect the sun and create a fire, but all he has is a digital watch without a crystal. He also recalls how one of the pilots had found some beans on a bush and had used them with lizard meat to create a stew. He doesn't have the assets of a desert, but he knows that in this wilderness there must be berry bushes. Mixed into these thoughts is the hate he feels at his mother and the blond-haired man. He believes that if she hadn't been with the man, there would have been no divorce, and he wouldn't be in the predicament he is in now.
Brian puts the hateful thoughts to the back of his mind and begins to search along the lake for berry bushes. Several birds in the bushes are eating something he realizes are berries. He begins to attack the bushes where the birds had been feasting in the same way he had attacked the water. Then, he makes a pouch out of his windbreaker and gathers as many of the berries as he can and takes them back to the shelter.
Brian's next concern is fire. He remembers the part about rubbing two
sticks together, but when he tries it, he has no luck. So then, Brian
begins to weave sticks together to create a wall to close in his shelter.
However, he can't keep out the mosquitoes, so with his stomach turning
over and over from the berries, he curls up, wrapped in the windbreaker
in his new shelter.
Using his own experiences and past memories, Brian takes the next step
to help himself: he finds food and he builds a shelter. He sometimes can't
keep down the memories of the Secret or the divorce. But he tries hard
not to allow them to obsess him so that he can protect himself in his
Brian awakens in the night with severe stomach cramps and screaming for his mother. For over an hour, he vomits and has diarrhea because of the berries with which he gorged himself. Then, he crawls back into his shelter, and because he can't fall asleep again for a bit, he remembers the mall and his mother with the blonde-haired man. This time, however, the memory continues, and Brian remembers that they weren't just together in the station wagon; they were kissing passionately. Gradually, the memory fades, and he sleeps again, with the last thought that the Secret was the kiss.
When Brian awakens, he remembers the reaction to what he calls the gut cherries, and sets to cleaning up after himself. He goes to the lake and looks into the water. What he sees frightens him - his face is cut and bleeding, swollen and lumpy. His hair is matted and there is a cut on his forehead. His eyes are slits in the middle of all the mosquito bites. He's also covered with dirt. He is almost overcome with self-pity, and he cries long, wasted tears. But he puts aside the pity and crawls back into the shelter. He picks out only the berries that are fully ripe and eats them carefully, this time spitting out the pits. He even comes to think of his new shelter as home, and the thought amazes him, as it makes real how he has changed in just two or thee days.
Later, Brian goes in search of more berries; this time finding raspberries
that are full and ripe and much safer to eat. Just as he is eating a few,
he hears a slight noise and turns to see a bear. He stands perfectly still
out of fear that such a huge animal could have come up behind him with
such little noise. The bear helps himself to a few berries and then slowly
moves away. Once it is gone, Brian begins to run, but soon comes to a
stop when he realizes that the bear had made no move to hurt him. He is
not prey for the bear which had only been foraging for berries, just like
him. So, he slowly walks back to the berry bushes and begins to gather
more and makes it back to his shelter just as a storm breaks overhead.
For the first time, he doesn't think of himself and instead marvels over
how he had shared the berries with another being. Nonetheless, he takes
precaution and puts the hatchet close beside him as he falls asleep that
This chapter exhibits Brian in the middle of a learning curve. His greed for food led to diarrhea and vomiting, and now he knows to look at what he's eating more closely. He learns that he can share the food with another being which could be dangerous to him, but had proven to be willing to share the berries with him. He also learns to take more precautions in spite of the bear leaving him alone. He is in a wilderness, and he has no idea what dangers might wait ahead. Finally, he learns that there is no room for self-pity in his predicament. There is no one there to help him or listen and pity him.
Cite this page:
Clapsaddle, Diane. "TheBestNotes on Hatchet".