Short Story
Pancakes by: Brian Katanov
We walked for about a mile to find it. Surrounded by large pine trees, we hurried along the main road as a cool wind rustled the restless leaves of the trees above. As we walked, my uncle was explaining how to tell which direction you were headed when in a forest, and when you couldn’t see the sun. The longer he spoke, the longer his deep monotone was drowned out by the many other thoughts floating around my mind. I wasn’t really paying much attention, because it all seemed so obvious. He went on about it for a couple minutes, but thankfully, we came upon two large branches that we had left on the ground, pointing from the road and into the wood and signaling an end to my uncle’s speech. This was our marker to find them.
We walked forwards, bright green grass crunching underfoot. Following a path through the trees, just barely visible amongst the grass and dirt, we walked. It led out the other side of the wood, into a clearing with tall grass and, more importantly, blueberry bushes. “Nothing better,” said my uncle, his cheerful voice echoing through the wood, “Than fresh blueberries picked with your own hands.” He directed me to one of the bushes, and handed me a plastic cup. “Collect them in here,” he told me, “but make sure to only pick the ripe ones.”
We picked for hours in silence, soothed by the sound of the brook nearby, the soothing sound gracing our ears, though not yet our eyes. I pulled a branch down with one hand, bringing the furthest blueberries closer to be. Holding the cup in my mouth, I tenderly plucked the blueberries off the branch, and placed them into the cup; just looking at the small spheres made my mouth water in anticipation, imagining the satisfying crunch and sweet taste that would later fill my mouth and stain my tongue. I couldn’t see it at first, but as the sun continued its journey across the sky my cup slowly filled with blueberries; before I knew it, I had a full cup.
Once both of our cups were reasonably full, we began our trek back to the Noble Nest, a lakehouse for hire that we had rented a couple of rooms in for the weekend. We used a different path than the previous one taken at the start of our journey. Earlier, i had heard the soothing sounds of a trickling brook that emptied into a lake. Now, as we continued our trip, i noticed that this brook flowed into a crystal clear lake at the bottom of a steep hill, the very same hill that the house stood on.
As we made our way around the lake, I was transfixed by the serenity of the scene before me. I looked up at the sun, which was almost gone, disappearing behind the canopy-like trees. The vibrant oranges and purples slowly disappeared, making room for the thick, inky color and twinkling lights of the night sky. It occurred to me that the sunrise would be even more breathtaking. i decided i would go early the next morning, down the lake, and watch the sunrise. After all, this was a once in a lifetime opportunity. I couldn’t miss it. When we got to the house, we the blueberries were washed and set to the side for a ‘special treat.’ I didn’t think much of it, as I was tired from the long trek we took, and hungry for dinner.
I woke up early that morning, to see the sun rise over the lake. I dressed quietly, so as to not wake up my family and the other residents of the Noble Nest, since we weren’t the only family that had rented rooms in the large lake house.
I crept down the steps, slowly and quietly until… CREE! The stair squeaked! The sound was amplified in my ears by the silence of the morning and echoed throughout the large twelve bedroom house; I paused, listening to whether or not anyone had stirred from the noise. They hadn’t. I moved onwards, toward the door, and I cautiously opened and closed it. At last, I was finally outside. I was finally outside. I began my journey down the slope, first slowly, but then faster, as the hill got steeper. At the base of the hill, where the lake began, there was a small footbridge that led to the middle of the clear blue water. In the center there was a tiny island, home only to a small white gazebo and a dock with a single rowboat. It looked almost inconspicuous against the wide, open sky, but it also gave me a feeling of serenity and safety; a small, safe object keeping me grounded.
As I made my way onto the island, I felt the chill of the mist that was hovering over the lake. The morning was still, peaceful, with nothing but the occasional creak of my footsteps on the bridge to break up the silence. The damp, cool air was still as well; not a single breeze graced my skin as I walked towards the gazebo. I sat in the gazebo, and waited. I saw the sky slowly get brighter but… I was in the wrong spot! I had forgotten to check in which direction the sun rose, and had assumed it would be over the far edge of the lake, where there were no trees obstructing the view. But alas, I had been wrong. The sun was rising on the side of the lake directly opposite the house, where the view was obstructed by trees. If only I had listened to my uncle the day before, then I wouldn’t be up so early in the morning waiting for a sunrise I would never see. My heart felt as heavy as the mist as I walked back up the slick, dewy grass.
Yet as I walked back up the grass, I was not completely regretful. Had I listened to my uncle, I never would have gotten up early enough to see the mist rise up from the lake and disappear into the sky, revealing an even more picturesque image then before. I never would have smelled the dew, coming off of grass that shone in the sun. I would never have felt the calm of the still air of early morning, with the silence only ever broken by the quiet chirping of birds. I did not regret those things.
The serenity of the lake beckoned to me once more, and I was tempted to go back down to the lake, down into the gazebo and to just soak in the peacefulness of the morning. I felt a much stronger pull from elsewhere however, from the bed in my room, where I could go back to sleep. As quietly as I had left, I crept back into the enormous house and went back up the steps – skipping the one which had almost gotten me caught earlier – and back into my room, where I slept until the smell of breakfast woke me up, for the second time that morning. Blueberry pancakes, my favorite.
-Brian Katanov