Mountain Lake

Mountain Lake

The trees had turned spectacular colors since our last visit; buttery yellow oaks, shimmering crimson maples. There didn’t seem to be any space left green.

“I think we hit the peak of foliage season,” Charlie mused. We were on the trail leading to the upper boat landing. The ferns glistened with morning dew.  As we rounded the last curve, Charlie, who was leading, suddenly stopped. I did too, beside him. From a high knoll, we took in the expansive view: Mt. Marcy rose in the far distance, the curvaceous, colorful Adirondack range beckoned. A loon sounded, that strange noise that instantly made me feel alone, despite Charlie’s presence. The morning sun was already hot in the eastern sky. But looking west, I noticed dark clouds that looked like they could be trouble if they came closer. I licked my finger, and held it up, tried to gauge which way the wind was blowing, like Dad used to.  I had no clue, it was oddly still.

“Look,” I pointed, “there’s a family of mergansers near the canoe.”

Charlie nodded, smiling. He loved nature possibly more than I, fought the land management company when our squatter’s rights were challenged. He’d argued that the land had been in our family since Grandpa Howl was 20. “No commercial timber company deserves to profit from such pristine land,” he’d said at the time.

“Have you ever seen such a gorgeous lake?” Charlie said. I look sideways, he was wearing one of my Dad’s favorite hats, a trucker’s cap: Fly Rod Shop, Stowe, Vermont. There was a rainbow trout drawn on the front. Since Dad passed in 2002, Charlie had slowly morphed into shades of him. Used his hats, smoked his tipparillo’s (keeps the bugs away!) and fished with his favorite fly rods.

We continued to walk toward the point, the pungeant scent of decaying leaves and the familiar sound of the water lapping against our boat registered. We spooked the family of ducks. They beat it down the lakeshore, making a huge ruckus that made us chuckle.

“You’d have thought we were dangerous,” Charlie chuckled.

I placed the oars into our Criss-craft canoe. “The lake is so still this morning,” I noticed. “It’s almost haunting.” A loon echoed my remark, the fog lifted in sinewy shapes. “Why don’t you get in and I’ll push us out a short distance. The water is really shallow at the shore.”

“Okay!” Charlie said. His agile body bounded onto the deck. He angled his feet into the canoe.

“Go slow, Chuck,” I cautioned. “She’s easy to tip.” I wasn’t sure what significance that would have, not until later that afternoon, miles from our cabin,  when the Nor’easter would surprise us. But for now, as I glided the canoe away from our cabin, the stove reflecting the glint of the morning sun creeping through the fog, I thought, life is good!

Bits of memorabilia traipsed through my mind: the first time Dad and I canoed from Tippet Point, the aluminum canoe in which my sister, Debbie, and I were stuck during an electrical storm on Tupper Lake.

“Look! There’s that loon!” Charlie squealed. And I felt his boyish enthusiasm, admired his zest for life, a thousand times more magnified than mine.

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About Robert Vaughan

Originally from NY, published author, editor, and workshop leader, his poems and fiction are widely found in over 500 print and online magazines, such as Necessary Fiction, BlazeVOX, Connotation Press, BlazeVOX, Thrice, Literary Orphans and Smokelong Quarterly. He is Managing Editor at (b)OINK magazine and leads round- tables for Redoak Writing. He is a six times Pushcart Prize Nominee and his fiction and poetry have won awards, including a Micro-Fiction runner-up (2012) and twice a finalist in the Gertrude Stein Fiction Award (2013-14). His collections are: Microtones (Cervena Barva Press); Diptychs + Triptychs + Lipsticks + Dipshits (Deadly Chaps); Addicts & Basements (Civil Coping Mechanisms); RIFT, co-authored with Kathy Fish (Unknown Press), and FUNHOUSE (Unknown Press).
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8 Responses to Mountain Lake

  1. Suzi says:

    God how I love autumn in the Northeast….you’ve perfectly captured the mood, the scents, the sights…every single nuance is spot on. You’ve hinted at the Nor’easter – but what happens when it hits? Do they make it to their cabin unscathed? Do they take refuge under a fallen tree? You’re such a tease, Robert!

  2. david says:

    SIGH .. mournful… emotive… SIGH… like the mountains and lakes themselves… so full of death and rebirth… the waters that feed America’s largest and most vibrant city and suburban areas at it’s source… and in “Peak” season.

    Another lovely story.

  3. Andrea says:

    Another beautifully descriptive story. I can truly imagine the changing of the leaves and the somewhat melancholy of time moving with or without you. Charlie.

  4. Theo says:

    Gorgeous, evocative piece depicting one of my favorite seasons, and this New York state area so rich with lush sensory experiences. This was wonderful- does the storm take them over? Does something dark happen that you have shaded in this earliest draft?

  5. Beverly says:

    Lovely story about the narrator and Charlie. I liked this one, you do such a great job when your stories are set in nature. I can feel the path to where the canoe sits, and can see the cloud cover that sets the tone for something that might happen later when they are away from the shore. Reminds me of Wallace Stegner. Have you read anything written by him?

  6. Angela says:

    I am once again transported into the scene you so beautifully describe. Limited experiences with this kind of color and foliage being a Florida girl, but looking forward to more now that I’m in NY. Flashback to a 3 day canoe trip on Buffalo River near Memphis with my brother-in-law and 12 yr. old twin nephews last Fall. Great description of Charlie becoming more like Dad since his death…funny the things we hold onto when loved ones pass. I keep my Dad’s old wallet nearby with his Navy ID cards inside. Strange yet somehow comforting…still have a “piece.” Nice foreshadowing of some danger ahead…and as always, you leave me wanting more. Word for the day is mergansers 🙂 And what is the stove? Is that the boat motor?

  7. Don says:

    Made me crave the fall season. So wonderful in the northeast, makes me glad that I live here. Nice job taking me from this winter season and directly into the scene you’ve created. Charlie seems like a sweet guy, and your relationship is endearing. The protagonist is a guy? I wasn’t sure, maybe I just wanted him to be.

  8. Shari says:

    I liked the way the narrator person in this looks at Charlie, and his perception of the natural world, the beauty of autumn surrounding them. While the Noreaster looms, their fate might be decided. Typically a Nor’easter comes from the northeast, thus the name. In this case, though the term has been common in our culture to refer to any strong rain or snow storm that occurs in the northeast part of the United States. I checked with my husband and my sister on this because I didn’t want to steer you wrong, if you do decide to carry further in the piece. And I sure hope you do!

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