We stopped and turned. Behind us, there was no one–only the trail, the beachhead, and the row of abandoned boathouses. Inside these we could hear the soft hum of boat motors churning the water below, preventing the electric rudder from freezing. We had just crossed the lake, having doubled back after hearing deep groans in the ice. Luke and I were still riding an adrenaline high.
“I’ll get him,” I said, and started walking down the path. I was sure we’d find him taking a leak behind one of the boathouses, and that I’d give him a lecture on not abusing the freedom Forest Lake Club allows in the winter when all the older guests have gone to Florida. But there he was, laying on the forest floor a few feet off the trail.
He’d been crying.
I laid beside him and watched the branches criss-cross overhead, knowing that this had something to do with the ice cracking. It was very cold and the air felt fresh and alive. I waited for him to talk.
“On the way up here, I got a call from my grandma,” he said. “She’s dying. But she sounded so happy. She was talking about her day, telling me a story…and she stopped and apologized. She thought she was talking too much…and I…I told her, ‘No, keep going I want…I want to hear it.’” He laughed, a few tears sliding down his furry face. “And it was about nothing important, you know, just what happened at the store. I haven’t heard her this happy in years.” He became quiet for a time, then spoke again. “It was the self-conscious part that was beautiful. That’s what made it beautiful.”
A story can be both unimportant and vital. It’s the act of storytelling, and our eager acceptance of others’ stories, that saves us in the end.
JOE SKOFF, SENIOR STORY DIRECTOR