We drive eleven hours every summer to the cottage. This year it is only Lowell, Machanon and myself making the trip. Seeing as how there is only three of us, we take the pickup truck. We drive down the thin roadway carved between the trees towards the old family haunt.
Lowell is anxious to hunt. Out of the corner of my eye I can see him eyeing his buck knife, resting in the sheath on his belt loop. Machanon concentrates on driving, though he is prone to letting his eyes wander from behind his sunglasses. It's a tight squeeze in the truck, but we manage. I have the window rolled down and am admiring the view. After all of these years, it is the only thing that stays the same.
The cottage has stayed intact all winter. Machanon slowly pulls up and is relieved to see that a tree didn't fall on the roof like last year. Once the truck has stopped, he goes off to look at the water pump. Lowell goes inside. I wander over to the dock.
The interior of the cottage hasn't changed. Our old family pictures are still up on the wall, from our outings that took place along the way here. The one that is most vivid in my mind is when we all stopped at the plains, and rolled through the grass until the sun went down. But that was a long time ago. We aren't kids anymore.
Lowell looks in each of the bedrooms. "Hard to believe that we used to fit five in a room."
"On a good night," I add.
That night I sleep in the room that we once shared with Draydon and Arran in the early summers. Arran's one of those business types now. Too good for us, and a shadow of his former self. He hasn't been up to the cottage since he got engaged to a WASP three years ago. Draydon came with us last summer.
We used to jump off the dock.
I find Machanon smoking outside early the next morning. He's dressed; been up longer than I have. I doubt that he actually slept.
"Lowell went hunting," he grunts between drags. "He was up before the sun rose."
"Can I ask you something?" I don't wait for him to respond. "Should we have come back here?"
"It's really only tradition if everyone comes." It's quiet on the lake that morning. There is a fine mist resting on the water, and the only sign of life is the sound of Machanon inhaling and exhaling. "I miss how it used to be."
"We all do."
There were many straws that broke the camel's back, but the truth of the matter is that we were all getting older. We weren't the kids that we once were. Cousins who would travel north every summer to spend time together.
The last time I saw Draydon was when he dove into the lake and never came back up.
I walk to the edge of the dock and glance downward to the murky water. Remember what we used to be. Wonder why I agreed to come up this summer. I think I was worried that Machanon would get into trouble if he went alone. Lowell was a last minute add-on. Maybe he's worried about us.
I look out into the fog and see why we will never sell the cottage. I remember canoes on the lake. Splashing in the water. Early mornings on the dock with cups of coffee. Fishing on the island. Days like we had together on the plains, rolling in fields and running through meadows.
Then I hear Lowell's voice in the back of my head. "How long has he been down there?"