Old Cabin Still – Part 1

A few years back, I wrote my first short story inspired by Stephen King novels. Enjoy!

A cold breeze swept down from Canada and into the forest of the southern Adirondacks. The predawn sky displayed a brilliant range of pink and violet hues. Five teenagers scurried into a boat and set off across Indian Lake.  Justin and Brad elected to row the fourteen foot jon boat.  They had been planning this search during the final few months of school.  Last year, Brad thought he saw something on the other side. It was visible when the water level dropped.  Fatigue began to set in as the distance seemed longer than expected.  The dry air singed the throats of the rowers. Seemingly out of nowhere, a hawk swoops down from above. Brad is startled and ducks down to the right. The boat jolts and takes on a splash of water. At the helm, Rose is nearly flung into the lake.  Justin quickly grabs her arm for the save.  After thirty minutes of rowing, they approach the other side. Brad looks around but is obviously frustrated. He orders them to stop.

“This could be the spot.” he says.  There was nothing to see.  Once again, Brad directs the group, “Use the oars and see if you feel anything below.”  After several minutes of steering and sounding for a mysterious object, they come up empty.  “This is a waste of time,” said Justin. “You were just seeing things.”

070425gunk_do_560There were two girls among them, Rose and Erica.  They really only wanted to tag along for a pleasant, beach side breakfast with no interruptions. Erica saw this as an opportunity to push the agenda in her favor.


“We are close to the shoreline. There is a nice, clear spot to put the boat ashore over there,” said Erica.  Happy to be on dry land, Rose exclaims, “Let’s all collect some wood and get this breakfast started!”

Using his scout expertise, Paul had a roaring campfire going in no time at all. When the fire subsided, Paul rearranged the larger logs so the skillet would sit perfectly on top. Rose took over the cooking. The main course was scrambled eggs with diced onions. Grilled squash was followed up with plenty of bacon.

As the sun rose, the animals of the forest began to stir.  Squirrels rustled up the leaves. Birds began to sing. A few crows cackled in the high trees nearby. One crow circled the beach several times.  On its next pass, Rose noticed it had dropped something. A few minutes later, the crow did it again.

“Look,” said Rose. “It looks like that crow is dropping small stones.”

“That’s interesting,” said Paul. “Crows are known to drop things they want to break.”

On the third try, the crow drops a stone and it made the sound of a dull thump.  Erica goes over to inspect.  Sure enough there is the bottom of a wood container sticking out of the sand.  “Hey, I think I found something,” Erica said.  Paul runs over to help.  They unearth an old, wooden box.  A faded letter “O” was all that could be made out.  Paul takes out his pocket knife and pries open the box.  Inside is a bottle in near perfect condition.  “Old Cabin Still,” Erica reads aloud.  “It is whiskey from Kentucky.”  The bottle did not contain any whiskey. However, there appeared to be a letter of some sort inside.

“Come on,” Justin shouts. “We need to head back.  Looks like a storm is coming.”

They hastily gather up their things and row energetically. Getting caught out on the lake in a storm would not be in any of their best interests.  At about fifty feet from the shore ahead, an oar pops out of its lock.  The oar hits Erica’s arm and the bottle drops into the lake.

“I’ll get it,” Justin says while already halfway into the water.  The water is not that deep but Justin can barely keep his head above water.  “I think I feel it with my foot,” he says.  He dives down and retrieves the bottle. He surfaces holding high in his left hand.  However, his foot in now caught on something.  “Help,” Justin cries out.  He begins thrashing and is struggling to stay above water.  The boat moves over.  Rose grabs the bottle. Brad grabs Justin under his right arm.   Erica jumps in and dives underwater.  She is able to free Justin. Justin is hauled into the boat, gasping and coughing.  Erica manages to climb in herself.

“Didn’t anyone tell you not to stand up in unknown waters?”  Paul said with anguish.

“Lesson learned,” Justin said.

The boat came ashore just as a bolt of lightning pierced the sky on the other side of the lake.  They all rushed into Rose’s cabin which was the closest.  A strong gust of wind took a tree down that splashed into the water.  The rain was heavy but brief.

“You could have died out there over a bottle that may not be worth anything,” said Rose as she pointed at Justin.

“Let’s all calm down,” Paul said. “We need to get ready for the start of camp. There will be plenty of time tonight to discuss what happened.”  Erica glanced at the bottle in her hand and remembered there was something inside. She would keep it to herself for now.

Next week, Part 2 will contain all the character build up and reveal the contents of the bottle.


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