Look Mom!” Little Allison Jackson pointed excitedly out across the water. The large bird she was pointing at glided silently through the air, so low above the water, that the black wingtip feathers almost skimmed the glassy smooth surface of the lake. “It’s a pemmican!”
Allison’s mother, Jackie, laughed, as did her grandmother Rose who sat in a beach chair just a few feet away.
“Pelican, my dear,” said Jackie. “That’s a pelican, not a pemmican.” The bird described a graceful circle in the air and then settled silently on the water.
“Oh,” said Allison. “I thought it was a pemmican.” She grabbed her towel, wrapped it more tightly around herself and cuddled up against her mother for warmth. “What kind of a bird IS a pemmican?” she asked.
“Pemmican is not a bird,” said Jackie. “Pemmican is food.”
“Bird food?” asked Allison.
“Nope,” said Jackie. “People food. Indigenous peoples used to make it, by crushing dried meat into powder and then mixing it with hot fat and berries and whatnot.”
“Sounds kind of yucky,” said Allison.
“Oh no,” said Jackie. “It was very delicious, they say.”
“Who says?” Allison wanted to know. “The indignant peoples?”
Jackie and Rose laughed again. “It’s pronounced indigenous, sweetie,” said Jackie. “Not indignant.”
“Well, they may have been indignant,” said Rose. “They certainly had much to be indignant about. They still do actually.”
“Where is everybody else?” said Allison suddenly looking around.
Jackie pointed down the beach. “Daddy is over there with Andy,” she said. “Everybody else has gone back to the cottage.”
Allison threw off her towel and jumped off of her mother’s lap. “I’m going to run to Daddy!” she said. “I’m going to run super fast. Like a hundred!”
“A hundred what?” asked Rose.
“A hundred fifty!” said Allison and raced away down the beach. The women watched her go and then sat silently for a while, gazing out across the lake. The sun was low on the horizon and the lone pelican glided into the shimmery silver reflection of the sun’s rays, almost disappearing in the brightness of the sparkling water.
“I love this time of day,” said Jackie.
“I love this time of year,” said Rose.
“It’s so nice of Alan’s parents to to let us use the cottage every summer,” said Jackie. She paused. “Is Jennifer going to marry that boy or what?”
“Oh goodness,” said Rose. “Who knows? Your guess is probably better than mine.”
“Well, if it’s up to him she will,” said Jackie. “But he is going to have to be patient. That girl has a mind of her own.” The sound of people behind them caught their ears at the same time and they both turned to see Jennifer and Alan coming across the beach carrying the usual folding chairs and towels.
“We were just talking about you,” said Rose.
“Everybody always talks about us,” said Alan, setting his chair down and taking a seat. “We’re the most interesting people in the world.”
“What were you talking about?” Jennifer wanted to know.
There was a moment of silence.
“We were wondering when you guys were going to get married,” said Jackie impulsively.
There was another moment of silence.
“We went for a walk yesterday at sundown,” said Jennifer, “down that way.” She pointed in the direction Allison had run off in a few minutes earlier. “The sun was setting and the sky was fiery red, it was calm and peaceful, just like now, and just as the sun touched the horizon, Alan got down on one knee and asked me if I would marry him. It was just super sweet and romantic.” She smiled at Alan, who smiled back at her.
There was a pregnant pause.
“Well?” said Rose. “What did you say?!”
“I said no, obviously,” said Jennifer. “Like always. I mean he asks me every day. It just isn’t usually that romantic.”
“It’s true,” said Alan. “One time I asked her in the drive-thru at McDonald’s while she was digging in her purse for change. She said no but then she shared her fries with me so it was still worth it.”
“I’m going swimming!” said Jennifer suddenly. “Race you into the water!”
Alan leaped out of his chair as Jennifer took off in the direction of the lake ahead of him at top speed, but instead of running after her he simply strolled nonchalantly, letting her splash madly into the water alone.
“Sometimes I think they are,” said Jackie.
“Are what?” said Rose.
“The most interesting people in the world,” said Jackie.
“Never a dull moment,” said Rose. “That’s for sure.”
“Yup,” said Jackie. “That’s for sure.”