This month's Very Short Story is by Alexis Kienlen, a poet, journalist, fiction writer, book reviewer and writing teacher who hails from Saskatoon and now calls Edmonton home.
By Alexis Kienlen | March 3, 2021
It all started with a saskatoon berry. I’d been depressed for months, alone in my apartment. But my therapist said it was good to go for walks, and so when I could muster the energy, I dragged myself out to the river valley. Even though I didn’t want to admit it, being in nature calmed the itchy, bad feeling of depression in my body.
I started looking closely at nature, watching the birds around me, listening to birdsong. I looked at the trees, watched the poplars sway overhead.
Then I saw a tree full of purple berries. I reached out my hand and plucked one, twisting it off. I placed it on my tongue and bit down. The berry was sweet and tangy, and I could almost taste the purpleness of it.
When was the last time I’d eaten something so alive, so refreshing? When was the last time I’d picked something off a tree to eat?
I picked up my wide-mouth bottle, and dumped the water out on the path. I started picking Saskatoons, pulling branches towards me and choosing the plumpest berries. Every time I put one in my mouth, I held it there like a tiny jewel, before I bit in.
When my water bottle was full of berries, I walked back to my home and took a short rest on my couch. When you have depression, everything takes extra effort. I worked as a dog groomer, but I could only manage part-time. The bank of Mom and Dad subsidized my rent. They just wanted me to get better.
When I got up, I looked at my water bottle full of berries. They would taste great with ice cream. I didn’t have any, but a quick trip to the store solved that.
The next day, I wondered how the berries would taste in a crisp. I rested for a while, and when I had the energy, I found a recipe on the Internet, and bought the supplies. A few hours later, I made the crisp. It felt good to do something so precise, to pay attention, to create something that would taste good. I put it in the oven, and lay back on the couch, waiting for it to cook.
As it baked, the warm, savoury smell of the crisp filled my apartment. There would be a lot of crisp left. I didn’t want to eat the whole thing alone. When was the last time I had seen a person, a friend? Would someone want to enjoy it with me? I picked up the phone and texted my friend Olivia. I asked her to come over and eat with me. She responded with a thumbs-up emoji.
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The timer on my oven rang and I took the crisp out of the oven. As I waited for it to cool, and for Olivia to come, I felt tired, but there was something else. A small smidge of hope. I looked to the table where the crisp sat, then out the window.
Alexis Kienlen lives in north Edmonton. She works as an agricultural journalist for Alberta Farmer newspaper. Alexis is the author of two books of poetry, She dreams in red and 13 (both with Frontenac House). Her first novel, Mad Cow, was released in April 2020.
This article appears in the March 2021 issue of Edify