I took a risk when… | American Portrait

Mountain Lake PBS has partnered with the Adirondack Center for Writing, a local organization dedicated to bringing people and words together, to share PBS American Portrait prompts and collect unique stories from ACW members in our community! Continue below to read some of these featured submissions, each adding to the great mosaic of the American Portrait, and our collective understanding of the experiences and perspectives in and around the Adirondacks.

What is American Portrait?

PBS American Portrait is a multiplatform storytelling project aiming to capture the American experience. This project explores the everyday lives of real Americans: the diverse ways we work, play, and connect with those around us. By creating a nationwide platform for storytelling, American Portrait helps us see the ways we are different, and the ways we are alike.

How to Participate:

Adirondack Center for Writing Submissions

[accordion clicktoclose=true tag=h3]
[accordion-item title=”Thoughts of Expression Tomorrow by Daniel Schiavello” state=closed]
Thoughts of Expression Tomorrow is a promise that may not be kept but today is forever in peace with no tears to be wept. Live your life to the fullest and do the best that you can, love yourself and others and be the person you understand. Keep love in your heart, in your thoughts and your mind and the love you always wanted you surely will find. Realization I’ve come to understand some things in life that are true, when you give love without expectation the feelings of loyalty and trust give way to thinking that are brand new. When you see the special light that shines in someone’s eyes, embrace this with your heart and know they love you more than you may realize.

[accordion-item title=”The bloody angle by Christopher Bruneaux” state=closed]

Light horse Harry Lee was a real sonofabitch

he pissed away two wives’ fortunes—


I bet he never

shot up in the bathroom, finding the bloody angle so desperately needed—

I bet he never

felt the insane warm breeze drag him thru life’s absurdities—

I’m not saying light horse Harry Lee would have been a better man for taking too actions of junk use and selfish inventions made on the fly

by the modern man


according to my calculations

light horse Harry Lee

never really took a long chance in regards to any matter—


no originality

no dash

he left that for those of us brave enough,

crazy enough,

to run away from a sure thing

to see the damn thing thru

and welcome


and say

hello darling.

[accordion-item title=”The Birds and the Bees Talk by Leslie Sittner” state=closed]

She takes a deep drag on her Old Gold cigarette, slowly blows the blue-ish smoke out through her nose, clears her throat, pauses, says, “You’re ten now, I think it’s time for us to have a talk about the birds and the bees.”

Speechless, I stop playing with Barbie and look up at my mother.

Tying her terry bathrobe tighter, she waits for a response. Nothing. Finally, “How much do you know about how babies are made?”

Throat now dry but a moist upper lip, I puff myself up, “I know everything.”

“So you know that when a man puts his private part into a woman’s private parts, it usually feels good and sometimes that makes a baby?”

Gaping mouth, saucer eyes, frantic fidgeting fingers, I gasp, “Ewwwwwh!

Ichhhhh! You’re lying! I don’t believe you. That’s dis-gusting. I would never do anything like that.”

We stare at each other in silence.

She takes another drag. Fiddles with her foam hair rollers.

Puffed up again, hands on hips, leaning toward her, “I know that the minute the wedding ring is put on your finger, you can have a baby any time you want.” With an adult sounding ‘Hmmmph’, I turn on my toes and stalk away.

Mother, with a knowing shake of her head and a smile breaking at the corners of her mouth, whispers at my receding back, “I’m telling you the truth and someday you’ll understand. And you’ll love it.”

She was, of course, right.

[accordion-item title=”Grounded by Lorraine Caramanna” state=closed]

I walked on water. Back in the day, my little brother thought that was the greatest thing in the world – walking on water. His eyes looked at me with complete admiration, and he aspired to be just like me. In his eyes I was a superhero – not the kind of superhero that could fly, stop criminals, or save the world from destruction – I couldn’t do any of those things. I simply walked on water – not like the story in the Bible, but in the frozen reality of winter in the Adirondacks. Temperatures plunged below zero, the lake froze, and I walked on water – with all my ice fishing gear on a sled towed behind me.

There was swagger in my step as I headed out to grab those fish that day. I felt my little brother’s adoring gaze on my shoulders as he stood on the back porch and watched me walk away. He wasn’t old enough to tag along; Mom was definite about that. Next year, she said.

But, I was just about old enough that year to defy Mom’s rules. I decided it was time to introduce my little brother to the ice fishing adventure that came with walking on water. I turned around and called to him. He charged down the path out to the end of the dock. He hesitated. Fear flashed in his eyes. I spoke the encouraging word and he jumped – landed on two feet – took a step. Our laughter echoed off the mountains. I took his hand. Together we walked on water.

Looking back, I should have listened to my mother. But, I was just about old enough to know everything, so I didn’t listen. My little brother and I walked on out to my fishing spot, set up a few tip ups, then sat around my secret hole in the ice with a rod and reel. It took less than five minutes to realize my mother was right. My little brother was not old enough to be out ice fishing. He had no desire to sit still and jig, or wait for a red flag to tip up. He wanted to walk on water. He walked around, tripped on the sled, kicked over the bucket, and landed on his behind. Then the fish started biting, and I stopped paying attention to him.

Until… I heard his frantic screams for help. So did all the other fishermen on the lake. My brother had walked too close to the narrows and was no longer walking on water. He was in the water. And I ran to save his life.

The rescue was dramatic. The ice fishermen were superheroes. My brother was freezing, wet, frightened, but alive when he emerged from the lake. The ambulance drove us home where Mom went crazy when she learned what happened.

Once things settled down, Mom dished out some chicken soup and then tucked my brother into bed. She read him a story and sat crying softly long after he had fallen asleep.

At daybreak, I went back to my fishing spot and towed all my gear back to the garage. Mom didn’t have to say anything. I was raised to believe there were consequences to all actions. I knew I was grounded. That one close call was all it took for me to realize walking on water carried with it a big responsibility. And so my little brother and I have not been ice fishing since.

If you enjoyed these stories and want to keep reading, visit the PBS American Portrait website to find this prompt’s page and more!