Spearfish Lake Tales
Contemporary Mainstream Books and Serials Online
Jackie didnít put her top back on right away, just to tease Mark for not telling her about it. "Well, it is a very nice view," Mark told her.
"Iím not that well built, and you know it," Jackie protested. "Now, Kathy, sheís got a nice chest."
"Sheís got a nice chest, I admit," Mark said. "That bikini of hers shows it off real well. But I think yours is prettier, because I think youíre a prettier woman."
"I still donít think Iím as pretty as you say I am," she told him, shaking the sand out of her top and taking another sip of her beer.
"And I still donít think you realize how pretty you are," he said.
"Kathyís pretty," Jackie told him as she started to tie the top back on. "Iím not as good-looking as she is."
"Kathyís pretty, for a short woman," Mark agreed. "But youíre prettier than she is, and taller, which makes it even better. Donít argue with my taste, Jackie; I know what I like."
Jackie could not have had her top back on for more than a minute when they heard a voice from down at the beach: "Well, so thatís where you went to."
They looked up; Kathy and Roger were walking toward them, hand in hand, each carrying a beer. Theyíd managed to get their swimsuits back on, but they had very satisfied looks on their faces. "Sorry we had to run out on you," Kathy smiled, with perhaps just the faintest trace of a blush on her face. "But we had some important business to attend to."
"Yeah," Roger said with just a trace of embarrassment as they walked toward Mark and Jackie, "You know how it is, I guess."
"When you gotta go," Mark smirked, "You gotta go."
"We came over to offer you a beer," Kathy said, and to see if maybe you wanted to get together for lunch."
"We donít usually have much of a lunch," Jackie said. "Maybe a sandwich or something. When youíre backpacking, itís something you learn to put up with."
"Well, come on over," Kathy told them. "Weíve got lunch meat and chips and goodies like that."
No one quite remembered how the suggestion arose over lunch at the Griswoldís camp, but it was a quick and unanimous decision for Roger and Mark to drive back across the causeway that afternoon and buy some charcoal and steaks for their supper. It took a while for the men to get around to leaving, as the four found they enjoyed sitting around the little table in the shade, just talking about whatever happened to come up.
In an era where four young people, ranging in ages from nineteen to twenty-four, sitting around in a lonely campsite, could be expected to be passing around a joint or something stronger, these were a different kind of young people. The strongest drug passed around was a few cans of Budweiser, and not even enough of it to much more than cool off. Roger and Mark and Jackie and Kathy were pretty straight Midwestern country people. Though Mark and Jackie were a bit less churchy than the Griswolds, the four had a lot in common, and before the men started for town to get steaks and bread and charcoal and more beer and pop, they found theyíd become fast friends.
After the men left, Jackie and Kathy continued to sit in the camp and talk. "You know," Kathy finally said, "Weíre sitting here in the shade, when we could be out in the sun, working on our tans."
They found their towels and spread them out on the sunward slope of the hummock between the camps, on Mark and Jackieís side. They oiled themselves up and lay out to bake, still talking. Jackie knew she would like to ask Kathy what it was like to be with Roger, what it was really like, but she knew sheíd be too embarrassed to ask. Somehow, though, Kathy got to telling how sheíd been engaged to Roger, and theyíd found themselves in the back seat of his car one night after choir practice, and things sort of happened. She had been shocked to realize she was pregnant, but, as it turned out, not unhappy, either.
Their honeymoon had gone well, all in all. "Itís like this bikini," she said. "I mean, I kind of got it for Roger to enjoy, since thereís no way Iíd ever wear anything like this around home, but he likes it, and there wonít be much more time for me to wear it. So I better get the best use out of it while I can."
"It really makes you look sexy," Jackie assured her "But I know what you mean. Thereís no way I would have worn something like this around Spearfish Lake, either." Feeling hot on one side, Jackie rolled over onto her belly.
Kathy did the same, reaching up and untying the strings of her bikini top. "Oh, Iím really a little heavy for it," Kathy protested, "I pop out all over. Now, you have the build for a bikini like yours. Iíd really love to be tall and slender and sexy, and be able to look like you do."
"I donít know," Jackie said, deciding to untie the strings of her top, as well. "I think sometimes Iím too tall."
"If I were as tall as you," Kathy said, "I think Iíd wear high heels, just to make me feel even taller. But then, Iíve always been short and dumpy, so Iím surprised Roger ever took a second look at me."
While Jackie tried to hold up her end of the conversation, there was a lot of food for thought in Kathyís remarks. All her life, Jackie had envied short girls, normal girls; she had never dreamed they had envied her, too! And, apparently, Mark wasnít just pulling her leg when he said she was pretty, too; Kathy evidently thought so.
"Well, I think youíve got a great guy, there," Jackie said. "You were lucky."
"Well, I think youíve got a pretty nice guy, too," Kathy told her.
They lay talking for a while longer. "You know," Jackie remarked, "Iím starting to wonder where the guys are."
"Kathy, cock your leg back up the way you had it," they heard Markís voice say.
Both of them looked back over their shoulders, to see Mark sitting in the shade of the sun fly, drawing pad in hand, with Roger looking over his shoulder. "What the heck?" Kathy asked.
"Weíve just been volunteered to be models," Jackie told her new friend. "Get used to being a sex object."
Kathy smiled, lifted her leg back up, and turned back to Jackie, "As long as Roger is involved, I donít mind being a sex object. I kind of like it, in fact." She raised her voice and said, "Draw me pretty, Mark!"
"That shouldnít be any trick," Jackie said. "He always draws me prettier than I am, too."
"Thatís not true, and you know it," Mark said, not looking up from the pad where the drawing was rapidly taking shape; heíd already had a good start before the girls noticed their return.
"Did you get the steaks?" Kathy asked.
"Steaks and a lot of other good stuff," Roger said, fascinated by the drawing being created in front of him. "I donít know how you do it," he said to Mark, much more quietly. "I wish I had your talent."
They picked up their conversation, while Mark continued to draw. Presently, Kathy began to feel her back beginning to feel a bit hot. "Can we roll over, now?"
Roger thought the chance was too good to miss. "Only if you donít put your tops back on," he told the girls.
A smirk came over Kathyís face. She whispered to Jackie, "Iíll do it if you will."
"Iíd do it if it was just Mark," Jackie told her. "I donít think I should do it in front of your husband."
"Yeah," Kathy sighed. "I guess Iím not ready for group sex, either."
"Just stay there another couple of minutes," Mark said. "Thereís some shadows I havenít got quite right. One of the things I want to do on this trip is to collect drawings and photos and watercolors I can turn into paintings over the next few years, and this will make a good one."
"I hadnít realized you were an artist, too," Kathy said.
"I play with it," Mark said. "Itís just something to do for fun. I plan to make a living as a telephone repairman, not an artist."
"When you get around to painting that picture," Roger said, pointing at the drawing Mark was still detailing, "Would you sell it to me?"
"If you want," Mark told him. "Just bear in mind it may take me years to get around to it."
"I can wait," Roger replied.
"Actually, what we should do," Mark conceptualized, "Is work up a different rough, if weíre going to do that. Jackie and Kathy need to change places, so Jackie would be the one with the back of her head to us. What probably would be even better would be something of Kathy, in a nice, planned pose."
"Thatíd make quite a souvenir of our honeymoon," Kathy said.
"Thereís no reason we canít do it," Mark said, then sketched for another couple of minutes. "Iím pretty well done," he told the women finally. "Get up if you want to."
Both of the women got up to go over and see what the drawing looked like. It was highly detailed, even though he was still working on it. Kathy was in the foreground, one knee up in the air, with the back of her head showing as she talked to Jackie, who was more in profile. "It really does look like you, Jackie," Kathy commented, "But I think your boyfriend got me a little better looking than I am."
"I donít think it looks like me at all," Jackie said. "Iím not that pretty."
"Iím tired of hearing that from you, Jackie," Mark said. "Now, youíve got Kathy doing it, too. What do you think, Roger?"
"You canít really tell itís Kathy from the back like that," Roger said, "Although it does look like her body. But thereís no doubt about Jackie."
"You know," Mark told Roger thoughtfully, "Now that Iíve got both of these women accusing me of dolling them up in these pictures, I ought to do one of them and really doll it up, just to prove Iím not bullshitting them."
"What do you mean?" Kathy smiled.
"Oh, something in a planned pose, something deliberately exaggerated," Mark said.
"Iím game," Kathy told him. "Just give me a few minutes to go potty, put on another coat of suntan oil, and get another beer. How about you, Jackie?"
"I still think heís bullshitting me," she said. "Iíd like to see what he thinks is exaggerated."
A few minutes later, Mark deliberately posed the two women. Again, Kathy was the closer of the two, but she was now sitting upright, hands in the sand behind her, with one leg drawn up. Jackie sat on one leg on the far side of Kathy, one leg sprawled out, supporting herself lightly on one arm. "Is this comfortable enough for you two to stay like that for a while?" Mark asked.
"Itíll do," Jackie said, "But Iím going to get stiff after a while."
Mark nodded. "We can take breaks, if we need to, but Iím going to work a little more quickly on this. After all, Iím just doing this one to make a point." He went back into the sunshade, picked up his pad, stared at the two of them for a moment, and started drawing.
The two girls fell to talking again, while Roger continued to look over Markís shoulder as he worked. Since both Kathy and Jackie were looking right at the men, they both noticed a few minutes later when Roger shook his head and looked up at them, and muttered, "My God, I see what you mean."
With a big smile, Mark asked, "Howíd you like to have a painting of this one hanging over your fireplace?"
"Weíd have the Methodist Menís Club meeting there every week, for sure," Roger laughed.
"Jeez," Kathy said in a voice low enough that only Jackie, behind her, could hear. "I wonder what heís doing to us?"
"Are you real sure you want to find out?" Jackie whispered back.
"Iím not sure whether Iíd want this painting hanging over my fireplace or not," Kathy told her. "But I am looking forward to finding out what it looks like."
"Hold still and be quiet, you two," Mark said. "Iím trying to work on your faces."
The four of them were quiet for the next few minutes while Mark worked. After a while, he told them they could talk again, but otherwise hold still. He worked for a few minutes more, then said, "It would be possible to work on the detail more, but I think thatís enough to make my point. What do you think, Roger?"
"Letís face it," he said. "That is the stuff dreams are made of."
"Iíve had a few dreams like that myself," Mark said.
"Iím kind of glad they donít look like that," the shorter man said. "Iíd hate to spend my life with a baseball bat beating men off of my wife."
"Are you going to let us see this?" Kathy asked.
"Iím not sure you should," Roger told her.
With that, both the women had to get up and take a look. "Holy mackerel!" Kathy commented. "I know I donít look like that. I just wish I did."
Jackie looked at the drawing. Both girls were still recognizably, Kathy and her, but much more sensuous. She was still tall, but a lot fuller in the chest, thinner at the waist and more rounded at the hips. In the drawing, her long hair, twice its real length, cascaded over her bare shoulder and down toward the ground. Her shoulder wasnít the only thing that was bare; in the drawing, both she and Kathy were nude, and the only thing keeping the drawing of Jackie from being a full frontal was the strategic placement of Kathyís knee. Kathy was a little taller, a little thinner, and even more voluptuous. Her face was a little thinner, as well, and her blonde hair was much longer. "Youíve got to admit, that doesnít look like me," Jackie said.
"Actually, itís not far off," Mark said. "Compare it with the other drawings Iíve done of you, and youíll realize I havenít exaggerated much. Granted, I had to use my imagination to fill in a few details, but itís easy when youíve got a couple of very sexy women to start with."
"Wow," Kathy said, shaking her head. "Itís neat to even think of looking like that, but Iíve got to admit, I donít think Iíd like to have a painting of that hanging over the fireplace for the Methodist Menís Club to leer at."
Roger broke out laughing. "Canít you just imagine the gossip if that painting were to show up in the Methodist Womenís Rummage Sale?"
"I donít think Spearfish Lake would be far enough away to move," Kathy replied, laughing herself. "Maybe Argentina would be. Iíd love for you to do a painting of me, Mark, but please, not that one. Something maybe just a touch more conservative, please."
Mark shook his head. "Iíd be glad to," he told the blonde woman. "But not today. Youíve been out in the sun long enough today as it is, and we need to start cooking some steaks. Tomorrow, Iíll do a couple of drawings and take some photos, so I can get the details and the colors right."
"Are you going to do a painting of me, too?" Jackie asked.
"No, Jackie," Mark said, closing the sketchbook and standing up to stretch. "Iím not going to do a painting of you. Iím going to do a lot of paintings of you."
* * *
That evening, they grilled and ate their steaks, drank some beer, and talked some more. After it got dark, they climbed up to the top of the hummock, uncovered the telescope, and looked at the Saturn V a few miles away. After that they looked at some of the things in the sky, then went down and threw some sticks and dry, dead brush onto the dying coals, and had a little campfire. Eventually, all admitted they were tired, and Mark and Jackie walked back to their own campsite.
It was cooling off enough for Jackie to put on her flannel pajamas again; Mark let her change inside the tent, while he changed outside. When she told him she was ready, Mark came inside, and lay down on his sleeping bag. She slid her sleeping bag and air mattress over next to him, lay down on it, and said, "I bet we get to sleep before they do,"
"No bet," Mark said. "I wouldnít be surprised if we wake up before they get to sleep. Theyíre good people. Iím glad you met them."
"Yes," Jackie said. "This has been a wonderful day."
"Glad you enjoyed it," Mark told her. "Well, goodnight, Sis."
"Hey, I want a goodnight kiss."
"I thought we agreed we were going to keep that outside the tent."
"That was then," Jackie said. "Now I want you to kiss me, and then I want to go to sleep in your arms. Nothing more than that, but I just want to hold you tight. I meant what I said about falling in love with you."
"I meant everything I said, too," he said, pulling her to him. "When youíre ready, Iím ready. I can wait until then."
There really wasnít anything to say after that. They kissed, and held each other tight, and kissed again, and eventually both of them fell asleep.
* * *
The next day they spent most of the day together, swimming, watching the black skimmers drag their bills in the water hunting for food, and just lying in the sun. Mark and Roger drove over to the airport to get Jackieís fishing pole and his water colors; while they were gone, Jackie and Kathy, feeling very daring, took the opportunity to sunbathe in the nude. After the men got back, Jackie took the opportunity to cast a spoon out into the shallows a few times, but caught nothing. Over the course of the day, they all had a couple of beers. Mark did several drawings of Kathy, and shot up a long roll of film with photos of Kathy, Roger, and Jackie; they even took a few pictures of him, for good measure. In the evening, they grilled pork chops, looked at the stars, and had a campfire.
It was an absolutely idyllic day, and the next day was pretty much the same, although by afternoon they were no longer alone. People had begun to line their cars up alongside the road, waiting for the launch of Apollo 15, and there were other campers about, though none of them close by. About the only change was Kathy and Jackie didnít dare to sunbathe in the nude again. By late afternoon, though, the anticipation of the launch was growing in them, and they started to get excited.
The morning of the launch dawned bright and clear, and the four were up with the dawn. By then, it had gotten crowded out on the highway and even back in the brush a bit. The four took a camp stove up on top of the hill to brew coffee and took turns looking at the Apollo in the telescope. The service gantry had been pulled back, and now they could see the white tower sticking high into the blue Florida dawn. Roger had a portable radio, and they tuned in a local station with the play-by-play of the launch preparations.
The hours and minutes dragged by as they approached 9:38, the planned time of the launch. The radio told them everything was going according to schedule; there had been no holds or other delays. By about ten minutes before launch, even this far away the crowd had become tense and quiet.
Next to the telescope, Roger called the four together. "Iíd like us to join hands and pray," he said. None of the others had any objection, and they clustered together, hand in hand. Roger bowed his head and said, "Lord, we just ask for you to lay your guiding hand over this flight and these astronauts, and help them and all of the support people to accomplish their mission safely and successfully. Amen."
A chorus of "Amens" followed Rogerís words.
"Iíve always wanted to see one of these," Jackie said quietly to Mark, standing next to the telescope. Mark had put the lowest power eyepiece in the telescope, and told Jackie to use it. He would use the finder, from the other side of the telescope. Jackie had loaned her backpacking binoculars to Kathy, and Roger would use his own.
With greater tension, the minutes dragged past, the radio marking time. When it said, "Thirty seconds to ignition," Jackie bent over the telescope to get one last look at the rocket before it launched. It almost filled the field of view of the telescope, and she could see the tendrils of steam from the evaporation of the liquid oxygen and the liquid hydrogen, and also see the frost glistening on the rocket. "Fifteen seconds," the radio said. "Fourteen . . . thirteen . . . twelve . . . eleven . . . ten . . . ignition sequence start . . . "
Hunched over the telescope and looking through binoculars, all of them could see the flash of light under the rocket as the five main engines lit off, and the billowing cloud of smoke that soon obscured the huge Saturn V. With the closest view, Jackie soon couldnít see the rocket in the eyepiece, and looked up for an instant to see what was happening with her naked eye. "Three . . . two . . . one . . . liftoff, we have liftoff at thirty-eight minutes past the hour."
With stunning grace, though silently at such a distance, the towering white vehicle began to lift gracefully toward the blue sky. "Burn, baby, burn!" Mark yelled his encouragement. Mark twisted the telescope a little to follow its ascent in the finder, and Jackie followed along looking through the main eyepiece.
The Saturn was noticeably smaller in the eyepiece, although its engines were still bright when the sound hit them. It rolled over them, an enormous popping roar, almost deafening, awesome in its power. The sound shook the earth beneath their feet, making leaves and even branches shake. The sound rolled on and on, kept coming and coming. Theyíd all heard the sound on TV, but it was nothing like being there and feeling its power beat over their bodies.
Jackie looked up from the telescope again, to see the vehicle in the sky. It was a lot smaller now, hardly a dot in the sky, but leaving a huge smoke trail behind it. It was incredible that such a tiny object could make such a huge sound. Slowly, the sound began to die away, and they all followed the departing vehicle with their optics for a surprisingly long distance, long after the first stage had dropped away. With her eye to the telescope, Jackie could follow it the longest of all.
One by one, they stepped back, to see the smoke trail of the departed rocket still hanging in the sky.
"That was worth waiting for," Roger said.
"Yeah," Kathy agreed. "It was almost better than sex."
Is sex that good? Jackie wondered to herself, but didnít dare say. "Itís like standing right next to the tracks when a multiple-unit hotshot freight blasts past," she said.
"Yeah," Mark agreed. "But weíre miles away! What must it be like to ride that thing?"
"Guess weíll never know," Jackie said.
"I know," Mark said. "I wanted to join the Air Force, become an astronaut, but these damn glasses . . . " his voice trailed off.
* * *
The crowd that had come for the launch left rapidly. By noon, they were just about alone in their beachfront camp, once again. After talking it over, they decided to spend one more night together, after which Roger and Kathy needed to be headed back to Arvada Center and the farm. Mark and Jackie were ready to be on their way, too.
It was another lazy afternoon, tempered with sadness that their idyllic few days were over. In the few days the four had spent together, they had become good friends. "When you two get back towards home, make sure you drop by and visit us," Kathy said.
"How do we find you," Mark asked.
"Weíre five miles east of Arvada Center, on the south side of the road," Roger told them. "The barnís got GRISWOLD in the roof shingles in big letters. Flying, you canít miss it."
Jackie noted the information down, along with their address, on the steno notepad she had brought to make sort of a journal in, even though she hadnít made an entry up till then.
That evening, as they gathered around the telescope on top of the hummock, they looked at the thin crescent of rising moon. "Theyíre out there, somewhere," Mark said. "Weíd never pick them up, but theyíre out there."
"God go with them," Roger said.
They sat around the table at the Griswold camp the next morning, lingering over coffee, wishing this day didnít have to come. After a while, it was time to break camp. It did not take Mark and Jackie long to tear down their little camp and get their gear packed away; then, they helped their friends with their gear, and carried everything up to the car. It was jam-packed with the four of them and the gear in the car, but the ride wouldnít be very long. "Letís stop and get another cup of coffee for the road," Roger suggested.
They found a little restaurant. Jackie knew she had been gone from home more than a week, although it seemed like a year, and she tried to call home, but there was no answer. While the four sat and talked, she opened her steno pad and dashed off a quick letter home.
They sat and talked a while longer, wishing they didnít have to go, and finally the Griswolds drove Mark and Jackie out to the airport. Mark checked out Rocinante, and gave first Kathy, then Roger, a ride around the airport and over their campsite in the little Cessna. Then he and Jackie packed their gear in the plane, and it was time to say goodbye. They hugged each other and promised to write; then, there was nothing to do but to get in the plane and leave.
"They were neat people," Jackie said once they were out of sight of the airport. "Iím really going to miss them."
"I am, too," Mark told her. "But just keep thinking of all the other neat people weíre going to meet."
* * *
April 16, 1971
Dear Dad and Sarah:
I tried to call you at home just now, but nobody answered the phone, so I thought Iíd drop you a note.
Everything is fine. Mark and I met some great people from Arvada Center, and we watched the Apollo launch together. The power you feel even from miles away is incredible. We all camped together on the beach for a few days, and had a lot of fun.
Daddy, itís been awful tempting to not be a good girl Ė Iím finding I like Mark even more than I realized. But Iíve been a good girl. Iím sorry I left so quickly, but it was a last minute decision. I really wasnít going to go until just a few minutes before we left, when I realized I had to go or miss the chance forever. So far, Iím not sorry Iíve come with Mark, and I donít think I will be, so long as you will forgive me for the pain and the anger Iím sure Iíve caused.
Iíll try to call again in a few days. Mark and I are heading down into the Everglades to do a little canoeing. After that, I donít know, but I guess weíll be heading west. Mark wants to be in west Texas by the middle of next month.
I love you,