Wes Boyd's
Spearfish Lake Tales
Contemporary Mainstream Books and Serials Online

An Aerial Adventure
A Tale From Spearfish Lake
Wes Boyd
©1993, ©2001, ©2007, ©2011

Chapter 24

It seemed strange to be back in the Midwest again, after almost three months in the southwest and the west. The country below them was filled with fields and woods and lakes, rather than mountains and valleys and deserts. They’d made a big day of flying eastward, leaving the high plains in the early morning, crossing the corn belt, then watched the Mississippi spread beneath them, a lot smaller river than they had crossed near Baton Rouge what seemed like a lifetime before.

"You want to dig out the journal?" Mark asked. "I seem to remember that Roger and Kathy’s place was somewhere east of Arvada Center, but I don’t remember for sure."

Jackie twisted around in her seat and dug out the blue notebook. There was the note she’d written back in April at the Titusville airport: "5 mi E of Arvada Center. Barn with ‘Griswold.’" She read it to Mark, and commented, "Ought to be easy enough to find. Do you think there’ll be a place where we can land?"

"It’s a farm," Mark shrugged, "They ought to have a pasture or a hayfield or something."

"It’ll be good to see them again," Jackie said, leafing through the pages of the logbook. They’d made a lot of stops since they’d left Geyser and the K-Bar Ranch. Yellowstone, Craters of the Moon, Bonneville, Wendover, Rock Springs, more than a week at Waverly again. At Waverly, they’d begun to realize that they would have to get a move on if they were going to go to Stellafane, so as soon as Jack had signed off Jackie’s private pilot license and Fred had signed off her glider certificate, they’d gotten a move on, just this morning.

Before they’d said goodbye to Cumulus for the last time, Mark had asked, "You’re sure you don’t want to take a swing by Spearfish Lake? It’s only about three hundred miles out of the way. We could drop in and see the folks, and not have to worry about a mail drop."

"We just got mail," Jackie said. "Besides, we agreed that we wouldn’t go back to Spearfish Lake until the trip was over."

"Fine with me," Mark said. "I’d just as soon go way south of Chicago. If we went to Spearfish Lake, we’d be just as far ahead to go through Michigan to stay out of the Chicago area."

They were halfway across Nebraska before the idea of dropping in on the Griswolds had come to them. "It’ll mean we’ll have to go out of our way to the south to get around Chicago," Jackie said, "But, we’ve still got a few days to spare before Stellafane. I’d sure like to see how Kathy’s doing, though."

They were back to the familiar navigation of the Midwest, with the fence rows and roads marking out the directions of north and south and east and west. Mark was flying this leg from the left seat, and he got down low over the little town of Arvada Center and picked out the road leading to the east, then started counting off the well-marked miles of the section roads as they passed under them. "There’s four miles," he said. "Start looking for the barn."

Sure enough, about a minute later, they could see a large barn with the word "GRISWOLD" worked into the shingles. In front of the barn was a large, old wooden farmhouse; next to the old farmhouse was a smaller, newer one, made of brick. Mark stood Rocinante on its wing and circled the house and barn a couple of times. Below them, they could see the door of the large farmhouse open, and someone short and wide and blonde came outside, with a small child following, and both of the people waved to them.

"That looks like Kathy," Jackie said. "I wonder whose kid that is with her."

"I don’t know," Mark said, "but there’s a nice field across the road," he said, setting the Cessna up for a landing. A minute later, Rocinante’s wheels skimmed the wheat stubble as Mark set the plane down and taxied up to the edge of the field across from the house.

Rocinante’s propeller had hardly stopped turning before Kathy Griswold and a little girl were crossing the road to meet them. "I see you got our letter," Kathy called. "We figured we’d see you sometime."

"Where’s Roger?" Jackie asked.

"Out with the hay baler," Kathy said. "I’d be out helping him, but I’m getting a little big for that," she added, patting her swollen belly. "Besides, I have to sit with Judith, here." She pointed at the little girl who was trying to hide herself behind her leg. She continued, "He ought to be done for the day, pretty soon. Can you guys stay for dinner, or spend the night?"

"If you don’t mind having us," Mark said.

"Not at all," the short blonde said. "We’ve been looking forward to seeing you again, and there’s plenty of spare room, and plenty of hot water if you want showers."

"You don’t know how good a shower would feel," Jackie said. "I’m ashamed to tell you how long it’s been since we’ve had a shot at an honest-to-Pete bath, not just washing up in a stream or a reservoir."

The blonde smiled, "Well, you’re sure welcome to use ours."

"It sounds good," Mark admitted. "But, if we’re going to stay the night, we might as well get the plane tied down, first."

They dug the tie-down stakes out from behind Rocinante’s seat, the dirt from near-desert Colorado still fresh on them, and twisted them deep into the soft, fertile Midwestern wheat field. As the two swung into their well-practiced routine of tying the Cessna down, Kathy stood back and watched, while Judith warily peeked out from behind her.

Jackie noted how wary the child was. Maybe five or six, she had yet to say anything. Jackie went over in front of Kathy, bent down and asked the little girl behind her, "Hi, my name’s Jackie. What’s your name?"

"Judith," the little girl replied.

"Judith, have you ever been flying?" Jackie asked.

Wordlessly, the little girl shook her head.

"Our plane’s name is Rocinante," Jackie said. "Do you think you’d like to fly in it?"

Judith shook her head again and tried to hide behind Kathy.

"Would you like to sit in the plane?" Kathy asked, twisting around to look at the little girl, who just shook her head again.

Jackie shrugged, and Kathy looked back up and said, "Probably better not push her. Her mother keeps a pretty close thumb on her and probably wouldn’t appreciate you taking her flying, anyway."

"No problem," Jackie agreed. "Let us get some clean clothes out of the back, and we’ll be ready."

An hour later, showered and feeling considerably fresher, Mark and Jackie and Kathy sat out in the shade of the back porch of the old farmhouse, watching Judith swing in the swing and then run around the yard, carrying one of the barn kittens.

"Cute kid, but I wonder where she gets all that energy," Mark commented, watching her chase a kitten that had escaped from her grasp.

"It makes me wonder," Kathy said, "how I’m going to be able to keep up with one or more like that."

"I don’t know how I could do it," Jackie said.

Just then, they could hear the roaring of a large tractor turning into the driveway. "That sounds like the Deere," Kathy said. "If they brought it, they must be done with baling for the day."

Sure enough, a large, green tractor pulled into the yard, towing a baler and a load of hay bales, followed by a smaller, red tractor, pulling a hay wagon. With practiced ease, the green tractor stopped the hay wagon right next to an elevator leading up to the upper part of the barn. The cab door opened, and Roger stepped out. "It is you guys," he shouted across the barnyard. "I saw the plane and figured it must be you."

Mark and Jackie and Kathy got up and walked out to the tractor as the red tractor stopped, and two teenage boys got off of it and headed for the barn. "I’m looking forward to hearing all about what you’ve been up to," Roger said, "But we need to get these wagons unloaded first. Are you guys staying for supper?"

"I thought we’d have steaks, if you’d light off the grill," Kathy said.

"Sounds fine to me," Roger said. "You guys sure are looking good."

"Hey, Mr. Griswold," a young male voice sounded from the barn. "We gotta be gettin’ home."

"O.K., Merle, just a minute," Roger called, then turned back to the waiting threesome. "Guess I’d better get on it."

"Anything I can do to help?" Mark offered.

"There’s some leather gloves on the back of the tractor," Roger said. "Once I get a few bales off, you can hand them to me. Dad and Charlie had to take off and go milk and do chores."

"Come on, Jackie," Kathy said. "Let’s collect Judith and go get started on supper."

By the time Mark and Roger got the two hay wagons unloaded, any good that Mark’s shower might have done was gone. He was hot and sweaty and tired, and wondered how bad it must have been for the boys, up in the hayloft. Oh, well, he thought, he could have another shower; it wasn’t like it was going to be weeks before he had the chance again.

Finally, Roger shut off the elevator, and called to the boys, "All right, that’s it."

In a minute, the two appeared, hot and sweaty, too. "Same time tomorrow?" the older of the two asked.

"Yeah, we’ve still got three days work here," Roger told them.

"Well, we’ll see ya tomorrow," one of the boys said, as both clambered up onto the red tractor.

"Hey, Tom, I get to drive, this time," the younger one said.

"O.K., Merle, O.K.," the older one said as the younger one slipped into the seat and started the tractor.

Roger and Mark stood watching as the tractor drove out of the yard. "They’re good kids," Roger commented. "Throwing hay bales around is a man’s work, but they hung in there pretty good. Gets to be haying time, especially after school starts, and you got to take what help you can get. They were only able to work a couple hours after school, but I’m glad they could."

"Anything Jackie and I can do to help?" Mark asked. "We spent a couple weeks working on a cattle roundup, so I guess a little farm work wouldn’t kill us."

"If you could stay around a couple of days and pitch in, it’d be welcome," Roger said. "We’ve got good weather right now, and I need to get this hay done while it holds."

"Looking at the weather forecasts we looked at earlier, you’ve got two, maybe three days," Mark said. "I guess we could help. We’ve got to be in Vermont the middle of next week, but we’ve got some time to spare."

"If you can stay a few days, I’d really appreciate it," Roger said. "Dad and Charlie are milking, and with school back in session, that’s really leaving us shorthanded. Let’s go get cleaned up, and then you can tell me all about what you’ve been up to."

The smell of steaks grilling on the back porch half an hour later filled the air. By then, Judith’s mother had come and picked her up, and the four sat around in the lawn chairs, talking. "What was this you said about working on a cattle roundup?" Roger asked.

"That’s quite a story," Mark said. "We were flying out across Montana, east of Great Falls. We’d stopped for the night, out on the grasslands in the middle of nowhere, and camped for the night. The next morning, we got up and decided to find someplace to have a real breakfast. We were flying along this county highway, and there, out in the middle of nowhere, was this little restaurant with an airstrip along side of it, so naturally, we landed."

"Let me tell you, they really put on a breakfast," Jackie added.

"So anyway, we go inside," Mark explained, "And while we were sitting there, eating, we heard this guy over in the next booth bitching up a storm. Seems he had this Super Cub, with a pilot, and the pilot had nosed it over and screwed it up. ‘Now I’ve got roundup starting tomorrow,’" the guy said, "‘And I’ve got no plane and I canned that asshole, so no pilot, either.’"

Jackie smiled at the memory, as Mark continued, "Well, that got me curious, so I turned around and asked him what he needed a plane and a pilot for. It seems that the cattle tend to wander around maybe two or three hundred square miles, and they all have to be hunted down and driven to a central location, and it didn’t take us long to make the connection."

Jackie shook her head. "It really wasn’t what I’d imagined. It’s not like what you see on TV. There really wasn’t much I could do, except fly with Mark, now and then, but he hardly ever stayed on the ground."

"We put on three oil changes in two weeks," Mark said, "And I don’t think I ever got more than five hundred feet above the ground, but I’ll tell you that old guy knew every blade of grass out there. He could smell cattle hiding up some gully, and then we’d have to fly around and find someone to collect them. There weren’t a lot of horses, mostly jeeps and pickup trucks."

"What did you do when Mark was out flying?" Kathy asked Jackie.

"Mostly I stayed around the camp. They gave me a clipboard and told me to keep records, and I just noted stuff down on a form, and never did understand most of it. I did get to ride a horse a little bit. That was something I’d never done before."

"Those guys put on a feed in camp," Mark said. "It was all good eating, but mostly I was too tired to enjoy it."

Mark and Jackie were at the roundup long enough to call for a mail drop at the nearest town, and one day they flew into town and got their mail. There were several letters and a box of cookies from Walt and Sarah, and an official letter in a large envelope from the U.S. Coast Guard. "You don’t suppose this is what I think it is?" Mark had asked Jackie.

"Open it and see," she’d said.

Chief Daugherty, back on Catalina, had been right: it was a commendation for their role in the rescue of the people from their overturned boat. Included in the envelope was a letter from the couple, whose name turned out to be Pittinger.

They’d been heading from La Jolla up to Catalina in their open runabout two days before Mark and Jackie found them. It was a trip they had often made before, but this time, something went wrong with the engine. They’d tried for hours to get it running, without success, and sometime in the first night, a wave had turned the boat over. They tried many times to turn it back over, but never could, and spent the rest of the night hanging onto the boat as best as they could.

When the next day came, they tried again to get the boat upright. The weight of the outboard was like a keel, keeping the nose of the boat in the air, and they couldn’t get it upright. While Paul, the husband, made dive after dive to try to get the motor free to jettison it for a better chance to get the boat upright, Wendy Pittinger hung on as best as she could. He couldn’t get the motor free – he’d needed a screwdriver, and none was to be found in the overturned boat – and they spent the rest of the day, and most of the night, hoping someone would come by, and no one did.

With the dawning of the third day, they were very cold and thirsty, and knew they couldn’t last much longer. Once or twice, boats or planes went by in the distance, but they never could get their attention. When Mark and Jackie had appeared overhead, they thought at first it was a hallucination, but "The longer you stayed there, the more we knew you must be real."

Paul knew that the plane circling them was a land plane, and there was no way it could pick them up, but it was some time before they realized that the people watching over them from above must have radioed for help. They had not been aware of the Coast Guard thirty-one footer until it was almost on top of them, and neither had the strength to climb the boarding ladder.

"I don’t know what put you right overhead, but I’m thankful you were there," Wendy Pittinger had written. "We couldn’t have held out much longer. May God watch over you, the way you watched over us."

Between them, Mark and Jackie told Roger and Kathy the whole story. "It was such a chain of circumstances, that it’s bothered us a lot," Mark said. "Was it really a miracle, or just a chain of circumstances?"

Jackie nodded. "I mean, if it was a miracle, it feels so strange to have been a part of it."

"It sounds like a miracle to me," Roger said.

"It does to me, too," Mark admitted. "I’m just not too sure how much I believe in miracles." He moved to cut off the discussion; somehow, it had gotten too personal. "Anyway, after we left the K-Bar and the roundup, we decided to head on to Yellowstone."

As they ate dinner, Mark and Jackie told the Griswolds of the hike they’d made through Yellowstone Park, where they’d been headed months before and gotten sidetracked at Waverly. From Yellowstone, they’d flown southward, to Provo, mostly because Mark wanted to fly over the Great Salt Lake. They’d gotten hold of a paper there and discovered that the Bonneville National Speed Trials were on, out on the Bonneville Salt Flats. "I’d read so much about Bonneville in the hot rod magazines when I was a kid, I knew I wanted to see the place for real," he explained.

They’d flown out to the huge white expanse of the salt flats, and spent a couple of days watching the cars, talking with the drivers and mechanics. "It was kind of like being with astronomy people," Mark explained. "A bunch of people who are real enthusiasts about something, and it really turned out to be a great time.

When they’d left Bonneville, they’d flown a few miles down to the abandoned Wendover Air Force Base, mostly because Mark wanted to gas up and hose the salt off of Rocinante. "It was just a big old airport, and it didn’t mean anything special to me," Jackie said, "But Mark said that it was as if the place was haunted. I asked him why, and he asked if I’d ever heard of the 509th Composite Group. That didn’t mean anything to me, of course."

"Me either," Kathy said.

Roger had been in the Air Force, so it meant something to him, but he just nodded his head and stayed quiet. "I could almost hear B-29s warming up there, taking off there, back in 1945," Mark said. "That’s where the 509th trained, before they went out to the Pacific, and Hiroshima and Nagasaki."

"Yeah," Roger said slowly, "I think I can see what you mean."

From Wendover, they took a swing through southern Utah, down to Canyonlands and Arches National Parks, then back north to Provo, and from there, they followed the old route of the Overland Trail eastward, until they were in eastern Wyoming. "We were so close that we decided to stop off and see our friends at the gliderport in Fort Collins," Jackie explained.

"The guy I’d filled in for before – you remember, we wrote and told you about him," Mark said, "He wanted to take off to Iowa and see his dad for a few days, so I filled in for him again. While we were there, we got the guy who had soloed Jackie last spring to run her the rest of the way through her license."

It had involved several hours of solo cross-country flying, plus a trip down to Denver to do her written examination. Just the day before, Jack Daniels had her fly over to an examiner in Greeley, where she had her license signed off.

"I tell you," Jackie explained, "That’s something that I never dreamed that I’d have happen to me, but then, there have been a lot of things on this trip that I never thought would have happened to me, even six months ago."

Six months ago, she thought with the statement, she hadn’t even met Mark! A lot had happened in that time, things that she had never dreamed would happen to her.

The supper had long been finished, and the dishes washed before Mark and Jackie were about yarned out, telling about things that had happened to them. "You guys have been having quite a trip," Kathy said as they watched the deepening twilight from the porch. "When we left you, down there in Florida, we were wondering about the things you’d see and do, and I’m glad you’ve been having such a great time."

"It’s hard to see summer come to an end," Mark admitted. "Pretty soon, it’s going to be too cold for camping under the wing, unless we’re way down south."

"I don’t know about you," Roger said, "But Kathy and I have got to be turning in. We’ve got to do chores and milk in the morning."

"Anything we can do to help?" Jackie offered.

"There’s not much you can do to help, not without knowing what’s happening," Roger said, "But you can come and watch."

It was the first time Mark and Jackie had slept in a bed since a cold, windy, rainy night in Idaho before they’d stopped at the K-Bar, and the first time they’d ever slept together in a bed in a home, and it seemed strange. "I think we’d better just sleep," Jackie said, the strangeness getting to her, and Mark agreed readily. It had been a long day, with many hours in the air followed by a full evening, and both were asleep within minutes.

*   *   *

It was past the onset of astronomical twilight, but still well before dawn when Roger came to wake them. Mark and Jackie had gotten used to waking up early at the K-Bar, so it wasn’t any trick to get around. There was hot coffee waiting in the kitchen; they each poured themselves a cup, and Kathy said, "We’ll have breakfast when we get done."

"Do all your days start this early?" Jackie asked as they headed for the barn.

"Usually Kathy and I milk in the evening, and then the next morning, then Dad and Charlie milk in the evening and the next morning," Roger explained. "But we have to mess around with the schedule a little, so Charlie can have a day off. We have to pay him, so he gets a break, but that means that a couple of times a week we have to milk three times straight."

"That does get to be tiring," Kathy said, "But I grew up on a dairy farm, so I’m used to it."

"Kathy’s not going to be able to help much longer, so we’re messing around with the schedule a little. In another couple of weeks, Merle Watson – he’s the kid you met yesterday – is going to help either Dad or me with milking each morning before he goes to school."

"It’s going to seem strange, not milking," Kathy said, "But I suppose I’ll make up for it with having to get up in the middle of the night for the kid."

The smell of raw, warm milk hung heavy in the milking parlor. While Mark and Jackie mostly sat back and watched, Roger and Kathy swung into a well-practiced routine. The cows didn’t take much leading; they were used to the process, and about all Roger had to do to get the first group up to the milking stands was to open the parlor door. The process was highly automatic, and sterile, filled with the noise of pumps and machinery. "I kind of had this vision of pulling a stool up alongside a cow," Jackie said. "It’s not like that at all."

"This isn’t a small operation," Mark said. "I’ll bet there’s a hundred thousand dollars worth of equipment here in this room."

The milking was a slow process, taking a couple of hours to complete, and Roger and Kathy were in constant motion, keeping things moving. Very little talking went on; the noise level was high enough that it discouraged talking, anyway.

After a while, Jackie went back up to the house, and brought the coffeepot out to replenish everybody’s supply. There came a minute when both Roger and Kathy didn’t have anything to do, and came over to talk for a minute. "I see what you mean that there’s not much we could do," Mark said. "You two have this down to a science."

"It takes a while to get the teamwork down," Roger said, "But we’ve had a few months to practice. It’s going to get worse, just as soon as the hay gets in. We’re buying out the Sorensen’s dairy herd, up the road, and it’s going to take another hour a day. Running a dairy herd like this is such a big job that it takes a lot of investment, and not everybody can do it. It just gets worse and worse, the stuff you have to have to put out a quality product."

"Are you going to be much longer?" Jackie asked.

"About an hour," Roger said.

"In about half an hour, why don’t I go up to the kitchen and get started on breakfast?"

"Sounds good," Kathy said. "There’s bacon and eggs in the refrigerator, and potatoes in the cabinet next to the sink. We’re going to want a big breakfast."

"I figured that," Jackie replied. "Especially if you start the day like this."

*   *   *

Mark went with Jackie up to the kitchen. While Jackie started breakfast, Mark poured another cup of coffee, and commented, "That’s a lot of hard work they do, and the day is just getting started."

Jackie nodded, "I don’t think I’d care to be a farm wife. She’s what? Six months pregnant? Something like that, and still going hard every day."

"Well, she’s a farm girl, and brought up with it, I guess," Mark said. "I tell you what, though; it makes working on phones seem so darn much easier. I mean, I’ve had trouble coming to grips with the thought that a year from now, I’m going to be a phone man for the rest of my life, but how would you like to have to face a life like that?"

"I wish I knew what I was going to be doing a year from now," Jackie said. "For that matter, what we’re going to be doing."

Mark could see that this was going to head off into another "Do we want to go back to Spearfish Lake?" discussion, and he didn’t really want to get into it, right then. "I think we can knock running a dairy farm off of the list," he said.

Breakfast was just getting ready as Roger and Kathy arrived, followed not long after by George, Roger’s father, and Charlie, the hired hand. The newcomers had a cup of coffee, while they worked out what they were going to do for the day.

It turned out to be a busy day. With a full crew, Roger and George spent the day running the baler, and stacking hay wagons full; and Kathy spent most of her day in a pickup truck, bringing loaded hay wagons up to the barn, and taking empties back out to the field. Jackie found herself unloading the hay wagons, and discovered that hauling the heavy bales off the wagon and onto the elevator wasn’t a bad job. Charlie and Mark had the worst job, stacking hay in the barn. It got very hot and sweaty very early, and it seemed as if the bales never stopped coming. Both Mark’s and Jackie’s muscles ached by the time everybody broke for lunch.

It was even hotter in the afternoon, and Mark thought he was going to die up in the hayloft. Fortunately, the two boys from the day before showed up to relieve Mark and Charlie, but it was hardly a respite for Mark. He went out to the field to stack hay on the wagons as it came off of the baler, while Roger drove the tractor and baler up and down the hayfields, so George and Charlie could get to the evening milking.

Finally, the time came when Roger drove the tractor and baler back up to the barn, with Mark riding on top of the pile of hay for the last wagon of the day. In short order, that load was stacked in the hayloft.

"Good God," Mark said to Roger and Kathy and Jackie as he saw the load going up the elevator, thirteen hours after the morning milking had started, "Is every day like this around here?"

Roger shook his head. "Not every day," Roger admitted. "It’s probably worst when we’re haying like this, and we get three cuttings a year. Each cutting takes us about a week to get through, and there isn’t any other way to get it done but go ahead and do it."

"I guess I’m just not cut out for this," Mark said. "I thought I was going to die."

"Well, we got a lot done today," Roger said. "More than I expected. We ought to be able to wrap this up tomorrow. I’m sure glad you guys volunteered to help us out. What do you say if we were to go jump in the lake and cool off, then have supper at the café?"

"Fine with me," Kathy said. "Somehow, I don’t feel like cooking tonight."

Kathy turned out to be far past the bikini she had worn on the beach at Titusville the spring before, but within a few minutes, all of the rest of them were dressed much as they had been in Florida, and were splashing around in the lake a few miles away from the Griswold farm.

After a while, the splashing around had cooled Roger and Mark off, and they sat down on the little scrub of beach, next to Kathy and Jackie. "Won’t be much more swimming this year," Roger commented. "It seems kind of sad to see summer come to an end."

"Do things slow down much for you when winter comes?" Jackie asked.

"It slows down some, but there’s still a lot to do every day," Roger replied. "It feels good to have busy days like this."

"I know," Mark reflected. "It seems to me that we’ve been happiest on this trip when we have things to do. When we don’t have anything much going on, then things get dull."

"I’ve learned that, too," Jackie said. "The traveling is fun, and we’ve gotten to see a lot of things, but I guess I’ve learned I’m not much for sitting around, not doing much of anything, either."

"You two have had a heck of a trip," Kathy commented. "I guess I’m just getting used to being a farm wife. Back last spring, I just envied you so much when we had to come back here and buckle down. All the things you’ve seen and done, the experiences you’ve had, though! That’s been the trip of a lifetime! Are you guys planning on staying with us for another few days?"

"I guess so," Mark said. "I guess we’re willing to stick around and pitch in as long as you need us to. Have you got something in mind?"

"Well," Kathy admitted, "I’d sort of like you to come to church with us Sunday."

"We haven’t been to church since Arroyo Grande," Jackie said. "I supposed we ought to."

"We’d love to have you," Roger said. "I’d like you to testify about your experience with finding that couple in that boat off Catalina."

Mark shrugged. "I don’t know that there was that much to talk about. We were just flying overhead, and there they were."

"You said that there was that long chain of circumstances that seemed like it was a miracle," Kathy said.

Mark shook his head. "I said it seemed like a miracle. I don’t know that it was a miracle."

"It sounds like one to me," Roger said.

"Like I say," Mark protested. "I don’t know. I don’t know what to think."

Mark and Jackie agreed to go to church with the Griswolds, but said they’d have to think about whether they wanted to talk about the Pittingers. The conversation wound off in other directions, and it was late that night before Mark and Jackie could share a discussion about it, while they lay quietly awake in bed.

"I don’t suppose it can hurt," Jackie whispered.

"Well, I just hate to stand up and make a damn fool of myself, if I don’t understand what happened, myself," Mark said. "I like Roger and Kathy a lot, and I don’t mind going to church with them, but that just seems like reaching a little."

"I like Roger and Kathy, too," Jackie said, feeling comfortable with the touch of Mark’s warm hand on her bare breast. "If something like that happened to them, they wouldn’t be shy about talking about it in church."

"They were brought up with it," Mark replied, massaging the softness he held in his hand. "I wasn’t. I have to admit, I envy the comfort they have with their beliefs."

"Yeah, even though they sort of had to get married in a hurry, it seems to be working out pretty well for them," she said. "I kind of envy them for just having settled down into a regular existence. They’re happy with each other."

"I just hope we can stay as happy with each other as they are," Mark commented.

"Do you want to do what I think we want to do?" Jackie said.

"Go to church with them? I guess so," Mark said.

"I didn’t mean that," Jackie said, rolling her nude body over so she could kiss him.

"We’d better try to be quiet," Mark whispered. "These springs squeak."

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