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



Busted Axle Road
a novel by
Wes Boyd
Copyright ©1993, ©2001, ©2007, ©2013



Chapter 8

Mike and Kirsten had planned to make their move the second week of June, but when the papers got signed earlier than they expected, they were ready, and Memorial Day weekend was handy. Reasoning that the sooner they moved, the farther they would be from Kirstenís due date, they decided to get on with it.

Mike was going to be happy to move. Kirsten had pretty much gotten over her scare from the snake back in April, but she still made Mike check the bathroom at home before she used it, every time, and she still tried to use the bathroom at the office as much as possible.

As big as she was getting, it was going to be better when she could take showers; sheíd used the tub for baths, mostly because a stopper was in the drain, between her and anything that might crawl out of the sewer. But, it was difficult, and going on dangerous, for her to get up again, and Mike was glad that was going to be over with, soon.

Kirsten wasnít getting the fun, the anticipation out of this pregnancy that she had with her others, and Mike had given some thought to unilaterally deciding to remove the risk of any future ones. He was going to be sneaking up on retirement before this kid was in college, and one day he realized he didnít consider himself young anymore.

Moving was clearly going to be a pain in the butt. The only thing that made it easier was that Gil and Carrie had promised to help out, along with bringing the truck from the store. With the appliance-handling equipment Gil had, plus the strong backs of Danny and his friend, Josh Archer, that part of it would be much simplified.

In the weeks that had passed since their decision to buy the new house, they had been packing whenever they had time, bringing stuff down and stacking it in the living room. Mike had already borrowed Gilís truck on several occasions and hauled stuff out to the new house, stacking it in the garage, so they still could get through the living room. It was amazing how much stuff they had accumulated in twelve years of living together, how much stuff the kids could cram into the little room they had shared.

Clearly, moving was going to be a big job, and with only the one truck running back and forth, it was going to be a long one, too. A second truck would make life a lot easier, Mike knew, but he didnít manage to put two and two together until the Thursday before the move, over breakfast at the Spearfish Lake Café. He was sitting across the table from Mark when he realized that Mark had a pickup. "Any chance we can borrow your truck for a couple days this weekend?" he asked. "Weíre going to be moving."

"Sure," Mark said. "What time do you want Jackie and me there?"

"You guys donít have to help out," Mike protested lamely, grateful for the prospect of more help.

"Oh, we donít mind," Mark said. "Jackie said to tell you to plan on eating at our place when you do move, so you donít have to cook on top of everything else. Itíll make pizza seem a little less tiring."

"You donít have to do that," Mike repeated.

"Itís not a case of have to," Mark told him. "Itís a case of want to, neighbor."

Both Mike and Kirsten were subdued after Tiffany and Henry were in bed Friday night. Since Saturday was going to be a big day, they went to bed early, but sleep wouldnít come. "I canít believe it," Kirsten said, lying there in the dark. "This is our last night here. Think of everything thatís happened to us in this house, in this room."

"Going on ten years," Mike agreed. Theyíd moved there anticipating Tiffany; theyíd seen that her arrival would make their little apartment too crowded.

"Itís going to be strange to not live here," she went on. "I wonder how long itíll take me to start home from work and not turn the wrong way."

"Youíll pick it up, pretty quick," Mike said. "Think of the things weíre not going to have to put up with. Like waiting for Tiffany to get done taking a bath."

"Yeah," she agreed, "Or, Tiffany and Henry fighting over who messed up the room."

"Or, that idiot with the motorcycle up the block."

"Washing dishes. Itíll be nice to have a dishwasher."

"Having to park the cars one in front of the other, and always wanting the car in front."

"Yeah," Kirsten agreed thoughtfully. "No snakes in the drains."

"There will be that," Mike said. "Weíre going to have new problems, but itíll be kind of fun to deal with them."

They lay quietly for a few minutes. They had already anticipated some of the new problems; in the weeks since their first trip out there, they had already begun to see why Mark and Jackie called it "Busted Axle Road." It hadnít gotten real bad yet, but it was easy to see that it was going to get worse before it got better. And, it was clear that when the wind was up the hill, mosquitoes were going to be more of a problem than they had been in town. All was not sweetness and light, but the tradeoffs seemed adequate.

"As long as weíre here for the last time," Kirsten said finally, "thereís something I want to do here for the last time."

"You mean . . . "

"Yeah."

"Arenít you getting a little too far along?"

"Not if weíre careful."

They were still asleep the next morning when Henry bounced into the room. "Uncle Gil and Aunt Carrie are here," he reported. "And I canít get the TV on so I can watch cartoons."

"No cartoons for you today, Henrykins," Mike told him. "I unhooked the TV set last night so we can move today. Weíve got a lot of work to do, and that means you, too."

"Go ask Aunt Carrie to give you some cereal," Kirsten added. "Thereís some in a box on the kitchen shelf. Tell Uncle Gil and Aunt Carrie weíll be down in a minute."

"OK, Mommy," the boy said, and turned to leave the room.

"Would you believe me if I said I donít want to get up?" Kirsten said.

"Youíre not getting out of it that easily," Mike told her, throwing back the covers. "I will admit, the sooner this day is over with, the happier Iím going to be, though."

"Yeah, me too."

"Look, Kirsten," Mike said, pulling on his underpants. "I donít want you overdoing it today. Weíre going to have plenty of help. You just take it easy and direct traffic. Donít you be hurting yourself."

"I know, I know. It doesnít seem right, but I know," she said, throwing back the covers on her side. "Would you go check the bathroom for me? I feel like Iím going to explode."

"Speaking of last times for everything," Mike said, pulling on a T-shirt, "thatís a good one to be the last."

"Itís one thing that will be really nice," Kirsten agreed.

By the time Mike and Kirsten got downstairs, Mark and Jackie had arrived, bringing a huge thermos of coffee and a box of doughnuts. Mike gratefully poured himself a cup to lever his eyes open, while Kirsten nuked hot water for decaf. "Sure glad you guys are here," Mike said. "Whereís Danny and Josh?"

"Danny went to pick up Josh," Gil snorted. "Theyíll be along in a bit."

"Where do you want us to start?" Mark asked.

"I donít know," Gil said. "Without the kids here, Iíd just as soon not start in on the real heavy stuff, and itíll be easier to move it later if we have some of the boxes out of the way. Weíll just have to be careful not to block things with them out at the new house too much."

They managed to get one round trip in with boxes and some of the lighter furniture before Danny and Josh showed up, bringing another pickup truck borrowed from Joshís cousin. From there on, it was a little difficult to keep track. Kirsten drove out to the new house and tried to direct boxes to the right room. They had developed a marking system for the boxes, but marking them had broken down toward the end, and some got misdirected, though fortunately, none were too bad. The worst misdirection came with a box of canned food, which somehow got placed in the foot of Henryís closet, and promptly buried under a pile of toys. It was August before it turned up.

Still, it went quickly, more quickly than Mike would have thought possible. The three trucks werenít quite loaded on their last run to the new house, which came about one PM. Somewhere in there, Jackie disappeared, but she showed up at the new house just as the trucks were being unloaded, carrying a couple of coolers. "Lunchtime," she called.

The kitchen table had been set up, but it was under a pile of boxes, and the chairs had disappeared. Jackie sat down on the floor, cracked open the coolers, and began serving.

"Wow," Mike said. "Pasties and gravy, no less. When did you have time to make them?"

"Made them yesterday," Jackie reported, serving Mike one of the meat pies smothered in brown gravy, a local treat. "I put them in the oven earlier this morning."

"This is a real treat for our first meal in our new house," Kirsten said. "You shouldnít have gone to the trouble."

"Thatís exactly why I knew I should go to the trouble," Jackie said. "Just to be neighborly."

"You know," Kirsten said thoughtfully, "I think weíre going to like being your neighbors."

After lunch, Carrie turned to setting up the bathroom, while Jackie started on the kitchen, as Gil, Mark, and the boys moved boxes up from the garage. Kirsten, Mike, and Tiffany got into Markís pickup and made one last run to the old house to see if anything had been missed. "I like our new house, Daddy," Tiffany said. "I like my new room. Now, can we get a dog?"

"Not just yet, Tiffinapolis," Mike said. "We need to get settled in ourselves some, first, but it wonít be long."

"Can we get a dog like Cumulus?" she asked. "Heís a lot of fun."

"Oh, maybe," Mike said. "He does seem to be a nice dog. Iím just glad Mr. Gravengood decided to leave him at home today, or weíd never have gotten any work out of you at all."

"Youíre just like Mark," Kirsten said. She wasnít too crazy about getting a dog, but had resigned herself to it. It had been Tiffanyís main goal since the idea of moving had come up. "Get one dog, and the next thing you know, thereís a dog team out back."

"That would be great, Mommy," Tiffany chimed in. "Can we?"

"Iím not going to tell you to ask your father," she snorted. "Heíd probably say yes."

They found a little to load in the pickup truck, but not much. The house had been pretty well picked clean. "Well, I guess thatís that," Kirsten said. "No turning back now."

*   *   *

Due to the time difference, at about the time that the crew moving Mike and Kirsten sat down to lunch in Spearfish Lake Jenny Easton was on Santa Catalina Island, shooting the spot for Defenders of Gaea. McMullen and the film crew had taken the ferry across the night before, planning on getting a little partying in before the early-morning shoot.

That didnít interest Jenny, so she and Blake had chartered a single-engine airplane at an airport not too far up the coast, and flew across to the island in the early dawn hours. Out in public, Blake was careful to keep a professional distance from Jenny; if it ever got out that their relationship was ever any more than professional, and anyone investigated his background, it wouldnít look good for her. That didnít matter so much in California these days, he knew, but there were a lot of places where it would.

The spot producer had wanted to get the shot in while it was still early, when the light would be low and a little diffuse, and while the beach would still be empty. With a little careful photography, it would look like Jenny was walking down some deserted beach miles from anywhere, not at one of L.A.ís ritziest playgrounds.

McMullen wasnít too happy about working on Saturday, but realized early on that there were worse ways to spend a Saturday morning than being on a beach with a woman as beautiful as Jenny Easton. Whatís more, her professionalism made her a true joy to work with. Never having seen the admittedly simple shooting script before, she took it off to the side for a few minutes, tried out the lines a couple of times, testing various ways to do the wording, and suggested a couple of minor changes that reflected her style a little better. There was nothing substantive, and McMullen was quick to approve.

"All right, letís get this thing shot," she told the producer. "I want to get back to Malibu and get some things done. Iíve got to be in Vegas tonight."

McMullen thought the first take was about as dead solid perfect as you could ask for. It had Jenny walking up the beach, wearing loose khaki pants and a sleeved jacket, her long blonde hair blowing in the sea breeze, talking to the camera about the Defenders of Gaea and how they needed your help in their fight to save the environment. There was just something in her delivery that really made you want to help; it even got to McMullen a little.

While the first take had been about as nice as he could have hoped for, the producer had Jenny run through it a couple more times, partly for the sake of cutaways to different angles, and partly in case of technical problems, so thereíd be a backup. Well inside of an hour, he said, "Well, OK, thatís a wrap for video."

A still photographer had been working right alongside the film crew, and he took Jenny aside for a few setups. He shot up a lot of film in a hurry, and would have been tempted to shoot more, just because Jenny was as pretty as she was, but finally called it good enough, knowing he had the shot he needed in the can.

"Man," McMullen marveled to himself. "It just doesnít go any better than that. Thatís a million-dollar spot if I ever saw one."

Overlooking the whole proceeding, the crew from Hollywood Tonight had been taking some clips of the activity, and had made a brief interview with McMullen. "Miss Easton," their producer called, "do you think you could spare us a moment, now?"

"Sure," Jenny smiled. "Remember, no in-depth interview, nothing off the topic, but Iíll give you a couple clips you can use."

The Hollywood Tonight producer nodded. "Thatís what we agreed," he said. "Do you have a statement, or do you want me to throw you a question, and then you wing the answer."

"Iíll just wing something," she said. "If you donít like it, throw me a question."

"Fine, Miss Easton. Weíll be set up in a second."

McMullen was worried. This wasnít from a script, and she could say anything, but there was nothing he could do.

"Ready, Miss Easton," the producer said.

With a trace of lust in her voice, Jenny said, "Saving the earth is going to be a big job. It takes more than just organizations like Defenders of Gaea to accomplish it. Itís going to take the work of every man, woman, and child on the planet."

Jesus, I wish our crew hadnít already started packing up, McMullen thought. Thatís better than the script we worked on all week, and she did it off the top of her head.

"Thatís great," the producer said. "Weíre still rolling. Got any others?"

"Ah, letís see. Give me a second," she said, in a voice not so sexy. Then, that lusty voice came back again, and she said, "I grew up pretty close to nature, and it taught me how important nature is to our future. Weíve got to take action now, before itís too late, to save this Earth of ours. Defenders of Gaea is one of the organizations right in the forefront of the battle."

McMullen was amazed; that was even better than the first. That was the kind of plug that was better than an ad. Heather sure hit the big time with this; he needed to remember to do something nice for her.

The producer smiled. "How are you going to like playing against William Ackerman?" he asked.

"Thatís off topic," Jenny smiled. "Forget it."

"Cut," the producer said. "I didnít want to ask that, but they told me to slip it in."

"Yeah, I know, youíve got your job," she sighed. "That do it?"

"Thatís pretty much a wrap," the producer agreed. "They wanted me to ask you directly about an interview at your summer place. Your agent said you didnít want to."

"What I told Fred was that if anybody from Hollywood Tonight showed up in Spearfish Lake with a video camera, they were going to get run through a pulp chopper and fed to the muskies," Jennifer said, not very sweetly. "Iíve got relatives who would do it, without my asking. Spearfish Lake is off limits. Period."

"To give Mr. Knox credit, thatís pretty much what he told us," the producer said, thinking Spearfish Lake must be a pretty brutal place, not like his part of L.A. at all. "But, they told me to ask."

"I understand," Jenny said. "In this town, we all have to do things we donít want to do."

"Miss Easton," McMullen broke in. "I just want to say that was a really wonderful job. The Defenders of Gaea will really appreciate your splendid performance."

"Thanks," she said. "We all have to do what we can, but I guess you know that more than most. Look, Iíd love to stand here and talk, but Iíve really got to get back."

"I understand," McMullen said. "Thank you again, Miss Easton."

Blake drove the car back to the airport. While they were alone, he commented, "You know, sooner or later, some film crew is going to go snooping around that home town of yours, and discover the truth about your folksí summer cottage, and think what a scoop thatís going to be."

"I know," she said bitterly. "The heck of it is, I donít care if it does, for me. If the publicity is too bad, then maybe I need a little bad publicity to get out of the public view. But, if that does happen, itís going to hurt my friends, my parents. Thatís what scares me, Blake. I mean, in Spearfish Lake, everybody knows that my parentsí cottage is at a nudist camp. Itís no big deal; everybodyís learned to live with it. But what if every supermarket tabloid in the country has people with 2000-millimeter lenses, sneaking through the brush at the club trying to get candid nude shots of me? I havenít gone out there for years, just for that reason, but something like that would ruin things for my friends, my family."

"I hate to say this," Blake said, "but maybe youíd better not go."

"But I need a vacation from being Jenny Easton," she said sadly. "I go for that as much as anything. The heck of it is, Spearfish Lake is the one place I donít have to be Jenny Easton. As long as I can go back there and be just plain Jennifer Evachevski for a while Iíll be OK. But thatís something I want to keep private. I donít want to put my family and friends through the hassles of having film crews there, trying to find out all the little secrets of my childhood and my family. Having to put them through the hassle would ruin it for me."

They rode along in silence. This was not a new topic either; in recent years, Jenny had almost cut out her visit home in the summer just for that reason; not entirely, but almost. Blake knew that Jennifer Evachevski did not have many havens from Jenny Easton, and she hated giving up her best one, despite the risk. It was just something else to make her unhappy.

"There is one compensation," she said, after a while.

"Whatís that?"

"If any photographers try a long shot, theyíll think the safest shot is from across the lake. Thatís mosquito gulch over there. Maybe the mosquitoes will suck those bloodsuckers dry."



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