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 31

"That was pretty good," Jackie said. "Did you see the way she was bouncing around in Goiní to the Twist and Shout? I didnít know she did stuff like that.

"Sheís working on a new album," Mike said. "She says she wants to do something a little rockier than her usual stuff."

"You should have been here for the show she gave back in July," Kirsten said. "That was a lot better."

"Yeah, Iím sorry we missed it," Mark said. "That must have been something to see."

"Youíre right," Jackie said. "This is a pretty good party. Iím glad you talked us into coming. I didnít think it would be this much fun."

"You get people into costumes, and they get a little crazy, sometimes," Kirsten said. "Especially if they get loaded up a little."

"Speaking of getting loaded up a little," Mike said. "Is everybody ready for another round? Iíve given up on trying to get a waiter over here. Iím willing to fly."

"Yeah, sure," Mark said.

"I really shouldnít," Jackie said. "But what the hell?"

"Might as well get me one, too," Kirsten said.

"All right," Mike said. "Iíll be back in two shakes of a goblinís tail."

"I didnít know goblins had tails," Kirsten giggled.

"I canít get over some of these costumes," Jackie said. "I feel so dowdy. I feel like I should have done something a little more flashy."

"You did great," Kirsten said. "If itíd been too dowdy, Iíd have told you so."

Mark shook his head. "I recognize a lot of people but thereís some people here Iíd never figure out in a month. Like, whoís the hula girl with John Pacobel?"

Kirsten and Jackie looked a couple of tables over, to where Pacobel was dressed like Little Lord Fauntleroy. "Must be his latest squeeze," Jackie said. "Sheís going to explode out of that top if she breathes too deep."

"She looks familiar," Kirsten agreed. "But, I canít put a name with her. Of course, I feel like Iím going to explode out of this top if I breathe too deep, too, but with this damn corset, I canít."

"Canít explode out of there, or canít breathe?" Mark smirked. He was starting to feel a little lightheaded.

"Youíve got the dirty mind of a fighter pilot, Gravedigger," Kirsten said. "Theyíre going to have the costume contest in a little while, and you ought to go up there."

"Yeah," Jackie said, "you should."

"Hell, Iím outclassed in this place," Mark said. "But Iíll do it if you want me to."

The floor was crowded, and it took Mike time to work his way up to the punch table. Worse than the crowd, there were a lot of people he knew, and he had to stop along the way and greet many of them. The first stop came at a nearby table, where he recognized John Pacobel, sitting with the hula girl. "Hi, John, howís it going?" he stopped and said, stealing a look at the cleavage of the hula girl. There was quite a bit of it. He took another look at the hula girl, trying to look at the face, rather than the boobs. All of a sudden, he recognized who Pacobelís date was. "You enjoying yourself, Heather?" he asked.

"Yeah," she said, slurring her voice a little, making Mike realize that there was someone else the punch was sneaking up on. "This is a great party. I didnít expect anything like this, not in Spearfish Lake."

"We like to do it right," Mike said. "It does get better as the evening goes on. Iím trying to get to the punch table. See you guys around."

Mike pushed on through the crowd. The band was playing loud, and it was hard to make out conversations. He stopped for a moment at Ryan and Linda Clarkís table, partly to exchange greetings, and partly to get a good look at Linda Clarkís outfit, or lack of it. He asked Linda how she liked having Tiffany for a second year in a row.

"It works out pretty well," Linda said. "Sheís a good kid, and a joy to have in class. She really seems to be interested in dogsledding this winter."

"Well, so am I," Mike said, in a loud voice, to make himself heard over the band. "Like father, like daughter."

He pushed on through the crowd but found his way blocked by a huge football player in a Detroit Lions uniform, talking with a court jester. As he tried to squeeze behind the huge linebacker, or whatever, the band hit the end of the song, and all of a sudden, for an instant, there was relative quiet in the room. He could hear someone say something about "the retention pond out on 427."

"Out on 427" caught Mikeís attention. He swung around to hear the football player say, "I suppose so, but letís talk about it Monday."

Thatís got to be Don Kutzley, Mike thought. There werenít many people in town who were even bigger than Gil Evachevski, and this guy was. Besides, it sounded like his voice, but that wasnít what troubled him. Heíd heard from Kirsten a couple of weeks before that sheíd seen Jack Musgrave with a soil-test crew out along the road as sheíd driven to town one day, and Mike had wondered what the Waste Water Plant Superintendent could have been doing out there with them. Jack had said that heíd just been talking with an old friend, but Mike had been able to tell that heíd been covering something up. Kutzley hadnít told him anything at all.

Damn it, something was in the works. He made a mental note to find out what it was.

He pressed on through the crowd, as the band swung into I Believe in Music, thinking about the few bits and pieces heíd been able to put together.

Tray full of drinks in hand, Mike started to work his way back toward the table. About halfway there, he ran into Binky. "Great party, huh?" she asked.

"Great party," Mike said, thinking hard. "Hey, you still own that piece of land down the hill from me, donít you?" It was where Kirsten had seen the soil test crew.

"If you want it, you better move quick," she said. "I had a nibble on it the other day."

"Youíd sell it, then?" Mike asked.

"Iíd sell anything I got," she smiled.

"Anything?" Mike leered.

"Hey, be nice, G.I.," she laughed, caressing the AK-47.

"Can I ask who your nibble was from?" he said."

"Sorry," she said. "Confidential."

"ĎCuriouser and curiouser, said the rabbit,í" Mike replied.

"Oh, never mind. Itís just like Alice in Wonderland here tonight."

"Hey, weíll catch you later, Binky," Mike said. "Thereís a downed and drunken fighter pilot over at my table, and Iíd appreciate it if you didnít use that AK-47 on him."

"Have a good time," she said.

Mike started to work his way back through the crowd, but his mind was working hard, despite being fogged with alcohol. Somethingís going on, he thought.

*   *   *

By the time the witching hour was approaching, Mark was sure he was navigating on instruments through a thunderstorm, and the instruments were lying. His head was more than a little light, and vertical didnít quite seem vertical anymore. He hadnít been this wasted since he got out of the Army, and he was very sure that Jackie had never been so wasted, period.

The party hadnít died down much, although there had been a few celebrants felled early, and heat and noise and booze had made a lot of the costumes look more than a little disheveled. The heat and the noise were getting to Mark, too; he was overdressed in the flight jacket and the helmet, and somewhere inside him, he knew heíd better take a breather.

It was quieter out on the sweeping porch of Commons, and cooler, too. He took off the helmet and the jacket, and sat on a log railing of the porch, his back up against a post to give him balance, while mentally he tried to sort out impressions. Heíd never, ever been to a party like this, and it had been fun, but he wasnít real sure he wanted to do it again.

Mark wasnít sure how long he sat before he discovered Mike was there with him. "Hey, donít you know that itís against the rules to not have a drink in your hand? Here, have some punch."

"I donít . . . oh, what the hell," Mark said, taking the plastic cup from Mike. He was glad heíd stuck to the punch; apparently the bar mixed them pretty stiff. "Whatís in this stuff, anyway?"

"Donít know," Mike admitted. "All Carrie has ever said is that itís based on some sort of German forty-rod that Helga imports from the Black Forest." He laughed, and went on, "There was the year that someone got the bright idea of making the punch out of equal parts of tomato juice and Budweiser, with a little steak sauce and celery juice for seasoning. There was something in that mixture that gives you gas like you wouldnít believe. It was fart city around here all evening. Trick or treeeet."

The joke was just gross enough to punch through Markís alcoholic haze. He started giggling, then finally rolled into full-blown laughter.

"Whatís so damn funny?" Ryan Clark said, joining them.

"The tomato beer punch," Mike laughed.

"I hadnít farted so much since I got sucked into being a judge at the chili contest," Clark agreed. He was pretty loaded, too.

Mike was still getting along, though he knew he was fading. Still, Clark might be able to add something to what heíd overheard earlier. "Hey," Mike said, "what do you hear about the city wanting to put in some sort of a retention pond out on 427?"

"Donít know much about it," Clark said. "I know Kutzley has hinted that heís got something in mind as an alternative to the sewer separation, but he hasnít said anything really. A couple of councilmen got a little pissed about it in executive session the other night, but he said the idea isnít ready to bring to council yet.

"I knew you jokers were doing stuff in executive session youíre not supposed to be doing," Mike accused.

"We werenít discussing anything," Clark said. "We donít know enough about it to discuss it. All I know is we got a hell of a big bill from the engineering firm on ĎRetention Pond Studyí, but he didnít want to explain it. Thatís what got people pissed."

Even as drunk as he was, Mike knew a story when he heard one, and he knew enough now to know what questions to ask on Monday. If he remembered. He wished heíd brought a notebook. "Well, thatís Don for you," he said. "If heís not going to say, heís not going to say."

"Yeah, well, the hell with the damn sewer system, and the hell with the snake," Clark said. "Iím tired of even thinking of the damn thing. I think Iím not going to run again when my term comes up next year. You did the smart thing, getting a place out of town. Maybe Iíll do that."

"You better watch what you say on that subject," Mike said. "You could find yourself owning a new place before you sober up. Binkyís wandering around here. She isnít drinking, and sheís taking notes."

"Sheís going to wind up owning this damn county before sheís done," Clark agreed. Drunk though he was, Ryan knew he was starting to get into sensitive territory. He changed the subject. "How you guys making out with those pound puppies of yours?"

"Theyíre shaping up pretty well," Mark said. "We finally got enough dogs to split it into two teams, and theyíre working out well."

"Looking forward to snow," Mike added. "Theyíre settling down, now."

"You guys want to do a race to Warsaw and back during the Winter Festival like we talked about last spring?"

"Iíd kick his butt," Mike said. "He may have a better leader, but Iíve got faster dogs."

"Like shit you do," Mark replied. "The only race your dogs would win would be to the food dish."

All of a sudden, the band stopped playing whatever it was they were doing, and broke into Get On Down.

"Sounds like striptease time," Clark said, starting to head off the argument. "I hope thatís not Linda again, but I guess Iíd better go check."

"This I gotta see," Mark said, getting up as Clark turned to go. "But if itís Linda, she didnít have enough on to make it much of a striptease."

"Yeah, me too," Mike said, following them, adding, "Look, Gravedigger, if you think your mutts are so damn hot . . . "

*   *   *

Mark was sure the short-stack 180 Lycoming on the towplane years ago was running full bore in his head. The light was coming in the window, and he couldnít squint his eyes closed enough to take away the pain. Slowly, a little sense began to pump its way into his hammered brain. He was in a bed, which meant that he had to have gotten back from Commons somehow. His bladder was aching so much he couldnít stand it, and he wasnít sure he could feel his way to the john without opening his eyes. His neck ached, and something felt wrong with his head, and it took a moment or two to realize that he still had the motorcycle helmet on. A little exploration proved that he still had his costume on. A little more exploration with his hand showed that he wasnít in bed alone, when his hand came to rest on what couldnít be anything else but a breast . . .

A big breast . . .

A little shocked, he levered one eye open. At least part of the roaring in his head came from the fact that Scarlett OíHara next to him was snoring so loud that the walls were shaking a little. Her hoop skirt was still on, the hem pointing to the sky like a satellite dish.

Kirsten. Oh, good grief.

If it hadnít been for the bladder pressure, he might not have made much of it, but the aching in his groin had wakened him enough for the shock to penetrate. He knew he had to do something about it, but exactly what wasnít too clear yet. Well, one thing he knew was he needed to get some of the pressure from his yellow eyeballs off of his brain.

Somehow, he managed to roll over onto his side, put his legs over the side of the bed, and lever himself upright.

If heíd thought heíd hurt before, the vertical pressure on his bladder and from his eyeballs falling out of their sockets gave him real physical pain. The choice was clear Ė either try to get up and find the bathroom, or just let it go. He decided that heíd better try. "Jeez, I must have drunk a lot last night," he thought.

After three tries and the use of the chair conveniently next to the bed, he managed to get to his feet, and fortunately, there was a door frame he could hold on to while he tried to get his bearings. "The bathroom has got to be that way," he thought.

The bathroom was, and there, asleep and snoring loudly in the middle of the floor, was the Red Baron. The thought crossed his mind that Jackie had to have tied on a pretty good one, too, but mainly his thoughts were on the toilet. He spent an amazingly long time fumbling for his zipper before he realized that he didnít have one. Finally, he pulled his pants down, just as he couldnít hold it any longer.

"Good thing weíre not on the Spearfish Lake sewer," he thought after a while, as the flow kept coming and coming. "Iíd overflow the plant."

He wondered where his pants were Ė his real pants, not his costume pants, but realized he didnít have it in him to go look for them. He finally pulled the spandex pants back up, stepped back over the still-sleeping Jackie, and stumbled out into the hall.

It was clear that he couldnít go back to the bedroom where heíd been. Maybe the couch in the living room; no one would be the wiser . . . but Mike was sprawled out on it, asleep and snoring like the rest.

Maybe Mike and Kirstenís bedroom then . . . it was almost too much complexity for his pounding head to deal with, and it would mean a trip back up the stairs heíd barely made it down without falling.

All of a sudden, the smell of fresh coffee penetrated his addled brain. Apparently, someone had the good sense to have set the timer on the coffeepot before theyíd left for the party the night before. With some difficulty, he managed to pour himself a cup. He sat down at the kitchen table and stared into it, his head still pounding.

Sometime later, he heard the toilet flush. He looked up and realized that Mike had managed to make it off the couch and up to the bathroom without his knowing about it. He heard steps coming down the stairs. He looked up and, yup, it was Mike.

Mike was obviously not in much better shape. He stumbled out to the kitchen and managed to draw himself a cup of coffee before collapsing into one of the kitchen chairs. "Good God, what a night," Mark said. "I donít think Iíve ever drank that much in my life. Is it always like that?

"No," Mike said, then added, "Sometimes it gets a little wild. So how did you like sleeping with my wife?"

There was no way that Mark could think of to come back with any sort of an intelligent response. "Does she snore like that all the time?" was all that he could manage to say.

"No, thank Christ," Mike said. "Only when sheís been drinking."

"How did you find out?"

"I had to get up and take a leak and saw you," Mike said. "I sort of missed the bedroom on my way back, I guess. Looks like Jackie didnít make it back at all."

"You were sleeping with her?"

"Well, passed out with her, like you were with Kirsten. I told you something like that could happen."

"Does this mean that weíre into wife-swapping, too? I mean, this could be a little embarrassing, if I was capable of being embarrassed right now."

"We were just lucky that the SADD kids managed to find the right cottage. I think they mix people up like that for the fun of it. I donít think any of us could have hit the floor with our hats," Mike said. "Speaking of which, why donít you take off yours?"

"Hell no," Mark replied, realizing he still had the motorcycle helmet on. "Itís all thatís keeping my head on. How the hell did we get here, anyway? The last thing I remember is that gal from Defenders of Gaea doing a bump and grind."

"Do you remember . . . what was that about a six-pack of beer?"

Mark shook his head. It was not a wise move. "I donít even want to think about beer right now," he moaned.

"We were talking with Ryan Clark . . . " Mike struggled to remember.

"Something about the dogs," Mark agreed.

"Oh, shit," Mike said. "I think we agreed to have a little Iditarod to Warsaw and back during the Winter Festival, and I think we bet a six-pack of beer on it."

Mark nodded sadly. "I think youíre right. I remember something about that, I think, except that I was mostly looking at the boobs on that gal."

"Nice ones," Mike agreed. "Not as nice as Kirstenís, but nice."

"Yeah," Mark agreed. "Iíd have thought youíd be past that."

"Checking out boobs, you mean?"

"Yeah."

"Itís not the same . . . I canít explain it, itís too complicated for right now, but itís not the same."

They were silent for a moment, each contemplating their heads. "Well, are we going to do it?" Mark asked finally.

"What? The dog race, or swap wives again?"

"The dog race. I donít ever want to go through a night like that again."

"That wasnít that bad," Mike said. "Weíve had wilder parties."

"I meant Kirstenís snoring. What about the dog race?"

Mike shook his head; it hurt him too. "Iíve got a feeling that too many people heard us make the bet to back out of it."

Mark was silent for a moment, then nodded. "Youíre probably right," he said.



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