Spearfish Lake Tales
Contemporary Mainstream Books and Serials Online
Book 1 of the Dawnwalker Cycle
As Randy headed over to the PEIF that evening, he hoped that he was doing the right thing. At least, he hoped he wasn't taking his own life in his hands with his decision to help Crystal.
It was a long way from Spaulding Hall to the PEIF, and much of it was outside, in the snow and darkness. In decent weather, NMU's campus was pretty nice, perhaps prettier than most, certainly a bright spot in the town, but now, in the depths of February, it seemed like hell with the fires out. The sidewalks were clear, but there were huge piles of snow on either side of them, stacked there from the storm earlier in the week and several others before it. A cold wind blew from the Canadian tundra off the frozen vastness of Lake Superior, only a few blocks away, and it bit at him, chilling through his heavy clothes. Randy was from the North Country himself, and had learned from childhood to put dressing for the weather ahead of style, but on bitter nights like this, even that wasn't enough. As he came around the corner of a building the wind and the loose snow combined in a swirling whirlwind of snow, but he didn't particularly notice. It was the type of thing he'd grown up with, but he'd noticed that some of the kids who had come to Northern because they liked the North Country summers usually had a rude awakening when the cruel, harsh realities of winter came early and stayed long.
But, he welcomed the long walk. It got him out of the stuffiness of the dorm into the welcome of the cold fresh air, and it gave him a chance to think. He'd had a good time in the past day or so with Crystal and Myleigh, but deep in the back of his mind, he couldn't get over the feeling that he was playing with a pair of rattlesnakes.
In their own very different ways, Crystal and Myleigh were perhaps the most impressive women of any around his age that he'd ever met. Well, maybe 'impressive' wasn't the word. Maybe 'intimidating' was more like it. With Crystal, it was pretty obvious why -- she could physically intimidate the Incredible Hulk. There was no denying that she was a powerful athlete, possibly a dangerous one, but an athlete whose tastes ran toward dangerous outdoor adventure. Randy enjoyed a reasonable amount of risky outdoor activity, but Crystal absolutely thrived on it, and at a level far higher than Randy ever had any expectation or desire of reaching.
That was a little hard to understand, but Myleigh, if anything, was worse in her own way. The initial reaction he'd had to her was that she was also some kind of nut, but it didn't take a lot of talking with her to realize that if she was, she was a brilliant one. She was intensely driven, dead set on her goals, and had a good idea of how to get there. If you could get past the way she talked -- and he was learning to do that -- she was proving to be an interesting girl with a wicked, droll sense of humor. He'd wound up sitting and drinking coffee with her for an hour or more earlier, before they both headed back to their rooms. It had been an interesting hour with a lot of laughter -- she was proving to be fun to be with, but he was always aware of her intimidating brightness, and her intense and narrow focus.
High school must have been hard on both of them, he thought absently as he waited for the traffic light to change. High school kids don't like anyone who stands too far out from the crowd, he remembered all too well. To be too much of an individual risked ostracism, pettiness, bullying, and loneliness. He knew that well enough; he hadn't exactly been a popular kid in high school, but he'd been pretty much one of the crowd. He'd discovered in middle school that he had some talent for wrestling, and he'd been on the team all through high school. That made him at least partially a jock -- you weren't considered to be a fully accepted jock in Spearfish Lake unless you were on the football team, and he'd been too small for that -- but wrestling deflected a lot of the hassles that might have come from his being the son of the man who was the largest employer in town.
If Crystal had been as physically impressive in high school as she was now, that would have made things a little different for her. It was a little different for girls, anyway; they weren't necessarily expected to be jocks, but she wouldn't have been a jock sniffer, either, which is what many girls in that age group seemed to be. In any case, she must have been hard enough and independent enough to put up with being something of an outsider.
Myleigh, on the other hand, must have had it hard indeed, he thought as the light changed. It would have taken a hard head indeed to be as bright as she was and talked the way she talked to keep from letting the inevitable teasing and petty cruelties get to her. As quiet and shy as she appeared, there had to be an iron backbone underneath. Maybe that's why in some ways she scared him more than Crystal.
He walked on past the Yooperdome -- the locals all called it that, but it was actually named the Superior Dome. As you drove up M-28 on the way from Spearfish Lake, it was the first indicator of Marquette you saw in the far distance over a broad arm of Lake Superior. It was the largest wooden dome in the world, housed the football field and other events, and was the only indoor football stadium in the entire league. Some kids from other schools like Tech figured that made the Wildcats something of wusses, to not be out playing football in the normal winter snow and ice.
Randy was really concerned about the next hour or so as he walked on toward the PEIF. Oh, he figured he could keep it light -- there was every motivation in the world to do that -- but there was no way of telling how Crystal would react. He didn't know her very well, but he knew she was a very physical girl -- one he'd like to know better, to learn from, and to have fun with. He owed her one, and maybe this would be the way to work it out.
It was pretty quiet in the gym. A handful of kids down in the far end were doing three on three at the hoops, making some noise, but the wrestling mats were back in a cul-de-sac, and that cut the noise a lot. Crystal was already there, wearing shorts and a T-shirt, doing some stretching exercises, just getting loosened up. "I was beginning to wonder if you had second thoughts," she smiled.
"Oh, not really," he lied. "So how was the snowboarding, anyway?"
She grinned. "You know what they say. A bad day snowboarding is better than a good day in school, but I've gotta say, it barely beat it today. I made about six runs, and got to wondering why it's as shitty as it is when we had all that snow earlier in the week. Sometimes, it just doesn't work."
"I've done snowboarding a bit," he admitted. "But I really need more practice."
"They've got good instructors out there," she said. "You ought to go out and hook up with one some time, while the snow lasts. I could teach you some, but it's probably something you'd be better off learning from someone who knows how to teach it."
"Same thing here," he nodded, getting down to business. "If you really want to learn wrestling, then you really need to get with a good coach who can teach you. We can screw around . . . er, mess around a bit, but you're just as likely to get bad habits from me as good ones."
"I don't mind," she grinned. "I mean, it's not like I'm going to be doing this in competition. You wanna wrestle?"
There was going to be no getting out of it, but what the heck, it might be fun, too. "Probably better if we do it now, before we head for the pool and work on my roll," he said, then stopped to think for a moment. "Let's do this barefoot," he continued. "They're probably as pissy about gym shoes on the mat here as they are anywhere else."
"I wondered about that," she said, bending over to untie a shoe.
"It probably won't matter tonight," he said thoughtfully, "We probably won't get that far, but if we do this again, you probably ought to wear a one-piece swimsuit, something like that tank suit you had on in the meet yesterday. I don't have a singlet up here, but I can get one."
"Why's that?" she asked as she tossed a shoe off to the side.
"Uh, they don't come off as easy," he said. "Forget what you see about the women in the WWF wearing bikinis in the ring. That's a show, and it's not real."
"Uh, yeah, I suppose they wouldn't approve of topless wrestling in here, either," she teased him.
In a few seconds, they were both barefoot. "I don't know much about karate and the other martial arts," he said. "But I know there's things here you're going to find that will be different, so just sort of follow along with me and take me for granted, OK?"
"All right," he said, turning to face her from a few feet away. "Now, the objective in wrestling is to pin your opponent. To do that, they've got to be on the mat, and you have to get them there. So, let's start with takedowns."
"Makes sense," she agreed.
He crouched down, feet far apart, knees bent, his hands open, not far above his knees. "This is a basic stance for starting. It has good balance of offense and defense. Let's see you try it."
She crouched down in a similar position standing only a few feet from him. "Now, primarily we're working on the legs for takedowns. They've got to be out from under your opponent to get him on the mat. There are ways you can go for both legs, but once you've got control of one of your opponent's legs, then you've got control of him. I'm going to demonstrate slowly. Just stand there like you are, and don't try to counter or defend, OK?" He tightened his crouch, slowly reached out and grabbed her by the thigh, lifting it slightly, so her foot was off the ground. "You're balancing on one foot, and it's not going to take me much to get you off balance, right?"
"Well, yeah, I can see that," she said, hopping on one leg. "Is that how you'd come in at me?"
"Maybe, maybe not," he said, still holding her leg up. "It's a good way to demonstrate."
"If you did that to me for real, you'd be wide open for a shot to the face, or half a dozen other things."
He set her leg down and stood up. "That's what we call brawling. It's not wrestling, and it's the real reason I'm reluctant to do this with you," he said, looking her in the eye. "I'm frankly a little concerned that I'll make a perfectly legal move on you, and you'll accidentally rearrange my face without thinking about it. There are legal ways to defend against that move, but a karate chop to the back of the neck isn't one of them."
"It's not all violence," she said with an understanding she hadn't had before. "Controlled violence, yes, but we're taught to control it."
"Would you be hurt if I said that I haven't had enough experience with you to say I trust you?" he grinned. "But, we'll take it easy and press on for a while. Now, that's a real basic move. You do it to me, and I won't defend. You don't have to knock me on my ass, but get control of a leg."
They got back into a crouch, facing each other. She eyed him for a moment, then sprang forward, grabbing a leg. It was a little too exuberant, and he wound up falling on his side; she let go of him as he fell. "Oops, sorry," she said as he rolled and picked himself up. "I didn't mean to do that."
"You see how powerful a move it is," he grinned. "But, like you said earlier, any time you make an offensive move you wind up opening up for a defensive move. Let's to that again, and I'll show you how to defend against it. Try to do it a little more slowly, so you can see how the defense opens up against the offense."
They practiced the move half a dozen times, with her getting to his leg only once, only then to have her hand pushed away. Every other time, he danced out of range, or managed to block the move. "I'm getting the idea, I think," she told him.
"All right," he said. "You've got some idea of how to defend against that simple, straight-ahead move. Let me try it on you a few reps. I'll do it slowly at first, and pick up the speed."
She was able to easily block his first couple of attempts, but on the third, which was faster, she wound up with her leg up in his elbow, balancing on one foot. "You see how I did that?" he asked her as he set her leg down. "I saw your move coming, and moved into it, to limit the range you could move."
"I saw it coming," she said, "But by the time I did, it was too late to counter."
He nodded. "You're getting the idea. Now, what we've been working on is just a simple attack and a simple defense. Now, a more complicated defense is to counterattack. This is where it starts to be fun. Also, I think we're getting to the point where we better quit worrying about not knocking each other on our asses," he told her, a little more confident that she could keep her martial arts skills under control, at least for now. "Sometimes it's hard to stop in the middle of a move, and the idea is to take the opponent down, anyway. That OK with you?"
"Fine," she grinned. "It's hard to hold back."
"All right," he grinned. "Try that same move on me again." They got into a crouch, and once again she made a move on his leg. As she stepped forward to reach for his leg, he brushed aside her arm with one hand, spun around, grabbed her rear leg, and lifted. Considerably more quickly than it takes to tell it, they were in a heap on the floor, with her laying face down and him on top of her, holding an arm behind her.
"You pot licker," she grinned as he picked himself up. "That was a judo move. I wasn't expecting that."
"Expect the unexpected," he grinned as he put out a hand to help her to her feet. "There's a lot of crossover between judo and wrestling, but plenty of differences, too, like you don't have the sleeves of a gi to be a weak point. You want to try that one on me?"
There was another flurry of arms and legs, but the only difference to the outcome was that this time, Crystal wound up on her back, not having expected him to beat her to the leg grab. That was about the last one that he got easily on her, though. Now that she was getting the moves quickly, he showed her some other attacks, other defenses, and by the end of half an hour she was getting through to him fairly often. "Let's take a breather," he said finally as she wound up on his back after yet another flurry. "We need to talk."
"Fine with me," she puffed, rolling off him and sitting up.
He rolled onto his butt and sat cross-legged next to her on the mat. "Been enjoying yourself?" he asked.
"Yeah," she grinned. "I've picked up a few things, and it's nice to work out with someone."
"I haven't done this in a couple years, and I guess I'm a little rusty, but it is fun to work out."
"I thought we were going to be down on the mat, wrestling, more. What we've been doing is still pretty judo."
"Right," he grinned. "We've barely touched on the skills on the mat. That's an important part of the whole package, and some people think it is everything, but I think you can see that if you win the takedown phase, you start with an upper hand on the mat, right?"
"Well, yeah, you've got a mental edge, if nothing else, but usually a position edge, as well."
"Right," he said, still teaching. "There's a whole spectrum of skills in the takedown, starting with the stance, motion, level changes, penetration of defenses and lifts, along with throwing skills. That's all pretty much related to judo. Now, I can show you a couple holds, and demonstrate how you get your opponent into them and how you break them if they're on you, but I don't want to try it for real, tonight. Like I said in the beginning, I'm a little reluctant to get into the mat skills until we're both wearing something a little more like singlets, or we could easily get into sensitive areas that aren't related to real wrestling."
"You mean, like if I'm thinking my top is coming off, I'm not going to be thinking about what I should be doing to my opponent."
"Exactly," he grinned. "Another session or two, and that could start to become an issue. And, a worse issue that we really have to work out is that we're going to get into rollovers and reversals, and just plain grappling around, and I could find myself reaching for, oh, your shoulder, and winding up on a breast, and worse, maybe, when we get into rollovers. When it's guy on guy, we wear a cup, but . . ."
She grinned at him. "You're trying to be nice, and I know it. Like I told you before, if you should happen to grab something accidentally, I'm not going to worry about it. Maybe we'd just better stay away from holds that involve the crotch."
"Well, I'm willing if you are," he smiled. "Are you up for a couple demonstrations of mat work?"
"Sure," she told him. "Remember, I'm here to learn."
"All right," he said, getting to his knees and working his way around behind her. He got close, put an arm under her armpit, and his hand on her neck. "This is a basic half Nelson, and it's an important hold. It works into a lot of things." He did a similar move on the other arm, just resting his hands lightly around her. "This is a full Nelson, and it's a major no-no. Not only is it an illegal hold, you could rupture a vertebra that way. Don't use it, OK?"
"I won't." she promised.
He released one hand, placed it on her shoulder, and tightened his grip on the other one. "OK, this is a hell of a position to start with, and you'd probably never get into it for real, but see if you can wiggle out of it . . ."
Though they never got beyond simple demonstrations of holds and how to break them, in twenty minutes of rolling around on the mat, they both had gotten rather sweaty and stinky before they mutually called a halt and just sat on the floor talking. It had been fun to wrestle with her, and would be more fun when they were doing more actual wrestling, not just demonstrations, and he looked forward to it. "That's probably about as far as we want to go tonight, anyway," he said. "If you want to do it again, I don't mind."
"Sure," she grinned. "It is fun to roll around on the mat with you, and it makes for something different in a workout."
He grinned at her. "It's nice to know I'm better at something than you are, although if we keep this up very long, it won't stay that way. Once you get the basics down, there's no reason that you shouldn't be able to outwrestle me, but then, you have a lot of advantages, including strength, height and weight. I can balance that off with skill, experience, speed, and a little on agility for a while, but the kind of athlete you are, I'd expect you to catch up with me pretty quick. There's going to come a time when we're going to want to find someone who's bigger and stronger than you are, just so you'll have some idea how to handle them, but that's a ways up the road, yet."
"We'll worry about that when we get to it," she said with a grin. "You know I'm not worried about wrestling competitively. It's just a different workout, picking up a few skills that might be useful someday, and . . ." she looked him in the eye and smiled, ". . . a way to get to know a friend a little better."
Randy shook his head. "Boy, I sure screwed that up."
"Oh, dear," Myleigh looked up from her salad over dinner a couple nights later. "What have you done now?"
"I should have just bitten the bullet and ordered the damn singlet through the mail," he muttered, shaking his head again. "Crystal, I know just exactly what you went through with the swimming coach."
The big girl finished chewing a bite of her hamburger and grabbed a couple of fries. "He asked you to go on the wrestling team, huh?"
"No, even worse," Randy said glumly. "I didn't think there'd be one in a store in Marquette, so I just hit on him for an old one, or something. I had to tell him I was scrimmaging with a friend, just for the fun of it, and he asked me if I'd wrestled before. When he wormed out of me that I'd gone to the state meet, he asked me if I'd scrimmage with some of the team, you know, just to get some different opposition. Hell, I didn't come to college to wrestle, and I know they're light at my weight. I just should have kept my damn mouth shut."
"You going to do it?" Crystal asked, stuffing the fries into her mouth.
"Hell no, I don't want to do it, even if there's a scholarship involved," he replied, watching her eat. "That's not what I came to college for. All I wanted to do was beat him out of an old singlet. I did manage that, but I told him I'd think about the team. The season's about over, anyway. By next fall, he might forget about it."
Crystal swallowed and smiled. "Guess we're going to have to do it my way, then," she said, picking up the burger for emphasis. "Go over there in the wee small hours, when everything is pretty dead. I'm gonna have to do it, now that the swim coach is prowling for me. I've had three different girls ask me to join the team. I hate to say no, really, but I didn't come to college to piss around with a swim team. It's really hard because of my being a PE major."
"I guess we're just going to have to lie low," Randy said, looking at the piece of Swiss steak that lay on his plate. It hadn't tasted very good, although it had smelled all right when he went through the line. At least the kids in the kitchen couldn't screw up hamburgers, at least not too bad.
"Well, we can do it late tonight, say, after midnight," Crystal offered. "I thought I might try to get a nap before Myleigh wakes me up. When she does that, I usually get up and go tire myself out enough so I can get back to sleep. It works, at least sometimes."
"You're accusing me of snoring again, aren't you, Crystal?" Myleigh said with a wicked gleam in her eye. She turned to Randy and said firmly, "I do not snore. I will admit to occasionally breathing heavy when dreaming of some passionate scene, but I do not snore."
"That's your opinion against everyone in the north end of Spaulding," Crystal teased. They'd obviously been over this ground before, Randy thought. "I'll bet there are guys making porn movies who'd love to film your dreams, if they could stand the racket."
"It's all in your imagination," Myleigh shot back, refusing to concede. "Or else, you're confusing me with that poor adenoidal boy over in the next suite. He does tend to rattle the windows a little."
"Yeah, sure," Crystal laughed. "Especially since he moved out of the dorm to live with his girlfriend last semester. If he's the one who's knocking the building down every night, that's some serious long-distance snoring, considering their apartment's in Ishpeming. The girl had better be deaf, if that's the case." She turned to Randy to continue, before Myleigh could come up with another groaner of an excuse. "Anyway, that's an option," she said. "We wouldn't have to do it after midnight."
"Well, I don't get to sleep much before midnight, anyway," Randy offered. It did get a little noisy in the dorm in the evenings, and Matt often had a bunch of friends around, which didn't help matters much, especially when they were all talking in thick Yooper. "We could maybe try it about ten or eleven or so."
"Sounds good, but we'll wind up sitting around and shooting the shit like we did Sunday night, and then going and working out in the pool, and then sitting and shooting the shit some more, and then it'll be four AM," Crystal said knowingly. "The thing to do is just bite the bullet and do it, and then try to catch up in the afternoons when the PEIF is busy. It's a hell of a schedule, but I've done it for three years now."
"Just because you can do it doesn't mean a mere mortal human being could do it," Randy teased at her. He felt like he knew the girls well enough to be able to tease them a little now. He'd realized that he was starting to acquire these two as friends Sunday night, when indeed, he and Crystal had stayed out until nearly midnight, hanging around the PEIF and the pool. She'd had him hand rolling the whitewater kayak before the evening was over with -- it wasn't a terribly useful skill by itself, she'd explained, but it was handy for working on a hip snap. His roll was getting pretty reliable, now, although it clearly was going to have to have more work before he could match what Crystal could manage on a bad day. Then, the next morning, while Crystal was still sleeping, he and Myleigh had breakfast together once again, and she'd teased him mercilessly with a series of double entendres about wrestling with her roomie, going to the mat with her. All in all, it felt good -- it may have been the best time he'd spent at Northern, just hanging out with a couple of new friends. "But," he continued. "I suppose we could give it a try."
"Oh, dear, Crystal," Myleigh teased. "You're turning him into another night owl. He will be utterly exhausted from the lack of sleep and wind up so pale from the lack of sunlight that he'll look like a computer geek."
Crystal chuckled. "He's a big boy," she smiled. "If he falls asleep on me, I'll just have to dump him in the pool to wake him up."
"I daresay that if he cannot stay awake while you and he have your hands all over each other, grappling tightly with your hot, sweaty bodies held close, breathing heavily on each other . . ." She smiled as if to imagine the scene, then carried on in her devastatingly deadpan voice -- "Why, the thought of it fills me with passion just to consider it, but I must warn you against immersing him in the pool in that condition. It might significantly dampen both your ardors."
"Something to consider," Crystal smiled, refusing to let Myleigh get to her. "Randy, what do you say we try it about ten, and see how it goes? Sometimes the place is still busy around then, other times it echoes. We'll just have to see." She grinned a big grin and added, "Maybe I ought to drag Myleigh over there and dump her in the pool. After the way she's been talking, I'll bet she's planning on reading Fanny Hill tonight, and if that's the case, no one in the dorm'll get any sleep when she starts dreaming those dreams."