Spearfish Lake Tales
Contemporary Mainstream Books and Serials Online
Book 1 of the Dawnwalker Cycle
As the next few days passed, it proved that Randy had gained a couple of real friends. He didn't spend as much time alone with Myleigh as he did with Crystal, but then he wasn't wrestling, rolling kayaks, swimming laps or working out in the weight room with her, either. They did manage to eat together without Crystal present at least once on most days, and Randy confirmed that Myleigh was fun to be around. Oh, the way she talked was cute, and clearly could become irritating if he heard too much of it, but she was good for a lot of smiles and wisecracks. Randy had noticed that she was usually alone, unless he or Crystal was with her, and began to realize that she wasn't the sort of person who made friends easily. Had anyone besides he and her roomie ever bothered to look very far beneath that cute but irritating manner and language, and find out that there really was an interesting girl under there? He doubted it, and it was other people's loss.
The late nights began to wear on him after a few days, and no afternoon nap could quite bring him back to normal, so, when Saturday rolled around, he slept late. When he awoke from Matt's stirring, it was nearly noon; the sun was streaming in the window, and there hadn't been a lot of sun for a while.
"Holywa, wouldya look at dat, eh?" Matt said from the window. "Spring, he must be coming after all, yaaah?"
Curious, Randy sat upright, yawned, farted, and pulled on a shirt as he went to the window. A quick look outside showed pools of melt water and dripping icicles, so it had to be pretty warm out there, maybe even above freezing. Then he noticed what Matt was looking at: on top of the deep snowbanks several girls had spread blankets with aluminum foil on the top, and were out sunning themselves in bikinis. He shook his head. "Ye gods," he mumbled to his roomie. "It may be warm out dere, but it can't be dat warm, eh?"
"Dey don't seem ta mind," Matt smiled, not taking his eyes off the view.
"Holywa, I hope dey got sunscreen on," Randy said with a little more organization. It was quite a sight. "Guess dey wanna get a hot start on dere spring break sunburn, yaah?" he continued, reaching for his pants tossed on the chair the night before, when he'd come in late after another session at the PEIF with Crystal.
He didn't look out the window long; after all, he'd been having much closer looks, and contact, with a swim-suited girl all week long. After a minute, he tore himself away from the sight, went to the bathroom, brushed his teeth and shaved, and generally got around. When he finished, he took the phone, went over to the window to take in the sight some more -- no point in letting it go to waste -- and called Crystal and Myleigh's room over in Spaulding.
Myleigh answered the phone. "Ah, the dead have arisen," she teased him.
"Too late for breakfast," he said, all trace of Yooper gone from his voice. "You and Crystal want to do lunch?"
"Crystal's not here," Myleigh informed him. "She got up, looked out the window, ejaculated something about 'corn snow' and was out the door most velociously. I'm astonished that she didn't call you, after you talking about wanting to join her snowboarding."
"I'd like to have gone," he said. "But, I needed to catch up on my sleep, too. You want to do lunch?"
"I should be most delighted to join you," she told him. "Allow me a moment to brush my hair, and I shall meet you in the refectory."
"Yeah, sure, I need a couple minutes, too. See ya."
As soon as he was off the phone, he grabbed for the dictionary. From the context, he was pretty sure that 'velociously' meant that Crystal had hauled ass out of there big time, but he wanted to be sure that 'refectory' meant cafeteria, just in case it meant the parking lot, or something.
"She dropped another word on ya dat ya never heard before, eh?" Matt smiled. It wasn't the first time he'd seen Randy grabbing for the dictionary in the past week.
"Yaah," Randy replied, a confused look on his face as he flipped the pages, "Refectory."
"Ah," Matt smiled knowingly. "Dat means da caf. I read dat in a Heinlein book once. You gonna have lunch wid her again?"
"Yaah, you betcha," Randy replied, putting the dictionary down with relief. "Dey're a lot of fun."
"You gonna get yourself hooked, yaah?" Matt grinned, shaking his head. "Den, you're gonna haveta make up your mind, eh? Dey may be nice gals, but eider one a dem is gonna be a shitload to handle by demselves. Bot' a dem, you got a problem, yaah."
"Nuddin serious, eh?" Randy told him. "Dey're just fun ta hang 'roun' wid."
"Holywa, eider one could drive ya nuts, eh?" Matt shook his head again. "Best ya don' let it get serious, yaaah?"
"Nah, no problem," Randy said, heading for the door. "See ya later, eh?"
As Randy headed down the hall, he was surprised at himself. He'd long since resigned himself to talking Yooper when he heard Matt speaking it, although if Matt was talking normally, which he rarely did between the two of them, he talked normal as well. Now, when he was with Myleigh, he found himself using fifty-cent words that he'd never use around anyone else. This could get confusing.
Myleigh was waiting for him at the door of the refectory. He almost didn't recognize her. In the last week, he'd gotten used to seeing her in thick sweaters and long wool skirts, but today she had on a light sweater, a short cotton skirt, nylons and heels. It looked like she was heading for work in a law office. "Wow, you look nice today."
"I thought it such a nice day that I should do something to greet the oncoming equinox," she smiled. "I shan't be going outside, I suppose. Oh, I might, for a moment, just to glory in the sunshine, but it's still much too cold to be going outside dressed like this."
Randy smiled. "I take that to mean that you don't plan on putting on a bikini and working on your suntan?" That would be interesting to see, he thought, a little to his surprise. Given the full skirts and floppy sweaters he'd seen her in up till now, it had been hard to tell what shape of girl had been under them. Now, dressed like she was today, the answer was -- not bad. She was slender, and there was plenty of indication of a nice shape there, too.
"Oh, my, no," she said, leading him toward the food line. "I fear that I do not tan, only burn, and besides, given the possibility of carcinomas, I find it ridiculous to pursue it."
"You've got a point. I don't burn much myself, but I always found it a little stupid. To each his own, I guess."
"You might find it rather surprising that Crystal rather agrees with me," she said brightly, taking a tray and starting through the line. "She says that a suntan is something that you get when you go outside, not something that you go outside to get. However, she doesn't seem to burn, and when she came back to the university last fall, she was brown as a Native American, except for her bikini lines, of course." She stopped and looked at a collection of fruit on the serving line, considered it for a moment, then picked up a couple of rings of pineapple and a pear.
The fruit looked good to him, too, and he stabbed some, but decided he needed something a little more substantial. The past week had proved to him that he hadn't been getting enough exercise, and now he was beginning to eat a little more to compensate for all the activity that Crystal had been putting him through. He wasn't about to stop at Myleigh's fruit salad, though, and looked for something that the cooks couldn't have screwed up too badly. The beef vegetable soup smelled good, but he knew that it was mostly made from leftovers from previous meals, and there was a limit to how far he wanted to pursue that. In the end, he followed Crystal's normal routine, and grabbed a burger and a pile of fries. As he was heading out the line, he saw a display of pizza by the slice, and grabbed a wedge of that, too. It didn't look very good, but it had been a long time since he'd had pizza.
They went over and found an empty table, not far away, and set their trays down. "Hey, dickhead," an angry male voice yelled from not far away, "That's my table." Randy looked up; it was a big guy, missing some teeth, with scars-- obviously a hockey player. And, in a bad mood, too, not surprising since Tech had whipped their asses the night before.
"Oh, I'm sorry," Myleigh said sweetly. "We can go somewhere else."
"You're goddamn right you can go somewhere else, you smart-talking little bitch," the hockey player snarled.
Randy turned to face him. "There's no need to talk like that," he said as neutrally as he could. "We'll find another table."
"Oh, get out of my sight you cunt-licking little prick," the guy said, taking a step forward. Another guy, presumably a friend, grabbed him by the arm, but he shook him off and stepped up into Randy's face. "I may puke if I hafta look at ya too long."
Fuck, Randy thought. This guy is looking for trouble, and he's looking for someone he thinks he can beat up. There's not going to be any way to calm him down. "Try to find a garbage can if you do," Randy said, still being as neutral as he could.
The hockey player cocked his arm. "You smart-mouth little son of a bitch . . ."
It really wasn't much of a fight, and it takes longer to tell about than it took to happen. The hockey player took a big roundhouse swing at Randy, but telegraphed it from somewhere out around Ishpeming. With his skills of four years of wrestling sharpened by a week of practice, Randy easily ducked under it, parrying it out of the way. At the same time he stepped forward with his left foot, grabbed two big handfuls of thigh, and yanked, hard. As the hockey player fell over backwards, Randy's right leg came forward, and threw a big kick to the groin. Furniture broke as the screaming hockey player fell onto it, and suddenly the cafeteria became very silent.
Campus security. Ambulances. Cops. Questions. Hassles.
Randy had never been in a real fight before, and had hoped to never be in one, but he'd always known that the worst part wasn't the fight but the aftermath. He was right. Under the circumstances, he didn't expect to be in any real trouble. After all, there had been a roomful of witnesses, the hockey player had clearly picked the fight and swung first. Campus Security had come running in the front door just as the furniture went flying, since they'd already had a couple of calls about the trouble the bastard was making, so they saw most of it, too. Still, there had been questions, the same questions over again, and all the hassles. It had taken a couple hours to get everything back under control.
Now that it was all over with, he lay sprawled in the big armchair in Myleigh and Crystal's room, literally shaking as the adrenaline rush left him. He replayed every instant of it in his mind like he never had in a simple wrestling match. There wasn't much he could say to Myleigh; he just sat there shaking his head. Wasn't this a hell of a way to bitch up what had the makings of a pretty good day?
Suddenly there was someone knocking on the door. Randy didn't have the energy to answer it, but Myleigh got up and opened it, to find a big, grizzled older man in a suit. "Are you Myleigh Harris?" he asked.
"Yes, I am," she said, wondering what was going on.
"Is Randy Clark here with you?" he asked.
Another damn cop, Randy thought. Wants to go over the same fucking story again, as if I haven't told it a hundred times already. Before he could say anything, Myleigh told the man that he was here.
"May I come in?" he asked politely. "His roomie said I'd probably find him here."
"Of course," Myleigh smiled sweetly, and Randy got to his feet.
The man walked into his room and stuck out his hand. Not knowing what to expect, Randy shook it. "They were right," he said. "You are a little guy, aren't you?" But, there was a grin in his voice and a twinkle in his eye that somehow told Randy that for once this afternoon, this wasn't more trouble. Before Randy could say anything, he introduced himself: "I don't think we've met, but I'm Paul Przyzlya."
God, Randy thought. The hockey coach. Maybe I was wrong, after all. "Pleased to meet you," he said warily.
"Look, I just came over to apologize," he said, "to you and your girlfriend. Baughman was way the hell out of line, and he's done it once too often. I bounced his sorry ass off the team, and the President bounced him off campus. We should have done it a long time ago."
"You should have done it two years ago when he made such an ass of himself with my roomie and me," Myleigh said sharply, without any hint of the cute vocabulary she normally used.
The coach furrowed his brow. "Oh, that thing with the Chladek girl?" he asked after a moment. "She's your roommate? I guess he thought he had a score to settle. Well, Miss Harris, Mr. Clark, you won't have him to worry about again. I'm just sorry this had to happen. I'll do my best to spread the word that he was looking for trouble and got what was coming to him, from both you and the administration. We like to see some combativeness in hockey players, but there has to be limits."
The adrenaline shock lethargy had worn off Randy with the coach's words. Now it was replaced by contempt, and, for the first time, anger. "He was a fucking coward," Randy said, his anger showing. "Trying to pick on a girl, then pick on a guy a lot smaller than he was, just because he wants to hurt someone, and doesn't dare try to do it with someone who might kick his ass."
"Add to that, not smart enough to realize that dynamite comes in small packages," the coach grinned disarmingly. "Even after he'd already had one lesson that should have taught him. You don't happen to play hockey, do you, Mr. Clark?"
"Not since I was in grade school," Randy said, surprised at being thoroughly charmed.
"Too bad," he grinned. "Like I said, don't let it bother you, and take care."
"Thanks, Mr. Przyzlya," Myleigh said. "We appreciate your kind words."
The door had no more than closed behind him when it opened again; this time, it was Crystal. "What the hell was the hockey coach doing up here?" she asked.
"Lass, you missed all the excitement," Myleigh smiled. "You remember that big hockey player you mangled at that party when we were freshmen?"
"I couldn't forget the son of a bitch," Crystal sneered.
"He was being most obnoxious to us down in the cafeteria this afternoon, and Randy had to thrash him again. I must say, Randy did it even more quickly than you managed. And, more thoroughly, too. The lout has been expelled."
"No shit?" Crystal said with pure amazement. "Randy, how did you . . ."
"That's the part that really scares me," he replied. "It was so fucking easy it was pathetic. The big dumb son of a bitch wanted to fight like a hockey player. They're all padded, so they're used to going for the head, usually with a hockey stick. He was just totally wide open for the simplest leg lift, the very first thing I taught you, in fact. I didn't even think about it, I just did it, and the next thing I know, he's lying in the middle of a pile of broken furniture, holding his crotch."
"What'd you do?" Crystal asked. "Throw a kick in there? That's not a wrestling move."
"Yeah, and I didn't even think about that, either," Randy told her. "You remember when I told you about brawling? A long time ago, Coach taught us a little about how to handle ourselves if we got in a brawl, and I guess that stuck with me. But, God, Crystal, it was so easy. All reflexes. I think I was about as surprised as he was."
"Randy, please," Myleigh said, putting her arm around him. "Don't let it bother you. I'm just very glad you were there to defend me. If you hadn't been, it might have been much uglier." She turned and planted a nice kiss on his lips.
"So now what?" he said, his emotions still churning. "Are they going to start calling me 'Killer Clark?' The hockey fans are going to love that. At least it wasn't hockey season when you decked him, Crystal."
"You want another lovely thought?" Crystal grinned, hoping to take the edge off the situation. "You're going to have a hell of a time with the wrestling coach, now."
"Yeah, that's all I need. Killer Clark versus Body Check Baughman, in the down-campus cafeteria. You could fucking sell tickets."
"It could be worse," Myleigh laughed. "You could have the football coach after you with the punt you landed in Baughman's crotch."
"You're a lot of help," he muttered. "Thank God spring break starts at the end of the week. Maybe I'll just go out, shovel out the car and cut classes next week. By the time I get back, maybe this shit will have died down."
"That's exactly the wrong thing to do," Crystal told him firmly. "What you've got to do is prove that you're made of better stuff than he is. I mean, the whole damn campus probably knows that by now, but you've got to prove it to yourself. You shouldn't be up here at all, right now. What you and Myleigh need to do is go down to the cafeteria and have something to eat, just like nothing happened. People aren't going to mess with you, but you don't dare let yourself get wrapped up by this, or he'll have won after all."
Myleigh was still holding onto him; now she turned and faced him again. "Crystal is right," she said. "You have to show that you're above the pettiness, and that it doesn't bother you." She looked up a little to look straight in his eyes. "Believe me," she said. "I know."
Randy recalled his thoughts from last Sunday night. Myleigh must have gone through a lot of harassment, a lot of hassles in high school, just to be able to be the person she wanted to be, without compromising herself. Now that, he thought, was courage. "I'll bet you do," he said slowly. "Come on. Let's go eat."
She took him by the arm. "Come, my hero," she said gaily. "We shall go prove that we don't let the rough bastards and the small minds get us down. Are you coming, Crystal?"
"I'll be along," the big girl grinned. "I think I'll hang back and let you two make your grand entrance by yourselves."
Randy wouldn't have been surprised to see about half the hockey team waiting for them in the cafeteria, with the idea of extracting revenge for taking out one of their comrades. Even worse, he feared some kind of a scene there over what he had done, so it took a little courage of his own to walk into the cafeteria hand in hand with Myleigh.
To his relief, there was no angry crowd of bruisers with hockey sticks. For that matter, nothing much was said -- it was a pretty different crowd than had been in there at lunch, although he could detect smiles and noticed a few thumbs up. There was a wink and a grin from one of the people working behind the counter, and a "Good job, dude," from the guy at the register -- that was about it.
Once they got their trays, they went over and sat down at the same table they'd been heading for earlier. Myleigh briefly took his hand and grinned at him. Nothing was said, but he could feel the pride she had in him. Crystal and Myleigh had been right, he realized. It hadn't taken much in the way of courage to deal with Baughman, but it had taken a great deal of it to walk back into this room; it was what he had feared the most. As he picked up his burger, he realized that somehow, inexplicably, he'd just reached a big milestone in his life. He'd passed a test, and there were fears he'd never have to face again.
But, there was an awkward moment -- he wanted to just talk with Myleigh. Not about this afternoon, anything but that, just to put it behind him. What was it they'd been talking about when they came into the cafeteria earlier? Something about the way she was dressed had been said. It would do. "Did I say that you look very nice today?" he asked, to break the ice.
"I think you did, but thank you again," she smiled at him as she took her fork and stabbed a chunk of pineapple. "I always like to put on a good appearance." The way she said it made him feel awkward, as if he should have been wearing a suit and tie, rather than jeans and a flannel shirt.
"It does make you stand out," he said. "There's so many kids around here who run around dressed like they just put on the first thing they grabbed out of the dumpster." And, he thought, I'm one of them, compared to you. "It's nice to see a girl looking, well, nice," he continued. "I don't think I've ever seen you wearing jeans."
"Perhaps you never shall," she smiled, with the glint in her eye of a raptor targeting a mouse. "After all, no honorable woman should be so lost to propriety as to wear jeans in the first place."
He wasn't going to let her get away with that. "Myleigh," he grinned. "This is 1995, not 1795. Do you always wear skirts?"
"Almost always," she said, more conversationally. "I really don't like wearing pants. I've got a pair of jeans that I will wear if it's really cold and blowing snow, but sometimes do without them even then."
"How about shorts in the summer?"
"Virtually never," she smiled, taking another bite. "Oh, I have a pair of gym shorts left over from high school that I will wear on occasion if the situation deems it necessary, but it has not been necessary for a couple of years, now. A short, loose skirt is so much cooler, if you will excuse the word sounding like vernacular."
Randy shook his head. She was yanking his chain again -- he could tell, and he enjoyed it -- and maybe that meant that things were getting back to normal. "I suppose that goes for swimsuits, too," he said.
"What's this about swimsuits?" Crystal asked, setting her tray down across from Myleigh. "You aren't actually thinking about going over to the pool, are you?"
"Only theoretically," Myleigh replied. "After all, one should wear a swimsuit when one goes to the pool. The alternative of nudity does not obtain in the PEIF."
Randy was helplessly left with a mental image of Myleigh going off the diving board in the PEIF wearing nothing but a grin, and he knew he didn't dare even think of cracking a smile, nice vision though it was to think about. Which was exactly what Myleigh had intended, he realized after a second.
Fortunately, Crystal rescued him. "Oh, I thought you were talking about spring break," she said innocently. "It sure will be nice to be in some water outside, again. I took a couple runs in a swimsuit today, but it was really too cold for that kind of showing off."
"My, that must have been rather bracing," Myleigh smiled. "I would imagine that turned a head or two."
"It would have turned mine," Randy agreed, imagining Crystal roaring down a slope at Sugar Mountain on a snowboard, dressed like she would for the pool. It would have been just like her, too.
"It just felt like the right thing to do," Crystal nodded. "Oh, well, maybe we'll still have snow when we come back from break. You got any plans, Randy?"
"Not really," he said. "If they didn't lock the campus down tight, I'd just stay around here. The alternative is to go home and sleep as much as I can."
"No big plans for a fast trip to Florida?" Crystal asked.
"Matt and a couple guys from down the hall are planning on going down," he said. "But we did it last year, and I have no interest in going down there, getting piss drunk, and watching other piss-drunk guys hoot at girls in wet T-shirt contests. Once was enough."
Crystal looked at him for an instant, then turned to Myleigh. "OK with me," she said. "What do you think?"
"Oh, most indubitably," she replied instantly. "A capital idea." She turned to Randy and said brightly, "Would you care to accompany Crystal and myself to the sunshine state next week?"
"No wet T-shirt contests, and probably no drinking," Crystal added. "I just want to take the board and hit the surf a bit. I also need to stop off in Tennessee to nail down my summer job. You'd have to pick up your share of the gas and the driving and stuff."
"Sounds good to me," he said. There was no way he was going to turn down an offer to be with these two for a week down there. This could be the trip of a lifetime! "Do you surf, Myleigh?"
"Come, now, dear boy," Myleigh giggled. "What do you think? I plan on finding a shady spot and commencing my annual rereading of Daniel DeFoe. Robinson Caruso seems appropriate for a spell on the beach, doesn't it?"
"You know," Crystal said thoughtfully, "This has something I hadn't realized. We're planning on taking tents, but if we're heading down to Tennessee anyway, we could take a couple whitewater boats from the rec center. I don't run whitewater alone, but if you're with me and we stick to Class II and III, maybe an easy IV, it shouldn't matter. There ought to be something down there on the Ocoee or the Nanty or the Pigeon we could run, and Myleigh could be shuttle bunny. It'd make a good warm-up for when things cut loose around here."
"Sounds like a plan," Randy agreed. "I'd either have to make a fast run home for my tent and sleeping bag, or get something from the rec center."
"We could stop off on the way," Crystal offered. "The plan was that we were going to cut out of here after classes on Wednesday, stop off at Glen Ellyn, spend the night with my folks, then drive on down to Ducktown on Thursday."
"It'd be quite a ways out of the way to go to Spearfish Lake," Randy offered. "I can make do with stuff from the rec center."
"You know," Crystal said with an evil grin, "If we went through Spearfish Lake, it wouldn't be that far out of the way to swing by Franklin and your folks, Myleigh."
"I have no desire to do that," she said, a frost in her voice that lowered the temperature in the cafeteria a good five degrees. "Why else would I be willing to spend days living in a tent, sleeping on the ground?"
Crystal grinned. "You're not thinking this through. It wouldn't have to be a long stop, just an hour or two. We can say we've got to get on down to Glen Ellyn. But while we're with your folks, you and Randy could put on a little show for them. Nothing real blatant, but maybe a little holding hands, some longing gazes at each other, keeping it subtle, looking like you're trying to cover up. That'd get your mother off your back for quite a while."
"Oh, indeed it would," Myleigh agreed unenthusiastically, "but the visit would cast a pall over the rest of the trip. I think not."
"Your call," Crystal shrugged.
"Then let us not," Myleigh said flatly. "Besides, we would be very late arriving in Glen Ellyn after stops in Franklin and Spearfish Lake, and we might not make it to Tennessee in time for you to do your business."
"You have a point," Crystal nodded. "But it still might be a good idea for some other time. Maybe on the way back."
"Oh, it's a most evil idea," Myleigh said with a grin. "It's just the sort of thing I've come to expect from you, and I shall have to keep it in mind for when the need arises. But now you're the one not thinking it through. Why waste a perfectly good idea before its time? We need not expose dear Randy to my mother until it's necessary."
"I'm not quite following you," Randy said, seeing that there was a deeper game going on.
"Oh, it's quite simple," Myleigh grinned. "I anticipate a confrontation with my parents next year, when I tell them I plan to attend graduate school. If at that time, there should appear to be a reasonable prospect that I might be affianced in the foreseeable future, it would steal much of the wind from my mother's sails. Especially if the prospective fiancé, who is a bright, handsome young fellow with a promising future, has a year of undergraduate school remaining. Nothing need be said directly; shallow hints should suffice, I would believe."
"I get it," he smiled. "You're right, that's evil."
"It has many possibilities," Myleigh's grin spread even wider as she explored some of them mentally. "If you are willing when the time comes, we might even be able to carry on the deception somewhat longer. Perhaps, for instance, if our perceived relationship were to come asunder well prior to our posting the banns, leaving me devastated, I might be forced to work on my doctorate to get over the terrible pain of it all, lest I pine away. But, there are other possibilities, as well."
"We've got a guy in our town, a retired Green Beret master sergeant. He used to be the assistant coach for the wrestling team," Randy explained with a grin of his own. All of a sudden, he realized it hadn't been the coach who had taught him that kick he'd used on Baughman -- it had been Mr. Evachevski. He'd have to thank him some day. "One of his favorite sayings was, 'We'll blow that bridge when we get to it.'"