Spearfish Lake Tales
Contemporary Mainstream Books and Serials Online
Book 1 of the Dawnwalker Cycle
"Giselle, this is really good," Randy said, looking up from a plate of steamed crab and grilled fish of some kind that had been lightly treated with some indescribable sauce. They were sitting in lawn chairs in the side yard of the house on the far side of the shop from their little camp. There was a nice view of the ocean; if they looked the other way, it was a nice view of the sun hanging low and red in the sky.
"It is no big thing," the older woman said with a smile.
"It was nice of you to have us over," Myleigh said, looking up from her seafood plate -- she'd let her vegetarian tastes go by the board for this meal. "It's definitely better than eating in the cafeteria at school."
Randy noted that Myleigh kept her language toned down considerably when talking with Giselle, and he surmised that she must not have been totally comfortable in English, in spite of twenty years in Florida. "It gets pretty bad up there," he said. "We really appreciate it."
"It is just being nice to friends," she replied carefully. "Crystal and Hodad have become friends, and now you, too, I think. We see many kids who come down here who want to look cool or show off for their girlfriends, but few who want to learn the skills and appreciate the sea."
"Giselle's right," Buddha chimed in. "You ever get around the sea much, Randy?"
"No," he said. "Today's like the third time I've ever seen it, and only the second time I've ever been in it. I've lived most of my life near a big inland lake up in the North Country, but, well, it's not the same thing. There's a power there, a mystery, well, I can't explain it."
"You have to go to the sea," Buddha smiled. "The sea doesn't come to you. The sea doesn't care who you are, or what you are, but you have to adapt to it, learn its power, and accept its indifference to you."
"I think I know what you mean," Randy agreed thoughtfully, taking a sip of wine. He didn't know what kind it was, but it went well with the dinner. "I get sort of the same feeling in the woods, up at home, but here, well, the sea is wilder and more mysterious, and while we can play on it, it has to be by its rules. Its way, or no way."
"It's like being in the mountains," Crystal chimed in. "You go climbing, say, and they're huge and old, and you have to play by their rules, and if you don't you can get hurt. But, if you accept that, they're beautiful and majestic, and, there's a peace that comes from just being there. Yet, they rose from the sea, and they'll return there in the end."
"It does help to fix your place in the universe," Buddha said. "Like Giselle said, we get a lot of kids through here, and most of them, well, they want to be cool, or show off to their girlfriends, or show off what rad dudes they are. And, that's after a lot of the posers have been filtered out up at Cocoa Beach. It's not often we get someone through here who's interested in the mystery and the majesty of the sea, or wants to learn the skills to appreciate it better." He let out a sigh. "That's nothing new. I suppose I was like that, wanting to look cool, show off to the girls, when I took it up, back in the sixties, back in California. Somewhere along the way I began to learn that there's more to surfing, much more. Finally, I just had to accept that there was no way I could put it together, and all I could do was enjoy the mystery."
"There's no way I think I'm trying to look cool," Randy said. "Where I'm from, people would mostly think surfing is crazy, not that it was cool. But yeah, it is a new skill to learn, and I enjoying learning it."
"That puts you way ahead of the pack," Buddha told him. "I sort of figured that Crystal and Hodad wouldn't have you hanging around them if you felt any other way. OK, you've had a day of it now. I was watching you out there this afternoon, and frankly, for a newbie you're doing damn good. Granted, you've had a couple things going for you, but I've had people here for a week or two that haven't picked it up the way you have. Are you going to stay with it?"
"I'd like to get at least halfway decent at it," Randy said. "Like I said, I don't live on the sea, or even real near the Great Lakes, and that'll probably always be the way it is, so keeping in practice is probably always going to be a problem. But yeah, I'd like to be able to get out and enjoy it when I get the chance. I guess I'm going to have to talk to you about getting a board to take home with me."
"We can talk about that tomorrow, but the key is practice whenever you can," Buddha told him. "Pretty obviously, getting out in the surf is best, but things like skateboarding and snowboarding will help keep you a little sharper. But, that's for later. You'll want to get in as much time as you can this week, and from the looks of the weather, it looks like it's going to be good right here for the next two or three days."
"I'm going to be up at Ducktown this summer," Crystal told Buddha. "I haven't taken the board in the past summers, but I thought this summer I might try a trip or two over to the Outer Banks if it looks promising."
"It can get pretty good there in the summer," Buddha agreed. "We don't get squat around here, and it gets hotter than somewhat. Giselle and I are thinking of locking up the shop, taking off for a while, going up and visiting her folks, maybe trying some surf up north somewhere, so we might drop by the Ocoee and run a little. I want to try out that Acrobat while you've got it here, it looks like it might be a pretty good playboat, and might even do fair in the surf."
"I've only had it out two or three times," Crystal said, shaking her head. "It's a club boat, but it's pretty lively, does a pretty good ender. They've got a new one coming out, a 270, it's supposed to turn even better. If you get up around the Ocoee, drop by and say 'Hi.'"
"You do whitewater, too?" Myleigh asked.
"Oh a little, off season," Buddha said. "Might even take a swing through the Great Lakes, too. Is the surf there any good in the summer?"
"Sometimes, if it's blowing," Crystal told him. "I really haven't looked into it much, but I've heard that sometimes it gets pretty good on the Michigan side, up around the north end of Lake Michigan, if there's been a good wind from the west. Anything in the summer on Superior is going to depend on the wind, and if it's been storming."
They'd finished with dinner by now, and Giselle gathered the dishes, with Randy helping. He went inside to help her with them, and they talked for a while about how she'd wound up in Florida. The Florida coast seemed like an unlikely place for a Montreal girl to end up, but she seemed to have found her spot in life. When they came back outside, they discovered that Buddha had thrown some wood in the barbecue pit, and now there was a nice little fire going. Randy enjoyed campfires about as much as anything outside, and it was going to be fun to sit around and talk. Crystal had brought her guitar, and was picking her way through 'Dancing Bear' ". . . I'd rather be the gypsy, who's camped at the edge of town . . ."
"Nice job," Buddha said when she was finished. "Too bad you didn't bring Blue Beauty, Hodad."
"I wanted to," Myleigh told him. "But it was either bring it or bring Randy. There wasn't room for both of them."
"Let me try one, Crystal," Buddha said, extending his hand for the guitar. "I haven't done this for a while, but I used to be pretty good."
Crystal handed him the guitar, and he rested it on his knee, testing a couple of chords. "I hope I remember this," he said, then broke into a familiar song, "On the first part of the journey, I was looking at all the life, there were plants and birds and rocks and things . . ."
Randy leaned back. He'd heard Horse with no Name before, and it was one of his favorites. He suspected he knew why Buddha liked it too -- some lines down toward the end, and he could feel the emphasis when Buddha got to them: "The ocean is a desert with its life underground, and a perfect disguise above. Under the cities lies a heart made of ground, but the humans will find no love." He suspected that Buddha really felt those lines.
"That's one I've always liked, Buddha," he said. "Let me try one."
"Oh, that's right," Myleigh said. "You said you played."
"I used to some," Randy smiled as Buddha handed him the guitar. "I wasn't real good either, but it was something to mess around with." He got the guitar in his hands -- it had been a long time since he'd messed around with his, it was still sitting in his room at home, but now he wished he'd brought it to NMU and played it a little more. Considering some of the discussion today, there was one song he knew pretty well that would be just perfect . . .
"The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down, of the big lake they call Gitchee Gumee. The lake it is said, never gives up her dead, when the skies of November turn gloomy . . ." He continued on, not without some fluffs, on the song that most lakeside balladeers are expected to have in their repertoire, the story of the sinking of the big ore freighter Edmund Fitzgerald, that went down fighting for her life in a furious "Witch of November" storm on Lake Superior taking her crew of twenty-nine with her, not long after he'd been born. It's a sad song, but reflects the power of Superior like little else ever written, and there was silence around the little fire when he finished.
Buddha broke the silence. "The last word that they heard from her on the Arthur M. Anderson was 'We're holdin' our own.' That lake is like the ocean. It doesn't come to you. You go to it. And sometimes, you pay the price."
It was getting late in the evening when the three of them headed back to the tents scattered around the little informal campground in the scrub on the far side of the shop. It really wasn't much; there was a small, battered outhouse and a picnic table on the hard-packed sand. Randy was tired, but elated. It had been a very good day, one of the better ones that he remembered, ever, and the surfing made him feel especially good. Yes, he could do it! He could head home now and this would still have been the spring break trip of a lifetime. There was still a week to go, with more messing around in the surf to come; by the end of it, he might actually feel like he knew something about what he was doing. Buddha and Giselle had turned out to be seriously neat people; he clearly had a lot to learn from them, and he found himself wanting to learn it.
Randy had been out in the surf with Buddha when Crystal and Myleigh had set up the tents, so he figured out which was his only by the fact that they headed for the other two -- Myleigh's a ways off, behind the car, to deaden the racket. He hadn't actually seen the tent before; Crystal had picked it up from the Outdoor Club the day before they'd left, and it took a minute in the bright moonlight to figure out how to unzip it. He crawled inside, zipped the bug screen closed, leaving the flaps open, took off his clothes with the help of a flashlight, and slipped into the sleeping bag naked, the way he'd always done. It was a huge bag, bigger than his own; there was plenty of room for him, and it might not be real warm sleeping in cold weather, as a result. It was clearly going to be a warm night, and the bag would do the job just fine. It was still warm, so he left it unzipped for now.
There was a good pad under the bag. He rolled onto his back and closed his eyes, and it almost seemed like he was rocking a bit; the bouncing around in the waves offshore most of the afternoon must have been responsible. He could still feel the joyful lift he got when he caught the shoulder of a wave and felt the board surge forward, a thing of joy and magic beneath his feet. Yes, there was power there, the thrill of taking a gift from the ocean. It might be a while before he was a good surfer, but he knew he was hooked. Maybe this summer he'd have to break free, go down to the Ocoee and do some kayaking, and maybe he and Crystal could take the boards and head out to the Outer Banks. He could imagine the warm summer sun, the waves, the seagulls squawking, and, yes, the girls in their bikinis along the shore, watching as he rode the waves; he wasn't immune to that part of it.
He heard a familiar racket on the far side of the car, something like someone trying to jump start a balky motorcycle. Well, Myleigh's asleep, he thought as he drifted back into his reverie. There'd be more surfing this week, and again he could feel the thrill of catching a wave, pulling out and over the top. It'd be a long time before he could do a lot more than that, but already he was learning how to move around on the wave . . .
All of a sudden, a familiar sound startled him, the sound of a long zipper being pulled. He rolled up and looked, to see Crystal crawling into the tent with him.
"Crystal . . .?"
"I thought it was going to take forever for her to fall asleep," she whispered to him, turning to zip the screen back up. In the light of the moon, he could see that she was nude. As quickly and gracefully as a cat, she spun around on her knee, threw back the top of the sleeping bag, and slid into it with him, resting her head on his arm. "I wanted to do this last night," she continued, talking so low that he could barely make out her words. "I had the perfect line, too."
He put his arm around her, feeling the warmth of her bare body against his. "What's that?" he asked quietly. It wasn't as if he'd been expecting this -- both she and Myleigh had given him plenty of warning -- but to halfway expect it and to have it really happen were two different things.
"I've got a wet, sticky hole for you to play around in," she snickered. "Sorry, but I can't think of something surfing that says it quite as well as that." She didn't give him a chance to reply, but placed her mouth on his, and within seconds, their tongues were entwining. Almost on automatic, he reached down to feel her warm, soft breast, bare now, with a hard nubbin of nipple for his groping fingers to come to rest upon. She let out a sort of a purring moan, arched her back a little, and let her free arm wander his back. His hands had been all over her body before, when they'd wrestled, but it was nothing like this -- this was so much finer.
Somewhere in the back of his head, the line from Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald popped up: "Old Michigan steams like a young man's dreams . . ." except that this wasn't a dream, this was the real thing. Now the sleeping bag seemed almost too hot for comfort, as his arms held the most exciting, the most awesome and powerful woman he'd ever known, their tongues eagerly seeking each other, his hand kneading the wonderful mound of her breast, then wandering down her squirming body. She rolled on her back some to open herself up a little for him, and he could feel the wet, coarse hair of her crotch as his fingers went through it, on the way to the wonders that lay beyond -- and yes, she was wet and sticky. His finger found another nubbin there, one that made her squirm and moan even louder as he touched it. She rolled on her back a little more, and he supported his weight on his elbow, playing with her other breast while they continued their warm, exotic kiss. If only he had four or six or eight hands to hold her and explore her, if only he had a dozen tongues . . . Then, he found himself rolling on top of her, his knees between her widespread legs as her hand guided him into that wet, sticky hole she'd been talking about, then took hold of his butt to help him thrust deep within her.
It was the ride of a lifetime; nothing he'd experienced before could have come close. It was the thrill of catching a wave, shooting a waterfall, doing an ender, getting a pin, the excitement of the other woman he'd known, all that and more rolled together and piled on top of each other and mixed in together. Presently, things faded, and all he was aware of was the woman under him and the primordial need to exhaust himself deep within her as she moaned with delight. . .
A sense of reality began to return as they lay side by side, clinging close together in their mutual sweat and heat. There was little to say, little that could be said; their tongues, their hands, and their mutual exhaustion said all that was needed as they pulled each other tight.
Light came streaming in the open door of the tent.
Randy felt a moment of confusion at finding a soundly sleeping Crystal snuggled up close to him, but then things snapped into a wonderful sense. He remembered in a distant sort of way the fleeting thrill of victory he'd enjoyed with Nicole, way back in the distant past somewhere, but nothing could compare to this one, the profound, sated satisfaction he felt when, for the first time in his life, he woke with a woman in his arms. A woman with whom he'd made breathless, passionate love time and time again until they both had fallen into an exhausted sleep. Last night far overshadowed his earlier experiences, making them pale into insignificance. He looked at the peacefully sleeping Crystal, her hair strewn over his arm, a smile enigmatic on her face, dreaming whatever she might be dreaming. A wave, perhaps? Or a rapids, or a steep snow-covered slope? Or, even perhaps, remembering the joy they'd shared the night before? It was a smile he knew he had to kiss, so, quietly and gently, he did.
She must have been near the verge of waking up, and the kiss must have pushed her over the edge, or perhaps it was the feel of his hand resting lightly on her bare breast that did it. "Morning, Randy," she whispered to him. "That's a nice way to wake up, you know." She pulled him tight, and they kissed again.
Halfway through the kiss, he felt her stiffen and jerk her lips away. "Oh, shit," she said in a low voice. "I was going to sneak back over to my tent."
"Well, good morning, you two," they heard Myleigh's voice call clearly. "I thought I was detecting a distinct aroma of rutting going on much of the night."
Both Randy and Crystal looked out through the screen of the tent, to see Myleigh sitting at the picnic table, wearing a short skirt and a tank top. From the string tied behind her neck, she obviously wore some sort of swimsuit underneath her clothes. There was a cup of tea in her hand, and a broad grin on her face.
"Oh, God," Crystal said in a whisper. "I didn't want to be that blatant about it."
"Nothing to do but admit it," Randy whispered back. "We're fucking caught."
"Or the other way around," Crystal said glumly as she relaxed the grip of her arms around him. "That little brat! You want to put on a show for her?"
"No point in rubbing it in."
"Yeah, you're right," she said, shaking her head. "It's not like she doesn't know I wanted to do it. Thanks, Randy. I needed that."
"Thanks, Crystal," he replied. "I did, too."
Myleigh's cheerful voice rang out again. "I've got some coffee ready to help you lever those sated eyelids open."
"Christ, I don't even have a bikini bottom over here," Crystal whispered in a low mutter. "I wanted to be so fucking cool and surprise you."
"Well, you did," he grinned.
"Guess we're just going to have to act casual." She raised her voice as she squirmed around to unzip the bag. "Pour me a big one," she called to Myleigh. "After last night, I'm going to need the help staying awake."
"I must say I'm not surprised after the night-long display of wanton lust unchained," Myleigh replied gaily. "Are you feeling better this morning, Crystal?"
"Oh, Christ, it's gonna be that kind of morning," Crystal said in a whisper, then raised her voice and purred as she unzipped the sleeping bag, "Much better, thank you."
"And Randy, you satyr, you," Myleigh continued teasing, "You must be well named indeed, for I am a little surprised to find you among the living on this bright, clear morning."
"Don't let her get away with it," Crystal counseled as she threw the covers back.
"I won't," Randy whispered as a little sorrowfully he watched Crystal slide her bare body out of the bag. It was hard to let her go. He picked up his voice and answered Myleigh, "It was a close one. But, what a way to go!"
Crystal unzipped the tent, crawled out and stood up, walking casually to her tent. "Looks like a nice morning," she said, equally casually. "Too bad it's here so early."
"Oh, it was a long night, I assure you," Myleigh grinned. "Made longer by all those libidinous moans and cries that echoed through the bushes." Randy took the advantage of her attention being on Crystal to paw through his duffel bag, looking for a dry swimsuit; he could tell the one he'd been wearing the day before was still damp and cold.
"Don't know how you could have heard it," Crystal teased. "All I heard was some Harley shaking the earth over on the other side of the car. That is, when I could hear anything at all, of course."
"Would you two care for some small breakfast?" Myleigh asked as Randy pulled on the swimsuit. "After a night of such doubtlessly delightful exertions, you must be totally ravenous. Oh, and while the two of you were so obviously enjoying your conjoined slumber, I wandered out across the road and encountered Giselle. She has a message for you."
"What might that be?" Randy said, mimicking Myleigh as he crawled out of the tent, T-shirt in hand. He looked across at Crystal; she had a red bikini bottom on now, with flecks of yellow and purple in it, and was just starting to tie on the strings of a matching top. In spite of everything, he let out a quiet, inward sigh.
Myleigh grinned. "Surf's up."
"Surf or no surf, I gotta have some coffee and something to eat," Randy said, pulling on the T-shirt as he headed for the tumbledown outhouse.
"Yeah, me too," Crystal said. "I don't know if I could paddle hard enough to catch a wave, right now. But, there's nothing like a good, healthy workout to make you hungry."
Though the sun wasn't up very high, it was already a warm day, though coolish enough that Crystal did wear a T-shirt while they ate. All through breakfast, Myleigh kept aiming sly barbs at them, and there really wasn't much they could say in defense, other than to grin and act catty -- which was fun in its own way. Breakfast wasn't much -- Pop-Tarts and granola bars, coffee and instant oatmeal, but Randy was surprised how hungry he was.
After a while, the subject began to change. "Boy, after using Giselle's board yesterday, I don't know that I want to go back to mine," Crystal said. "Boy, that thing cuts nice. Guess I'll have to talk to Buddha about getting something else. Maybe he'll have something used I can trade him for, but if I buy a new board, it's gonna cut the bucks awful tight for this trip."
"If you can cut a decent deal, do it," Randy advised. "I can cover you till we get back to NMU."
Crystal shook her head. "I don't want to have to ask you to do it," she said, her voice sad and serious. "It may have to wait till I get back in the fall. The old bucks, they are pretty few and far between till I start getting checks from Ocoee Adventures again."
"If it waits till fall, it waits till fall," Randy said. "I'm not exactly rolling in it, but I've got enough stuck back to have fun. It's fun watching you have fun when you surf, so I'm not worried about it."
She looked right at him. "Randy, I'd take you up on it if I didn't think that it might get mixed up with what happened last night. I don't want you thinking you owe me."
"I hope it won't," he said. "We knew what we were doing. I do owe you both, you and Myleigh, for bringing me on this trip. If a little loan is what it takes to repay that, get the freaking board, the best one you can handle. Myleigh, the same goes for you. We were talking the other night; I'm not rolling in it, but if I can help out in an emergency, or if it'll help you have some fun, feel free to ask."
"I appreciate that," Myleigh said, her teasing tone gone now. "I'd hate to have to ask you, but it's nice to know it's there. You know finances are very tight for me, and you know why, after I explained it to you the other night. I manage to survive by squeezing every dime until it screams, and I really appreciate your willingness to help me afford this trip. It's probably the only time I shall be very far out of Marquette this year, and it's very nice to not feel so squeezed, for once."
"It's nice to see you happy," he said. "That's worth it to me."
"It's nice to have a few days away from it," she replied. "You know I like to dress nicely. I manage somehow, mostly by careful selection and searching of the bins at the Goodwill store. With the exception of a few underthings, everything I wear comes from there."
"I'd never have guessed it," he said. "You always look so well turned out."
"I feel that I have good taste, and I know how I like to dress. Fortunately, it is not difficult to look nice when you're living among a herd of slobs."
"Well, you've got a point," he said. "Speaking as one of those slobs, I'm glad you keep up the appearance. And, I'll say it one more time, if you need help, feel free to ask."
"Thanks, Randy," she said. "I guess I shouldn't have teased you two so hard this morning, but it was difficult to avoid. You left your selves so wide open!"
"We deserved it," he told her, then grinned, "But it was fun, eh?"
Buddha's voice sounded from the back of the shop. "Hey, you guys gonna be all morning? Surf's up!"
"On our way," Crystal yelled at him. "We were just finishing our coffee."
"Let's take our coffee and go up and talk boards," Randy suggested.
"Sounds good to me," Crystal said, getting up.
"Leaving me to do the dishes, I presume?" Myleigh asked pointedly.
"Why not?" Randy said. "After all, you deserve it, after some of those groaners this morning."