Spearfish Lake Tales
Contemporary Mainstream Books and Serials Online
Book 1 of the Dawnwalker Cycle
"Buddha, Randy has convinced me that I need to trade up to a better board," Crystal said up in the shop a few minutes later, still holding her cup of coffee. "I really liked Giselle's board yesterday. It handles so much better than mine. You got something like that, like maybe used, that I can afford?"
"Not anything used," he said. "Most of the stuff I get in used is eggs and funboards, and mostly beat to shit. Those are all newbie boards, and newbies ding 'em up pretty bad. But I got a few demos lying around I can cut you a good price on. The one Giselle had yesterday is one of 'em, but you ought to try out a few others, see if you like something better."
"I'll try anything you'll let me try, if you think it'll be a good possibility for me," she told him. "Can you give me a reasonable trade-in?"
"Look, Crystal," Buddha said. "I gotta be honest and say no. I got a lot of funboards like that, so to be fair with anyone else, I really can't just cut you a deal both ways."
Crystal shrugged. "I suppose I could give mine to Randy."
Buddha shook his head. "No, he doesn't want it. It's too big a board for him. In fact, the way he was doing yesterday, the board he was on was a little big for him. He can stand something a little edgier, the way he's going. I can cut him a deal on a good used funboard and take yours in trade as part of the deal, and he could make you up the difference."
"Like I told you, Crystal," Randy said. "Get the freaking board. We'll work out the money later."
"He's right," Buddha said. "You're to the point where your board is holding you back. I don't want to get you into anything that's too short and edgy, since you're up there in that cold potlicking lake most of the time. If you were down here, you could handle a real gonzo shortboard, and we want to work in that direction some. There's half a dozen possibilities, and you've got the time you need to figure out which one you want."
"Well, all right," she said, realizing that frugality had just lost a round. "I'll take your advice. Where do you think I should start?"
"How about this little bomber right here," he said, pointing at a chrome-yellow board that looked pretty slick and shifty.
"Might as well," she said, looking it over carefully. "Looks like it's got possibilities."
"Now, Randy," Buddha said, turning to him. You were saying that you thought you wanted to get a board?"
"Yeah, if I'm going to stay with it and do any practice, it's pretty obvious I'm going to have to have one."
"Well, like I said, you probably could stand something a little edgier than a basic funboard, but we'll see how it goes for today," Buddha smiled wisely. "It's some bigger out there today, and it'll be a little different, so maybe we'd better stay with the board you had yesterday till you get used to it. No point in throwing too much new at you all at once, after all. If you can handle it in the stuff we got out there this morning, then maybe this afternoon you might try something a little hotter. Fortunately, I think I got used boards floating around here that will take you as far as you're going to get in a while, so they ain't gonna bite you in the wallet too bad. You stay with it, learn what you can out of whatever you take home, then when you come down here next spring, we can talk something that's really rockin'."
"Buddha, I'm gonna be honest," Randy said. "I don't know enough about this to know what's good or bad, so I'm just going to have to leave myself in your hands. I really only have two questions."
"I know Crystal is just about impervious to getting cold, but I kept getting kind of chilled out there yesterday. But, I don't think I want to go to wearing my kayak wetsuit. That'd take me too far the other way. Have you got something like a light shortie wetsuit around here?"
"Got a light fuzzy rubber shortie springsuit, used, that ought to fit ya," Buddha smiled. "You can try it on and see how you like it. If that don't work, we can get into the new stuff, but that's gonna cost you more. What's the other question?"
"Do you take plastic?"
"Son," Buddha said, resting his big hand on Randy's shoulder. "There's only one phrase I like to hear better."
"What's that?" Crystal grinned. "'Surf's up'?"
"You got it, kid," he grinned. "And it is. Now, get your butts out there."
The "fuzzy rubber" suit -- Buddha told him it was actually mostly recycled and highly processed milk jugs, of all things -- turned out to be just what Randy needed in the cool ocean. Even as he and Crystal worked their way out through the bigger surf than they'd had yesterday, it felt just enough warmer that he was pretty sure it was going to work out. Giselle had already been out for a while, and noticed that he was having trouble working through the bigger waves. She came over and showed him how to "duck-dive" through the peak of the oncoming waves, by pushing the nose of the board down and holding tight until the wave was through, then continue paddling. It was easy, once he got the hang of it. After a while, they got out beyond the breaker line, turned, and started in for real.
The bigger waves turned out to be more powerful -- "pushier" Randy thought of it in whitewater terms, although he was sure surfers had their own term. He failed to catch the shoulder of the first wave he tried, just from not being aggressive enough, but caught the next one, and it was a much more thrilling ride. It took a little maneuvering to stay on the wave, and soon he got dumped, but now, he was sure he could do it. After an hour or more and several more waves, he was maneuvering on the face of the waves. Giselle stopped him and talked with him several times, giving him some advice and coaching and encouragement, but mostly, it was a morning of profound satisfaction -- he knew he could do it now, and it was a great feeling.
All morning long, he and Crystal were close to each other, but not often close enough to talk much. "This board's OK," Crystal said once. "I'm not sure I like it as much as Giselle's yesterday, but the conditions are a little different."
"Maybe you ought to try that one out again," he suggested.
"Maybe so," she replied, glancing over her shoulder and picking out an oncoming wave, and she was off again. It was several rides in the waist-high waves before they got close again. Giselle had headed in, but he and Crystal stayed out, whooping and yelling at the rides they were getting.
Finally, when he drew close enough to her again he asked, "What would you think of heading in for a bit? I wouldn't mind taking a breather, and maybe it's time to try that other board that Buddha was talking about."
"Actually sounds good to me," she replied. "I could stand for a break myself, maybe toast in the sun a little."
They each had a good ride in, then carried their surfboards up the beach then flopped down in the heat of the sun, watching the waves crash on the shore, not saying much, just enjoying the glow of the moment. Yes, he was hooked; he knew it and liked it. Hooked on surfing, yes, maybe as Myleigh had said, hooked on adrenaline, just like Crystal.
"Randy," she said quietly, after a prolonged silence. "I'm glad we're alone. We gotta talk."
He was sitting up in the sand, and looked down at her, sand on her backside, water droplets still sparkling on her skin. Even though she'd only been out in the sun for a couple of days, she was noticeably darker; Myleigh had said that Crystal tanned without thinking about it, and now he knew he was right. "What, Crystal?" he asked.
She was silent again for a moment before she began to say, "Look, I don't know how to say this, but that was really special for me last night. I told you that I've gotten laid here and there in the past. But, you know what? That was the first time ever with a friend, not just with a guy that seemed hot and right for a good time. And, you know what else? It was really, really good, maybe the best I've ever had."
"Well, I enjoyed it too," he said, measuring his statement against memories of Nicole. "And, yes, it was probably the best I ever had, too."
She rolled on her side so she could look at him better. "You were good to me, Randy, and good for me. I wasn't joking when I said I needed it. I really appreciate it. But maybe we shouldn't do it again, at least not right away."
"Your call, Crystal," he said. "That doesn't mean that I don't want to do it again, but it's your call."
"God damn it," she said fiercely. "Why the hell do you have to be so nice to me? You keep that up and you're going to fuck things up for me."
"All, right, you lost me," he said, wondering what she was getting at.
"Damn it, Randy, you know what I want to do the next few years, and you probably have some idea of why. I don't want to give that up, and I might if I got hooked on you. You've probably heard Myleigh use that line that she doesn't want to be a slave to a penis. Well, neither do I. It would just fuck up all my other plans. Look, I like getting laid once in a while. It's fun, it's exciting. But, I want to keep it there, at least for a while. I don't dare let myself go falling in love with you. It's not fair to you, not fair to Myleigh, and most of all, not fair to me."
"Crystal . . ."
"I'm not saying that we shouldn't do it again, ever," she said. "But I think we need to be damn sure that we're not expecting it of each other. Once in a while, maybe we can get together and have a good time, and we might even manage to have it without having someone smirking and making wisecracks about it," she grinned. "But, I think we need to keep it occasional, maybe some time when we're really stoked."
"Like I said before, Crystal," he said slowly. "It's your call. And, as far as that goes, while you can't keep me from loving you, I don't think I could own you, and I don't think I'd like it if I tried. So, I won't try."
"You understand it, don't you?" she sighed. "I mean, where I'm coming from?"
He shook his head. "Understand it, no. I get inklings of it every now and then, but understand it, I doubt if I ever will. Respect it, yes. And, what's more, Crystal, I think I know that changing you would ruin what I like about you. Not that you could be changed, anyway. I know that I might break my head trying, if you didn't break it for me. So, Crystal, we'll play this game by your rules. That way, at least I get to enjoy it while I can."
"That works for me," she said. "What do you say we go up, grab a sandwich, and then try some different boards?"
Day followed quickly upon day. It turned out that whatever storm was offshore brought them not just three days of memorable surf, but five. Randy and Crystal spent many hours each day out in it, often joined by Buddha or Giselle, who always had good comments or advice.
One afternoon, an intense couple about their ages from Slippery Rock College in western Pennsylvania joined them in the campground, and, the next night, a couple of guys from Rhode Island. All were good surfers, and they learned from them, and partied with them, too, a couple of times hitting the beer a little hard but always ready to hit the surf in the morning.
Myleigh wasn't much for beer and partying, but spent hours in the evenings talking old Gothic books and other English literature with Buddha. One afternoon, for a break, Buddha got out a bellyboard, took Myleigh out to the beach, and showed her how to play with it in the shore break. It wasn't really surfing, and didn't take a lot of skill, but she got a big grin from doing it, and before the week was over, she had it out several times. "You keep that up, and I'm gonna have to quit calling you 'Hodad'," Buddha teased. Myleigh was spending enough time in the sun that she started to get a bit of a tan, too, just a gentle glow that would announce better than words that she'd been to Florida on spring break when they got back to the frozen shores and ice water mansions of Gitchee Gumee.
One afternoon while everyone else was out surfing, Myleigh took the car and headed into a photo shop, taking with her the rolls of film she'd shot with Crystal's camera, mostly telephoto shots of them on the Nantahala and at Lesser Wesser, and of them out surfing in the ocean, of course. They were good shots, and there were a couple especially nice ones of Crystal, one of her shooting down Lesser Wesser in the Acrobat, a huge grin on her face, and another one, more distant, of her in a bikini, surfing a particularly nice wave. There were some good ones of Randy, too, if not quite so spectacular, but one of them, doing the ender at Lesser Wesser, caught the moment so nicely that he wanted to have it blown up.
Crystal didn't come to Randy's tent again after the first night, and he didn't expect her to, no matter how much the residual smell of their lovemaking in the sleeping bag tore at him, making her want to feel and taste and smell her in his arms again. Perhaps they might someday have a night like that again, and perhaps not, but that didn't keep him from wanting to experience the thrill and the satisfaction again. But, he tried to keep it to himself, and, as far as he could tell, succeeded.
The last day of the really good surf was Wednesday. By then, Crystal and Randy had settled on new boards. Crystal had tried several, but finally decided that she liked the board that Giselle had let her use the best, and Buddha thought it would be good for the conditions on Superior, so she wound up with it. Giselle didn't mind; it was just a demo she'd grabbed off the rack, not her personal board, which Crystal got to try for a bit. She found that it handled remarkably well, at the price of being so dicey she could barely stay on it. Randy's was a used one, but in like-new shape and much higher performance than he had expected. He'd progressed even farther than Buddha had imagined, and was well on his way to being a competent recreational surfer.
The surf on Thursday was notably flatter, slow, sloppy waves like their first day there. Even though it wasn't as thrilling, they were out there anyway, trying to grab all of it they could before they had to head back north, and that time was fast approaching. Along in the middle of the afternoon, Buddha caught up with the three of them sitting and talking on the beach, taking a break from surfing and bellyboarding. "Looks like it's gonna be smoother than a baby's butt tomorrow," he told them. "If you was to get out of here today and head north, drivin' tonight, you could still get in a couple days on the rivers up around the Smokies."
It was hard to contemplate leaving, but they knew he was right. It was going to be hard to leave Buddha and Giselle, hard to leave the fellow surfers they'd gotten to know the last few days. Reluctantly they tore down the tents, packed up the gear, and tied the two surfboards on top of the Olds between the two kayaks. Amid hugs and promises to come back next year, they headed north. It was again early spring when they got into east Tennessee, not the nice summer they'd left behind in Florida. It turned out that the Ocoee was still running too high for comfort, but there were a couple of other rivers that were OK, if tougher and pushier than the Nantahala, and Crystal and Randy spent hours out on them for two days.
By now, they knew they were running late; they'd sort of planned to make the Saturday night stop at Crystal's parents in Glen Ellyn, but if they left now, it would be morning before they got there. They really needed to be thinking about getting back to NMU. In the end, they decided to drive all night again, and take a shortcut through Michigan's lower peninsula, rather than the longer and slower route that would take them through Chicago. Crystal called her parents, and said that she was sorry that she wouldn't be seeing them again this trip like she'd hoped. She told them that yes, she'd had a great time, and she'd stop by on her way down to Ducktown in a few weeks, if she couldn't get away some weekend first.
"The only thing wrong with that is that I'd liked to have seen dad's face when he sees those pictures Myleigh took," she said as the car was heading north up I-75 as darkness began to fall.
"Just be glad I didn't take a picture of you two in the tent," Myleigh smirked. "I'll bet he'd love to see that one."
"God, he'd kill us," she groaned. "But I'd make damn sure you died first if he did."
"Well, if you like, there's a guy up the hall that's got a scanner," Randy offered. "I could have them scanned, and you could e-mail them. But, let's get some copies made. I'd like to keep some of them for myself."
"That's not as good as doing it in person," Crystal smiled. "Then, on the other hand, maybe it is, just to spare the lecture."
It was still early spring as night fell on them in Tennessee, but when the sun came up, far to the north in Michigan, it was winter again. From the heights of the Mackinac Bridge,they could see ice fields in Lakes Michigan and Huron to either side as they drove high above them. As the day progressed, they got some strange looks at the cartopped surfboards as they drove up US-2 toward Marquette, past what looked to be a pretty good surfing beach if the wind was right and if it weren't caked with huge floes of ice pushed up onto the beach. Then, it was through the woods and across the Seney Stretch, and there, in Munising, not far now from Marquette, was Lake Superior, stretching gray and cold out to the horizon. A north wind was blowing, and it hadn't been cold enough to totally freeze the big lake -- it never was, for wind and wave always kept places open. They passed a nice beach a few miles out of Marquette, and the wind was blowing pretty good, so they stopped to look at the surf crashing in -- good looking surf, but cold as the north itself. No one said anything, but the thoughts were heavy of the warm, pleasant days they'd had down on the Florida shore.
It was only a few miles farther on to Marquette. Soon they were unloading, getting some smiles as the two surfboards, so foreign to the north country, found places on the racks in the storeroom of the Peif.