Spearfish Lake Tales
Contemporary Mainstream Books and Serials Online
Book 1 of the Dawnwalker Cycle
". . . when the witch of November comes stealin'," Randy sang as he brought Ballad of the Edmund Fitzgerald to an end.
"My, I think we're getting it now, aren't we?" Myleigh smiled at him from her seat in the big, overstuffed chair. She had the blue Celtic harp in her hands, and it glinted in the light of the room, and from the sun that hung low in the west.
"Yeah, I sure like that bridge you stuck in there," Randy grinned with satisfaction. It had gone pretty well. "It helps give it a really eerie feeling."
"Not Erie," Myleigh teased. "We were singing about Lake Superior, you know."
Randy sat upright to rest his back a bit. He was sitting on Myleigh's bed, Crystal's guitar in his hand. Since Crystal had been working extra hours, he and Myleigh had spent a couple evenings a week in her room working on duets, and it was proving to be a lot of fun. Some of their pieces were getting to be pretty good. "You want to work on something else?"
"I shouldn't mind," she smiled, letting the harp rest on her skirted knee. "Have you any suggestions?"
"How about North Shore?" he suggested. "I know it's a modern Jenny Easton piece, but it has the kind of flavor we seem to like, and it's got a whale of an instrumental for a bridge. I think it'd sound great on the harp. Besides, it's made for a voice like yours."
"This is getting difficult," Myleigh frowned, picking at the problem mentally. "Over the summer, we must research and find some different music, and perhaps real sheet music, not just listening to it on the radio. I would really like to find something that suits both our tastes. Perhaps, something of the sea, from back in the era that interests me."
"I seriously doubt it," Randy said with a grin. "At least, I can't think of anything off the top of my head that would work. All I can think of is stuff like What You Gonna Do With A Drunken Sailor, and shanties like that. From everything I ever heard, even that isn't period, and probably not authentic, either. Shanties were work songs, and a lot of them had to do with how fat the bosun's ass was. Or worse than that."
"How'd you learn that?" she said, lightly plucking a few bars of Drunken Sailor.
"I've read a lot about that period," he explained. "I got interested in it by reading C.S. Forester novels. Horatio Hornblower, and such. I know he's a hundred years after prime time for you, but he wrote about that era, and he wrote a pretty good yarn or two. Ever read any of it?"
"I started one once," she said, "But I'm afraid the nautical terminology rather lost me. And, as you say, while the stories are set in an era I'm interested in, the writing is rather anachronistic. But, I didn't know you had an interest in that era."
Randy shrugged. This was a direction they hadn't explored during their discussions before. In the beginning, he hadn't thought he had much in common with Myleigh, but in the evenings that they'd spent together by themselves, they'd somehow managed to come up with enough to not only fill out a conversation, but keep it interesting. "Well, Horatio Hornblower did get me interested in the Napoleonic Wars," he began telling her, "So I branched out and read some histories and the like. Not a lot of period material, I'm afraid. You've heard me complain before that it's wordy by modern standards. But yes, the era interested me. Since I've been hanging around with you, I've gotten a different perspective on it, especially the Regency, but other parts of it, too."
Myleigh put down the harp and looked at him. "I must say, I was not aware of this interest on your part."
"It never came up, I guess. It's just a casual interest, something I've read a few books about, and, well, there have always been other things we've had to talk about. I don't know much about the literature of the era, but from what I've read, when Wellington beat Bonaparte at Waterloo, it lifted a tremendous boot of mental oppression from Europe's neck, one that had lasted for a couple decades. A lot of stuff flowered in the first rush, not just the literature."
"Yes, it did, of course," Myleigh said, taking interest in the way the conversation was going. "In some authors, you can feel the palpable relief in the differences in their writing, comparing, say, 1810 to 1820. In others, of course, especially among the women writers, it's scarcely detectable."
"It was an interesting time in England," Randy told her, setting the guitar down and leaning back against the wall on the far side of the bed. "We're talking about the early dawn of the Industrial Revolution, and there were new and sometimes brilliant ideas flowing every which way. You've got steam engines, and roads, and bridges, and modern ironmaking, and a lot of things that were about to upset the applecart of centuries. Periods of change are always interesting, and that's one of the more interesting ones. That got me interested in the period before, so I've read a fair amount of English history. Not studying it, just reading it for pleasure. But, I'm ranting now, and Crystal ought to be back soon. You want to play something?"
"You may rant on if you wish, for all I care," Myleigh smiled. "I confess, I was unaware of this interest of yours."
He shrugged. "Beats watching hockey games on TV," he told her. "Like I said, I just enjoy reading about it, and at that, I'm more interested in American history, but I'm no expert on it, either." What he wasn't going to say was that he'd picked up a lot of the interest from Nicole; she had a genuine interest in it.
"I had no idea you were such a reader."
"I read a fair amount, nothing like you do, of course. I haven't done much recently, mostly because you and Crystal have been keeping me so busy, but it won't be long and I'll have nothing much to do but curl up with a book and wait for fall to get here."
"It's true, isn't it?" she said sadly. "Another week and a half and we shall turn back into pumpkins for the summer, shan't we?"
"Afraid so. I'm going to miss you and Crystal." He was going to miss them both, and miss them a lot. His college career had basically been broken into two parts -- the part before he started hanging around with the two girls, and the part after. The part after had been a lot more fun. It still was.
Winter had been late in breaking, and there was still snow on the ground, although it had melted back quite a bit in some of the warm spells. There was still plenty of snow left in the piles back in the woods. The weekend after they'd returned from spring break, Crystal had taken him out to Sugar Mountain snowboarding. They'd spent hours tearing down the slopes, having a ball. The snow had stayed good, and they'd even been out last weekend, although the season was clearly coming to an end, now. The surfboards had stayed on the racks, but there was still hope that they might get out and get some creeking done on the snowmelt-filled streams before the semester broke.
He wasn't seeing Crystal as much in the evenings as he had before break. She'd felt rather guilty about the money Randy had loaned her to buy the new surfboard, which had been more expensive than either had planned. So with some trepidation, she'd taken her basic lifesaving card and talked to someone over in the PEIF. Since they were always short on lifeguards they'd hired her in an instant. Now she spent two or three evenings a week at the pool, not working out, but the brown and cream surfboard would be paid off soon.
Randy and Crystal still got together on free evenings and worked out in the PEIF. After their night together in the tent down at Buddha and Giselle's, they were both a little reluctant to go back to on-the-mat grappling of the wrestling workouts, so Randy had asked her to teach him some karate and other martial arts. Soon, the reluctance wore off, and they were back to wrestling, along with the other stuff. Randy soon discovered that karate was much more than just busting boards, and found that it was a skill he enjoyed as well, and was picking it up quickly.
Seeing Crystal a little less meant that he was seeing Myleigh one-on-one more than he did before break. Now, it was two and sometimes three nights a week, usually on the evenings Crystal was working at the pool. Mostly their evenings had consisted of just jamming together like tonight, interspersed with conversations about this and that. They'd put together some pretty good pieces, and the two of them had even set up down in the lounge occasionally on evenings when Crystal had been working or had to study.
Now, it was all coming to an end, or at least, to a break. In just a few days, they'd be taking off -- at least, Crystal and Randy would be taking off, leaving Myleigh behind in Marquette -- and they wouldn't be together again until fall. Summer had once been Randy's favorite season, but just this once he was anxious to see it over with.
"I shall miss you, too, Randy," Myleigh agreed sadly. "It's been lonely up here without Crystal around the last two summers, and it's going to be even lonelier than ever with the both of you gone."
"What do you do in the summers besides work?"
"Not much," she admitted. "Work and read, mostly. Much of the work is hot and dull. The apartment gets very hot in the summer as well, since there's no air conditioning." She smiled a playful smile, and continued. "I confess, it is difficult to feel an empathy with some Regency heroine going through the summer swathed in yards of woolen when you're reading the book stark naked in front of an electric fan, with the perspiration rolling down your body in streams."
He laughed at the image. "Does sort of make you wonder how they survived back then."
"With great difficulty, I should imagine. You do not often find people complaining about the summer heat in the literature. I suppose it is partly because England was a bit cooler than Marquette in the summer, and partly because they could do no better, anyway."
"Well, at least you have the apartment," he said.
"Yes, it has been nice of Mike and Cheryl to sublease it to me for the summer again," she said. "I would rather stay in the dorm if I could, since it is even closer to campus, but with the dorms and the food service closed, I really have no other option. Besides, the sublease is for quite a bit less than what they're paying in rent, so they can keep their hands on it and not have to move out completely every spring and find another suitable place to move into in the fall. I don't even mind giving it a good housecleaning as part of the arrangement. It also gives Crystal and myself a place to store our things over the summer."
"Sounds like a good deal all the way around," he commented. "How do you get around?"
"Mostly, I walk," she told him. "Occasionally, I have to take a bus, or beg a ride, especially if I wish to go out to Econo Foods and stock up the larder. And that begs a question, Randy. Could I ask a small favor of you?"
"Sure thing, Myleigh," he said.
"I've been meaning to ask you this, but somehow I just haven't gotten around to it. Mike and Cheryl won't be moving out until the day after classes break, which is the day we have to clear out of here. Crystal would like to leave on Wednesday, so she can stop and see her parents for a day or two, and still make the Saturday release on the Ocoee. That means I must ask you for some assistance in moving our things."
"Sure, no problem," he told her. It was easier to say that now that he had his car again. The Dodge had been buried in a snowdrift from shortly after Christmas break until a couple weeks after spring break. Finally, in a warm spell he and Matt, along with the two girls, had spent a couple of hours shoveling it out; then he and Matt had a long struggle with jumper cables hooked to Crystal's Olds to get it running. Now, he had wheels again, and found he'd missed them. He'd have to do better about that next winter.
"Thanks, Randy. That will help considerably."
"The only thing is, we're going to have to get an early start, since I have to move out, too," he told her. "Matt is going to take our furniture and some other stuff home with him, but since he's got a pickup and it's only seventy miles or so down to Spread Eagle, it shouldn't be too much. He could make two trips if he had to."
"I can certainly help you move your things after we've transferred Crystal's and mine. I'd also like to prevail on you for one of those trips to Econo that I mentioned."
"Sure, no problem," he grinned. "In fact, maybe we could do it more than once."
She cocked her head. "I'm not sure I understand."
"It sort of revolves around the surfboard," he explained. "I mean, I'd like to have some practice, and it's about as far to come here to find big water as it is to go anywhere else, and I know my way around here. I figured that I might take off a few weekends when the weather report looks favorable, come up here, and spend some time messing around in the waves until I turn blue, which really shouldn't take that long. When I'm up here, there's no reason I couldn't drop by and take you grocery shopping."
"Randy, would you please?" she said brightly. "Your presence, even for a few hours, would be a breath of fresh air in the long, dull days of summer. I should even enjoy watching you go out and attempt to turn blue, just for the sake of seeing different sights with a friend. You might even bring your guitar, and we could have a pleasant few hours playing together."
"We probably won't be able to plan real far ahead," he told her. "It'll depend on the weather a little. But, when I come, we can stock you up for quite a while."
"My, yes, that would simplify things for me a great deal," she replied with a smile, then continued. "What do you plan to do this summer?" I'm not sure you've told me."
"I don't know myself," he said, shaking his head. "Frankly, I don't want to sit on my dead ass again all summer. That got real boring last year. Hell, I was even about ready to go out and play golf one time, it got so bad. I'm not real crazy about going back home and working in the Frostee Freeze or something, and I don't want to ask Dad for something, or else I could find myself running a chipper in the plant all summer. That could get just about as boring, and hot besides. On the other hand, I'm going to have to have a talk with him about doing something, I guess."
"I know you've mentioned going down to Tennessee and seeing Crystal."
"Well, I'd like to, but that sort of depends on if I'm working, or what I'm doing. Until I see what happens there, I can't make a lot of plans."
"I shall have to get you Mike and Cheryl's phone number," she said. "I try not to make long-distance calls as it complicates the bill, but I can take incoming ones. That would allow us to firm up arrangements. For that matter, it would be welcome just to hear your voice once in a while, whether it works out that you come up or not."
God, Randy thought. It really must be lonely up here for her. He knew she wasn't a girl who made friends easily; it was only through Crystal being involved that he'd become friends with her in the first place, but he'd discovered the sweet and gentle soul that lived under that rather condescending and stuck-up exterior. How many others had gone to that trouble, besides a couple distant relatives? Maybe just he and Crystal? It seemed likely. "I'll do that," he told her. "And, I'll try to get up here once in a while, even if there's no surf involved."
"Thanks, Randy," she said. "I appreciate it, and I'll be looking forward to it."
There was an underlying sadness there, and Randy knew why there was. Perhaps he ought to do something to brighten things up. "I don't know what's keeping Crystal," he said, "But you know, there's one perfect song we didn't think to work on that we've never tried before."
"What's that?" she asked, brightening.
"How about Horse With No Name? You know, that Buddha sang down in Florida that night."
"My gracious, we must be getting dense in our old ages," she smiled. "How could we both have forgotten that for so long?"
"Yeah, and right in front of our noses, too."
She picked up the harp, and tried a few experimental notes. "Yes," she said. "I think that might work, and what's more, it would work in the lounge should we need it there. Do you remember the words?"
"I think so," he said, sitting up and taking the guitar in hand. He strummed a couple chords, and began to sing, "On the first part of the journey, I was lookin' at all the life . . ."
"There were plants and birds and rocks and things . . ." she joined in. "No, in G, I think. Shall we take it from the beginning?"
They'd no more than started when the door opened, and Crystal walked in. "Hey, that's a good one," she said as they stopped.
"We were just starting to give it a try," Randy said, "It's got possibilities. How was the pool?"
"Wet," Crystal said. "If it weren't so close to break, and I wasn't so close to paying you off, I'd tell them to jam it. It's downright dull. But, Randy, I've got good news."
"What?" he asked.
"Well, just as I was getting out of there, I took a swing through the Outdoor Club area, and got to talking with Marty. He was out scouting this afternoon. He says the Yellow Dog is running too high, but he went on over to L'Anse, and the Fall and the Silver are just about right, so the club is going to take a run over there."
"Crystal," Myleigh frowned, "Dare I remind you that you have finals next week?"
"Finals, shminals," she replied with a grin. "I either know that crap or I don't. Besides, what do you think I've been doing over at the pool all evening, trimming my toenails? Myleigh, you want to come play shuttle bunny?"
"I suppose," Myleigh smiled. "At least I can review my studies while I'm waiting for you insane people to make your runs."
"You may not get a lot," Crystal said. "You might want to bring the camera. There might be some carnage."
"This doesn't sound exactly like the two of us running down in the Smokies," Randy said. "I bet it'll turn into a zoo. It always seemed to at Piers Gorge."
"I dunno," Crystal said. "I figure we go over and check it out, and maybe head back over there on Sunday and run some of the others if enough people want to go. This ought to be fun. It's not playboating, it's steep creeking."
"Crystal, you don't have to talk me into it," Randy grinned. "I'm up."
The Fall River -- at least the part of it that's runnable during spring runoff -- is a short, steep rush of cold water hurrying madly down to Lake Superior through the small lakeside town of L'Anse, well to the northwest of Marquette. Mostly, it drops down over a long series of ledges, but there are several waterfalls and a couple of tight squeezes through narrow spots that have to be done at speed. The hardest drops are definitely Grade IV, but are easy to walk around if they look too difficult; much of the rest is Grade II. Since it's short, a group can make several runs in a day, and with simple portages of the difficult spots, the groups sometimes aren't as experienced with difficult whitewater as might be wished.
Only Crystal and Randy had done any whitewater since the previous fall, but a lot of people had signed up to do the trip. Since it was going to be the only chance of the semester to do a spring runoff expedition, Marty, the club's whitewater chair, had pretty much allowed anyone to come that he thought was capable of handling the simpler stuff. That meant that people were going to have to double up on boats, and some even double up on wetsuits. It was going to be a big enough trip that there wasn't any need to cartop the boats; when Crystal, Myleigh and Randy arrived at the PEIF early Saturday morning, they discovered that Marty was taking the club's trailer, piled high with kayaks.
"I was right," Randy said. "It's gonna be a zoo. Too bad we can't take off during the week and run it."
Crystal shook her head. "Not enough time left now," she said absently, preoccupied with something. She looked around, stared at the overcast, cold-looking sky, frowned, and finally said. "They're not gonna leave for a while yet. Let's get in the car and drive down to the lake."
"What are you thinking? Randy asked.
"Randy, look at the wind direction," she said, nodding her head at the lake. "It'll probably pick up later in the day."
Sure enough, down at the lakefront the waves were rolling in pretty good. "Not real big," Randy said as he and Crystal looked through the front window of the Olds. "And it doesn't look like the break is real decent."
"Yeah," Crystal agreed, perhaps a little reluctantly. "When I messed around out here back in November, it was a little further around, and blowing harder. Randy, let's go back and get the boards."
"This isn't real surfable," he protested. "I mean, we could go out and piss around in it, but as cold as it is, it might not be worth it."
"Think it through, Randy," she told him. "You've been up to L'Anse. That's a big, wide bay that funnels down as you get to the back of it, and the wind ought to be dead down it, later anyway. There's a couple places we ought to look at, and there's no point in doing it if we don't take the boards."