Spearfish Lake Tales
Contemporary Mainstream Books and Serials Online
Book 1 of the Dawnwalker Cycle
One of the things that Spearfish Lake lacked was a chain fast-food joint, like Burger King or Wendy's. There'd been talk of a McDonald's coming in sometime, but for all Randy knew, it was just talk. To make up for it, however, there was the Frostee Freeze, a soft ice cream place that had added on a short fast-food menu. It was an old fashioned drive-in that had seen better days, but it had picnic tables sitting around outside; it was a popular hangout for the Spearfish Lake kids, and the obvious place to head when you needed a quick supper. On Thursday, the week after Randy started work, that's what he needed.
It had been a long, tough day, but he'd been having plenty of them and had gotten used to it a little. The crew was setting forms for an abutment on the long-delayed replacement of the County Road 534 bridge, and since concrete was scheduled for first thing in the morning, the job had to get finished up tonight. A few problems had come up, nothing major, but the end result was that they were about two hours late in knocking off for the day. Most of the crew was a little grumpy about having to put in overtime, but at least the prospect of time and a half took the sting out.
Though he'd taken some "new guy" teasing from the crew, most of whom were older than he was -- some of them more than twice his age -- it was something that Randy had expected, and, in truth, it had gone easier than he'd anticipated. A couple of the guys had acted a little tough at first, but that ceased after Randy and Rod finished talking over lunch hour about karate moves up in the gym over Spearfish Lake Appliance. They knew what went on there, and they knew that Turpin was one of the main guys in that house of mayhem. If Randy was in it, too -- well, maybe there was more to this kid than just being the boss's grandson.
Randy had gone out of his way to do more than his share of the hard, heavy, and dirty jobs, and that helped even more. The new guys got a lot of that, of course, but he felt like he was proving himself. A couple of the guys who had been difficult at first were going out of their way now to show him some of the tricks of the trade, how to make stuff go easier. Concrete wasn't something he'd care to spend a lifetime doing, but it was OK for the summer.
Still, he got hot, tired, and dirty at the job, and worse on the days they were doing serious pours. They'd be pouring tomorrow, and that was messy. Although the guys on the trucks were pretty good about placing concrete, pretty good was about all that could be managed. There was a lot of shoveling that had to be done, along with some finish work on the upcoming pour. Tomorrow was going to be a bitch.
There was a part of him that wondered just how bad he wanted to work out that evening. After running late, he'd just had time to go home, shower, and change clothes. His folks had already eaten and had gone somewhere, and he didn't feel like going to the time and the effort of making something for himself and then clean up afterwards. Thus, the stop at the Frostee Freeze.
As he waited on his burgers and fries, he sat there reflecting that the schedule he was keeping was sort of like college in a way, in that he hardly ever saw his folks. He wasn't spending a lot of time at home and conscious, what with workouts two nights a week, whitewater two and three evenings after work, a weekend whitewater trip with Joe and Rod up to the Ontonagon the weekend before, and a run planned up to the same general vicinity with them, to the Presque Isle River planned for the coming weekend. Spring runoff white water only lasted so long, so it had to be grabbed while it was high, but it meant that between work, workouts, and whitewater, he saw a hell of a lot more of Rod Turpin than he saw of his folks. Which was all right; Rod was a good guy, and this pace couldn't last. When they went out to Quaker Rapids during the week, usually riding together, it seemed like the river was a little lower each time. It wouldn't be long before they'd be dragging bottom in some spots, and soon after that they wouldn't be able to get through at all. It looked like the end was in sight.
One of the neat things was that he'd been so busy that he hadn't even had time to think about how much he missed hanging out with Crystal and Myleigh. Even though less than two weeks had passed, NMU and the two girls seemed like a long way off. His thoughts turned to them once in a while, wondering how each of them was getting along. He'd heard nothing from either one, although he thought that sometime soon, if he ever got a free minute, he at least ought to call up Myleigh and see what was happening with her. He'd refrained from calling her before because he didn't want to seem pushy after what had happened their last afternoon together. There was a long weekend coming up Memorial Day weekend, the end of the month, and it looked like the crew was actually going to be taking all three days off. By then, the whitewater ought to be going flattish, and Joe had already announced that he had to take a weekend trip downstate to visit family, so it looked like that weekend might be clear, and it might be a good time for a run to Marquette. It'd be nice to see Myleigh again. Whether he got to see Crystal before classes started was iffy, and depended on how busy he was at work, although he missed her too and often thought of her.
"Randy! Long time, no see!" a familiar voice called.
His reverie was shattered when he looked up to see Nicole Szczerowski, the girl he had gone out with back in high school, carrying a tray from the pickup window. He hadn't seen her since some time in the summer after they graduated. They'd been friends, and had even shared some intimate evenings out on top of Turtle Hill and other spots, but there'd been sort of an unspoken mutual agreement to let things slide when they went to college. For some reason they hadn't made contact at all last summer, and it hadn't bothered him. "Look what the cat drug in," he called back. "How've you been doing, Nicole?"
"Pretty good," she said. "Can I sit with you?"
"Sure," he said. "My order ought to be up in a minute. What have you been up to?"
"Not much of anything," she said, sitting down. Randy glanced at her, and she was much as he'd remembered -- a touch taller than he was by a couple hairs, short dark hair, a face full of mild freckles. Despite the Polish last name, he knew her background was pretty much Irish, and she looked the part. "Just hanging around till my summer job starts," she replied.
"What's this?" he asked, curious.
"Oh, I'm going to be a camp counselor at a Girl Scout camp down in southern Michigan. I was there last year, and we called it 'Mosquito Valley.' Right by a swamp, and there are billions of them. I've got another three weeks before I have to head down there, though. I hope I don't wind up doing arts and crafts," she shook her head. "Bllluuggghh. Boring. What are you doing?"
"Mostly working," he explained. "I'm on the concrete crew at Clark Construction."
"How's that going?"
"Hard, dirty, and messy," he summed it up. "But, it's OK. Better than setting on my dead butt all summer. I've been getting out on the river some nights, working out some evenings. It helps pass the time." He didn't want to go into much more detail than that; a lot of people around town thought McGuinness was nuts, and that the guys who met above Spearfish Lake Appliance were more than merely nuts, more like downright maniacs. It proved that a lot of people didn't understand what was going on. He steered the subject away from those waters. "So what's happening down at Weatherford?"
"It's OK," she said. "A little on the dull side. Lots of classes. It's not much of a party school."
Just then, the girl at the pickup window called "Thirty-seven." Randy glanced at his check. His food was about ready, and about time, too. He was hungry, a lot hungrier than he used to be up at NMU. Well, he hadn't been working as hard physically up at school, even counting the workouts and activities with Crystal.
He held up a single finger to Nicole, went up, grabbed the tray, which had a couple loaded cheeseburgers, fries, and a milkshake on it, then came back and sat down. "Still doing secondary ed?" he asked, to get the conversation going again.
"For the moment," she said, taking a bite out of her own burger. "I keep thinking about changing over to social work, but if I'm going to, I've got to be making up my mind this summer, or I'm going to have to go extra semesters. Maybe I'll stay with it. I'm not sure it's worth the trouble to change, now. You still in business ad?"
"Yeah," he replied. "I've been looking into construction management as a minor, but it'll be iffy if I can wrap that up in two years, too. I'm gonna have to get just the right classes at just the right times."
She eyed him carefully. "You're thinking about coming back to Spearfish Lake after you get done, I take it?"
"More than likely," he said. "But, I knew that before I started, too. How about you?"
"Depends," she shrugged. "I wouldn't mind it if the chance came up. Are you seeing anybody up there?" He knew she was talking about something else; in fact, that was probably the main question she had for him.
"Sorta," he told her as soon as he finished a big bite of his burger. "There's a couple girls I hang out with a lot, but you couldn't really call it dating. Just friends, nothing serious. How about you?"
"I was engaged for a while," she said a little sadly. "But, we could see it wasn't going to work, and we broke it off. It's been a while. When I saw you sitting here, I thought maybe we ought to get together some time."
"Maybe we ought to," Randy replied tentatively, thinking hard. He took another big bite of his burger to buy himself some time. Let's face it, he thought, she's looking. As far as he knew, she had nothing that precluded her from getting serious with some guy, which was probably what she was wanting to do. And, it might not be that bad of a deal. Nicole was no dummy -- she'd gotten better grades than he had in high school, and she'd infected him with an interest in history, which they had often talked about. She was pleasant to be around -- he knew that from experience, too -- and if he wound up coming back to Spearfish Lake, she'd fit in. Hell, it was home. Nicole might not be as exciting as either of his NMU friends, but she might well be a person he could make a life with in Spearfish Lake after he came back, although he didn't want to consider it until then. In the long run, he could do worse than Nicole, but Crystal and Myleigh proved that he might be able to do better, too. Still, it'd probably be a good idea to prop the door open a little, just in case. "It's been a while," he added, as soon as he swallowed.
"Going on two years, I guess. I don't recall even seeing you around town last summer."
"We've probably changed a little," he observed. "Picked up some new interests, and like that."
"Not really," she replied. "I got into role playing games a little. That's how I met Bob. Let me tell you, some of those people are really weird. I think that's what finally broke Bob and me up. He was a little too into it, and some of the people he hung out with -- well, it was either them or me. We sorta drifted apart, and I gave him his ring back."
"Best you found out before it was too late," Randy commented.
"Yeah, it is, I guess," she said, a little dejected. "I took it a little hard, though. Right after it happened, my roomie and a couple other girls and I went to Daytona for spring break, and I hit the beer a little too hard, I guess."
"Did some partying, huh?"
"Uh, yeah," she blushed. "I got so drunk I got in a wet T-shirt contest."
"You win?" he couldn't help but tease.
"Hell, no," she replied, getting over the embarrassment. "There was a girl there who was even drunker than I was, and she had boobs that should have been labeled 'Dow' and 'Corning' for all the silicone that was packed in them. So, what did you do on spring break?"
Randy laughed. Nicole wasn't stuck up, and could be earthy, which was fun. "Went to Florida with a couple of friends," he replied after he'd gotten himself under control. "Didn't do any drinking though. Well, one night a bunch of us split a bottle of white wine, but that was over seafood."
"What'd you do? Doesn't sound like you were in Daytona."
"Just camped on the beach south of Melbourne and did some surfing," Randy grinned. "It's a blast. Had a good time. It's not as hard as it looks."
"I don't believe it. Surfing?"
"Go look in Dad's garage," Randy smiled. "My board's in there. I got some pictures, maybe I'll have to dig them out sometime." And, he thought, if you do maybe you'd better go through ahead of time and take out the ones of Crystal and Myleigh in those string bikinis. And, while you're at it, you'd better change the subject again. "It's sort of like snowboarding, a lot carries over."
"You've been snowboarding, too? I didn't get out at all last winter."
"Hey, the winters are long up there. We still had some snow back in the woods when I left. I have to do something besides sit around and watch TV. It's a good place for it, for outdoor stuff in general. That's where the kayaking fell out of, a couple of other things."
"Sounds like it's more interesting than Weatherford, but too late to change now, I guess," she said, shaking her head. "You doing anything tonight?"
"Yeah, in fact, I've got to get moving as soon as I get done eating," he said. "And, I'm taking off for the weekend right after work tomorrow. Maybe one night next week." Come on, he thought, I deserve at least one night away from Rod once in a while, and doesn't that sound a little, well, strange?
"Busier than I want to be, and probably will be for a few weeks," he told her. "Things will probably start slowing down just about the time you take off for that camp, and then it'll be pretty dull. When do you get done down there?
"The second week of August," she replied. "I hope we don't have to put it off that long. We'll both be getting set to head back to school."
Randy shrugged. "Well, I ought to be able to find a night or two along in there somewhere."
"Let's do it," she grinned broadly. "It'll be good to go out with you again, and I've just got to check out this surfboard business."
"Don't believe me, huh? Well, bring your swimsuit."