Spearfish Lake Tales
Contemporary Mainstream Books and Serials Online
Book 1 of the Dawnwalker Cycle
Although they had long had a very successful winter festival, the Spearfish Lake Chamber of Commerce had experimented with a number of different summer festival formats over the years, to try to draw some summer business, mostly without much success. At one time long ago, they'd tried to do a "Lumberman's Festival," but a lot of other towns in the area did the same thing, and the Chamber was slow to get on the bandwagon, so it never quite got off the ground. They tried other things over the years, and finally gave it up as a bad job. Back about the time Randy had been born the local Women's Club experimented with a "Chili Festival" which might have gone well in the winter but was a little out of place in August. The Chili Festival only lasted a couple of years, because it was sabotaged the second year by a local practical joker who entered the contest with the most gas-producing chili ever known to man. You still heard bad fart jokes about Spearfish Lake and chili, so no one ever dared try that theme again.
It was a decade before anyone ever had the courage to think of a summer festival again, and it took a couple more years before someone finally thought of the most stunningly obvious idea -- to build a festival around the lake, and definitely bypass the chili. There was a wide public beach stretching a long distance along Lakeshore Drive, right in town, wide enough in one place to have room to set up bleachers, food tents, a beer tent, and other attractions.
The Lakefront Festival had proved to be a modest success. There was a lot to draw attention -- things like a water ski show, jetski and wakeboarding trick demos, a parasailing demonstration, and, after dark, fireworks. Although it was never on the schedule, Jennifer and Blake usually came down and did a couple numbers, and that was always a big hit. There was a best tan contest which gave a number of well-tanned, well-shaped girls in string bikinis a chance to show off -- that was a major draw.
Joe had made the mistake of going to a Chamber meeting one time while the festival was being planned, with the result that he gave a kayak rolling demonstration in front of the crowd in the bleachers -- at least the part of the crowd that hadn't disappeared to the beer tent. Or the porta-potties.
It was Joe's demonstration while Randy had been waiting for the tanning contest the year before that had gotten him interested in kayaking enough to look into the Outdoor Club at NMU, so he could hardly back out when Joe asked him to help with the demonstration. After all, a lot that Randy had come to enjoy in the past year, including his two girlfriends, had come directly or indirectly from watching him a year ago. Joe was in his Romany, a British-made Greenland-style sea kayak, and he knew a lot of tricks that could be done with its longer keel, but there were a couple tricks that could be better done in a short boat like the Mongoose, so he'd taught some of them to Randy.
Rod had a solid roll, but didn't do the trick stuff, and was just as glad that Joe had volunteered Randy. He was perfectly satisfied to narrate the show, since he at least knew what was going on. "You can do it the other way," his voice came over the loudspeaker. Randy held the bowling ball out to one side and let it roll him over again. He stuck the bowling ball in his lap and held it there with one hand and laid back on the back deck while he handrolled up with the other one, popping up in a burst of water. It seemed so easy, compared to half a year ago when Crystal had been working with him to get a roll at all, but there'd been a lot of rolling in the intervening six months, and that included a lot of practice with Joe coaching.
Randy handpaddled up to shore, exchanged the bowling ball for the paddle he'd left there, and paddled back out to where Joe waited for him. Next up was an Eskimo Rescue demonstration; Randy rolled over, patted his hands on the bottom of the boat, and waited until Joe stuck the bow of the Romany where he could reach it, and used it to roll up with.
Joe and Randy ran through their series of tricks in about twenty minutes. Really, they weren't that spectacular, once you proved that you could roll at all, much less roll easily. With the exception of showy stuff like the bowling ball roll, most of the audience wouldn't have known the difference, but at least there was some appreciative applause. There were questions afterwards; Joe and Randy paddled up to the shore, sat in the boats, and schmoozed with the crowd a bit. Randy got a bit of attention -- while everyone knew Joe had been a kayaking nut as long as he'd been in town, it was something new to see Randy in one. He heard some 'neat's and 'way cool's from kids he'd been in school with; that was nice.
As the crowd dwindled, he realized that Nicole was standing next to him, wearing a tiny purple bikini. She had a nice tan for her. "I didn't know you were back," he said.
"Just got back last night," she grinned and squatted down to talk to him, leaning forward so he got a good look at her cleavage. There was a lot of it. "All mosquito-bitten, too. I didn't know you knew that stuff."
"Just picked it up fairly recently," he said nonchalantly. "It's not that hard once you get the hang of it."
"I'd be afraid to be upside down in a boat like that."
He nodded. "It's one of the harder things to get used to," he told her. "Once you know you can roll up, it's not quite as bad. So how have you been?"
"Oh, pretty good," she said. "Glad to be out of that miserable place. It was boring, but they switched me over to outdoor skills, and that was better."
"I know this gal up at college who guides whitewater raft trips down in Tennessee all summer," he suggested. "You could do that."
"Are you kidding?" she replied. "I'd be barfing all the way down the river! I did one of those once. Never again!"
"It's kind of fun," he teased. "Pretty smooth and comfortable. You want to try this some time?"
"I don't think so," she frowned, and changed the subject. "How much longer before you head back?"
"Another couple weeks. Probably about when you do."
"Well, we've got to get together," she said. "While we've still got the chance."
"Hey, Randy," Joe's voice sounded, "We really ought to be getting back before they do the jetski thing."
"OK, Joe, be right along," he called. Up the beach, he could see the jetski trick artists getting set to go, and they would tear the place up pretty good. He wasn't sure he wanted to take the risk of being run over. He turned to Nicole and said, "We gotta paddle back down to Joe's."
"Why don't you come back up here and we can talk?" she suggested.
"Yeah," he said, "I can do that. It's gonna take a while, though."
Randy backed the Mongoose away from the beach, following along behind Joe. The Romany was a lot faster kayak -- it was built for touring on flat water, while the Mongoose was a whitewater boat, slow and hard to handle on the flat. Randy got up some speed, did a front ender for the crowd, and then paddled hard to try and keep up with Joe as they cleared the area. "You go on ahead," he finally called when he realized it was a hopeless cause. "I'll catch up."
Randy was just as glad to be paddling slowly up the beach by himself. It gave him the chance to think. He wasn't sure how bad he wanted to get together with Nicole just now. If you got right down to it, the situation with her hadn't changed.
When he'd been up in Marquette with Myleigh the weekend before, he'd been a little reluctant to admit that he'd spent the three nights sleeping with Crystal, but when she put it to him directly, he wouldn't deny it. "Good," she'd smiled when he did. "I'll bet she was getting to where she needed it. She can be rather vocal to me about it, you know." Since he'd been in bed with Myleigh at the time, it qualified as a pretty strange statement on its own.
Randy had made a point of having a long discussion with Myleigh about the same thing that he'd talked with Crystal about -- whether this was going to cause any problems between the two of them, or among them, and he'd gotten much the same reply. "It shouldn't if we don't let it," she'd said. "After all, it's not like either of us has any wish to marry, nor any wish to claim you for ourselves. In a few more months, in fact, we shall probably not be seeing each other again, anyway. Why should we not enjoy it while it lasts?"
It still made Randy feel funny, as he paddled the Mongoose away from the crowd, sticking close to the lake shore. The paddle strokes were automatic, boat control coming from the back of his mind, while he considered the situation. Messing around with two women at once -- that just wasn't something he was prepared to deal with, and now, here he was up to his ears in it. But, he didn't want to give it up, either -- he liked both of the girls too much, and only the fact that there was a definite end in sight made it seem to him like it could work for the time being.
A big wakeboarding boat came screaming by, pushing up a hell of a wake. There was no way he could let that get by; as it approached, he turned and paddled hard for the shore line, got up on the wave and surfed it into shore until he absolutely had to pull out or run aground. That one would have been a good one for the surfboard, he thought, and as he turned to continue paddling toward Joe's, his mind turned back to Nicole.
When he'd been out with Nicole in the spring, there hadn't been any clear offers, but there'd been some damn broad hints. After all, he and Nicole had gotten it on in high school, and she'd apparently been willing to pick up where they left off. Only thoughts of Crystal and Myleigh had kept him from it. He was sure he was heading into another broad hint, maybe worse.
Really, nothing had changed since spring. Nicole might well be a girl he could settle down with sometime in the future, sometime when he had Crystal and Myleigh behind him, pleasant memories. But right now, he didn't need the extra complications. He didn't want to drive her off -- after all, next summer, Myleigh would be gone, and there'd be one more semester left with Crystal, then she'd be gone, too. He damn sure wasn't going to throw over Crystal and Myleigh for her sake, this close to the summer being over with, but he didn't want to close things off with her, either. It wasn't as if she had any real claim on him, especially after she'd been engaged for a while, but it would be nice to keep it that way. For that matter, who knew what would happen in two years? Either one of them might find someone else, and they might be better off if they did. Whatever he did, the next two weeks were going to be tricky.
Joe was out of sight of him now, having made the turn into Hannegan's Cove. He could sure move right along in that Romany, and he had even faster boats. He had one long, skinny boat, a racing kayak out of West Side Boat Shop that could blow past the Romany the way the Romany had blown past the Mongoose, but it was tricky to handle. Randy had been out in it, and the X-Par Missile seemed like it was balanced on a pin compared to the whitewater boat.
All in all, it had been a pretty good summer for him, much better than he'd expected. Between work, and getting with Joe, and doing the workouts with the gang above Spearfish Lake Appliance, it had gone by like a shot, and there had been extra bonuses, too, like the trips to Marquette and Ducktown. In fact, it may have been the best summer he ever had, with only a couple downers like those two guys at the takeout ramp at the Ocoee. And now, Nicole. Not that she was a downer, but if he screwed things up it could go just as bad. It was clear he didn't want to just brush her off, though. Damn, he was going to have to be friendly and try to stay cool.
Finally, he pulled into Joe's dock. He was waiting for him in a lawn chair, the Romany already put away. "What took ya so long?" he grinned.
"Next time we go out on flatwater together, I'm taking the Missile," Randy laughed. "See how you like bringing up the rear."
He found Nicole sitting in the bleachers, watching the tanning contest. "Figured you'd be down there," he said.
"No thank you," she replied. "That wet T-shirt contest last spring was bad enough."
The wakeboarders were out there now, kicking up a lot of big wakes. Again, some of them looked almost big enough to surf on. The big boats were making a lot of noise, anyway. "Let's get out of the sun," he suggested. "Go back and have a Coke or something."
"That sounds good," she said. "I'd like a beer, but I don't suppose we could have one here."
"Yeah, better not." Randy said. He could see Harold working the crowd, in uniform, and Harold knew damn well he wasn't twenty-one yet, and he knew Nicole wasn't either. Next year would be different. He planned on having a beer in the beer tent on general principles, just because he could.
"I'm getting tired of this," she said. "Let's go somewhere."
"I don't care. Take me over to your place and show me your surfboard. We never got the chance last spring."
"The water was too cold to go out and play on it," he said. That wasn't a bad idea; he was sure his folks would be home, and that would keep things from getting too out of hand. "Not that there's any real surf around here, but you can see what it's like to paddle around on one."
"Sounds good to me," she said, getting up from her seat on the bleachers. "I still can't believe you actually do that."
"It's a ball on Superior," he said. "Waves like mountains, dodging ice floes, icicles hanging from your wet suit."
"You're out of your fucking mind, you know that?"
There were just routine small waves out on the lake in front of the Clark house on the point, nothing big enough to surf on, but enough to introduce Nicole to getting on the surfboard. He had her flop down on it in knee-deep water, and try to paddle it a little, giving her enough of a push for a feel of what it was like at speed. "All right," he said. "If you want to have a little more fun, let's go out a bit deeper, and you can try standing up."
"How in hell do you stand up on this tippy thing?"
"It'd be easier if we had a beginner's board here," he said. "But, let me demonstrate." He hopped on the board, gave it a couple paddle strokes, then did a pushup and got to his knees. He had enough speed to make a little bit of a pullout before he fell off the board; it just wasn't fast enough to plane and get stable. "It's easier if you're moving some," he told her. "I'll give you a push."
In a dozen tries, she never did get fully to her feet, and wound up splashing into the water each time. It was a hot day, and the cool water of the lake felt good. She was laughing about it; it was play. "I don't know," she said. "I'll never get this."
"You can do it," he encouraged her. "Maybe I'll have to get an egg -- that's a beginner's board -- and we could try it next year."
"Are you trying to make a surfer girl out of me?"
"There's no reason you couldn't," he said, looking at her in the brief purple bikini, wringing wet, with water dripping off of her. It made her seem lively, sexy. He'd had his hands on and off of her several times, helping her with the board, and each time, he could feel and enjoy the cool, sensual touch of her skin. She had a better build than either Crystal or Myleigh, he thought.
"I don't know," she said, frowning and shaking her head; water droplets flew from her hair. "Randy, you're doing a lot of things that you never did while we were in high school, and most of them scare me."
"Just fun stuff," he grinned. "I'll admit, I never thought of most of them until I went off to Northern, but they're all pretty cool."
She shook her head. "No, you've changed, Randy. I guess I have a little, too. All summer long, down in that camp there, I kept thinking of what it'd be like to come back here and have it like it was in the old days, but I guess they're gone, aren't they? We're not kids playing kissyface up on Turtle Hill anymore, are we?"
"No," Randy said, gathering up the surfboard to keep it from floating away, while he remembered images of her out there, necking and more. They were pleasant memories. "Those days are gone. I think we've grown up some."
"Maybe," she said. "Look, when I saw you this afternoon, I wanted to see if we could get together again. I still would like to do some of the stuff we used to do, but I'm not sure we're ready for it, anymore."
Inwardly, Randy let out a sigh of relief. This wasn't going to be as hard as he thought. Maybe it would be just as well if nothing happened, but there was no point in closing the door. "There might still be a chance for us," he told her. "But now is not the time or the place to start. We've got two weeks, and then we won't have much of a chance to do anything about it till next spring. And, something could happen along the way."
"You're right," she said, turning to him and grinning. "It'd be a dumbass thing to do. But would you give me a kiss for old time's sake, anyway?"
"Sure," he said, taking her in his arms, while she put her lips on his. He felt the warmth of her body through the cool of her skin, felt her nearly bare breasts on his chest, tasted the bittersweet of her lips. God, she's still ready to rumble, he thought. This would be easy if I wanted to do it. I'll bet I could have her in bed in half an hour, but I'd be a damn fool to try. What the hell do I need a third woman in my life for? Life is complicated enough as it is.