Spearfish Lake Tales
Contemporary Mainstream Books and Serials Online
Book 1 of the Dawnwalker Cycle
There had been a foot of snow on the ground when they left Marquette early Wednesday afternoon the day before Thanksgiving, the result of several winter storms that had picked up water off the lake and dumped it on the higher ground on the shore; higher places inland had even more. By the time it grew dark, they could still see snow on the pine branches in the headlights as they drove toward Spearfish Lake. The Dodge was roomier than Crystal's Olds, so now when they went anywhere, they usually took it so all three could sit in front. As they drove into Spearfish Lake, it was Myleigh's turn to sit in the middle, snuggled up next to Randy, although Crystal had been there before they stopped for gas. It was well after dark when Randy pulled into the driveway. "Well, this is it, such as it is," Randy said.
"Randy, this is a nice house," Myleigh said. "You made it seem rather modest."
"Well, it is," Randy told her. "It's no mansion or anything."
"It's much nicer than my parents' or Crystal's," Myleigh protested.
"It probably is one of the better houses in town," Randy conceded. "And, it's home. I suppose we'd better go on in."
Randy's mother was waiting inside. "So this is the famous Myleigh and Crystal," she smiled. "It's nice to finally meet you two."
"Believe me, we are most appreciative of your willingness to be our hosts for the weekend," Myleigh smiled. "I'm happy to meet you. Randy has told us much about you."
"Mom was happy when I told her we were going to spend the weekend with you," Crystal added. "She said to say 'Hi,' and she wants to get together with you some time."
"It's been years," Linda grinned. "We were good friends, and had some good times together."
"You don't have to tell them the sauna story," Ryan teased. "They've already heard it. How's your mother doing, anyway? I went to school with her, too."
"Pretty good," Crystal said. "I guess Randy told you that they're going to Atlanta this weekend."
"Their loss is our gain, I'm sure," Linda smiled. "Anyway, Randy, I guess we'll put Crystal in Rachel's room, and Myleigh in Ruth's."
"I take it that means no Ruth after all?" Randy said, a little disappointed.
"She has to work Friday," Linda told him. "They're going to drive up tomorrow morning, and back tomorrow night."
"Well, at least I get to see her a little," Randy said, a little disappointed.
"They're planning on spending a few days at Christmas," Linda told him. Rachel and Joel and Jared are going to be here for Christmas, too, so it'll be sort of like old times."
"That'll be nice. There haven't been many of those, recently," Randy said. "Myleigh, Crystal, I might as well take you upstairs and show you where your rooms are. We can leave the instruments down here, I think."
"Randy, do you want to leave your dirty clothes down here?" Linda asked.
"Didn't bring any," he said.
"Are you sick, or what?" his mother grinned.
"They've got these funny things up at Northern they call washing machines," Randy teased. "We don't have to beat clothes on rocks like we do here."
"I think I better get a thermometer and take your temperature," Linda laughed.
It took a minute for Randy to lead the two girls upstairs to their rooms. "You were right," Crystal said quietly. "Your folks are pretty cool. This could be a fun weekend."
"Yes, Randy," Myleigh agreed, seeming a little down to him. "I'm glad you asked. I think I shall enjoy this weekend."
"Something the matter?" Randy asked.
"Nothing, really," Myleigh said. "It's just that every now and then I wish I might have parents as nice as yours, and I miss that."
Both Crystal and Randy gave Myleigh a hug. "We know," Crystal said. "We wish it could be different for you."
"I know," Myleigh smiled. "And, I propose to enjoy the weekend. It's just, well, you know."
"You up for some music?" Randy asked.
"My, yes, a capital idea," she grinned. "The very thing to drive away my cares."
"I suppose we'd better socialize a bit," he said. "But we can get out the instruments if we want."
The three headed back downstairs to the living room, where there was a nice fire crackling in the fireplace. Randy's dad was sitting in his chair, and Linda was busy in the kitchen. "Can I get you anything?" she asked. "I've got a tray of snacks, and there's a bottle of white wine chilled."
"Sounds good," Randy told them. "We did a drive through on the way, and we could stand something else."
"So, have you and Crystal been surfing?" Ryan asked.
"We got out the first of the month," Randy said, speaking of their expedition to Agawa Bay. It had been all right, not as big as the waves they had experienced at Au Train a couple weeks earlier, and not the monsters they'd expected. It had been a good weekend, but the surfing had only been a small part of it. Myleigh knew about that part, but Randy knew the girls wouldn't go into detail about it. "The weather has been pretty cold and lousy since."
"I can't believe the two of you go surfing on Lake Superior," Linda called from the kitchen. "It seems like it'd be awful cold to me."
"Well, it is cold," Crystal said. "We do prepare for it, and really, we don't stay in long when it's really cold."
"Yes, but there is the Legend to maintain," Myleigh grinned. "Randy has been so self-effacing that he probably hasn't mentioned it, but there are those around campus who consider these two as some sort of brave demigods who dare to spit in Superior's eye. Of course, they have to keep up appearances lest some lesser being suspect their mortality."
"Ah, I thought there was some logical reason," Ryan grinned.
"It's fun, what can I say?" Randy laughed. "Actually, Crystal is the demigod who started it. She lured me into it."
"I've heard stories about you, Crystal," Ryan said. "Mostly from Randy, of course. Is it true you leap tall buildings with a single bound?"
"No, those are tall tales," Crystal laughed. "Never more than a couple stories high, I promise. Doll houses, that is."
"Doll houses of the giants, then," Myleigh said deadpan. "Why, I myself have seen her easily clear the administration building."
"Only when the snow was so deep I could walk over it," Crystal grinned.
"It's getting thick in here already," Linda smiled as she walked into the room, carrying a tray of cheese and crackers.
"I don't believe a word of it," Ryan said. "However, I do believe them about the surfing. Denny Szczerowski was telling me he was deer hunting during bow season up around Munising. He was driving up the road one day, saw a couple kids in swimsuits, getting set to head out on their surfboards. I wonder if that could be anyone we know."
"Might be," Randy grinned. "But if he saw us in swimsuits, he caught us while we were getting our wetsuits on."
"Yeah," Crystal grinned. "I figured we must have freaked a few people out, but the waves were really sweet out there. That was probably the best day we've had on the water this fall."
"Myleigh, were you there, too?" Linda asked, as she returned with another tray, this time with a bottle of wine and some long-stemmed glasses.
"No, I confess I wasn't present that time," she said. "The mere thought of those ice-filled monstrous seas was so fearful I decided I'd be best attending class, so I shouldn't have to subject myself to the terror of watching."
"Actually, they were three-footers, and pretty well behaved," Crystal smiled. "Myleigh is the one telling the tall tales here. I expect we'll be hearing stories of how we ran the Escher River next, a humungous drop that never stops, but just returns to its starting point."
"Oh, my, Crystal, that is a good one," Myleigh gushed. "I must be sure to add it to my repertoire."
"So what are you studying, Crystal?" Linda asked. "I'm sure that Myleigh must be studying creative fantasy, but are you studying heroics?"
"No, just English and Phys Ed," Crystal explained. "I'm trying to focus on outdoor recreation education. That's the field I really want to get into. There's a movement in PE for kids to learn useful recreational skills, not just jumping jacks and dodge ball." It was a cover story that Randy had heard before; Crystal rarely came clean about her real intentions, and Randy wondered a little about what would happen in a year.
"About time," Ryan grumped. "I know a lot of people who have been turned off on physical fitness thanks to physical education. Sounds like you might have something, there."
"I hope so," Crystal said. "I know I thought dodge ball was downright stupid."
"Downright sadistic," Myleigh agreed. "I honestly cannot blame anyone who associates physical education with wanton torture. Crystal has at least set me straight on that account."
"How about you, Myleigh?" Linda asked. "It seems to me that Randy said you were in teacher education, too."
"Only in a sense," Myleigh admitted. "My ultimate goal is a doctorate in English literature. I hope to start work on my master's next fall."
"Well, you two seem like a couple of reasonable kids, despite the stories Randy tells about you," Ryan grinned. "Myleigh, I know guitar cases when I see them, but is that big triangular box the famous Celtic harp I've heard so much about?"
"Why, yes, of course," she smiled. "We thought that perhaps we might spend a few enjoyable hours this weekend with them."
"I'm not real sure why I brought mine," Crystal said. "I mostly play campfire songs. These two have gotten way beyond me. They'll set up in the lounge downstairs on an evening. It'll be empty, but word gets around, and the next thing you know there'll be a hundred people there."
"Randy, I knew there was something behind you and Blake sitting out on the porch this summer," Linda smiled. "I'd like to hear the two of you play."
"I'm up for it, if Myleigh is," Randy grinned.
"Oh, I would be delighted, if it wouldn't be a bother," Myleigh smiled. "I'm quite sure that Crystal has overrated my talents, although I will admit that sometimes when we play in the lounge we do draw a few listeners who have nothing better to do. Randy was able to come up with some interesting music, and it has drawn some attention."
"We'd love to hear something," Ryan grinned.
A few minutes later, Randy and Myleigh had set up near the fireplace. Myleigh, of course, was her usual well-dressed self, wearing a thick, long woolen skirt and a nice heavy sweater, and Randy was dressed better than he usually was, in slacks and sweater. They sat in front of the fire, with the light glinting off the polished blue and silver of the harp. "Randy, what should we start with?" she asked. "I would suggest an easy warm-up."
"Golden Apples is what we usually start with, but I wouldn't mind warming up a little first," he said. "Might as well start with Dawnwalker."
"Yes, that will do to start," Myleigh said. "It's one of those tunes Randy got from a friend this summer."
Dawnwalker had been heart-rending the first time they'd heard it, and they'd had a chance to practice it, now, so they were even better with it. Somehow, they managed to transform the comfortable Clark living room to a cold, misty Irish beach in the gray light of early morning. Myleigh sang the tune, of course, to Randy's accompaniment. As the final bars ended their haunting lilt, the room was thoroughly entranced.
"I do love that piece," Myleigh said, taking a sip of her wine. "It was positively written for the Celtic harp. Perhaps while I'm here Randy will make it possible for me to thank whomever it was wrote it. I find the music quite extraordinary. However, perhaps it was a little heavy, and something lighter might be in order. Randy, perhaps you should sing. What would you think of Horse With No Name?"
"Fine with me," he said, taking a cracker and a slice of cheese, following it with a sip of wine of his own before he began the opening chords. He saw his mother head for the kitchen as he began to sing, but thought nothing of it.
Randy and Myleigh went through a couple more songs, and were finally doing Golden Apples of the Sun when there was a knocking at the door. Linda went to answer it, but both Randy and Myleigh were wound up with the intricate bridge, and continued to play, so they didn't pay a lot of attention. They sang the rollicking last bars together, to a fair amount of applause, that of more than just the few people who had been present earlier.
"Myleigh, would you and Randy play Dawnwalker again, please?" Linda said from the kitchen. "I'd like these people to hear it."
"Most certainly," Myleigh smiled. It was fine with Randy. He and Myleigh were on it tonight, and before she could think about it, they were into the opening bars. They played the piece all the way through. It was actually a fairly simple piece, but it called for exact, careful, and heartfelt playing. Randy glanced up once and smiled; his suspicions were confirmed by a single glance at the slender thirtyish woman with the long blonde hair who had come into the living room to join them, carrying a glass of wine, along with her partner, a tall, handsome man who Randy also knew well. He glanced at Crystal, whose eyes were wide open -- those stories she'd been hearing weren't stories at all.
Myleigh wasn't fooled in the slightest. As they ran through the bridge to the final bar, she looked up and said, "Would you care to do the final verse, Miss Evachevski?"
"No, you go ahead," the artist also known as Jenny Easton said in her cool, familiar alto voice.
Myleigh said nothing, but picked up the music, "Then how am I to know if I'm to see him again . . ." She went right on through it, with more feeling than before, if possible. The final bars trailed off into a roomful of quiet, echoed with the enduring sadness of the Irish woman.
"Very nicely done," Jennifer told them. "Blake, I told you it would sound better with a Celtic harp."
"I didn't doubt it," he replied with a grin. "But it's nice to know you were right."
"I find this piece extraordinary, with a pleasant touch for the culture," Myleigh smiled. "Did one of you write it?"
"Actually, we both wrote it," Jennifer smiled at her. "We often get working on something, and it just grows on itself."
"I'm a little surprised, Miss Evachevski," Myleigh said. "It's so very different from the music that I normally associate with you, I thought Randy's story that it came from a friend of yours must be true."
"Please, call me Jennifer," she smiled. "You're Myleigh, right? I'm happy to meet you. Randy's told us much about you."
"Most of it good, I hope," she smiled. "Seriously, I loved the piece before I had any idea of where it came from."
"I'm afraid you're looking at a dream of mine," Jennifer told her. "It's the sort of music I like to do and would like to be able to do, but that's a long story I don't want to get into right now. I know Blake gave Randy some of our other pieces. Have you worked up anything else?"
"We've run through everything," Myleigh replied. "We have not worked up everything to our satisfaction, but I must admit that once we got started, it was very hard to stop. Would you care to hear something else?"
"I'd love to," Jennifer told her. "Have you worked up Inland Sea by any chance?"
"I'm sorry to say that's one we're still working on," Myleigh smiled. "It sounds more like Inland Pond at the moment. However, I think Randy and I would be willing to try it if you insist."
"Oh, do something you're comfortable with," Jennifer laughed.
"Randy, how does Lore of the Loom sound to you?"
"Works for me," he smiled.
They played and talked for the next hour, until they finally ran out of pieces of the new music they had prepared well enough to perform. Dawnwalker was easily the most striking piece, but there were others that were pretty good, too. Randy's mother opened another bottle of wine, and they sat and talked some more. Randy and Myleigh played some other music, some of their regular things that weren't based on the Jennifer and Blake pieces, and finally, it got late and things started to wind down.
"This has really been fun," Jennifer said. "I'm glad you called, Linda. It's so nice to sit around and listen to someone else play just for fun. That doesn't happen very often."
"I'm afraid we're hardly of your caliber," Myleigh said modestly.
"You're better than you think," Jennifer smiled. "And besides, you enjoy what you're doing. That counts for a lot. Myleigh, you're going to be around for the weekend, right? Any chance I could get you to come over to the house with your harp Friday?"
"I don't see any reason why not," Myleigh said. "I believe Randy and Crystal had some plans for sometime over the weekend."
"Good, we can slap together some pieces and jam a little," Jennifer smiled. "We're going to have a little house party Saturday night, and you kids are invited. Maybe you and Randy can take the heat off Blake and me for once."
The girls were still sleeping when Randy headed downstairs the next morning, to find his mother working on Thanksgiving dinner, and his father sitting at the kitchen table, drinking coffee. Randy poured himself a cup, dropped some bread in the toaster, and took a seat. "I've got to admit, that's one of the better evenings we've had around here in a while," his father said.
"Yeah, that was fun," Randy said.
"I really shouldn't have done that to Myleigh," Linda grinned. "But it was just too good an opportunity to pass up. I just had to see if something could break through that cool, formal attitude of hers."
Randy grinned. "I've seen it happen a few times, but you weren't anywhere near close. I have to say I was impressed at how cool she handled it. She got more formal and didn't wisecrack as much as she usually does at first, so she must have been rattled a little."
"Yeah, I see what you mean by a wicked sense of humor," Ryan smiled. "She really sets you up, the way she acts so innocent."
"I walk into them all the time," Randy laughed. "There is no defense."
"Crystal seems to be a pretty interesting girl, too," Linda said. "Although I must say, I don't know whether to believe all the stories, or what."
"Crystal was kind of in the shade last night, but she's pretty amazing in her own way. I think that's why Myleigh teases us. Crystal and I do have a little, uh, heroic reputation around campus. She had it first, and I just sort of got pulled into it."
"Gil told us about those incidents," Ryan said. "The one last winter, and the one last summer. I can see why you and Crystal have something of a reputation."
"Damn it, I asked him not to tell you," Randy said, a hint of anger in his voice.
"Don't blame him," Ryan said. "Jim Coulter's kid goes to Northern -- he's a freshman there this fall. He heard about it on campus, and he told his dad, who told me. I had to worm the story out of Gil, and it wasn't easy. Anyway, he thought you did well, and we agree. I think it says a lot of good about you, that you're uncomfortable with those kinds of stories going around."
"I had to do it, both times," Randy said, still not wanting to talk about it. "It wasn't as if I went looking for trouble. It found me and I had to deal with it. I want to get Crystal over to talk to Blake, Gil and the others this weekend. She's still having some trouble getting it into perspective. That's the big reason I wanted to bring her down this weekend. I set it up with Gil last week. We're going to get together with the group Saturday morning."
"Well, if that won't help, nothing will," Ryan said. "I remember back in the seventies, a bunch of us had to get together and deal with the demons left from Vietnam, and Gil was a part of that, too."
"I knew that," Randy said, wanting to change the subject. "Anyway, I hope you liked the girls."
"They're delightful, both of them," Linda said. "Have you seen a doctor, Randy?"
"Doctor? No, I'm not sick."
"You sounded like it, the way you were snoring last night."
"Uh, Mom, have you been up the stairs recently?" Randy grinned. "It's still going on."
"You mean that was Crystal?" Linda asked incredulously.
"No, that was Myleigh," Randy grinned. "She does get wound up a little."
"More like wound up a lot," Ryan laughed. "I guess that proves that Crystal can sleep through an earthquake."
"She's had enough practice," Randy said. "I didn't believe it the first time I heard it myself, back when we were heading to Florida last spring. She fell asleep in the back of Crystal's car, and I thought the muffler had fallen off."
"In spite of that, they're both very nice girls," his mother said. "I'm glad you thought to bring them home."
"So, what have you got planned for this weekend?" Ryan asked.
"Not a lot. Dinner today, mostly," he replied. "Saturday morning with the gang at Spearfish Lake Appliance, and we'll have to see after that. Then, Jennifer's Saturday night, now, I guess. "
"Sounds like a reasonable weekend," Ryan said. "How are the classes going?"
"Very well," Randy told him. "Don't be surprised if I'm on the Dean's List at the end of the semester. The construction management courses are a lot of work, but they're going real well."
"Are you learning anything useful?"
"I think so," Randy said. "Bearing in mind that I was looking at it from the bottom last summer, but I think there are a couple things that we can apply that'll be useful, tightening up the schedules, if nothing else."
"Don't blow up the whole weekend," Ryan told him. "I need to pick your brain about some of what you've learned, and maybe we can get together with your grandfather. You're planning on being here for Christmas, right?"
"Yeah, unless something comes up."
"Don't sell your books when you're done with them. I want to spend some time with them. Maybe we'd just better have some plans to take a day or two over Christmas and get serious about going over them."
"Fine with me," Randy said, noticing Myleigh coming down the stairs. As always, she was wearing a nice, long woolen skirt with a conservative white blouse, and without a hair out of place. "And, how are you this morning, my favorite little harp-picker?"
"Quite refreshed, thank you," she said brightly. "I think I slept rather soundly."
"Uh, yeah," he replied, stifling a laugh. "We all noticed."
"Randy, do I take that to mean you are making those unfounded and libelous accusations again?" She turned to Randy's parents. "First Crystal, and now your dear son have been assiduous in spreading allegations about me that are utterly without truth. I sleep as silently as a cat."
"No accusations needed," Randy said. "Fortunately, we have connections in the construction business, so getting the shingles nailed back on shouldn't be any big deal. Dad, do you think we can get the insurance company to call it windstorm damage?"
"Yeah, but it's a hell of a deductible," Ryan grinned. "Give up, son. You're gonna lose."
"I know, but I have to try," he protested.
"See there, Randy?" Myleigh smiled. "Someone's on my side. There's no way it could be as bad as you and Crystal insist." She changed directions. "Mrs. Clark, I see you are very busy, but would it be possible for me to prevail upon you for enough hot water to make a small cup of tea?"
"The stove is sort of full right now, Myleigh," Linda said, "But I can warm some in the microwave. And please, call me Linda. Only my fourth graders call me Mrs. Clark, and you're much older than that."
"Thank you," Myleigh said. "I shall be glad to do so, if you desire. Perhaps I tend to be a little formal at times, but the common lack of formality is one of the more distressing parts of our age. May I offer my assistance in the preparation of dinner? I can see you are quite busy."
"That'll be all right," Linda said, filling a cup with hot water and putting it in the microwave. "I've got things pretty well under control for the moment, but thanks for asking. I appreciate the offer."
"Don't get me wrong," Myleigh smiled. "Actually, I would appreciate the opportunity to help. Since my family is vegetarian, I've never had the chance to learn."
"Is that going to be a problem? I don't have a particularly vegetarian meal planned."
"Oh, no, no problem at all. I make an exception for Thanksgiving turkey, in any case. It makes Thanksgiving seem especially exotic to me."
"In that case, I'll be glad to have your help," Linda said. "But I've got things under control at the moment. Would you like some breakfast?"
"Perhaps some toast," she smiled. "I'm afraid I feasted rather heavily on the canapés last night."
"You don't want a cinnamon roll fresh from the oven in about five minutes, then?"
"Oh, my," she smiled. "You are spoiling me, I fear, but I shall certainly partake of one. Randy, I can see that I shall have to join you and Crystal in your workouts at the PEIF in order to recover from this weekend."
"Get used to it," Randy said. "We'll do some serious eating around here today. You might put on as much as two, maybe even three ounces."
"It's in a good cause," she smiled. "This has been a most enjoyable weekend already, and I suspect that it's just beginning."
"I hope I didn't surprise you by inviting Jennifer and Blake over," Linda said. "We've been friends for a long time, and it was just too good a chance to miss."
"Oh, I appreciated it," Myleigh said as Linda set a cup of hot water and a tea bag down in front of her. "I rather suspected something of the nature might happen from the minute Randy suggested we accompany him this weekend, so when it happened it was not a great surprise. She and Blake are very earthy, delightful people, and I was happy to meet them."
"You couldn't have handled it better," Linda said. "They're very nice people, but they don't like being idolized."
"Well, yes, I have some experience with that," Myleigh smiled. "After all, being around Northern with Crystal and Randy does prepare me for such things. They do not care to be idolized, either, but there are people who treat them that way to some degree."
"I know you've teased about that," Linda said. "But how much of it is there, really?"
"There is some," Myleigh said. "Randy and Crystal have the reputations of being rather daring and heedless of risk, but capable of backing their daring with skill. As a result, they are to a degree a legend around campus. Let us be honest -- surfing a storm on Lake Superior in very cold conditions does cause the odd story to go around campus. Knowing them as I do, I know that they are considerably more cognizant and calculating of the risk involved than sometimes meets the eye. You really need not worry."
"It's not even real risky," Randy said. "It just looks risky, and it's pretty cold, so you have to be careful. We try to be."
"You had me wondering," his father said. "There's getting to be the odd story around here, now. You're not the only kid from this town going to Northern, you know."
"Northern is like Spearfish Lake," Randy said. "It's really a small town, and stories get around. Crystal and I aren't looking to make stories, we're just enjoying ourselves, just as Myleigh and I enjoy ourselves making music."
"You two were pretty good last night," Linda beamed. "Jennifer and Blake were impressed. That's reason enough to be proud."
"It's at least partly due to them," Myleigh smiled as Linda got up from her seat at the table to get the cinnamon rolls out of the oven. "After all, the most interesting music we've done this year comes from them. Dawnwalker is especially striking, but there are others."
"There's a lot more talent around those two than most people know," Linda agreed. "Changing the subject, while I'm thinking about it, if you want to help with dinner, you might want to change to something a little less formal before we get seriously started."
"Oh, this is informal for me," Myleigh said. "That's something Crystal and I were unclear on, whether we were to dress formally for dinner. If so, I can change later to something more appropriate."
"Well, we usually try to be a little formal," Linda said. "If you'd like to, we certainly can."
Ryan looked at his son, made a motion at his neck that mimicked snugging up a necktie. Randy nodded ruefully.
"Oh, that would be delightful," Myleigh grinned with glee. "I so rarely get the opportunity."