Spearfish Lake Tales
Contemporary Mainstream Books and Serials Online
Book 1 of the Dawnwalker Cycle
After they finished eating breakfast, Ryan said, "I'm going out to the garage for a minute. You want to come, Randy?"
"Yeah, sure," he said, figuring his dad was heading out for his morning cigarette; he limited himself to three a day.
Sure enough, as soon as they got out into the garage, Ryan lit up. "She is really a nice kid," he said. "I didn't know they made them like that anymore."
"As far as I know, they only made the one," Randy grinned. "She is something else. Kind of grows on you."
Ryan shook his head. "I gotta wonder, though. Is she like that all the time?"
"Almost," Randy grinned. "When she quits acting like that, it's usually a good idea to think about running for cover. She's gone through some hard times, and there's a temper under there. Once in a while, it shows. It's usually not a good idea to ask about her experiences in high school, or her parents. Anything else is safe."
"Hard to believe," his dad said, taking a deep drag on his cigarette.
"I can sum it up real quick," Randy grinned. "She was her high school class valedictorian. Her graduation speech consisted of 'Fuck you.'"
Ryan raised his eyebrows. "Really?"
"That's the story she tells," Randy shrugged. "I have no reason to not believe it. Crystal more or less confirmed it, I guess from meeting her parents. She hasn't seen her parents for nearly a year, and then only for a couple hours, with Crystal present. Remember, Crystal is a black belt."
Ryan took another deep drag, and let out a cloud of smoke. "Yeah, I guess that explains a lot," he said. "I hope Dave remembers to bring a suit and tie. If he didn't, I guess I'll have to loan him one."
"Well," Randy shrugged. "Crystal ought to be able to keep things in balance."
Ryan and Randy knew enough to stay out of the kitchen in the closing hours before Thanksgiving dinner, and Crystal got the message early on. Crystal and Randy broke out their guitars, and it was a different kind of music than the night before. It started with Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, and wandered here and there through mostly old popular songs, including a couple of Beach Boys' surfing songs. Crystal and Randy sounded a lot more amateurish when they played, but they clearly had fun. There was again a fire in the fireplace, and that made it just about perfect. Eventually they ran out of material, so they just sat around, telling stories, many of them of Crystal's rafting adventures on the Ocoee over the past three summers, but everyone was aware of the noise and tantalizing odors coming from the kitchen.
Along about that time, Ruth and Dave showed up. It had been a while since the Clarks had seen their daughter and her fiancé, so after introductions around there was time for some chatting in the living room while Myleigh rode herd on the kitchen. After a while, Linda said, "I think I'd better get changed for dinner, and Ryan, you and Randy should, too. When I get back, I'll relieve Myleigh in the kitchen so she and Crystal can go change."
"Oh," Ruth said. "I didn't know we were being formal today." She had on a nice slacks and sweater outfit, good traveling clothes.
"We decided to do something a little nicer than jeans and T-shirts," Linda said. "But you should be all right."
Although a tie was an everyday occurrence for Ryan, it was the first time in a couple years Randy had to put one on. It was one advantage of a future with the construction company; at the office at the plywood plant, it would be a suit and tie day every day. He came downstairs a few minutes later, to find that Crystal and Myleigh had disappeared, presumably to change.
"You've been busy, bringing two girlfriends home," Ruth smirked. "That's got to take some getting away with."
"Oh, they're just friends," Randy told his sister. She was a little more laid-back than his older sister, Rachel, who could get a little stuck up at times. "The three of us have had a lot of fun together."
"They're both pretty amazing girls," Ryan told his daughter and prospective son-in-law. "I don't know how Randy does it, either, just to keep up with either one of them, let alone both."
Just then, the two girls descended the stairs. Myleigh was in front, wearing a dark red evening gown that was absolutely stunning, and in matching high heels. She looked tremendous, but Crystal really caught Randy's attention -- she was wearing a black cocktail dress, with a considerable amount of lace; it was the first time he'd ever seen her in a dress or skirt of any nature. The spaghetti straps showed a lot of skin, with the remnants of her deep tan of the summer, and there was no mistaking her strong musculature. Equally surprising was the pantyhose, lipstick and makeup he'd never seen her wear, either. The bottom line was that both were absolutely gorgeous; they were showing off, and proud of it.
"You both look stunning," Randy said, getting to his feet, noticing Dave's big eyes. Feeling very courtly, he took their hands, one at a time, and kissed them. If they wanted to put on a show, he was willing.
"Thank you, my dear Randy," Myleigh said. "May I say that you look nice yourself?"
"Nothing to compare to your elegance," he grinned. "And, Crystal, I must say I've never seen you lovelier." What he wanted to say was that when she got dressed up she looked almost like a girl, but she was still a black belt and he figured that he'd better not push his luck. He could tease her later.
"Thank you, Randy," she said casually, but sounding like Myleigh. "We hoped our appearance would meet with your approval."
"May I show you ladies to the table?" he said with a slight bow. He wanted to turn around and get a glimpse of Ruth and Dave, but didn't dare. On the other hand, he was sure he'd hear about it often enough in the years to come. This was going to be one Thanksgiving dinner to remember.
"It isn't often that we get to play dress-up like that," Crystal laughed as they sat down at dinner the next night. "We found the outfits at a secondhand store last fall, and we decided we're going to pull the same trick on Mom and Dad at Christmas."
"Well, I thought you looked very nice," Randy told her. "Very elegant. I can't imagine Nanci pulling it off like that."
"That's the point," Crystal laughed again. "We're not going to tell her ahead of time."
"You two are evil," Randy grinned. "You had Dave's eyes popping out of his head all afternoon."
"It'll give him a better impression of his future brother-in-law," Crystal smiled.
"So, how was your day, Myleigh?" Randy asked.
"Very interesting, actually," she said. "It turned into a rather long day, but it flew by. Jennifer and Blake are very personable, and both are excellent musicians."
"So, what all did you do?" Crystal asked.
"We started by my accompanying her on Dawnwalker," she said. "We worked with it a bit, and then on a couple other songs, and I showed Blake a bit of the Celtic harp. After Blake cooked a most excellent lunch, she had him call a friend of theirs over, a huge hulking man in Harley-Davidson leathers, but who plays a most excellent violin."
"Shovelhead," Linda grinned. "We know him."
"For a man who looks three times as dangerous as I know Crystal and Randy to be, he is very gentle and well-spoken," she smiled. "You cannot believe how much more the violin adds to the piece. Finally, we wound up recording it in their studio. I was in awe of how heartfelt she could sing Dawnwalker when we recorded it. Jennifer explained that they are considering doing an album of pieces that they like, and it may be on it."
"The At Home With Jenny Easton project," Ryan said. "We've been hearing about it for a while. They want to do some independent projects their current record label won't handle. Under her new contract, they're going to be able to do different things."
"Yes, she mentioned something about that," Myleigh grinned. "Anyway, we spent the afternoon working on another couple of pieces, the four of us. I suspect we may present them tomorrow evening."
"So, Crystal, what did you and Randy do this afternoon?" Linda asked.
"Not really a lot," Randy told her. "We hung out with Joe a bit, and drove out to see if Snow Snake Valley was open, but there's not enough snow yet."
"I didn't think they'd be going yet," Ryan said. "One more good storm, and then maybe."
"It'd have been nice to do some snowboarding," Randy agreed. "But, I guess we can't have everything. Probably no more whitewater till spring, now, so I guess the snowboarding is going to have to fill in."
"I don't mind doing some honest-to-Pete skiing," Ryan grinned. "But that snowboarding is a little bit much for a man my age. You guys are going over to the appliance store tomorrow morning, right?"
"Randy and I are," Crystal said. "Myleigh, you could come if you want."
"Perhaps," she said. "I may just sleep in and lounge about with a book. Jennifer said that after Blake was free in the afternoon, she'd like me to come over and work on another couple of pieces. Of course, I agreed. It is an honor to work with her."
The party actually turned into a concert of sorts, some of the music by Jennifer and Blake, but others were involved, too, so it was rather a group music session. Blake and that big bearded biker were playing now, an incredibly gentle and sensitive version of Lament for the Wild Geese.
"Both those guys can play like nobody's business," Crystal whispered to Myleigh as the song came to an end. Randy was off talking with some other people.
"They are quite good," Myleigh agreed as a round of applause went around the room. "This is delightfully informal, isn't it?"
"Sure is," Crystal replied, still in a low voice. "It's hard to believe that he was the guy bouncing me off the walls this morning."
"Poor dear," Myleigh grinned as she noticed Blake and Shovelhead getting set up for another piece. "I take it your workouts with Randy hadn't prepared you for the intensity you experienced?"
"Not really," she said. "I don't often run into anyone better than I am, even as rusty as I am, but all those guys are so far above me that I don't know how I'd ever get to be that good. After three hours of it, I was so tired, aching, and hurting that Randy had to give me a rubdown."
"Did it help?" Myleigh asked her friend.
"Yes," Crystal nodded. "I wish I'd listened to Randy and come down here in September. We went through the whole thing, dissected it, reenacted it, and dissected it again. I think it helped me a lot."
"Good," Myleigh said. "It's better than having you reenact it in your sleep. I hope that will be the end of it."
"I hope so, too," Crystal said as the opening strains of Ashokan Farewell began to sound. It seemed appropriate; maybe this was the farewell to the bad times she'd had over the incident on the Ocoee.
As the song came to an end, Jennifer led the applause. "Let's take a few minutes to hit the snacks and the bar," she suggested. "Then I've got a special treat for you. Most of you know Randy Clark. This weekend, he brought his girlfriends down from college. I said girlfriends, because I mean both of them," she grinned. "I'd sure like to know how he manages that. One of them has been showing me some great possibilities with her instrument, the Celtic harp, and we're going to do some, and I think maybe we may even be able to get Randy to accompany her later. By the way, this is not the girl he goes surfing with in winter storms on Lake Superior. That's his other girlfriend."
"Ah, the legend lives on in Spearfish Lake," Myleigh grinned. "Perhaps this is the night to do The Ballad of Crystal and Randy."
"And they think I have guts," Crystal smiled.
"Oh, I think Blake would protect me from the two of you," Myleigh grinned. "However, I suspect I would not enjoy having to hitchhike back to Marquette carrying a harp case."
"My, how perceptive," Crystal smiled evilly.
"And, with that thought, I think I shall go get a glass of wine before I perform," Myleigh grinned.
"Enjoying yourself, Crystal?" Randy asked. She looked up to see him standing with a sandy-haired girl about Myleigh's height, but with a stocky, muscular build.
"This is great," she said. "Except she's threatening to do The Ballad of Crystal and Randy again."
Randy shook his head. "She's going to slip that one by us some time when we're not expecting it, and when we aren't going to be able to say anything."
"That's exactly how I read it," Crystal nodded.
"Anyway," Randy went on, "I've got someone here I think you'd like to get to know. Something tells me you have a lot in common. This is Tiffany Archer. I think I've told you about her. Tiffany, Crystal Chladek."
"So you're the one I've been hearing about," Tiffany grinned. "One of the kids in my high school class goes to Northern, and you two have some stories going around about you."
"One or two," Crystal grinned, furrowing her brow. Then, all of a sudden, it struck her who she was talking to. "You're the kid who did the Iditarod last spring!"
"Well, yes," Tiffany said shyly. "Josh and I. We got married last summer, and we're going to do it again this winter."
"You're the one they should be inventing legends about," Crystal said, indeed detecting a soul mate.
"There are a few stories," Tiffany said. "It's really pretty reasonable, if you're prepared for it and trained for it. Randy tells me you're a raft guide in the summer, in addition to surfing and other things."
"I am," Crystal said. Randy could see that she was a little awed by the younger girl. He didn't know Tiffany that well, but thought that Crystal would enjoy meeting as committed an outdoorswoman as she was. "It's an interesting outdoor job."
"Randy also says you've been through OLTA," she said. "Josh and I are thinking about setting up a dogsled touring business, and I wonder if you think it would be worthwhile for me to take a course there."
"You're bound to learn something," Crystal said. Randy could see her relax. "However, OLTA is mostly about building self confidence in the outdoors, leadership, and skills. Anyone up to running a dog team across Alaska ought to be pretty well equipped in those departments already," she went on, "So, I doubt if you'd get out of it what I got. If you're looking to pick up a specific skill, then it'd be a good deal. If you're going to be leading backcountry trips, the Wilderness First Responder course is well worth the time. It's not part of the regular course, but it's still pretty intensive."
"Well, there's no way I can do it before things slow down in the spring," Tiffany said. "Josh and I will be leaving for Alaska in a month. We're pretty deep in training now, but it's nice to get away for an evening."
"Yes, this is quite an evening, isn't it?" Crystal grinned. "I had no idea it would be anything like this. How did you get hooked up with this group?"
"Oh, like Randy, Jennifer was my babysitter, too," Tiffany grinned. "Now she's our main sponsor. It looks like Jennifer has an unexpected influence."
"What do you mean?"
"I wouldn't have expected Randy to be out surfing in winter storms on Lake Superior," Tiffany grinned. "I mean, I know what cold is, and that strikes me as cold."
"Uh, the stories are a little out of hand," Crystal grinned. "It's true; we push the season a little, but we have to if we're going to go out at all. We're usually pretty careful. It can't be anything like the Iditarod."
"I don't know," Tiffany laughed. "A lot of people see it as pretty heroic, but mostly it's a lot of work. I enjoy it, though, so that's the reason I go to the trouble. If you can find a few minutes in the morning, have Randy bring you out to the dog lot. You might find it interesting."
"I'd like that," Crystal told her. "That's one of those skills I'd like to pick up some time."
"I wish we'd had a chance to meet before," Tiffany smiled. "Maybe Randy can get you down here again some time. I think you and I would find some interesting things to talk about."
"Crystal, you want anything from the bar?" Randy asked. "Looks like they're getting set to play."
"No, I'm all right," Crystal smiled.
"Jennifer says that this friend of yours is quite good," Tiffany said. "I'm looking forward to this. Randy, you sure have some interesting friends."
"Thanks for having us down," Myleigh told Ryan and Linda on Sunday morning as the three got ready to head back to Marquette. "This was more fun than I'd dreamed possible."
"Yeah," Crystal agreed. "This was quite a weekend."
"I've got to warn you, not all our weekends are like that," Linda said, "But a number of things fell together."
"Really," Randy said. "I'm just worried that it's going to be awful dull here over Christmas, after this weekend."
"I'm glad it worked out that I could meet Jennifer," Myleigh said. "She is most interesting and personable, and both she and Blake are excellent musicians."
"Well, I had a good time, too," Crystal said. "I met a lot of neat people. The gang at Spearfish Lake Appliance, and then Tiffany, last night. I'm glad we caught her out at the dog lot this morning."
"Yes, an acre of sled dogs," Myleigh grinned. "Very noisy, and I cannot imagine how much work it is to feed all of them. But both she and Josh are most interesting people."
"I figured you'd have a good time," Randy said. "A couple things happened there that I wasn't expecting, but it all worked out for the best."
"We were pleased to have you," Linda smiled. "Both of you are welcome again, any time." It had been a good weekend for her, too; one she wouldn't forget for a while.
"I really appreciate the offer," Myleigh said. "It seems unlikely, given that I shall soon be leaving the area, but you have been most gracious hosts, and I've had an excellent and most memorable time."
"We'd better get going," Randy said. "I'll be seeing you in a couple weeks."