Wes Boyd's
Spearfish Lake Tales
Contemporary Mainstream Books and Serials Online



Dawnwalker

Book 1 of the Dawnwalker Cycle


a novel by
Wes Boyd
2002, 2008




Chapter 35:
March 1996

"Hodad! Crystal! Randy!" Buddha grinned. It was a slow day, and he was sitting at the table out under the awning in front of the surf shop. "Once again I'm delighted to perceive that you've returned to our humble establishment! The months that have passed since you last set foot on these sands have been all too many! Come, take a seat, and let us renew our acquaintance."

After months of snow, it was wonderful to see the sun again, to hear the gulls squawk as they looped low over the sea and shore, and to see the warm surf rolling in from the Atlantic. Though it wouldn't be all that long before they had to head back to the frozen North Country, the break was welcome.

The trip had been pretty much a replay of the year before. This year they drove Randy's Dodge Diplomat, rather than Crystal's Olds Ciera, which was still buried in the snow bank in the parking lot on the edge of campus. The trunk of the Dodge was bigger, so that gave them the chance to bring both the guitars and Myleigh's harp.

They made a brief stop at Glen Ellyn to see Crystal's parents. After all the worry and concern six weeks before, it proved that the issue of Nanci coming to Northern hadn't quite been settled yet; she'd made two other college visits, and the last one had been pretty positive about Nanci getting on the cheerleading squad. Maybe all the trouble and worry had been for nothing. At least they could hope.

After leaving Glen Ellyn, they drove all night down to Ducktown to check in with Ocoee Adventures about Crystal's job for next year, which proved to be assured, to no one's surprise. This year they were able to make a midday run on the Ocoee, at a level that was higher than Crystal was used to in the summer and even more exciting since it made the familiar river a little strange to her.

Rather than come down the coast from Tennessee, as they'd done the year before, they came down through Atlanta, and made an evening stop at Georgia Tech to say hello to Jon, who was glad to see familiar faces. They wound up spending the night on the floor of Jon's dorm room, and he announced that he was going with some friends to Daytona Beach the next week, rather than flying home over spring break. Crystal told them afterwards that she was glad to see Jon trimming back the apron strings a little, and that maybe he was becoming a little more independent of his parents.

Spending the night in Atlanta meant that it was getting on toward late afternoon before they arrived at Buddha and Giselle's surf shop. As it turned out, there had been no need to rush; the surf was flat, but that also meant there was no need to rush out and get on the water.

"Buddha, it's good to again cast my eyes upon your shorn and shining pate," Myleigh smiled; since he was in English lit mode, it was clear she had to take the lead in the discussion. "We have longed for many months up in the frozen lands of ice-water mansions to return to this warm and surf-swept shore. Is Giselle upon the premises today?"

"Giselle departed an hour ago to acquire some provender for our evening repast. You will join us, I hope?"

"Oh, we certainly shall," Myleigh replied with a grin. She knew Buddha was putting her on, but that didn't matter; this was fun and Buddha was a special person. "Alas, I fear this visit brings with it a touch of sorrow, for this may well be the last time I have the joy of visiting you upon these salubrious shores, and I propose to enjoy it to the greatest extent possible."

"I'm disconsolate to discover that," he said, looking at her with a frown. "Is something the matter, Hodad?"

"No," she smiled. "Despite the fact that this may be my last visit, I bear not bad news, but good. It seems unlikely that I shall have a surfing roommate with whom to visit you again. I have applied to, and have been accepted, into the accelerated master's degree program at a university overlooking Lake Cayuga."

"Cornell!" Buddha beamed. He was so happy he dropped the flowery language. "Hodad, that rocks!"

"I rather think so," she grinned. "Much to my surprise, the financial arrangements appear such that I shall be able to afford to attend. I was rather surprised to be accepted into a program as prestigious with such favorable arrangements."

"I must inquire into the plans for your doctorate," he said, returning to form. "Will you be pursuing that there in Ithaca, too?"

'I'm still uncertain," Myleigh told him with a frown. "Much will depend upon the successful completion of the master's program, and financial arrangements are a concern as well. While I should much like to finish my education there, it may not prove possible, as the size of their doctoral program is quite limited, and I am led to believe that the possibility of acceptance is, therefore, limited. But the possession of a master's degree from that institution ought to make acceptance into doctoral programs elsewhere somewhat more simple."

"Well, that is good news," Buddha said with a grin, cranking the language down a couple notches. "If you do have problems getting in a doctoral program somewhere, let this fat old surfer dude know. He still has some connections here and there."

"I hope it shan't be necessary," Myleigh grinned. "Assuming I don't run afoul of any mishaps in the last quarter, I should be graduating Summa Cum Laude. That has to count for something."

"You do anything like that well at Cornell, you shouldn't have any problem," Buddha laughed. "I always knew you were the smart one of the bunch. Crystal, are you graduating this spring, too?"

"No, I've got an extra semester," she told him. "There were a couple classes I couldn't get into this year, and I'll have practice teaching, but I'll be done by next Christmas and have my teaching certificate. So, how's the surf been down here?"

"Lousy. Flat," he said. "There's a storm offshore, so it might perk up some tomorrow. It looks like we might have a few good days after that. You been doing much surfing?"

"We had a few good days last fall," Crystal reported. "Randy and I went over to check out Agawa Bay one weekend, and that was kind of fun. We had some nice waves this winter, but there was too much ice out there to even think about trying them out. But, Buddha, if it's going to be flat around here, I've got a question."

"Whether there's going to be surf somewhere else tomorrow? Probably not."

"No," Crystal said. "Look, when I graduate next winter, I'll be out of the cycle for teacher hiring, so I'm going to spend a few months just messing around. One of the things I'd like to do while I have the time is pick up a scuba certificate. Do you know of any good places around here I could check out while the surf's flat?"

"There's a guy up in Melbourne who isn't too bad," Buddha admitted. "But the diving around here isn't the greatest. Kind of murky inside, and there's not a lot offshore. I know a guy down in the Keys though, who's got great diving. He'd be the one I'd want to send you to."

"Sounds like a possibility," Crystal grinned. "I'm guessing it'd take a month or two, to get the certificate, and then use it some."

"Probably," Buddha said. "There are courses you can go through in a week, but you don't get any practical experience to speak of."

"I knew that," she said. "I want to avoid places like that. That's why I came to you to learn surfing, after all. Look, the other thing is that I don't have a lot of money to throw at this. I don't mind paying for the right instruction, but would you know if there was any place down there where I could pitch a tent, maybe get a part-time job?"

"You just can't get into a campground down there in the winter," Buddha told her. "They're booked solid months in advance, even worse than around here. They're expensive as hell, too. But my friend might know of something, maybe someone's back yard or that sort. Let me give him a call, maybe I can call in a favor. You're saying you want to go down there tomorrow and check it out, right?"

"Yeah, if the surf is lousy. I could put it off till later in the week, or next winter though, if I had to. I don't want to waste good surf."

"I can hear ya," Buddha told her. "You got any other plans for next winter?"

"Yeah," Crystal grinned. "I want to do a lot of walking, just to get in training. About this time next year, I'm going up to Springer Mountain. I'm gonna do the AT."

"That should kill a few months, sure enough," he grinned. "I always wanted to do that myself, but I couldn't get away long enough. I've done about a third of it in sections. Well, don't be a stranger here."

"I expect you'll see me from time to time," she laughed. "You might not know till I walk in the door, and I probably won't either."

"It'll be good to see you," he grinned again. "Randy, how have you been doing? Did you get much surfing in last summer?"

"Not as much as I would have liked," he admitted. "It's a long haul to anyplace where there's surf."

"That friend of yours you had me send that shortboard to," Buddha asked. "How'd he like it?"

"We only got out with it once," Randy said. "He seemed to like it pretty well, though. This guy is your age, maybe, and he hadn't surfed for a while, but he remembered how real quick. The first trip we went on, I let him try out my board and I had a hell of a time getting him off of it. We'll probably get out again. He's pretty cool."

"I take it you're not looking for a new board, this trip?"

"Well, no," Randy admitted. "What I would like to do is come up with a real beginner board, maybe for someone who's a little bigger than I am. Used would be fine, and pretty beat-up would be fine, too."

"No problem, I got plenty of those," Buddha said. "You got anyone in mind?"

"Not really," Randy said, with a little white lie as he thought of Nicole. "I had a couple people try out my board last summer and they couldn't stay on it. I'm thinking an egg for beginners to try."

"Well, I can set ya up," Buddha said. "You've got another year left, if I remember correctly. You planning on coming down here next year, too?"

"Don't know," Randy said. "That's a year off. I'm carrying a hell of a load this year, and a worse load next year. I expect that I wouldn't mind getting away for the sake of getting away, but I may not be able to take the time. We'll just have to see."

"Well, you're always welcome, too. Crystal, you're figuring on staying the night, then running down to the Keys tomorrow, right?"

"Yeah," she said. "If we can get an early start, maybe we can get down there and back in the same day."

"It'll be a long day, so you'll want to start early," he said. "You planning on going, too, Hodad, or do you want to stay here and talk old English gothics when we can't bore these two to death with them?"

"I think I shall stay here," she said brightly. "I'm getting rather tired of riding in the car, and while I've never seen the Keys, I confess that a good discussion of literature with you would be far more welcome to me. And, I've not had the chance to mention this to you before, but I did discover another obscure Ann Rutledge that I want to give to you."

"Sounds good to me," Buddha grinned. "I've got a couple new teas to try out too, and I want to tip you off on a couple people I know at Cornell. Lemme go in and call and see if this guy is going to be there tomorrow."

~~~~~

"It's a long way off," Crystal said, "But that looks like it ought to work out pretty good."

There was salt water on both sides of them as Randy drove the Dodge up US-1 over the bridge east of Long Key, heading out on the long haul back to Buddha and Giselle's. It was warm down, here, positively tropical, and it felt wonderful, if stifling, after the months of cold and snow in Marquette.

"Seemed like it to me," Randy agreed with a grin. "Boy, he sure brightened up when you mentioned Buddha."

"Yeah," Crystal nodded. "That sure opened the doors. You know, we should have brought the tent. We could have stayed there tonight. It's going to be way the hell and gone after dark before we get back."

"We didn't think about it," Randy shrugged. "And Myleigh would be worrying about us if we stayed."

"Yeah, but I don't think she'd have minded if she'd known," Crystal said. "After all, we could have called up and told her we were running late. But, it's probably for the best. The surf ought to be up tomorrow, and we are going to have some other chances when she won't be around."

"Yeah, I suppose," Randy said. No matter how you cut it, there weren't going to be many more chances to be with Crystal before she disappeared off into the distance somewhere like Myleigh was going to do in a few weeks. This time next year, life was going to seem pretty bleak. Maybe he could get together with Nicole this summer, and maybe they could come down here over Christmas, or even spring break if the break weeks coincided. But, it wouldn't be the same as it was with Crystal and Myleigh. He hated the thought of losing them.

"I think it'll be a pretty good deal for me," she said. "I'll be able to get some real diving experience."

"Yeah," Randy said brightly. "If you get that license, he said he might be able to use you on the dive boat, too."

"That's something I never even thought about," Crystal said. "But it's another new skill to learn, and I've got some time to work on it. When we get back, I'll have to check with the Coast Guard there in Marquette and see about requirements. There might even be a class I could slip in to the program next fall, too."

"It's a good deal," Randy said. "Sort of like the diving certificate, you never know when having a piece of paper like that might be useful."

"Yeah, I suppose," Crystal said, staring out the window at the sea. She was silent for a while before she asked, "Randy, do you think I'm doing the right thing?"

"About what?"

"You know what I've always said I want to do. You know, get some outdoor experience, and then try to teach at OLTA. You and Myleigh are the only ones I've ever told that to, and I don't think she believes me all the way."

"I don't know," Randy said thoughtfully. There was a slow-moving pickup ahead, and he pulled out to see if the two-lane road was clear. It was; he floored it, and said to Crystal as they pulled back into the right lane, "It's not a move I would make, but I'm not you. I'll admit, the thought of going out and bumming around for a few years does sound appealing, especially if I were in your shoes, but I think it would get old after a while. I think sooner or later, you're going to want to settle down somewhere, like Buddha. I guess he bummed around a bit before he settled down there and Giselle caught up with him."

"He'd already settled down before she came along," she commented. "And, I guess that just sort of happened, anyway. But, you know, ever since I had that confrontation with Mom and Dad back in January, I've been thinking about it. I've used that cover story I told your dad about Phys ed and outdoor recreation with my folks for so long that it's almost starting to make sense to me."

"It's been a good cover story," Randy agreed, looking around to check out the landscape, which was more than a little strange to his North Woods-trained eyes. "It sounds reasonable to me. It even gives you some excuse to not get hired easily. But they're going to figure out sooner or later that you have no intention of following through."

She nodded and looked out the window for a second before she replied. "I know that. They don't know about the AT, either, and by the time I get done with that, I'll probably be too late in the cycle for another year, which is sort of what I planned. Then they're going to think I'm just as self-centered and irresponsible as Nanci. I'm not sure how happy I am about that."

"It's something you're going to have to deal with, that's for sure," he agreed.

"Damn it, I hope she doesn't come to Northern," she said angrily. "You know why I wanted to get an apartment with you next year?"

"Yeah," he said smugly. "To not have to share me for a while."

"More than that," she admitted, and went on to explain. "I wanted to see if I could live like that. We haven't talked about getting married for a while. That's probably just as well, because I don't think I'm ready yet. But, I figured a few months of living with you, maybe the whole year, would tell me whether I'm cut out to be a wife, or what."

"Whether you're ready to settle down, right?" he said, understanding her perfectly. "I'd sort of like to think you are, but I don't think so, not yet."

"I know," she sighed. "I really want to do the AT hike, and there's a bunch of other things I'd like to do, whether it winds up with OLTA or not. You know, I really liked it there in Spearfish Lake back at Thanksgiving. There's some neat people there, and stuff I like to do. But, I wasn't thinking about getting married right away."

"Then what were you thinking?" he asked. The subject of living together the next fall hadn't come up often since it had first been mentioned the previous October, but he'd had it in the back of his mind, since it was obvious that it could lead to Crystal going back to Spearfish Lake with him when he graduated in a little over a year. It was going to be a long and busy year, but there were times it seemed like the only way he'd be able to wind up with Crystal any time soon, if at all. If he had to wait for her, a lot could happen, and now Nicole was involved in the list of possibilities. He and Nicole had sort of agreed to put off any thoughts of getting serious until she graduated, but since the ski trip after Christmas, that was laying there as more of a possibility than it had been before. And, Myleigh -- while there were some things about her that Randy liked more than Crystal, she was headed places that didn't include Spearfish Lake. Getting admitted to the master's program in Ithaca only underlined it.

"Mostly, I was thinking that at least I'd know what it was like to live like that," Crystal told him. "It'd give me an idea what I'd be facing if we decided to do it for real."

"Well, if it happens, it happens," Randy replied thoughtfully, his mind exploring the possibilities. "It's not an unappealing idea, but if it does come off I'm still going to have to be pounding the books even harder than this year."

"But, you won't have Myleigh for a distraction," Crystal protested. "Let's face it, that's an issue we have to work out, too, and it'd be a good way to figure it out."

"Myleigh?"

"I mean, no Myleigh. You've spent a lot of time with her. How would we get along if it's just you and me?"

"Yeah," he told her glumly. "I can't really give you an answer to that one. There are parts of both of you that I love dearly. And, frankly, there are parts of both of you that irritate me, too. Between the two of you, I've been able to make it work out, and it's been a lot of fun. You're right, that's a question we'd need to answer."

"You left yourself wide open on that," she laughed. "What about me irritates you?"

"I don't know that irritates is the right word," he said, searching for what he wanted to say. "I just don't think I can keep up with you and your enthusiasm. I mean, I know you like to be out surfing and snowboarding and kayaking and all the other activities. Like this trip today. I wouldn't mind picking up scuba or boat-handling skills sometime, but there's no way I could ever do it with the intensity that you do. Let's face it, Crystal; it's always going to have to be secondary for me. In the business I'm going into, there's going to be some slow times in the winter when I could take off, but it's going to be hell to be gone much in the summers. There's no way I can ever be anything much besides a weekend warrior, and you don't play that way."

"Well, yeah," she said. "But you know, the idea of the construction business bores me pretty good, too."

"So, we're different people," Randy said philosophically. "We have a lot in common, a lot that we share, and we like that stuff pretty well. But, there's things we don't, too. I suppose it's that way for everybody. That's why I think trying to live together is a good idea, just to see if we can make it fit. If we can, fine. If we can't, then we know. Next fall is probably our only chance to do it. I'd rather try it at Northern than I would in Spearfish Lake."

Crystal was silent for a moment. "I can understand that," she said. "It really wouldn't be a good idea for us to be living together around your parents like that, would it?"

"I'm less concerned about my parents than I am about doing it in a small town," he told her. "You've never lived in a small town like that, so you might not know how it works. Your mother does, and I think that's part of the reason she left, because some people just don't like living in a fishbowl like that. It's like Northern for rumors getting around, but worse. After Myleigh leaves I don't particularly care about the rumors at Northern, but I'm pretty well going to have to live in Spearfish Lake."

~~~~~

It was late when Crystal and Randy got back to discover that Buddha had been right; the surf was coming up. They could see it dimly in the moonlight, and it looked pretty good; from their camp they could hear the waves crashing on the shore over the roar of Myleigh's snoring in her tent.

"We could try it," Crystal suggested, and she wasn't talking about surfing. "It sounds like she's down for a while."

"Maybe we'd better not," Randy demurred, reading her perfectly. "Remember what happened last year."

"Yeah, I suppose," she snickered. "You're always the sensible one. Where's your sense of adventure?"

"Once bitten, and all that jazz," he laughed and told her. "See you in the morning."

"Yeah, well, I suppose," she said. "Spoilsport."

The truth, which he didn't want to admit to Crystal right at the moment, was that he wanted to be by himself for a bit. This afternoon, he and Crystal had gotten as close as they ever had to really talking about marriage, and it seemed to him that it was a subject that would come up again, especially if somehow it worked out that Nanci didn't come to Northern. He'd known the girls for over a year now, and they were as good friends as friends could be. But while he'd mentally kicked around the idea of marriage before, he'd only been lightly contemplating it, not seriously considering it. After this afternoon, it seemed like much more of a possibility, and he wanted to be sure of what he was doing before he let things get too much further. It was a big step, and he didn't dare be casual about it. About the only thing he could work out was that he needed to take his time thinking about it. If they could steer clear of the subject for the next couple months, he'd have all summer to leave the question simmering on the back burner of his mind, and things might seem clearer in the fall, without Myleigh around. Even if he and Crystal didn't get an apartment together, just Myleigh's absence might go a long way toward answering that question.



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