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


Book 1 of the Dawnwalker Cycle

a novel by
Wes Boyd
2002, 2008

Chapter 41:
September 1996

In later years, Randy would look back on his junior year at college as possibly the most idyllic period of his life. True, he'd worked hard, but he'd played hard too, and he'd had two of the best friends ever to do it with. By comparison, his senior year was dull, dreary, even depressing; he worked even harder, but didn't have anything like the amount of play to take the edge off of it.

To a degree, it was a self-fulfilling prophecy; from the moment he drove off the Cornell campus, he felt like the rest of his college career would consist of getting it over with. Even the prospect of having Crystal around for the first semester didn't help in his thoughts very much, so he drove westward with a distinct taste of foreboding. A few hours sleep on the seat of the pickup in back of a gas station in northern Lower Michigan didn't do much to take it away.

As planned, he was only in Spearfish Lake for a few minutes -- long enough to leave Joe's pickup, hop in the Dodge, and head for Marquette. Even the first sight of the big blue lake in months as he descended the long hill into town late on Sunday afternoon didn't help; it just made him feel bleaker through his road-induced exhaustion. At least Matt was already there and could help him unload, he thought.

It turned out that Crystal was with Matt when he went up to the room with the first load, so she could help, as well. Back when Randy and Myleigh visited Crystal in Ducktown, it was already clear that Crystal wouldn't be sliding into Northern at the last minute like she had the year before; she was going to have to help Nanci with loading and unloading. The two girls were going to have to jam the stuff for a semester into the Olds, and it meant that Crystal had to be there several days early to allow Nanci to attend some freshman orientations.

"How's Myleigh?" were her first words as she followed Randy and Matt down to the parking lot for a load of Randy's things.

"Pretty good," Randy said, without a lot of enthusiasm. "She acts like she's ready for it."

"Good," Crystal replied. "Did you meet her roomie?"

"Yeah, she seems OK," Randy said, a grin breaking out. "I think they'll be all right." He wanted badly to tell Crystal about the photos and Paula's reaction, since he knew she'd get a kick out of it. But now wasn't the time, with Matt hanging around, and with everyone's arms getting loaded with stuff to haul upstairs. "How are things around here?"

"Spaulding is a nuthouse," Crystal reported, grabbing an armload. "Freshies all over the damn place, running wild till all damn hours of the night. I'm about the only upperclassman on the floor, so everyone thinks I'm the RA. I get all sorts of questions and people bitching at me all the time."

"How's Nanci doing?" he asked as the three headed for the door, loaded down heavily.

"OK so far," she replied. "I really haven't seen her that much since we got here. There's a couple freshies from Iron Mountain in the other half of the suite. They talk Yooper about like Matt, here, and they've been running around with Nanci a lot, sniffing at every boy on campus when they're not hanging out, playing rap at full volume. I've got to head out early for student teaching. It's clear the hell over in Munising, five days a week. School starts at a quarter to eight, so I'm going to have to be gone by six-thirty. We'll see how good she is about dragging her butt out of bed for her first eight o'clock tomorrow."

"Yaaah, dat's a freshie for ya, eh?" Matt laughed. "Dere's a lot of new stuff ta do, an' dey godda do it all at once, yaaah? Guess we did it too, eh?"

"Not like that," Crystal grumped. "But, we'll talk about it over dinner, eh?"

"Gonna be a while before I can have dinner," Randy said as he turned into the familiar, half-assembled room he'd shared with Matt for the last three years. In a way, it seemed like coming home. "I've gotta go check in yet, make a run at the bookstore, and drop the board and the Mongoose off at the PEIF. I guess just dump this shit where you can, and I'll straighten it out later. So how was your summer, Matt?"

"'Bout da same, except I got engaged, yaah," Matt grinned.

"Holywa! How 'bout dat?" Randy smiled, slipping into Yooper. "Dat da girl you was goin' out wid last summer, eh? Da one dat goes ta Lake State, eh?"

"Yaaah, Janelle," Matt said. "We get married next spring, I tink. Guess I be makin' da Soo run some dis winter, yaaah?"

With three of them working on it, the unloading of the Dodge went pretty quickly, and soon it was empty, except for the stuff on the roof racks. "Guess I'd better go get the running around done, and then come back and deal with this mess," Randy commented. "I want to get stuff pulled together enough to get some decent sleep tonight. I've put in a shitload of miles over the last three days."

"I'll come with you," Crystal offered. "It'll be nice to see a friendly face for once."

"I tink I stay here," Matt said. "Maybe I watch da ball game on da TV. I stood in lines enough da last few days. Crystal, you drop by any time ya need ta, OK?"

"Yeah, thanks, Matt," she said. "I'll probably come over and help Randy unpack, anyway."

Out in the car, heading over to the ad building, Crystal told Randy, "Thank God Matt got here early. Boy, he's about the only friendly face left around here, now. We've been hanging out some just to get away from all the giggling."

"Bad, huh?" Randy grinned.

"Yaaah, you betcha," Crystal replied in a good imitation of a Yooper accent. "Randy, I lived in that room for four years, but it doesn't seem like mine anymore, and it hurts a little. I keep expecting to walk in and see Myleigh curled up in her big chair, reading a book or playing her harp. I walk in now, and there's all these damn stuffed animals, posters of rockers, and three freshies underfoot giggling about every boy on campus. So, I don't go there much. I was about half ready to go pitch my tent someplace and sleep where there's some peace."

"So how's Nanci doing?"

Crystal shook her head. "Like Nanci. I know Mom had a talk with her, and I did, too. Basically, I told her that there was a limit to how far she was going to go before she pissed me off. I told her I'd cut her some slack, but if she started to fuck up, I'd call home."

"Maybe that'll help," Randy offered. "You'll know more in a week. What happened with the cheerleading?"

She shook her head. "They wound up taking the first alternate, but not her. They might call on her midseason, or for winter cheer, but maybe not. She doesn't act like it bothers her much. I think she realizes not making the team gives her more time to be out sniffing around boys."

"Well, she figured that much out, anyway," he snorted.

"So, how's Myleigh, anyway?" Crystal asked, changing the subject. "Did she have a good summer?"

"Yeah, I think so," he told her. "All the playing with Jennifer helped her self-confidence a lot."

"She told me about that, some, down at Ducktown," Crystal said. "I sure would like to have seen that."

"You would have liked to have seen them at the Spearfish Lake Inn," Randy laughed, and explained the trial sessions as he began to look for a place to park the Dodge. "She'll never be the showman that Jennifer is, but our Myleigh is no shrinking violet anymore."

"So, what's this about her roomie? I thought you wanted to say something but didn't want to say it in front of Matt."

"Paula is OK," Randy said, noticing a car backing out in front of him, and waited for the opening. "Kind of a shrinking violet, like the way Myleigh used to be." He told the story about the photos Myleigh had on her desk, and Paula's reaction to them. "Myleigh is really the wild Amazon of that pair," he concluded.

"Boy, I'd liked to have been there to see that," she grinned. "You'd have had to see her four years ago to appreciate it."

"I got a pretty good idea," Randy said as he pulled into the parking spot.

"Damn, I'm going to miss her," Crystal said, shaking her head as she got out of the car. "It was really good to see you and her down in Ducktown back in July. I think she had a good time."

"She did," Randy grinned, "Even when you tried to cowabunga her."

"You warned her, didn't you?" she grinned.

"Who, moi?" Randy laughed at the memory, of Myleigh hanging on to the raft as Crystal bounced it off the rock, and at Crystal's frustration over not being able to say anything. "Remember, I was sitting there in the Mongoose, ready to snatch her from the jaws of destruction."

"Yeah, right," she said sarcastically. "It's going to be a long fall without her around. I'm looking forward to Christmas already. I can see this is going to be about the longest four months of my life. The student teaching is going to keep me busier than I want to be, plus I've got a small-boat and seamanship class. That's not a college thing; it's through the Coast Guard Auxiliary."

The line inside to check in proved to be short, and Randy had already completed much of the paperwork by mail well ahead of time. The bookstore was a madhouse, though, and he and Crystal staggered out under a huge load of expensive books. Randy took one look at the stack and decided that he wasn't going to be lacking for things to do this semester.

The next, and last stop, was at the PEIF. Crystal walked into the building with the Mongoose over her shoulder, while Randy carried his surfboard. As it turned out Gary was hanging around too, talking to a couple of freshmen, whose eyes predictably bugged out at the surfboard. "Been surfing much?" he asked.

"Naw," Randy said, as much for the benefit of the freshies as anyone. "I'm just looking forward to some winter storms. Maybe we can get some decent waves."

"Haven't been out since you and I took off from Ducktown and went out to the Outer Banks." Crystal agreed, standing casually in the middle of the room with the kayak on her shoulder.

"November's not that far off," Gary said. "Maybe the witch will give us a good ride or two."

"You really surf here?" one of the freshmen asked.

"Once in a while, when it gets wild," Randy said, enjoying doing a little leg-pulling. Somehow, it wasn't like last year, when 'The Legend of Crystal and Randy' had sort of irked him. Well, more than sort of. He'd discovered that he liked being a legend, at least a little bit.

"I've seen 'em surfing when there's icicles hanging from their wet suits," Gary grinned at the freshies. "Anyway, guys, these two are Crystal Chladek and Randy Clark. They're the paddling chair and co-chair. Randy'll be chair next spring." He turned back to Crystal and Randy. "They think they might want to come paddle with us this fall. Randy, I've been down in Ducktown all summer, like Crystal. You got any idea what's running up here?"

"Not much," Randy said. "I did some nosing around in the last month, and there just ain't diddly running, it's been so dry this summer. Even Piers Gorge has been shut down some, but they run it on the weekends. Unless we get a bunch of rain, we can scrub half the schedule right now, and most of the whitewater."

"I guess that doesn't surprise me," Gary nodded. "The streams looked pretty damn dry on the way up here."

"We gotta get together and talk about it sometime, like real soon," Crystal commented. "But Randy just blew in and is still unpacking. Let's maybe get together over here about seven Tuesday night. I've got a class tomorrow."

"Sounds good to me," Gary nodded.

Randy and Crystal headed back to the racks. The spot for the Mongoose was already saved with a little card stuck on the rack, but Randy was a little surprised to already see two surfboards on the rack underneath. "Gary's?" he asked Crystal as he put his board with them.

"Yeah," she said. "We went out midweeks some, when the Ocoee wasn't running. We went down to Buddha and Giselle's in early May and got him a board, and went out to the coast a few times over the summer. He won't be half bad if he gets some more experience."

"Well, I guess someone has got to keep the tradition alive," Randy grinned. "He turned out to be pretty OK."

"I thought so," she grinned.

"I've been thinking about it," Randy said as they headed for the door. "I'm going to be so busy with class work this fall, maybe I ought to give up the co-chair this fall, let him have it, and let him chair next spring. That'll give him a running start."

"Let's not make up our minds about that right now," she told him. "There's good reasons not to, too. There's still a lot of the old guard bitching about us and talking about the way Marty ran things in the good old days. By next fall, most of them will be gone, and he won't have to deal with them."

"It's nothing that has to be decided right now, anyway," Randy agreed. "There's not going to be that much whitewater this fall, but I'd just as soon have him leading the flatwater trips, like last year."

"I told him to expect that," she said, as they got into the Dodge.

Once they were out on the street and no one could overhear, Randy shook his head and said, "I guess I can't blame you for going out and surfing with Gary on the slow days, but if he's planning on surfing this fall, how's that going to bitch up our chances to get away by ourselves? We spent a lot of time last fall avoiding him."

"Shouldn't matter," Crystal grinned. "I think I've got him on our side, now. Look, Randy, we did more than just go surfing."

"Yeah?" he replied, half expecting what was coming but not really wanting to hear it, either.

"Well, we did get it on down at Nag's Head one weekend," Crystal admitted. "He wouldn't be half bad there, either, if he got some practice."

"Well, your call," he said noncommittally. He wasn't real happy with the notion, but at least Crystal was being up front about it, which is more than he'd been with her back when he'd spent the night with Nicole at Akinback Mountain on Christmas break. That made him feel really uncomfortable.

"Damn it, I kept thinking of you and Myleigh getting it on up there in Spearfish Lake all summer," she explained. "I guess I got horny. I wouldn't have done it if we were still planning on getting an apartment this fall. But I told him it could only be that one time, and if you heard about it, you'd be really pissed. He remembers you down on the Ocoee last summer, and he's a little scared of you."

"Like I said, your call," he said. "But does that mean that we're changing policy?"

"Yeah, a little, maybe," she said. "We don't have Myleigh around now, so we don't have to worry about any embarrassing stories getting back to her."

"No, you have Nanci, now."

"That's different," Crystal said. "A lot different. The biggest thing is that we don't run in the same circles. I still think we don't want to get it on while we're on campus, but it probably won't hurt her if she sees her big sister showing a little discretion."

"Well, that's probably true," he agreed.

"Plus, we have Gary on our side, now," she added. "If we tell him we're going off somewhere to be by ourselves, he'll understand, and help cover up if needed. It shouldn't even be any problem if we take him surfing with us, since he sort of knows about us and can't say anything about it. We talked it over down at Ducktown."

"Like I said, your call."

"You're not real happy, are you?"

"Not on the surface, anyway," he said quietly. "After all the driving, I'm too damn tired to think straight right now, but really, Crystal, I don't have any reason to be angry with you. I don't own you, and God knows, we've had enough experience with Myleigh to drive that home to me with a sledgehammer. You get right down to it, I have no room to complain."

"I'm glad you feel that way," she said. "I decided I had to tell you up front, just so we didn't get into any possession things."

Again, the image of Nicole naked in bed with him at Akinback Mountain filled his mind. At least Crystal was being more honest about it than he had been, and he wondered if he'd ever be able to tell her about that night. "Yeah," he said slowly, "I guess we can't, with only four months to go."

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