Spearfish Lake Tales
Contemporary Mainstream Books and Serials Online
Book 1 of the Dawnwalker Cycle
A couple days later, the Clarks invited Nicole over for dinner just to welcome her back. They were sitting around the living room, and Nicole was telling Randy's dad and mom stories about OLTA and Mosquito Valley when the phone rang. Linda got up to answer it. In a moment, she said in a loud voice, "Randy! Nicole! It's Crystal!"
There were several phones in the Clark residence, and there was a mad musical-chairs scramble in the next few seconds as everyone including Ryan, dove for one. "Hi Crystal," Randy said as soon as he got to the phone out on the porch. "Nicole and my folks are on the line, and I think I can speak for them and Myleigh and your mom in asking, where the hell have you been?"
"At sea," he could hear her laugh. "Not a lot of phones there."
"Crystal, you just plain disappeared off the face of the earth back last spring. The last anyone knew you were in Seattle, and we all pretty much thought you'd gone salmon fishing until we got your card from Hawaii."
"Long story," she laughed. "I really did want to do the John Muir Trail, but I wanted to see Chuck, too. You know, the guy with the Glacier Bay. But, by the time I got to Seattle, he'd already left for Alaska."
She continued with the story -- she'd talked to Edith, Chuck's wife, found out that Chuck had been able to come up with a new deckhand who looked pretty good, so at least she didn't have to worry about him. Feeling at a loss about what to do next, she drove south to Yosemite, but the higher elevations were still pretty snowed up. "I thought about heading back to Spearfish Lake, but decided that I wanted to do something around the sea since I'd seen enough mountains to hold me," she said. "So, I drove on down to LA, I guess with the idea of doing some surfing."
Los Angeles was a new experience, and she poked around a bit. One day, she happened to drive into Marina Del Rey, and thought she'd stop in and check it out -- and there, she discovered a bulletin board, and on it was a notice from a couple looking for a crewman to sail to Hawaii. She didn't know anything about sailing, except for a week's course in tiny boats on an inland lake at an Adventure Camp -- but her six-pack license and dive- and salmon-boat experience combined with the couple's urgent desire for crew for an immediate trip made the decision quick. Within an hour, she'd parked the Dodge in the long-term parking lot, gathered some gear, and was headed out of the harbor. Things had happened so quickly that she'd never even thought about calling or writing a note.
"Anyway, I didn't find out until it was too late that Greg and Susie's boat, the Andromeda, is the slowest goddamn thing on the face of the planet," she told the people in Spearfish Lake. "It's a Tahiti ketch, thirty-two feet, and damn near as wide. Nice and stable, I never had it anywhere near as bad as I had it crossing Queen Charlotte on the Glacier Bay, but God, is it slow! We averaged a little over three knots, and it took us over a month to get to Hawaii. We got there around Memorial Day. They stayed with friends, and I pretty much stayed on the boat, except when I went out bumming around or surfing. The surf's pretty good, but they say it's better in the winter. I wrote you that card right after I got there, and I wrote a nice long letter to you."
"We never got a letter."
"I guess I sorta forgot to mail it," she said sheepishly. "I found it in my gear about a thousand miles out on the way back. Anyway, we left about the end of June. Getting back to LA from Hawaii involves going to weather, and a fat old sow like the Andromeda doesn't go to weather worth a damn. We had to head northwest about a thousand miles until we caught the westerlies and could turn east for LA. That got a little tiring, beam seas crashing on board every inch of the way for about two weeks, and everything got pretty wet. Well, anyway, we got to coming back, and one morning I was on watch and I heard this 'pow' and watched the mast start to bend, and I saw that we'd broken the starboard upper spreader. Well, you can bet I gybed over damn quick to take the strain off the mast. I wound up having to climb the mast with the boat rolling like hell, and dinked around in midair in a bosun's chair until I could jury rig a repair. It wasn't too good, but it was the best I could do with what we had, and we didn't dare carry more than half sail after that unless the wind was really slow. Randy, the person who says the world is getting to be a small place never sailed a Tahiti ketch 3500 miles from Hawaii to LA at an average speed of about two and a half knots. We were down to eating the emergency rations by the time we made it in."
"Well, you did your ocean crossing, and you surfed in Hawaii," he said with a grin. Count on Crystal to walk into an adventure! "There's those items off your list."
"I wouldn't mind doing an ocean crossing again," she laughed. "But if I do, I want to do it in a boat that will get out of its own way."
"Did you call your mother and tell her?"
"No, Randy, we haven't been in an hour. Greg, Susie, and I are in this restaurant, and we've got real food on order, but I figured I'd better call. It's what, seven there now?"
"About that," he said, not looking at his watch.
"It'd be too late to call her, anyway. I'll try in the morning. Would you pass the word on to Myleigh, though?"
"Sure will. Nicole and I are going to go down and pick her up the day after tomorrow."
"Wow, has summer gone that fast? How'd she like England?"
"Loved it. She's had what she calls 'a wonderful, magnificent adventure.' Of course what she calls an adventure, you and I would probably call boring as hell."
"The last month has been proof that adventures can be boring as hell," Crystal laughed. "Say hello to her for me, and tell her I'll be seeing her before too long."
"What's next?" he asked.
"I'm probably going to hang around here another day or two, and help Greg and Susie with a couple things on the boat. Then, I think I'm going to head to Colorado, and maybe Arizona. I want to get in some desert and some mountains for a while, just to get away from the ocean."
"I think I understand," he grinned. "Any idea how long?"
"Dunno," she said. "Maybe a month, maybe less. I am kinda lookin' forward to seein' you guys."
"Well, try and stay in a little better touch. You had us all worried sick."
"I'll try, Randy. I really will. Hey, here comes the gal with the steaks! Real food! I gotta run! Love ya all!"
"Take care, Crystal," he said, and after a second heard the phone go dead.
Randy set the porch phone back on its hook, and looked out over the lake. Good grief, that girl! To hear her tell the story, it all sounded perfectly innocent and everything had worked out all right, but that didn't mean that everyone on the Crystal News Network hadn't been worried sick. He decided he'd better go in and bat out an e-mail to Karin; something might come up and Crystal might not call. He walked back in the living room, to find the computer on and Nicole typing furiously -- she'd wound up at the phone by the computer. "I think I got all of it on the fly after she got on the boat," she said. "And, I think I can remember the first part, but I'd better go back and clean up my typing. You want to check this over?"
"Sure," he said, impressed at her quick thinking. "Let's send a copy to Karin."
"That's what I had in mind," she laughed. "Crystal will probably get hooked up with, oh, hell, who knows what, a scuba diving trip to Greenland or a hiking trip to the South Pole and forget to call her."
"She does tend to do things like that at the spur of the moment and not tell anyone," he shook his head, remembering her adventure on the Glacier Bay last fall. "Better make a hard copy for Myleigh. We can give it to her the day after tomorrow."
"Figured that, too. So when do you think we'll see her again? She said a month, so that's probably the least likely," she said cynically, but with a grin on her face.
"I gotta go along with that," Randy laughed. "I'll go long," he said. "Maybe Thanksgiving."
"Hey, that's not fair," Nicole laughed with him. "I was gonna choose that. If you're gonna take that, I'll take, oh, November first. It'll be pretty cold in the mountains by then."
"No," Linda snickered, "I think she'll be back sooner. I'll take two weeks."
"I got you all beat," Ryan said from the stairwell. He'd been the loser at musical phones, and had to use the one upstairs. "I think I've learned that there's no way of telling. I'm just guessing that she'll be here before next September thirty-first."
Randy stared at him for a moment, ran "Thirty days has September" through his mind, and said, "What?"
"With Crystal, there's absolutely no way of telling," he laughed. "That way I'm safe."
"So how was England?" Randy asked as he and Nicole took Myleigh in their arms for a group hug in the baggage claim area of the Camden airport a couple days after Crystal's phone call.
"Wonderful," she gushed. "I had the most magnificent experience, to be able to walk places the Bard had walked, seen things that Jane Austen had seen, to walk into the Bronte's cottage. I cannot tell you how thrilling that was. Have you heard from Crystal, perchance?"
"Oh, yes," Randy grinned. "She had an adventure, too. She sailed to Hawaii and back on a yacht. I won't tell you the details now, but Nicole typed up a transcript of her phone call. It's out in the car."
A sedan does have its uses, Randy thought as he wheeled his mother's Chrysler up the highway toward Spearfish Lake, with Nicole in the back, Myleigh in the right seat still gushing stories about England, some of them only partially comprehensible to anyone not an English lit major. He'd borrowed the car, mostly because the Dakota was dirty and full of construction gear that was too much trouble to clean out for a quick trip. He knew he'd have to clean it out for taking Myleigh back to Athens in a few days, but since the Chrysler was available, why not enjoy it?
They were most of the way back to Spearfish Lake before Myleigh wound down a little. "I hate to be practical," Randy said. "But we'd better get our wires straight on getting you back to Athens. Any time from Thursday through Sunday, as I recall from last spring, right? I'd just as soon we held off till Saturday, otherwise I'd have to take off work."
"That's something I wished to talk to you about," she said. "Randy, you have been very good about driving me all over the countryside to school the last few years, but since I have been without a vehicle, it has been necessary."
"No problem," he said. "I don't mind. There have been some good times doing it."
"Nevertheless, I feel I have put you out," she said. "What's more important, this summer I think I have learned to value my independence a bit. I have thought about it in detail the last few months. I presume Jennifer's quarterly check from June is in my accumulated mail?"
"Yeah, it showed up from the accountant a couple weeks ago," he told her. "I figured there was no point in sending it to England, since it might not catch up with you."
"Well, if it is as large as I expect, would you be willing to help me acquire a vehicle that I might drive back to Athens on my own? Having a vehicle will give me the option to get away from Olivia when she is in one of her ranting moods, and I find that an appealing idea."
"No reason why not," Randy said. "But I'm still going to have to drive down there if you want the chair."
"Oh, yes," Myleigh said, abashed. "I suppose that is a concern. Well, at that, I presume it would be useful to have a beast of burden to help me unload."
"Well, not absolutely necessary," Randy grinned, in a mood to tease. "There are ways around it. Maybe what we ought to do is get you something like Matt used to drive."
"What?" she frowned, a little confused.
"I can just visualize it," he laughed, and explained for Nicole's sake. "The grad student dorm parking lot, and a great, big, snortin' four-wheel drive pickup pulls in, jacked up to the point of clearance problems, a roll bar, lights all over the place, flames painted around the wheel wells, a unicorn prancing on the side, country music booming from the speakers. The door opens, and out of it hops the driver, our dear, sweet little Myleigh."
"Oh, dear," she laughed, and Nicole laughed from the back seat with them. "Oh, dear," she said again. "Cynthia would be so jealous it might be dangerous. It is quite a vision, but I think not. A small sedan would do nicely, I think. Also, it would allow me to come up here as necessary, without you having to do a round trip twice and without Olivia having reason to complain. I think it makes a good deal of sense."
"I do, too, if you think you can afford it, what with the rest of your budget," he said. "We can look around and find something. By the way, speaking of Matt, he and Janelle want to have us to dinner while you're up here."
"Matt? What's he doing in Spearfish Lake? And, who is Janelle?"
"Matt's working at the Record-Herald," Randy reported. "He married Janelle a year ago last spring. I don't think you ever met her, she went to Lake State."
"Why, certainly, it would be wonderful to see him again."
"They're pretty neat people," Nicole reported from in back. "That is, if you can understand them."
Myleigh turned around to look at her. "Holywa, ya mean ya can't unnerstan' dat Yooper talk, eh?" she laughed. "Ya go ta Nordern an' ya hear dat all over da place, yaah."
"Oh, God, not you, too," Nicole said shaking her head. "Randy talked nothing but Yooper when we were with them the other night, and I could only understand about half of what was going on."
"Ya go ta Nordern and ya learn dat talk, eh?" Myleigh laughed. "Holywa, dat's what dey mean dat ya get a qualidy edducatin' at Nordern, yaaah, you betcha."
A few days later, Randy drove the Dakota out of the graduate student dorm parking lot in Athens, and could see Myleigh standing next to her car waving goodbye. Myleigh had fallen in love with the sporty little red Dodge Neon, and his mechanic friend from high school had gone through it and pronounced it sound, so the deal had been quickly made. Randy knew that it had represented a big milestone in Myleigh's life, another step toward independence and maturity, and he was happy to see it -- and, he knew, it might mean that he'd be seeing her more often, or it might not.
Still, it was sad to be driving away from her again; he'd done that too many times in the last two years. Though Myleigh was still a very close friend, he somehow knew in his gut that the chance was there that all too soon she'd be off somewhere without him, and it could be years before he saw her again, if ever -- and with her doctorate looming next summer, that point was clearly in view. With the knowledge that he would soon be watching as Nicole got in her car and headed off to Mosquito Valley for the fall, he felt a pang of loneliness, and reached over to put his free hand on her leg, just to make sure she was still with him.
It was going to be a lonely fall again, he knew, even worse than last year when Nicole had been home frequently, or he had taken day trips to see her down at Weatherford. This year, he didn't even have the EMT classes to keep him busy -- sections four and five weren't offered in the fall. At least he'd have Matt and Janelle around so he could polish up his Yoopertalk, but it wasn't the same thing.
Nicole slid over next to him on the seat of the Dakota, and he put his arm around her. "I'm going to miss her, and I'm going to miss you," she said.
"You know, after the last year or so, I think I've learned my lesson," he said, a little lightly. "Sometime in the next year, I've got to stop off at the hardware store and pick up some chain and padlocks."
"Why's that?" she said, feeling a tease coming on.
"The last year and a half, it seems like all I've been doing is watching the three of you head out on adventures of one kind or another, while all I get to do is stay home and work. Nicole, when you get off the trail next year, I want to keep you around for a while even if I have to chain you down."
"Shouldn't be necessary," Nicole grinned. "You've heard the story of Crystal's mom and her one big adventure, haven't you?"
"Yeah, long ago," Randy said, remembering Crystal telling it in the car on the way to Buddha and Giselle's that first trip.
"Randy, while I do want to do the trail next year, the more I think about it, the more I think I want it to be my one big adventure."
"Doesn't have to be," he said. "You know what happened to Karin, after all. But, I'd really like you to hold off a while before the next one."
"So you can go with me?"