"A Spearfish Lake Story"
Candice and Brandy, with some help from John and Tiffany, had the house looking pretty much like a home by the time the housewarming party rolled around on Saturday evening. Having the pressure of the party sitting on them may have helped to keep them working when there might have been some tendency to let some things go.
The party had ballooned a bit from the original plan Ė there were eighteen adults and four kids who showed up. John had been concerned that the boys might be a little lost with all the adults around, so at the last minute had invited the Little League coach, Terry Curtis, his wife Wendy, and their two boys, Wyatt and Zeke, the same ages as Shay and Cody. The kids had seemed to be getting along pretty well during the evening practices all week long.
There was plenty of food to go around; once everyone had eaten, the four boys had asked if they could go get on their bikes and ride around, and John figured it was all right. It was too large of a party for one conversation, so people floated around a little bit.
The day before, Jennifer had stopped by Spearfish Lake Outfitters and had been taken by a Nimbus Solander, a long, fairly narrow fiberglass kayak. She had a Necky Tornak at home, a wider plastic boat, and sheíd felt she was looking for a boat with more performance, and sheíd then come along with the other three kayaking regulars for their evening paddle. Tiffany had decided that Candice and Brandy were ready for a little more performance than the recreational boats they had paddled the first couple nights out, so had put them in rental plastic Necky Looksha Sports, which were a good step up for them.
To no oneís surprise, Brandy was getting a strong stroke down, and was covering the water a lot more quickly. Tiffany was just about as strong, and had experience and a better stroke, so it was no trick to keep up with Brandy. "I think Iím starting to get the hang of it," Brandy commented.
"I know I was having trouble keeping up with you," Candice replied.
Candice was coming along well, Tiffany thought, and she really wasnít that much slower than Brandy, at this stage. "Youíre getting a better technique," Tiffany said, "Where Brandy just relies on strength."
"Iím just glad I could keep up with you hot rods," Jennifer said. She was out of practice, but had an even faster boat than Brandy and Candice, so that balanced things out.
"I can see where this is going to lead, real quick," Tiffany said. "Next thing you know, weíll be doing Ďrace ya to the pointí and then Ďrace ya across the lake.í" Tiffany figured that if Brandy kept at it, sheíd soon be outpacing everybody, including herself. There was a racing kayak stuck out in the barn in case something like that ever happened, and she was keeping her mouth shut about it.
"Well, the idea is to get some exercise," Brandy said.
"Itís also to get some relaxation," Candice smiled. "Iíve been getting enough exercise working on the house."
"If Brandy really wants some exercise," Tiffany smiled. "We can just put her in some fat little rec boat and the rest of us can get in glass boats. That way she can paddle like hell, and the rest of us can loaf along."
"You know, that might not be such a bad idea," Brandy admitted. "Itíd sort of level the playing field."
"Itís kind of funny," Candice said. "Who would have believed a week ago that the four of us would be standing around here talking kayaking?"
"Looks like I got some people hooked," Tiffany teased. "Next fall, Candice, youíll be wanting to try out dogsledding, and, well like they say, all roads lead to Nome."
"I donít know about dogsledding," Candice said. "I would like to try it some time, though."
"Tiffany, sometimes I think you set a bad example," Brandy smiled. "Youíll be corrupting this sweet mother. The next thing you know, youíll have her out in the middle of the Alaskan wilderness, shooting moose."
"Oh, you liked the chili, huh?" Tiffany replied.
"That was some of that moose from last year?" Jennifer asked.
"I ground some up," Tiffany said. "I need to get it used up, and a whole moose is a heck of a lot of meat."
After the women switched to discussing recipes John and Phil were talking kayaking, too. Phil and Joe had introduced John to kayaking earlier that afternoon, but theyíd started out a bit more ambitiously; with Joe in the Kap Farvel heíd bought earlier in the spring, while Phil tried out a new Nimbus Telkwa Sport. John had found that he enjoyed the experience, even though he had trouble keeping up with the two more experienced paddlers in a plastic rental boat Ė whenever they got out ahead a little, theyíd stop and roll the boats a few times for practice, and to kill time. "I donít know how you do that," he said.
"Give it a little time," Joe told him. "Get out a few times, and then Phil and I will get you out sometime and youíll be rolling in nothing flat."
"Iím going to have to get the boys out and have them give it a try, but do you think maybe theyíre still a little small?"
"Wouldnít want to start them much younger," Joe said. "And most of the rentals that Josh and Tiffany have arenít really good kidís boats if theyíre really trying to learn technique. Theyíre OK for just going out and paddling around, though."
"Thereís more to it than I thought," John replied. "But now that weíre living up here, I want to get out some, maybe do a tour or something."
"Josh and Tiffany have some pretty neat tours," Joe commented. "But maybe before you do something like that, you ought to be thinking about just doing an overnight or a long weekend, maybe just down at the other end of the lake."
"Yeah," Phil said. "Maybe put in down at the boat launch and paddle down to Woodlark Island and camp out. Maybe just paddle out of there for a day or two."
"A longer trip isnít in the cards right now, anyway," John replied. "Itís going to take a while just to get our feet under us, and I want to spend some time with the boys. Iíve been away too much. But, itís something to think about."
"I seem to recall you saying that one of the advantages of coming up to Spearfish Lake was that you could leave the boys with Grandma and Grandpa once in a while," Joe said. "After all, you need to get away and spend some time with friends, too."
"I suppose," John replied. "Iíll bounce it off Mom and Dad sometime."
Out on the front porch, Walt, Terry, Wendy, Josh and Mark were talking local sports. "I think the football team has got pretty good prospects," Terry said. "Theyíre going to have a bunch of returning lettermen, and some of the kids coming up arenít that bad."
"Iíd be happy with a five and four season," Walt said, his expectations not as high. "Maybe even a four and five. At least, something better than two and seven."
"They ought to do better than that," Curtis said. He had the reputation of being a serious sports nut, and his wife wasnít far behind him. "Too bad they canít do something about the basketball team. The girls program is just about dead, and the boys arenít far behind. The girls havenít won a game in over two years, and they donít have that much talent coming up."
"Well, I can understand why there arenít a lot of kids playing," Walt said. "Getting your butts kicked that often isnít going to do a lot for enthusiasm."
"If they had some decent coaching, that would help," Terry complained. "This joker that theyíve got coaching now couldnít motivate a mosquito to bite."
"Well, having the whole program shut down for two years didnít help much, either," Walt said.
"Yeah, who ever thought someone would file a lawsuit over no cheerleaders at girlsí games?" Terry snorted. "And then to shut the boysí program down as a result of it was the stupidest thing I ever heard."
"Well, at least they didnít shut the football program down," Walt commented. "And thatís what the gal was really bitching about."
Mark wasnít much of a high school sports fan, and the subject bored him a little. But then, a lot of things that some people really enjoyed tended to bore him a little, and a lot of things that he found interesting bored a lot of people, and after a while he and Josh found themselves talking about sled dogs. Mark didnít worry too much about breeding racing dogs anymore, since the culls from Josh and Tiffanyís teams were pretty much all he wanted. "You got any older dogs that would be able to do the Warsaw run for a year or two?" he asked.
"Iíve always got dogs like that. How many do you want? Iíve got dogs that have been to both Nome and Dawson that Iíll never race again, and Iíve got more than enough for the touring."
"No more than one or two," Mark said. "You been selling any?"
"A few," Josh replied, as they eased away from the two talking the politics of the local high school sports. "Itís still a little early. Give it another month or two, and some of the local mushers will be looking to beef up their teams. Iíve got a potentially good crop of rookies coming up, so I donít think Iím going to be hurting for the B-Team, and Iíve got all sorts of candidates for the A-Team. You looking for anything special?"
"I really need a leader or two that can maybe run in team. Like I said, older dogs would be fine."
"Tell you what," Josh said. "Iíve got Alco and Jimmy. Theyíre getting up there a little, but theyíve taken me to Nome three times and Dawson once. Those are special dogs, and I wouldnít want them to go to just anybody. Those two, Iíd be just as happy to see have good homes. Theyíre yours if you want them." Josh owed Mark a lot for his help over the years, and he knew Mark would take good care of them.
"Would they be up for Warsaw?"
"I would hope so, after doing the Quest last year," Josh said. "Canít guarantee anything, of course, but if they donít work out, you know where to come."
Out in the kitchen, Sarah, Kirsten, Jackie and Nancy McGuinness were talking about Mark and Jackieís recent trip. Just to get away for a couple weeks, theyíd gotten into their antique Cessna 140, Rocinante, and revisited some of the places that theyíd gone in the same plane almost thirty years before. Sadly, theyíd found things much changed, even in some places theyíd thought changeless.
"I think Twillingate was the worst," Jackie said. "Weíd had such a good time there, and weíd spent a couple of months there. Everybody we knew is gone, now, the Thibodouxs, the Cowgills, the Greenes. We shouldnít have waited so long to go back. We hadnít been there in over ten years, and we just barely recognized the place. Now all we could do was visit their graves, and leave."
"That was the place where you put in the phone system while you were on your honeymoon?" Kirsten asked.
"Yeah, we were there twice, in the spring and in the fall. In the fall we lived on this little shantyboat. It was our first home that wasnít a tent. There were some really neat people there. Theyíd even built onto the church, and we barely recognized it. Itís still not what you would call upscale, but, well, it just didnít seem real anymore."
"Things change over the years," Sarah observed. "I think back to what this town was like when I moved up here to be with Walt, back when you were little, and nothing much seems the same. Of course, when I go home, things are even worse."
"Sometimes I think itís better to not go back to places after youíve been gone too long," Nancy commented. "You donít want to mess up pleasant memories by the sight of realities."
" Youíd think Iíd have learned by now," Jackie said. "A couple of years ago we flew Rocinante out to Colorado, and we couldnít even find Waverly, and thatís where Jack Daniels ran me through my flying license. We finally figured it out. Thereís one of those big circle irrigators in the middle of it, now."
"Things do change," Kirsten agreed. "I mean, it seems like so long ago that Tiffany was a little girl and it was a big deal for her to take the dogsled to school that time. Sheís not the sweet, little girl she was then. I blinked, and I donít know what happened, now Henryís in college and working out of town, and it seems so empty in the house with just Mike and Susan and me. And, I know Susan will be gone in just a blink of an eye, and then what are we going to do. All of a sudden, weíre getting old."
Blake and Mike took a walk down to the beach. The two had always had a special relationship Ė Mike was the only one not related to Jennifer in Spearfish Lake who knew about Blakeís being gay, at least back when he was actively so. Occasionally, he was able to talk to Mike about things that he didnít dare discuss with anyone else. It was strange with Mike being a newspaperman, but Blake had long learned that Mike had an excellent knowledge of the difference between the things that you know and the things that you can print. Not that Blake had many of those to discuss with Mike anymore, but it was nice to have a friend he could go to for advice and depend on it staying confidential.
"Iím a little worried about Jennifer," he said. "Sheís always pretty healthy, but sheís been complaining about an upset stomach, for more than a month now, and all she does is take some Pepto. That seems to settle it down. But youíd expect it to go away after a while."
Mike was no doctor, but wasnít totally unaware of medical stuff. "Has she been barfing?"
"Not that I know of," Blake said. "She said that she thought it was just the Italian food all the time, but that never caused her any problem before. Iím afraid itís an ulcer."
"Has she been worrying a lot?"
" No, in fact, sheís been more cheerful the last few months than she has in the past. You may know that Wonderful Winter World may get cancelled. Thatís been a fairly important thing for her, but she says sheíll be glad to be rid of it and get on to other things."
"How have you two been getting along? Any problems?"
"If anything, weíve been closer than ever the last few months."
Mike shrugged. "Youíre beyond my competence as a medical person, but Iíd suggest that she go see a doctor."
"I think so, too. Itís probably nothing, but Iím just a little concerned. She can be a little, well, hard to figure out, sometimes."
"As long as Iíve known Jennifer, and thatís a lot longer than you, sheís been hard to figure out," Mike told him. "She does tend to hide things, even from herself. I think if I were you, Iíd lean on her to go see someone in scrubs."
Blake cocked his head. "I guess Iíll have to."
As the sun sank low in the sky, the boys came back from their bike ride, and soon after that the Curtises went home, followed by others, and the house was then a lot quieter. Phil and John quietly asked Josh and Tiffany and Jennifer and Blake to stick around for a few minutes. The boys went upstairs to play a computer game, and the four kayaker women and their husbands gathered on the screened-in front porch to watch the sun set.
It had been a good evening, and John and Candice hoped it would be a sign of things to come. "OK, Phil," she said once everyone was settled, "What did you have on your mind?"
"John and I were talking earlier," Phil said. "We were kicking the idea around of going down to the other end of the lake, paddling out to Woodlark Island and camping out for a couple days, and just paddling around. Iím up for it, and I wonder if anyone else is."
"Sounds interesting," Jennifer said. "We were talking about something like that, too. I think it would be fun."
"When were you thinking about?" Tiffany asked.
"I got a look at the calendar," John said. "July Fourth is a Tuesday, so weíll be closed Monday. Thatíd give us a four-day hole, and we wouldnít even have to rush out of here on Friday night."
"Weíd want to be back here for the night of the Fourth," Blake said. "Youíve got pretty close to a ringside seat here for the fireworks, so expect to get visited. Itíll be a big charge for the boys."
"They have fireworks?" Candice asked.
"Yep, they launch them just up the beach a ways. Thereís usually a heck of a crowd here," Tiffany said. "Iíve got a tour leaving the following Friday, but the weekend of the Fourth would be fine for me."
"Weíd want to be back by then, anyway," Josh agreed. "We wonít be running Monday and Tuesday, but Iíll have to shuffle things around for getting ready for watching the store while Tiffanyís gone, so I may have to run first thing Wednesday."
"How would we handle the store?" Tiffany asked. "Iíd even figured on being open Sunday and Monday. Thatís a damn good sales weekend."
"Joe volunteered," Phil said. "In fact, he suggested that you two need to get away with some friends for once."
"If thatís the case, Iím sold," Tiffany said. "Count me in for the weekend. Itíd be nice to just get out, paddle around lazily, get a little sun, maybe have a campfire, and not have to feed dogs or hear the damn phone ring or hear customers whine."
"Yeah, I suppose we could have Eric and your dad handle the feeding again," Josh said. "Mark might even be willing to pitch in. I offered to give him Alco and Jimmy tonight, so he feels a little grateful."
"Letís see, howís everybody fixed for boats and stuff?" She looked around. "Well, Blake, youíve got your Tesla. Phil, if you buy that Telkwa Sport, and Jennifer, if you get the Solander, I think we can come up with fiberglass for everybody and not have to crack into the new boats, but Iíll have to check the reservations, first, to be sure. For camping equipment, if anyone doesnít have anything like tents or sleeping bags, I can find something from the touring gear."
"Tiffany, why donít you and I work out the food?" Blake suggested. "Between us, we ought to be able to come up with some great eating."
"Sure," she said. "Is that all right with everybody? Blake and I cook for everybody, and someone else does the dishes?"
"Moose steaks, I presume," Brandy said.
"Well, we can do them if you want," Tiffany said. "But, letís see what Blake and I come up with before we commit to that. Iím frankly getting a little tired of moose."
There are a lot of issues that get involved in moving, a lot of little arrangements that have to be made, and some of them often donít get dealt with until a need arises.
When Cody came down with an earache the day after the housewarming, Candice didnít think too much of it. She gave him a painkiller and decongestants, but it was worse the next day. One of the issues she hadnít gotten to yet was finding a doctor.
That should be simple enough, she thought; she called Sarah and asked for a suggestion.
"Weíve gone to Dr. Luce for years," Sarah told her. "But heís getting set to retire, and heís not taking new patients. But, Iíve heard a number of people say that they like this Dr. Metarie who moved up here a few years ago. Real good with kids, they say."
"Thanks," Candice replied. "Iíll give him a try."
By now, it was late, but Cody was hurting, so she called and got an appointment for the next morning.
When she checked in at the office the next morning, she was given a number of forms to fill out, and the thought crossed her mind that they were no longer covered with health insurance; that was something that was going to have to get worked out. She wondered about it a bit as she filled out the forms, and Cody leafed through a magazine. There were a number of parents with children of various ages waiting, and that seemed to offer some degree of recommendation about this doctor to her.
She had just finished handing the forms back to the receptionist when Jennifer walked in. "Hi, Candice," she said. "What brings you here?"
Candice explained about Codyís earache. "I havenít met the doctor," she continued.
"Heís been my doctor ever since Dr. Brege retired," Jennifer said. "That wasnít long after Blake and I moved back to Spearfish Lake. I like him a lot."
"What brings you here?"
"Iíve been having some upset stomachs, and Blake was worrying about me," Jennifer said, "So I came in yesterday for some tests, but I donít think itís anything. The results are supposed to be back, now, so itíll put his mind at rest. Sorry I missed kayaking last night, but Blake and I got to working on a new piece, and time just flew by. Are you going out tonight?"
"Same time, same station," Candice said. "We tried putting Brandy in a rec boat last night, while Tiffany and I paddled a couple of nice íglass boats. That seemed to work pretty well. Brandy is really getting into it."
"She sees it as something else to do for a work out. If itís a social occasion, so much the better, for her. She can get a little serious about being in shape," Jennifer smiled. "Once she gets her mind made up to do something, it gets done."
"Sheís good people, and I like her," Candice agreed. "But she does tend to be a little, uh, focused, at times."
"I think you mean Ďobsessed,í" Jennifer smiled again. "Thatís Brandy. Sheís always been like that. I think itíll be good for her to get out on that kayak trip with us next month and just relax a bit."
"Iím looking forward to it," Candice admitted. "Iíve never been much of a camping-out person, but this sounds like fun. I just donít know where to begin on what to take, and like that."
"Weíve done it a few times," Jennifer said. "Never a real long trip, although that would be fun. If you work with Tiffany, sheíll be able to tell you what to pack, but in general, take as little as you can manage."
"Are you going to buy that new boat Tiffany was talking about?"
"Maybe," Jennifer said. "I want to try a couple of others they have before I have to make up my mind."
The nurse walked out of the hall leading to the examining rooms. "Cody Archer?" she asked.
"Thatís us," Candice said. "Well, Jennifer, see you tonight, I guess."
"Most likely," Jennifer agreed.
Candice and Cody followed the nurse back to the examining room and were left there. She was still a little amazed at Jennifer, and that she was fast becoming a friend of hers. She was the only relatively famous person that sheíd ever gotten to know at all well, yet she was just like anyone else Ė natural and friendly, a little shy, but personable. It was hard to believe that she was Brandyís sister. There just wasnít much family resemblance there. It was sometimes hard to imagine her being a famous performer; it was easier to imagine her working in a bank.
She was still thinking about Jennifer when the door opened, and the doctor walked in. He was wearing scrubs, a big man, going bald, with a full red beard. There was something familiar about him . . .
The big, bruising biker wearing leathers who had pulled up on a Harley at Phil and Brandyís wedding and had battled Blake on the guitar, song for song and beer for beer all evening. His wife was that rough-looking biker chick with the tattoos whoíd proved to be a well-known artist. Oh, and the mayor of Spearfish Lake, too! Heíd looked like heíd be at home with a busted pool cue in his hand, but never in her life would she have imagined him here!
"Y-y-youíre Doctor Metarie?" she gasped.
"They call me that, sometimes," he smiled. "Weíve met . . . oh, yeah, at Phil and Brandyís wedding. You were the only one there in a skirt."
"But, I thought . . . "
"That I was someone who could play the guitar and ride Harleys?"
"Well, I do that, too. It gets me away from the troubles of the office. Oh, by the way, we donít use my nickname around here, but you can call me Gene, if ĎDoctor Metarieí is too formal for you. Now, whatís the problem today?"
One of the reasons that Jennifer liked Gene Metarie was the fact that he fully understood living in two different personas. He understood the difference between Jennifer Evachevski and Jenny Easton, because he fully understood the difference between being Dr. Metarie and Shovelhead, the biker. Though in other times and places they might call each other ĎJennyí and ĎShovelheadí Ė his name taken from the type of engine on his well-restored antique Harley-Davidson Ė just sitting in his private office right now, they were ĎJenniferí and ĎGeneí to each other.
"So, Gene, did the test results get back?" she asked nonchalantly.
"They did," he smiled. "They didnít really show anything abnormal."
"Thatís a relief," she said.
"What they did show," he chuckled, "Was that about the first of the year, your mother can quit bugging you about grandchildren."
"What does . . . " She started to say, and stopped. Did he mean what she thought he meant? " . . . Iím pregnant?"
"Two months at a guess, maybe a little more," he said.
The world fell in on her. This was something sheíd never considered, and it flabbergasted her." How did that happen?" she asked.
"The usual way, I suspect," he smiled. "You see, thereís this little boy bee and this little girl bee . . . didnít you suspect something?"
"Never crossed my mind," she told him, thinking rapidly. It was the last thing in the world sheíd expected. This was going to change things Ė a lot of things Ė and there were all sorts of ramifications that needed to be considered.
"Iím a little surprised that you didnít notice missing a period," he commented.
"Theyíve always been irregular, and often so light that I might not even notice them," she told him. "Like I said, it never crossed my mind. Iíve thought for years that I was probably infertile," she went on, resolving to not mention that until recently, she hadnít had sex for over a decade. Now that those days were apparently ended, she now realized she should have taken some precautions, but that thought had never entered her mind, either.
"Well, guess what?" he smiled. "Look, I said it was nothing abnormal, and it isnít. It happens to millions of women every year. Even your morning sickness being a slightly upset stomach isnít at all abnormal, although from the number of women you hear whining about the hours they spend on their knees in the bathroom, worshipping the porcelain princess, you might think it is. Your case is a little special, though, since youíre older than most women to have a first child. Youíre what? Thirty-seven?"
"Thirty-eight," she admitted.
"Well, your age is a concern, but a lot of women have babies at that age."
"I held Kirsten McMahonís hand when she had Susan, and she was thirty-six then," she said.
"Well, good, at least you know something of that end of the process," he replied. "The main concern I have is that sometimes first pregnancies in older women arenít real successful, and sometimes they donít produce the healthiest of babies. Fortunately, today we can usually find that out ahead of time, and, if the child warrants it, the pregnancy can be terminated. So, we need to be running those tests as soon as possible, and we canít run them here. Iíll have to send you down to Camden for that. Is that going to be a problem?
"No, I can go any time," she said. "I havenít got anything scheduled for a while."
"You may want to think about not performing in a few months," he said. "A six- or eight-months-pregnant Jenny Easton is not the Jenny Easton that most of your fans think about," he said with a grin. "Iíve got to admit, I canít advise you on that, though."
She could see that it was going to require some thought. But, there were a lot of other things that were going to require consideration, too. A life that had become very well ordered, very placid . . . well, now it wasnít. It would take some getting used to. "You might have a point," she said.
"Now, a lot of doctors seem to think that any pregnancy in an older woman is risky, and they advocate taking it very easy, even continual bed rest. I think most of it is horse manure. Youíre healthy, active and in good shape, and I think a woman having a baby while sheís healthy, active and in good shape is better for her, so I donít see any real reason you canít stay pretty much normally active. We may want to reconsider that a little after we see the results of the tests, but weíll just have to see."
"Iíve heard about that," she said.
"There is one good thing, though Ė if you want, we can tell if youíre going to have a little boy or a little girl. That helps with the decorating and baby showers, Iím told."
"I . . . uh, I donít know if I want to know."
"Some women donít want to," he said. "But, itís your choice. Like I said, letís get you down to Camden as soon as you can get on the schedule. For today, Iím going to give you some of the normal having-a-healthy-baby literature that you can go over and get some idea of what youíre facing. As soon as we know when we can get you on the schedule down there, weíll set up an appointment to review the results and try to answer any questions you might have."
"This is really a surprise," she said. "I know Iím going to have questions I havenít ever even thought existed."
"Iím sure you will," he said. "Donít feel afraid to ask. And offer Blake my congratulations."