"A Spearfish Lake Story"
It was the first time since Christmas that theyíd had the chance to make love without anyone around who could hear, and that made it truly special. After the squealing and moaning died out, and they were at least temporarily sated, they lay arm and arm in the shade of the trees near their tent, the gentle breeze cooling their sweating bodies. "Weíve got to do that more often," Candice whispered.
"Give me a few minutes," John whispered in her ear. "We should have enough time for one more round before they come back."
"I mean, weíve got to come out here by ourselves some time, just the two of us," she smiled. "That way, we wouldnít have to be rushed. I can think of all sorts of neat things we could do if we had the time."
"I can, too," he smiled. "I was a little reluctant to leave the boys for the weekend, but this makes up for it."
"Ummmm-hmmm," she murmured with an arm around him, feeling herself being touched in a place that she liked John to touch her. "Itíd be neat to be able to just lay around bare-assed out here and enjoy it." A stray thought crossed her mind. "You remember Brandy talking about running around bare-assed all the time? I didnít want to ask in front of everyone, but do you know what thatís all about?"
"Yeah," John said. "My love, I thought you knew. Weíve fallen in with a bunch of former nudists."
"What??" Candice said, surprised.
"I figured youíd heard about the nudist club out north of the lake," John replied. "Didnít you?"
"Well, I guess I did, but I didnít associate it with anyone we knew." The thought was a little hard for her to grasp. "Do you mean . . .?
"I donít think any of them are active, from the sound of it," John said. "Itís not something thatís often talked about in Spearfish Lake anymore, but itís something that some people are careful about. You remember back at Phil and Brandyís wedding, you made some comment like Brandyís folks and us were the only normal people at the wedding, and I never got the chance to respond other than to say something like ĎYou might be surprised?í"
"Well, yes. I wondered what you meant about that."
John smiled. "Brandy and Jenniferís grandparents were the ones who founded the place. Their mom and dad still run it, the last I heard. I was breaking up when you said that line about us being the only normal people, but I didnít have the chance to explain, and I couldnít have explained it there, anyway. I know Tiffanyís mom and dad used to be members out there, and you remember that sexed-up little blonde that Josh ran around with back when we were first going together?"
"Sure, Amy. She had a great body and didnít care who knew it."
"Her parents and grandparents go as far back at the place as Brandy and Jenniferís, so Iíd guess that Josh has been out there, too, but I never asked."
"Did you ever go out there?" she asked accusingly.
"No, I was never invited," he said. "Itís not what you think. Most of the people out there are quite straight, very conservative personally, except for this one little thing they happen to enjoy, or so Iím told, and knowing some people who do go out there, I believe it. Amyís grandfather was pastor at one of the big, conservative churches down in Camden for years, and I always wondered how he got away with it. But if you wonder why some of our friends donít seem to mind wearing swimsuits that leave them next to naked, well, itís because they were brought up without a lot of body modesty."
"Well, I never . . . I would never have believed that."
"Donít let it bother you," he counseled. "Most of them, itís how they were brought up."
"Iíll try not to," she promised. "Itís just hard to believe, after all. Just like itís hard to believe that Dr. Metarie and Shovelhead are the same person. Or, Jennifer and Jenny Easton are the same person."
"It is," John admitted. "But I think thatís why weíre getting to be pretty good friends with Jennifer and Blake, because we can overlook the difference. Now, weíve still got a little time. Do you want to talk about it, or are you in the mood for something else?"
"Something else," she smiled, reaching down to touch him in a place that she knew he liked to be touched, and soon there was no need for talking, and the sounds that they made carried all the communication that was needed.
It was just as well that they hurried; by the time they were again out of breath, sweaty and sated, Candice could look up and see the flash of paddle blades in the distance, coming around the point of Woodlark Island, perhaps a half mile away. Quickly, they squirmed back into their swimsuits, a little sorry that there wasnít time for more.
"One thing," John said as they sat in the shade and watched their friends come closer. "The next time someone suggests that the group go on a short day paddle, donít be the first to suggest that we stay behind."
"Of course," she smiled. "We need to give the others a turn, too."
"Right," he said. "But, we may get the chance again."
Though there were tents scattered all around the tiny island, by mutual if undiscussed consent the area around Josh and Tiffanyís tent became the virtual headquarters. The big dining fly to keep off the sun was part of the reason, of course, and the fact that they had their meals there was another, but the bottom line was that it was where everyone got together to socialize.
The wood hunters had come back with their hatches full of firewood, from small sticks to nice logs. They unloaded it in a pile on the beach in front of Josh and Tiffanyís tent, and they figured that it would be enough for tonight, although they might have to go out looking again tomorrow.
The afternoon sun was warm, and they congregated in the shade on the sand up near the tree line and sat and talked as they looked out over the lake. Of course, when kayakers get together, they often talk kayaking.
Brandy got into Philís new Lootas, and went blasting off like she was shot from a gun; she was clearly pleased with the speed of the new boat, and Phil could see that he wasnít going to be the only one paddling it. Mournfully, he turned to Josh and asked, "You got anything faster?"
"Yep," Josh said. "But you canít have it. You might screw up and let her paddle it, and then where would we be?"
"You know," John said thoughtfully, "We ought to hook her up with Joe."
"Whatís that got to do with anything?" Phil asked.
"Joe has been griping that he canít run the Albany River fifty-miler in a couple weeks since Nancy pulled a muscle. I mean, thatís canoeing, not kayaking, but Iíll bet it wouldnít take her long to pick up the differences."
Phil thought about it for a second. "Sounds like a good idea," he said. "If conditioning has anything to do with it, she ought to be ready."
"A canoe racing stroke is different from a kayak stroke," Josh said. "But give Joe a couple weeks, and heíll have her ready to rumble."
"And the rest of us can paddle along more leisurely for a while," Tiffany laughed.
After a while, Candice asked Jennifer if she could take her Solander out for a bit, just to try it out. She paddled it around in front of the camp for a little bit, then down to the tip of Woodlark Island and back, and returned with some doubts in her mind if she really wanted the Looksha after all. This was a nice boat. By the time she got back, Brandy had returned and it was clear that there were going to be some serious negotiations in the Wine household over who got what boat.
"Look," Phil said, hoping to head off the discussion. "Youíre starting to get into a level of boat that you should know how to roll. Youíd be getting into a boat that really demands some advanced training to be able to handle safely."
"Well, then, teach me how to roll," Brandy said.
"Iíd rather someone else did," Phil said. "Youíd think that I was just putting you on."
"Oh, Iíll teach you," Tiffany said, getting up from her comfortable spot in the shade. "Youíve been getting ready for it, anyway. But get in the Looksha. Thatís fitted to you better."
"Phil, would you teach me?" Candice asked.
"Sure," he said. "Go get your boat. Get any loose stuff out of it, and bring your spray deck and paddle."
Candice paddled the boat around the island a few minutes later to find Tiffany waist deep in the water off the camp, holding onto Brandyís hands as she went through the early part of the training, and Candice didnít really understand what was going on.
A few minutes later, Phil was out in the water beside her, holding onto her hands to help her get the feel of how to do a hip snap to get the boat upright, and showing her the moves with the paddle, sweeping a blade across the top of the water, to provide the stability for a hip snap to work. It was a wet session, but she found the water surprisingly warm out on the sand bar where the training was going on. Finally, Phil got out on the end of the boat, and told her to try putting things together. "Donít be afraid to do a wet exit if you have to," he said. "But take your time and think about what youíre doing. This is a finesse move, not a power move. Iíll try to help you with it a little."
It took a couple tries to get the moves down, but on the third try, Candice did manage to roll the boat over, set the position and sweep, with the hip snap bringing her up, just like Phil had told her it should be done.
"All right!" came some cheers from the four watching from shore.
Candice was barely aware that Brandy was still struggling with the process. "Come on, Brandy," Tiffany said. "Youíre trying to muscle your way up, and thatís not going to work. Itís finesse, Brandy, like a free throw."
"OK, Candice," Phil said. "You did it once, and that proves you can do it. Now, you need to practice it so itís almost a reflex."
"Here goes," she said, leaning over to flip the boat again. She was a little surprised at how far she had to lean over to get the boat to turn turtle.
Over the next hour, Candice lost count of the number of times that she rolled the Looksha, missing about one time out of four, but managing to stay in the boat and setting up again to do it correctly. Finally, she realized that Phil wasnít standing right at the bow to help her up if something went wrong, but was up on the beach. "Go on," Phil said. "You donít need me, and that water is too cold to just be standing there any longer."
"All right," she said dubiously, leaning out to roll the boat again.
By now, Brandy was hitting an occasional roll. "You know," John said to Phil, "I need to learn how to do that."
"Can we put it off?" Phil said. "My legs are freezing. I donít know how Tiffany is managing it."
"Go get your boat," Blake said, getting up from where heíd been sitting close to Jennifer, and giving her a little kiss. "Iím not the teacher Tiffany or Phil is, but I know the basics."
"All right, you new rollers," Phil said to Brandy, Candice and John once everyone was cold enough and wet enough to call it a day, and while Josh and Jennifer built a nice fire, one that would have to burn down to coals before they could get the steaks going. "Youíve got the basics down. Thereís a lot of variations on the basics, and weíve only taught you a roll toward your strong side. We need to work on an offside roll, teach you some of the different techniques, and just get you comfortable so itís down to being nearly automatic. Once you have that, we can talk about paddling in rougher conditions."
"Itís not as hard as I thought it was going to be," Candice said.
"As you see, it just looks hard," Phil told her, giving a brief explanation of how some of the more advanced rolls were done. "Try to practice it when you can, especially now while the water is still warm. Tiffany or I can get out with you every now and then to work on some of the more advanced stuff."
"Actually, I think this calls for a beer to celebrate," Tiffany said. "That stuff we put out there earlier ought to be cold enough by now. Weíll want to watch it, because weíve only got enough for two beers and two pops a day for everyone."
"Iíll paddle out and pull up one of the bags," Blake offered.
"Just a Coke for me, thanks, Blake," Jennifer called from the fire, which was now blazing up pretty good.
"I figured that," Blake said. "Anyone else just want a pop?"
A few minutes later, he was back with the cans. They werenít as cold as theyíd hoped, but they were definitely drinkable.
"You know, I have really enjoyed this day," Candice said as they watched the fire burn down to good cooking coals. "Iíve never been much on this outdoor stuff, the camping and like that, but I find Iím really enjoying it. Of course, being with good friends and having a good time helps."
"It is fun," Jennifer said. "I donít get out to enjoy it as much as Iíd like to, but I hope to keep doing it when I can."
"I can see why people pay you to take them on trips like this," Brandy agreed.
"Well, I can see that I want to do more," Candice replied. "In a way, Iím looking forward to winter. I want to do some skiing, and yes, Josh and Tiffany, I want to try to run a dog team."
"Itís not that hard," Josh said. "Itís just a lot of work."
"Have you done any more thinking about the Iditarod for next year?" Phil asked.
"Well, at this point, I guess weíre figuring on running two teams again," Josh replied. "We pretty well know which dogs we want to train, and mostly, theyíre proven dogs, so I think weíre going to cut the reserves a little tighter than we have in the past and try to cut the total dog number down a little."
"Weíre thinking we want to make one last all-out effort for the top five, maybe the top three," Tiffany added. "If some obvious accident happens, we may try it again after that, but if in an all-out effort we canít make it to the top of the field, weíve pretty well made up our minds that this will be the last winter with two teams."
"Itís just getting too difficult," Josh said. "Iím beginning to think that weíre never going to be up at the top, living down here. Up in Alaska, the mushers get an extra month or more to train, since they can get started earlier. We hardly ever get started on conditioning before the end of August, and by then theyíve been doing it for a while. We try to peak a little more quickly, but I donít know how much that helps. Worse, theyíre usually running on snow by mid-October, and itís usually mid-November for us in a good year. And then, right in the middle of the whole show, we have to pick up stakes and move to Alaska, and that puts us behind, too. Add to that all the time it takes to train the dogs, and the number of other things we have to do, it just adds up to this year as make it or break it."
Brandy shook her head. Sheíd been in Nome, seen the amount of work they went through just for the one race. "Thatís got to be hard to decide," she said.
"It is hard," Josh said. "But itís just about impossible for us to do it now. In two months, the fall training will be in full swing, the store and the tours will still be demanding our attention, and Iíll still be running the railroad job. Then, right in the middle of everything, is the new house. Don thought he was going to have it under way by now, and now it looks like itís going to be September at the earliest before he gets started. To top it off, Bud didnít come out and say it, but he indicated that heíd take off in the winter if I was going to stay around to manage the place, and itís difficult to say no to him. Itís just not worth it to put all the time and effort into training, when we can only run eighth or tenth or twentieth. I think the time is coming when weíre going to have to grow up."
"I told you Iíd help you with training this fall," Phil said. "And, I will. But youíre still going to be as busy as you were last spring."
"Worse," Tiffany said. "We had hoped to find another serious musher who would be a dog handler and take a lot of the training miles off our hands, but thatís not going to happen. The only other thing we can do to free up the time is to find someone to look after the store on a pretty much full-time basis. Really, the tours are pretty profitable, and we just donít have the time to deal with them, too. If we had someone watching the store, I could give the tours a lot more attention. We just canít continue to get along on asking our friends to babysit the place. Itís not right, for one thing, and itís costing us business, for another."
Candice perked her ears up. She hadnít really been looking for work, but it was clear that she was going to have to be thinking about it sooner or later. "Do you have someone in mind?" she asked.
"Well, yes," Tiffany smiled and looked back at her with a twinkle in her eye. "I know someone who just moved up here, who has a lot of business sense. Sheís sort of a newbie in this outdoor stuff, but she seems to be getting into it. I havenít gotten around to asking her yet, but I think sheíd do well at it."
"I canít imagine who you would be talking about," Candice teased back.
"Itís not going to be that easy," Josh said, dropping the pretense. "We need you to really manage the place, not just babysit it, and keep the ball rolling on other stuff, especially while weíre away. Youíre going to have much to learn about a lot of outdoor stuff that you really havenít been exposed to yet."
"Iím game to give it a try," Candice told her.
"Weíll get started first thing Wednesday morning," Tiffany said.
Unnoticed by anyone else, Blake and Jennifer traded smiles. Nothing needed to be said.
The fire had been built out of smaller limbs, and they were dry and burned fast, and soon Blake and Tiffany had spread out a bed of glowing coals, spread some sand around, and started producing foil-wrapped things from a couple of drybags. "Thatís a lot of food," Candice commented. "Where did you find room for it all?"
"One of the downsides of having a great big boat like the Telkwa," Tiffany smiled, "Is that people say, ĎHey, we can have steaks and beer if you bring the charcoal and the grill and the cooler with the steaks and the beer.í Thatís why I bring a big guide boat on a trip like this. Josh should have brought one, too, but we didnít want to bring another new boat, although we did pack a lot of stuff into Philís Lootas and Blakeís Tesla."
There was a lot more than just steaks that appeared when she started unwrapping foil and handing out plates a few minutes later. There were roast potatoes, and roast corn on the cob, and more cold drinks, which Blake again paddled out and pulled up from their wet refrigerator. "Thatís quite a meal," John commented.
"Itís sort of conventional," Blake apologized. "We pretty well had to have the steaks on the first night, since keeping them cool is a problem. But I donít think you people will be sorry for the rest of the trip."
Nobody complained about not having enough to eat when the meal was over. After the cooking was ended, Tiffany had raked the coals together and set a pot of water to warming on top of them. "All right," she said. "The deal is that someone else does the dishes, at least what there are of them."
"Oh, Iíll do them," Candice said. "I need to be able to contribute something to this trip."
It was later than they had realized, the sun was sinking, and people were starting to get a little cool in just swimsuits, so T-shirts and shorts began to make their appearance again. Josh built the fire back up, and they gathered around it again, just talking and enjoying the end of what had been a pretty good day.
The fire flickered over the water as the sun set. It wasnít a particularly spectacular sunset, but no one was complaining.
"Well, now that everyone is feeling all nice and mellow," Jennifer smiled, "And nobody is going to offer me a suitable opening, I think itís time to make an announcement. Three announcements, in fact."
"Whatís that?" Brandy said, gazing into the dancing flames.
" The first is relatively minor," Jennifer smiled, and put her arm around Blake. "Weíve cancelled doing exteriors up here for Wonderful Winter World this winter. Weíre not sure if there will be another one next year, and if there is, we probably have enough exteriors in the can to make it through another year."
"What brought this on?" Tiffany asked. "Thatís been a big deal for years, now."
"Again, there are two reasons," Jennifer said, quite businesslike. "First, you may know that thereís been some discussion of whether itís going to get picked up again. At the moment, it doesnít look likely, but if we decide to do it another year, it may move to be a cable special. We donít know yet, and wonít know for some time, and with everything else going on, we just donít want to deal with it this winter."
"I can understand that," Brandy said. "Whatís the other reason?"
Jennifer smiled; no, it was a downright grin. She rested her hand on Blakeís leg and said, "Brandy, Iím afraid that Iíve got you in a little trouble with Mom."
"Whatís new?" Brandy said.
"Well, after about the middle of January sometime, you wonít be able to use me as an excuse to point to as a reason for not providing Mom with a grandchild."
"But . . . but, I thought . . . "
"Well, so did I," Jennifer said.
"Thatís wonderful," Candice said. "Are you hoping for a boy or a girl?"
"What Iím hoping for doesnít matter," Jennifer said. "They ran the full series of tests on me down in Camden over the last couple of weeks, and thereís going to be more tests to come. I know Iíve been keeping this something of a secret, but I wanted to be sure that everything Ė at least in the early tests Ė came out positive before I told anyone."
"Does Mom know?" Brandy asked.
"I told her last night. I asked her not to tell you, because I wanted to surprise you."
"Well, thatís great," Phil said, thinking but not saying that things had sure changed since theyíd first met Blake out in California years before. "Another addition to the Evachevski clan."
Jennifer smiled at him. "That leads to my third announcement," she said. "We havenít agreed on the details yet, but heís going to be an addition to the Walworth clan."
"Well, thatís great news," Phil said, remembering Blake as he had first met him, and figuring that his statement months before that Jennifer must have worn him down had been right. "Thereís nothing wrong with being married, although I have to admit it took Brandy and me a while to learn it."
"So when are you getting married?" Tiffany asked.
"We havenít worked that out yet," Blake admitted. "Probably pretty soon, though."
"Itís going to be a real casual thing, we have decided on that," Jennifer added. "Itís going to make Phil and Brandyís look real formal. Weíre not going to make any major public announcement."
"Well, I can understand, I guess," Tiffany said. "Itís your business, after all, and if you want to keep it to yourselves, thatís your right."
"Itís not quite that simple," Jennifer said. "People donít think of Jenny as a mother. Iíve tried to get away from the image she used to have, but some of it still hangs on. In a way, I sort of hope that this will help get away from that image. But the bottom line is that Iíve always tried to be a private person in a business where people live by their press releases, and I donít intend to change now. Do you remember when I was talking about big telephoto lenses this afternoon? Itís the same thing. Look, everyone, this is a secret among us, at least until after it can be announced properly."
"Well, we can understand that," Josh said. "You know weíll do anything you ask."
"I hope I wonít have to ask much," Jennifer said, "But itís good to know I have friends to call on. Iím still pretty new to this idea of motherhood, after all. I mean, I know Mom is going to help, but Candice, youíve got a lot more recent experience with being a mother, and donít be surprised to get a phone call with a really stupid question some time."
"Feel free to call," Candice said. "Itís really not all that big a thing. Iíll be glad to help where I can."