"A Spearfish Lake Story"
As the afternoon wore down, Tiffany and Blake started on dinner. This time it was Blake doing most of the cooking, and soon the group was sitting down to a chicken curry dinner with cucumber salad, yogurt, and chutney, all cooked on the alcohol stoves.
"You better watch it, Blake," John said. "You keep feeding Jennifer like that and sheís going to put on weight like nobodyís business."
"Blake has kept my weight adequately under control for years," Jennifer sniffed. "I always enjoy his cooking, but he never lets me have too much, and he insists on me getting exercise, especially when weíre in a slow period."
"You still want to watch it," Candice advised. "Youíre going to put on weight while youíre pregnant. Get used to it. If youíre careful, you can keep from having gained very much after itís over with. I didnít really realize it with Shay, and I put on a lot of weight. Youíre going to get strange food cravings and want to satisfy them. I hadnít gotten it all off by the time Cody came along, but at least by then Iíd learned enough to not gain a lot. Iím still not back down where Iíd like to be, but I suppose now I never will be."
"Oh, I donít know," Tiffany said. "You look pretty reasonable to me. Youíre thinner than I am, thinner than Brandy."
"I suppose," Candice said. "But I have a more slender body to begin with, and, as you pointed out this afternoon, Iím not in the physical shape you two are. Jennifer, youíre even more slender yet, so an extra few pounds will show even more. Blake, you keep her eating right, and not starving her, either, because she will gain baby weight, and you have to account for it. And, make sure she gets some exercise. Itíll be hard once you get towards the end, and you will lose some tone, but stick with it. If you do it right, we can come out here this time next year, and Jennifer could wear a bikini, and no one would be able to tell sheís had a baby."
"You think so?" Jennifer said. "After all, my physical appearance is important to me."
"Look, I know youíre serious about everything else," Candice told her. "Youíve just got to be serious about this, too."
"I know this is a hell of a time to say this," Blake interjected, "But does anybody want seconds?"
"Well, I did," Jennifer grinned.
"How about just a little bit of the cucumber salad?" Blake asked.
"I suppose Iíll only have to run five miles to pay for it next spring," Jennifer smiled. "But, what the heck."
"Blake, youíre quite a cook," Candice smiled. "Itís going to be hard to go back to hamburger helper after this weekend."
"Watch your mouth, woman," Blake laughed. "We donít use those words around our house."
"Oh, boy, have you got things to learn," Candice said. "I promise you, thereís going to be some times when itís going to sound pretty darn good. Especially after all the kid wants is SpaghettiOs or peanut butter and jelly."
"There are limits," Blake smiled. "After thinking about it more than you might realize, I have come to the conclusion that I wonít mind getting up in the middle of the night to change a diaper. I wonít mind Sesame Street or Mister Rogers until it drives me half nuts, and I wonít mind having a kid who can turn a neat room into a pig sty in three minutes flat, but I absolutely draw the line at SpaghettiOs."
"I wish I had a tape recorder with me," John laughed. "Iíd really love to play those words back to you in, oh, three years or so. Kids can take a perfectly civilized existence and turn it into a madhouse just about as quickly as you can blink. But the only reason we put up with them at all is because theyíre worth it."
Blake nodded. "I know that the kid is going to mean a big change in our lives. Maybe I donít want to know how big a change, just yet. I expect Iíll get used to it."
"It does mean a big change," John said, "For both of you. Actually, for the two of you, it may be easier, since youíre going to have more chance to be parents to your kids. I know that Iíve regretted missing a lot of our boys growing up. I put in a lot of hours at Timms, Sheridan, back when the boys were little, so a lot of the diaper changing and Sesame Street wound up in Candiceís hands. Then, we moved down to Decatur and I went to work for Rotunda, and I worked late a lot, and I still missed a lot of the boys growing up. I tried to fill in the holes where I could, but it still seemed like I wasnít paying the attention to them that I should have been doing. Thatís why itís been so nice to have the time to help coach their Little League team, to go out bike riding with them, just to be with them, and maybe catch up a little of what Iíve missed while I still can."
"You do spend a lot of time with them," Phil commented. "At that age, at least if I recall myself at that age, they need to be getting some independence, too."
"Oh, I know they need some time on their own at that age," John said, "Which is why I thought it was nice they could stay with Mom and Dad this weekend, but, you know, Iím missing them already, even with as much fun as weíve been having. I want to get them out camping, doing a lot of things that they should have had a chance to learn if Iíd been around to teach them. Josh, do you remember, back at Christmas, we were talking about how we all grew up learning to handle a gun safely?"
"The boys have never had a chance to learn that. Partly, itís because of where we lived, but partly itís because I never took the time, never had the time to teach them. But, living up here where hunting is a lot more common, theyíre going to have to learn something about what guns really are. Do you know if Dad still has that twenty-two we learned how to shoot?"
"No, Iíve got it out at the house," Josh said. "We had some coyotes hanging around, and thatís something I canít have with bitches in heat, and you donít use some cannon like a thirty-aught-six or a forty-four magnum for that without scaring the hell out of the whole dog lot."
"Can we come out and use it some time? We couldnít do it in town, anyway."
"Sure. Iíll help, if you want."
"Iíd be pleased if you did," John said. "Itís been long enough for me. I need to brush up a bit before I try to teach the boys." He turned back to Blake. "Itís those kinds of issues that youíre lucky youíll have time to deal with. Not necessarily shooting a gun, but things a father should do, like teaching them how to hit a ball or throw it or catch it, how to ride a bike. Things that Iíve pretty much missed out on doing, and I feel guilty about it. Yes, kids can be a pain in the butt, but think of the joy youíll get out of them, out of teaching them how to grow up to be men."
"That could be difficult," Blake said, thinking back on his own life.
John, of course, didnít know the reason for Blakeís hesitation, but it probably wouldnít have changed his words if he had. "Of course, itís difficult," he continued. "We make mistakes. We all make mistakes. But the only sin is in not trying. Look, I really donít know you and Jennifer that well, but I do know that youíre both solid, conscientious and careful people. You donít set out to do something half-assed, and Iíll tell you this: you wonít be the half-assed parents who are the cause of so many problems today, or the kind of half-assed parent I was for so long without realizing it. Youíll do your best, because thatís all you know how to do. That counts for a lot."
"All right," Tiffany said as they finished their dinner. "While weíre all still here, we might as well do a little planning. Phil suggested earlier that if weíre going to go to Goose Bay tomorrow, that we get an early start so we can get off the water before it gets hot like this again. Thatís a longer trip than we had today, so if weíre going to do it we need to get going early. It sounds like a good idea to me. If we get up at first light and get going right away, we can get a lot of miles on before the sun even comes up, and the wildlife activity is usually pretty interesting at that hour."
"How early is early?" John asked. "I know Candice and I slept in pretty good this morning."
"Iím thinking maybe five AM," Tiffany said. "Just get up and get going. Maybe we can stop a couple hours out and have breakfast at the break."
"Sounds good to me," Jennifer said. "Paddling in the heat this afternoon was rather wearing. I can manage getting up to avoid it."
"That means we donít stay up till all hours tonight," Tiffany pointed out. "I was thinking about maybe doing a night paddle tonight, but if we wait till it gets dark, and then paddle around for an hour or so, and then come back and mess around, itíll be after midnight before we get in bed. But, we can put the night paddle off till tomorrow. We donít have to be back to the landing till midafternoon Tuesday, so we could take our time getting around in the morning."
"Sounds like a plan," Brandy agreed, and the rest pretty well joined in.
"No reason not to have a fire this evening," Josh commented. "If someone wants to do the dishes, Iíll get a fire going."
"I guess itís my turn," Jennifer offered.
Candice volunteered to help with the dishes, while Phil went and got a camera to take some snapshots of camp scenes. Josh and Blake hopped into their boats to do a quick paddle over to the larger island to see if they could build up the wood supply; Brandy decided to go with them, but only because it gave her another chance to paddle Philís fast boat. In the heat, the men took their time, but she was off at a furious pace. She got way ahead of them, paddled clear around the larger island and still caught up with them while they were cruising along slowly, looking for a beach with some good driftwood. They soon found one and loaded a fair amount aboard; this load should get them through the trip, they figured. Brandy was back to the camp well before either of them, and did a couple laps around the island while she was waiting. Of course, that got her all hot and sweaty in the strong heat of the evening, so once the boat was unloaded she raced off into the water for a swim.
"You know, that looks good," Jennifer said as she and Candice finished up the dishes.
"Does to me, too," Candice said, and they took the opportunity to head for the water as soon as they were done. Neither was in the mood for anything energetic, and they just waded out into the water to let it cool them off. The sun was starting to sink low, by now, and the light was getting to be that rich, color-saturated hue of the time just before sunset, when everything looks too beautiful to be real.
"Hey, Candice," Phil yelled, "Turn around." She turned around to see him standing there with the camera in his hand. "Come on, look sexy!" he yelled with a smile. Candice obliged with a giggle, and struck a pose for him while he took her picture.
"Will that do for a cover shot?" she called, striking another pose, and he snapped another picture. He snapped a few other pictures of the three of them, and took some more shots of Josh tending the campfire.
"Scrapbook time, huh?" Josh smiled.
"Yeah, might as well have a few snaps," Phil said.
"I havenít had the chance to talk to you about it," Josh said. "But I liked that draft of your book that you gave me. Good stuff. I caught a few minor technical problems, nothing that canít be fixed easily, like spelling some names wrong. I made a list of that stuff, and Iíll get it to you after we get back. But, I liked the book. It reads like youíre there."
"Great," Phil said, sitting down beside him. "I was a little concerned that maybe I detailed out the first part too much, learning to drive dogs, and like that."
"You didnít miss anything," Josh agreed. "It is a little slow there. You might want to think about tightening it up. I didnít know you were thinking about writing a book about the race."
"Well, I wasnít, when I ran it," Phil said. "Then after I got back, I just decided to write down notes of everything I could remember, just so Iíd have them when the experience faded a bit. The next thing I knew, they turned into a book."
"I think you did a fine job," Josh said. "Going to see about getting it published?"
"Yeah, I think so. Iím not sure how you go about it, but a college buddy of mine is in the book business in New York, and I thought Iíd bounce the idea off of him and see what he thought about it."
"Canít hurt to try," Josh said. "I did enjoy reading it."
"Iíd like to see it some time," John said. "Iím no judge, but youíd be writing for people who donít know much about the topic, like me."
"Iíll run a copy off on the laser printer," Phil promised.
After a bit, the rest of the wood hunters got back. They pulled the boats up on the beach and unloaded the wood, and Josh built the fire up a little bit as they sat around and watched the sunset. The evening was still warm, and they stayed in their swimsuits, and after a while Tiffany hopped in a boat and paddled out to bring in another round of drinks.
The long evening twilight was growing dim by the time they were all gathered around the fire. The fire was nice to look at, but they stayed well back to keep it from heating them too much.
"Candice," Jennifer asked at one point, "How much were you showing when you were four months?"
"Oh, a little," she said. "At the beginning, I could see in the mirror that I had a little belly, but by the end of the month there was no question that I was pregnant. At least, thatís the way it was with Shay. I was heavier with Cody, and it didnít show quite as quickly."
"You think Iíd show even more quickly?"
"Maybe a little," Candice said. "If youíre talking about looking normal, youíre not going to be able to stretch it much past the four-month mark. Oh, maybe a little past that if you were to wear something loose, but not much."
Jennifer turned to Blake. "Thatís about what Mom told me," she said. "I guess thatís our deadline if we want to get in Saturday Night with Jenny Easton this fall."
"Itís going to be tight," he agreed. "There are a couple things we can do to speed it up, though. It isnít going to be that expensive to shoot, and itíll actually be easier to sell if itís in the can."
She nodded. "If itís in the can, and Jenny canít do retakes, weíre not going to get that much whining about wanting this changed or that changed," she said.
"Uh, I hate to be a buttinski," Phil interjected, "But what are you two talking about?"
"Oh, just another project for Jenny," Jennifer explained. "Weíve been talking about doing a taping of what would probably end up a cable special of what would purport to be a live bar show, like I used to do years ago. In fact, weíve been talking about renting the Pike Bar and shooting it there. Weíve pretty well picked out what music we want to use, and how we want to do it. But with any production like this, thatís the simple part, and we donít know that weíve got time enough to do everything to get ready."
" We always shot Wonderful Winter World as a one-camera shoot," Blake said. "That means that youíve got to shoot each scene a lot of times, so youíve got different angles, and can cover up bloopers, but it takes time. I keep thinking we want to do it a lot more like a live show, have two or three cameras to cut down on the retakes, and just blow through the whole thing in a day or two, maybe with only one or two retakes of each piece. It takes a lot less time to shoot, but the editing is still just as bad."
"And your crew expenses are more, since youíve got to have two or three or four camera crews, and all that," Jennifer expanded on Blakeís explanation. "And, you canít always get that many camera people when you want them. Of course, you save on the other cast costs. I mean, we could blow through the whole thing in one day, but it would be a long, tiring day to do it."
"My real concern is if Jenny can hack it if sheís four months pregnant," Blake said. "Itís still going to be pretty intense, since thereíll be a lot of rehearsals, even if the cameras are only hot for a day."
"Well, you could probably do it OK," Candice told them. "But, itís just my opinion. Have you run this by Dr. Metarie?"
"No, not yet," Jennifer said. "But weíre going to have to do it pretty soon if weíre going to have Shovelhead on guitar and violin."
"Youíre going to use Shovelhead?" Candice said, amused.
"Harley Davidson T-shirt, riderís bandanna, and all," Jennifer smiled. "At least weíd like to, if we can talk him into it. And, Bob on guitar and bass, and Blake on guitar and keyboard. And, if we can get her to come up here, a woman I donít think youíve met, Myleigh Harris, backing me up singing and on Celtic harp."
"Celtic harp?" Candice frowned.
" Come on, youíve heard Dawnwalker on At Home," Blake grinned. "She was on several other cuts, too, although not as prominently. We havenít released any cuts of her doing rockier stuff, but weíve done some with her out at the Inn. She taught us the possibilities of the harp, and we taught her how to rock with it. Sheís pretty darn good."
"Isnít she one of the girls Randy Clark used to hang out with?" Josh asked. Heíd heard discussions around the breakfast table at the Spearfish Lake Café about her. "I think I met her once."
"Yes," Jennifer smiled. "We met her when Randy brought her home for Thanksgiving one year, and weíve played together every chance weíve gotten since. Very interesting woman; she has a Ph.D. in English Literature, and talks like she just stepped out of the eighteenth century. She teaches college down in Kansas City. The harp is just a hobby with her, but sheís awfully good."
"That would be quite a band," Phil said. Heíd met Myleigh once, one time when heíd been home from Hadley-Monroe, and sheíd impressed him as being possibly one of the smartest people heíd ever met Ė and one of the most individual.
" Theyíre the people we used on most of the tracks in At Home," Blake explained, "And weíre thinking that Saturday Night might make a pretty good album, too. Weíre thinking of doing it strictly as a Jenny Easton Productions project, and not use the Murray label at all, but there are problems that are slowing us down. Rights issues, mostly."
"I donít follow you," Josh said. "What are rights issues?"
" Well, we donít own the recording rights to Smoke-Filled Room, for example," Jennifer said. "Murray owns them, and Jenny couldnít use it for this without paying them more than itís worth. As much as Iím tired of that piece, I donít see how we can do a honky-tonk Jenny Easton album without including it. On the other hand, Iíd like to try, since Iím so tired of it."
" Itís like that on a lot of music," Blake explained. "Weíve got some original material that we own, which is why At Home is all new stuff, and all our own creations. The thing is that a lot of the stuff we own just isnít the kind of music thatís right for a smoky barroom. So, weíre going to have Jenny use some cover stuff, and we need to find pieces that we can do without costing us an arm and a leg, and we need to have the rights to use them sewn up before we record them. But, we do have to do at least a couple familiar Jenny Easton pieces. Murray owns most of those, and they donít want us heading out on our own."
"Iíd always heard that the music was the easy part of the music business," John said. "The business part, well, they donít use what we in the accounting business call Ďgenerally accepted accounting principles.í"
"Too often, they donít use any kind of principles at all," Jennifer said glumly. "I could tell you stories, but I donít want to ruin a nice weekend. Thatís why weíre usually pretty careful about what we do."
" But we have settled on a few good pieces and have the rights to them," Blake said, to keep the discussion from heading down that path. "Thereís some good older music that anyone recognizes as classic country, and some of it is pretty heavily instrumental, which is something we want to bring in. Foggy Mountain Breakdown is a good example. Weíve thought about Orange Blossom Special, too."
" How about City of New Orleans?" Phil asked. "I loved how you did it at the wedding."
"That was Blake and Shovelhead," Jennifer said. "Itíd be fun to do, but itís too cool for a show like weíre talking about. Besides, one train song would be enough. But, weíll come up with something for Jenny to sing."
They talked for a while about the possibilities of the show, and eventually the talk turned to other things. It was a nice night to just sit out and talk, to share stories and thoughts and experiences, and it got later and later, although somehow the temperature didnít cool very much. The lake was lit only by the merest crescent of a setting moon, and lay still and mysterious beyond the light of the fire.
Finally, Tiffany said, "Well, look folks, itís been real, but if weíre going to crack those lids at oh-dark-thirty and get out on the water, we really should be getting some sack time."
"Yeah, I know," Brandy agreed. "Itís just that I hate to go to bed all hot and sweaty. Anybody up for a swim?"
"Iíd go," Josh said.
"Yeah," Candice agreed. "Except Iíve got this swimsuit pretty well dried out, and I donít want to put it on wet in the morning."
"So, donít wear one," Brandy snorted. "Whatís a camping trip like this without a little skinny dipping, anyway?
"Oh, hell, Iíll do it if youíll do it," Tiffany said. "We donít get to do it on tours."
"Iím up," Brandy said, standing up and untying her bikini top. "John, youíre the skinny dipper here, anyway, so I know youíre in. Blake?"
"Yeah, what the hell."
"Are you coming, Candice?"
Candice felt her face flush. Sheíd been with the group for hours about as nearly naked as she could be in her black string bikini, but this was something else. "Oh, why not?" she said, casting caution to the wind, standing up and reaching behind her to untie the top.
"Jennifer, are you coming?"
"Brandy, you know . . . "
"They donít make telephoto lenses that good," Phil said. "Get away from the fire a little and join us."
" Oh, all right," Jennifer said, standing up and walking out of the light a little, working out of her swimsuit as she went. "If you knew how long itís been since Iíve done this . . . but if a clip of this shows up on Hollywood Tonight, Iím going to have your ass."
In only a few moments all eight of them were out in the water, stark naked, splashing each other and thrashing around, yelling and teasing like they were kids half their age, tasting a forbidden thrill. The lake was cool, and the party didnít last long before one by one and two by two, all had enough and got back up on the shore. There would be no more gathering around the fire this evening; the fire only lit a few flashes of naked bodies as hands grabbed at discarded swimsuits and the owners disappeared toward their tents.
Down at their tent, John and Candice dug in dry bags for towels to dry off. Candice had gotten her hair thoroughly wet in the splashing, and she dried it as best she could before joining her husband in the tent. It was still too hot to crawl into the doubled sleeping bag, so they just lay on top, cuddling with each other. "Have you ever done that before?" Candice asked.
"You mean, besides this morning? That was different, and no, I never did."
"Me either," she smirked. "It was sort of like being a kid again. I always wanted to try it sometime, but I never got around to it."
"Yeah, me either," he said. "I always dreamed about how it would be to go swimming bare-assed with a beautiful woman, but I never figured that when I did, it would be like that."
" Now, there would be an album," she smirked. "Skinny Dipping With Jenny Easton."
"That sort of added to it, Iíll admit," he said. "But Jenny Easton wasnít the beautiful woman I was talking about. That swimsuit of yours. I didnít know you had anything like that! Do you know what you were doing to me all afternoon with that?"
"Yep," she teased. "You liked it on me, huh?"
"I did," he said. "But all I could think about was getting it off of you."
"That was sort of the general idea. I was looking forward to you taking it off me, but it didnít work out quite like that."
"The end result was the same, and now we can do something about it," he said, putting his arm around her.
"I donít want to sound like a tease," she said. "But are you sure you want to get all hot and sweaty again?"
"I donít care if I do," he said, feeling around her body in the darkness. "After all, I know how to fix that."
A short time later, they discovered that someone else had figured out the same solution to the problem. It was hard to tell the direction, but as they splashed into the water all hot and sweaty, they could hear the sounds of another couple running out into the lake to cool off as well.