Spearfish Lake Tales
Contemporary Mainstream Books and Serials Online
Dayna and Sandy had spent a lot of time in Mackinaw City over the years, more time than anywhere else for that matter, since they left Central Michigan University. Though the money was still good, it was getting to be a much too familiar place, so they cut back their time there to just the period between the Fourth of July and Labor Day. That meant they could cut out a couple of the mad round-trip rushes between Mackinaw City and the Maple Leaf Renfaire for the sake of a little leisurely time in Bradford.
After the last Maple Leaf show of the weekend after the Fourth of July, they loaded up Home, and once again started the trek northward. By now, theyíd explored all possible routes between Kalamazoo and Mackinaw City that offered the possibility of being reasonably quick, and since this would be a night drive, they decided on one of the quicker routes, up US-131. There was a lot of two-lane road toward the north end of this, but they knew they could cut over to I-75 on US-10 and make the trip about as quickly as any other way.
It had been a hot day, and food really wasnít on their minds when they loaded up, but after Homeís air conditioner worked on them a bit, the idea of eating something began to have its appeal. The days are long in that part of the country that time of year, and it was still a couple of hours before dark when they hit the highway with the intention of pulling into Mackinaw City late and still making the ferry dock in the morning, like theyíd done for years.
About dark, the idea of eating got to the point of wanting to do something about it, and they knew that the farther north they got and the later it got, the less chance theyíd have of finding a restaurant open. Finally, they got off on US-10 and started looking for some place open. There was one little restaurant theyíd stopped at before on these excursions; the food was nothing special, but it was usually good enough and the price was right. Sure enough, it was still open, but the customers were thinning out, and it wasnít long before closing.
"I really donít want anything heavy," Sandy told the waitress. "Just something light. Whatís the special like?"
"I think we have a little of our chicken salad left," the waitress told her. "They usually make a pretty good one for a sandwich."
"Sounds good to me," Sandy said.
"Yeah, I think Iíll try one of those too," Dayna agreed.
The waitress headed back to the kitchen with the order. "Oh, shit," the cook said. "Iíve got enough left for one, not two."
"I can go back and ask them if theyíd like something else."
"Oh, donít bother," he said. "Iíll just take a couple minutes and fill it out with something. I want to wrap it up and get the hell out of here."
"Your choice," the waitress shrugged.
The cook scrabbled around in the kitchen for a minute. There was a little egg salad left over from earlier; it had been sitting out for a while but was probably good. There was also some cooked chicken, too; he quickly ground it, and mixed the whole works in together, put together two sandwiches on rye, and rang the bell.
Fifteen minutes later, Dayna and Sandy were back on the road, and the waitress and the cook were closing up the restaurant for the night.
Everything went fine for a couple of hours. They were batting along right at the speed limit, looking across the divider strip at the still-heavy southbound weekend traffic, while there was almost no northbound traffic at this hour Ė one of the real advantages of going south for the weekend.
About an hour out of Mackinaw City, Dayna began to feel vaguely unwell, a slightly upset tummy, nothing more. Something wasnít sitting too well with her; eventually, she asked Sandy to head back and make her an Alka-Seltzer to see if something could be done about it.
"You know," Sandy said as she got out of Homeís right seat and headed for the tiny kitchen right behind them, "that doesnít sound like a bad idea. My stomachís a little upset, too."
The Alka-Seltzers didnít help much; they both got to feeling worse and worse. Ten minutes or so out of Mackinaw City, Sandy got out of her seat and went back to use the toilet in the tiny bathroom, as Daynaís guts got progressively knotted up. She held on, even though she was beginning to feel increasingly like that time Sandy had locked her in the stocks, gave her a soap enema, then made her hold it. Finally, they made it to Mackinaw City, got off at the last exit before the bridge, and drove the couple of blocks to Mrs. Deborinís house. Fighting a cramping gut, Dayna backed Home into the driveway, then yelled at Sandy, "Get out of there, Iíve got to crap so bad it ainít funny."
"OK," Sandy panted desperately. "But hand me the bucket, Iíve got to puke so bad it ainít funny."
Fighting a real cramp, Dayna headed back to the toilet and barely made it before her guts seemed to explode. There was some relief from the aching and cramping, not enough, and her intestines still seemed tied in knots. And she needed to puke, too. Bad, now. She could see that Sandy still had her head in the bucket, so the sink was the only readily available option. She used it, feeling dizzy as she puked up a lot more than sheíd ever figured she could have eaten that day. The dizziness just got worse and worse as she took deep breaths, trying to bring it under control. "Sandy, please, help me . . . " she said weakly. But Sandy wasnít coming . . . why, she was always there when she needed her . . . "Sandy . . . " she said plaintively, and then she said no more.
* * *
Mrs. Deborin got up early in the morning like she usually did and noted that Home was parked in the driveway, so the girls had gotten in late, like they usually did on Sunday night. She got her breakfast cereal and coffee, then went in to watch the Today show. Along about midmorning, she saw that the mailman had been there; occasionally she got something in the mail, but not often, so she went out to the mailbox. Only on the way back in did she notice that the RV wasnít parked in the usual spot, and then she noticed that the power cord hadnít been run to the outlet on the porch. Puzzled, she walked back down the steps and around the side of the house, and noticed that the jacks to stabilize the RV when it was parked hadnít been put down, either. That was strange, she thought; maybe the girls had gotten in late and hadnít bothered, then rushed right off to the ferry docks. But they at least usually stuck their heads in and said "Hi" while she was watching the Todayshow.
More curious than concerned, she walked up to the van where she could look through the glass of the side window Ė and there, in the darkness inside, she could see both girls collapsed on the floor.
As luck would have it the right side door hadnít been locked, so moving as fast as she could, she opened the van and got up into it enough to confirm that what she had seen was not a figment of her imagination. Both the girls were passed out, in pools of vomit and diarrhea. Bending over the seat, she could reach Sandy a little, collapsed on the floor, a bucket of foulness overturned on the floor next to her. She tried to wake her, and couldnít . . . but there was a hint of a pulse, a vague hint. Nothing more. And, she knew there was nothing she could do but call for help.
* * *
The nearest ambulance to Mackinaw City available at the time was in St. Ignace, on the other side of the bridge. It took about ten minutes to get there. The crew wasnít able to determine much beyond the fact that both of the girls had vital signs, and weak ones was about all, with no hint of what the problem might have been. In minutes, both Sandy and Dayna were in the ambulance, on their way to the hospital. The only hospital in St. Ignace is tiny, and it was obvious from the beginning that it was not capable of dealing with the problem at hand, so the ambulance crew didnít even stop there once they were across the bridge, but stayed on I-75, putting the pedal to the metal for War Memorial Hospital in Sault Ste. Marie, eighty miles away.
Mrs. Deborin knew that the girls had family downstate, and long ago Dayna had given her a business card with the contact phone number in Bradford on it. As luck would have it, Angie Berkshire was home and took the message that the girls were very sick, reason unknown, and on the way to the hospital in Sault Ste. Marie. There wasnít much that could be done but worry about it for the next couple hours and call the hospital every few minutes looking for word. After what seemed an eternity, there came word: both Dayna and Sandy were in critical condition, extremely dehydrated, sick from something but no idea what.
Angie was fully aware of the antipathy between Sandy and her parents, but this was something they needed to know about. She called out to General to tell Bruce to come home, and while she waited, worked information to get the number of the Beecham residence in Warren.
Given the benefit of a better start, Angie and Bruce arrived in Sault Ste. Marie a couple hours ahead of Dick and Patricia Beecham, for all the good it did; the girls were in little better condition, and the issue was still in doubt. At that, they were lucky; they figured if it had been another of couple hours before Mrs. Deborin found them, a hearse rather than an ambulance might have been necessary. Only after a couple days was it clear that the girls werenít going to die, but they were still very, very sick and in very, very poor condition.
Long after it was over with, it still wasnít totally clear how the pathologist in Sault Ste. Marie missed the call. Some of the girlsí symptoms resembled a different infection, and thatís what they were treated for. It was several days later, days that the girls had improved but little, before another set of tests was run, and this time it came up differently: acute salmonella poisoning. By that time the bacterial infection had settled in their internal organs, but now with proper treatment, they began to show definite signs of improvement Ė although it would be a long, long time before they were well again.
It was over a week before they were well enough to be sent home Ė and "well" was a pretty big reach. Both the girls were still very weak, often delirious, slept a lot, and were going through huge courses of antibiotics. But, given everything, the doctors there felt they could be taken home if carefully cared for.
Again, Bruce and Angie knew of the troubles between Sandy and her parents, and had not been impressed in their contact with them over the last week, either. But under the circumstances, with an extremely sick girl of their own, they had little choice but to go along with the idea of Dick and Patricia taking Sandy back to Warren, while they took Dayna back to Bradford.
Dayna was only vaguely aware that her folks were even there with her, only vaguely aware that Sandy wasnít with her, and certainly not aware enough to put up much of a protest. It turned out that it really was too soon to haul them home. By the next morning, Dayna was slipping, and had to make another ambulance run, to Borgess Medical Center in Kalamazoo. When they called the Beechams to see how Sandy was doing, they got no answer, and only later found that the same thing had happened; she was in South Macomb Hospital outside of Warren.
After that, there was very little communication between the two families. Dayna spent close to another week in Borgess, although she recovered a little better before being brought home again, this time with a visiting nurse coming in two times a day. It was the end of the month before Dayna had recovered enough to be fully conscious, and she still needed help walking to get to the bathroom, but she was, albeit slowly, on the mend.
It took a lot of nursing, and a lot of it fell on Angie and Bruce Ė but not all of it; Emily often came over to help out, to fill in, just to be friends. Dayna tried to call Sandy a dozen times or more over the next two weeks, but according to her mother she was always either asleep, or at the doctorís or something. Finally, she got a call from Sandy, who confirmed Daynaís suspicions: her mother was blocking her phone calls. "Iím . . . Iím not doing very well," she reported. "Thereís no way I can get on tour any time soon, not for a couple months anyway."
"Me, either," Dayna said. "And thereís no way we can get ready for a recording session anytime soon, either. Iíll get the Kentucky renfaire date cancelled for September, and cancel the studio date."
"I hate to tell you to cancel up through the end of the year," Sandy told her. "But I donít see how I can possibly be in shape enough to get on the road before the first of the year."
"We might as well sit on the later ones for a few weeks and see," Dayna sighed. "Sandy, knowing you and me, maybe the thing that would heal us the most would be to get back on the road."
"I donít know," Sandy said ominously. "I know we were talking about how maybe we were getting tired of the road. Right now, I donít see how I could work up the enthusiasm any time soon."
"Weíll see how you feel in a few weeks," Dayna said. "Look, since I canít call and get through to you, I guess weíd better plan on you calling me when you get the chance."
They talked after that, several times, but only briefly Ė Dayna got the idea that there was someone in the room with Sandy, but she never confirmed it. Along toward the middle of August, Dayna was well enough to go out to Home Ė her father and her brother had driven up to Mackinaw City to bring it back Ė and get out the Gibson, to try and play a little. She couldnít play hard, and she couldnít play long, but to have her familiar guitar back in her hands made her feel like she was healing. She missed the hell out of Sandy, and couldnít wait until they could play together again Ė just playing with her would help as much as anything.
About this time the medical bills started coming in. They were enormous. The only thing that saved them from bankruptcy was that when Tim wrote up the insurance package on Home, heíd included a $50,000 catastrophic coverage medical policy written into the insurance. That vanished into the maw of the medical bills, and the only alternative was to dig into those carefully husbanded savings. In only weeks, the tens of thousands of dollars that each of the girls had carefully accumulated over years of playing every date they could find, of selling CDs in renfaires and bars and on the street, school dates, and everywhere else simply vanished, much of it just plain pissed away because of the bad diagnosis at War Memorial. If the proper diagnosis had been made in time, the disease might not have settled in the girlsí organs. But that didnít cut the medical bills.
When everything was said and done Ė and it would take months, although the direction was clear from early on Ė Sandyís savings were all but wiped out; only at the end of the year did it come clear that she had but a few hundred dollars left to her name. Dayna didnít take quite as bad a hit, but her bank account was well past decimated itself, only a few thousand dollars remained Ė though the girls still owned Home, plus a nearly full order of CDs that were unsalable if they werenít out playing. But, Dayna thought that given Home and the CDs and a little seed money, it could be done all over again when they got to feeling better.
And then, one day, early in September, the bomb dropped on her. She got a call from Sandy, and she was crying. "Dayna!" she sniffled. "I fucked up! I got married to Robbie yesterday!"
"You what?" Dayna said, unable to believe her ears.
"I married Robbie," she said. "I . . . I thought it was the right thing to do. I donít know if I ever want to tour again, and I . . . "
"And your mother brainwashed the fuck out of you while you were delirious," Dayna snorted.
"Well, we talked it over a lot, and, well, I guess."
"And they figured that we were a pair of lesbians, and that things would be all right if they broke us up, Iíll bet."
"Yeah," Sandy said softly. "They think I should try to go straight."
"Oh, Sandy, goddamn it," Dayna said, tears running down her own face now. "What the fuck am I going to do without you?"
"I donít know," Sandy said, crying herself. "Dayna, I know I fucked up, I guess I knew it when I did it, but Iím going to at least try to make it work now that itís done."
"Youíre a damn fool," Dayna said. "How many times have you told me what an asshole he is?"
"I know, Dayna," she said sadly. "But I donít know if I can ever manage to go on the road again. And it wouldnít be the same, now. Iím sorry, Dayna. I know this fucks things up for you, too. Look, I donít know if this will be any help, but take Home, take the CDs, maybe you can use those to get going again. Hang onto my costumes, too, maybe you can find another partner. Theyíre worthless to me, now."
"All right," Dayna said, realizing that her world had changed irrevocably, "Iíll get Dad and Mom to help me go through Home and get your clothes and guitar and stuff and get them up to you."
"Thanks, Dayna," she said. "Please donít hate me for this, I feel like such a shit already."
"I donít hate you, I could never hate you," Dayna said, a catch in her voice and with tears running down her face. "I just donít know what the fuck Iím going to do without you."
Dayna saw Sandy one last time a few days later, the first time sheíd seen her since Mackinaw City over two months before. She didnít look well; she was weak and peaked and very, very sad. Sandy and Robbie were living at her parentsí house, but were looking for an apartment. Sandy was still in tears, and Robbie was very sullen, realizing that having to face Dayna was making her very upset.
It was the first time Dayna had met Robbie, and her initial impression was that he was a real weasel. As her father and Robbie hauled her stuff in from the car, she got Sandy off to the side long enough for her to quietly sign off her share of the RV, but that was about it. There was time for one last hug, and time for Dayna to whisper in her former loverís ear, "Sandy, if it doesnít work, call my folks, and wherever I am Iíll come for you."
"Thanks, Dayna," Sandy whispered. "I hope it wonít be necessary, but if it is, thatíll be good to know."