Spearfish Lake Tales
Contemporary Mainstream Books and Serials Online
Dayna went upstairs, dug into the closet, pulled on a renfaire costume, slung the guitar over her shoulder, and started for the Bradford Elementary School, a medieval wandering minstrel seeking an audience. She walked into the school – getting a stare from the secretary in the glass-enclosed office – and walked down the hall with guitar in hand to Mrs. Ochsenlaager’s room. Mrs. Ochsenlaager had been her third grade teacher, and was probably her favorite teacher in elementary school. The door to her room was standing open; she stood by the door, looking in, wondering if this was the right thing to do, when the teacher looked up and saw her standing there. Mrs. Ochsenlaager cocked her head and got a "what’s this all about" look on her face; Dayna mimed strumming her guitar, and the teacher smiled and nodded her head.
"Aye, lads and lassies," she boomed out as she strode into the room. "I’m Dayna the wandering minstrel, and I’m looking for Nottingham. Might this it be?"
Most of the kids had a confused look on their faces – this was something totally unexpected! "Aye, M’Lady," she bent over and said to one of the kids in the front, "Might this be Nottingham?"
"No," the little girl said, "it’s Bradford."
"Bradford, is it my dear?" she laughed. "And where might Bradford be?"
"In Michigan," the little girl responded.
"Michigan?" Dayna grinned. "I can’t say I ever heard of a place of the name of Michigan. Is that anywhere near Nottinghamshire, where a Mr. Robin Hood is to be found in this year of fifteen forty-two?"
"It’s not fifteen forty-two," the girl smiled bravely. "It’s nineteen ninety-five!"
"Are you sure, M’Lady?" Dayna replied incredulously.
"I’m sure," she said.
"It can’t be nineteen ninety-five!" she grinned. "If it were that distant future year, then what would I be doing here? It must be fifteen forty-two, for I was born in fifteen seventeen, and that makes me age twenty-five, I think? Or does it make twenty-four? Forty two minus seventeen, what that might be? D’ya know? I never was too good at addin’ and subtractin’."
The little girl thought for a second. "Yes, it makes twenty-five," she replied.
"M’Lady, I thankee for your help, it always helps one to know how old one is, now, so I guess I must be twenty-five. Now, a minstrel, she always pays someone helpin’ for her with a song or two. Would thou like to hear one?"
"Yes," the little girl smiled.
"Now," Dayna said, standing up. "If you boys and girls think you can talk your teacher into letting me play for you, I think I might be able to reward your kindness with a song or two and a story or two."
There was a chorus of noise from the kids all aimed at their teacher. Mrs. Ochsenlaager remembered Dayna, of course, and over the years had heard plenty of stories about her wanderings – but had never heard her play. "Dayna the Minstrel, I’m sure we’ll enjoy your songs."
"Thankee, M’Lady," she smiled, raised her guitar, and headed off into Wanda The Wanderer, the song she and Sandy had used to open the school version of the renfaire act, and motored right on through the whole forty-five-minute show, with Mrs. Ochsenlaager finding a seat on a table at the back of the room and grinning. There were several songs, including a musical version of thePied Piper of Hamelin; usually Sandy had played the guitar while Dayna mimed several points, but somehow she managed to work her way through doing both. In several places, much improvising was required to get through spots where she and Sandy had carried the show together, but it all seemed to work, and the kids were obviously having a ball. Finally, she wound up the act by saying that she had to be finding her way to Nottingham because Mr. Hood wanted her to play for him and his merry men; Mrs. Ochsenlaager asked the kids to thank her, and they all did, with applause. Waving bye-bye, she walked out the door, and into the arms of half a dozen teachers and the principal, Mr. Frantom.
"Dayna," he said. "That was quite a show. I’ve heard stories about you but I never realized you were that good."
"I hope I didn’t cause any problems by borrowing a class for an hour," she said, feeling pretty good about the way the act had gone. By God, even without Sandy, she could still do it! It wasn’t the same – but the kids hadn’t known the difference, they’d just had fun, and gotten a message about the importance of learning and reading! "I had to find out if I can still hold an audience. If I can hold third graders, adults are easy."
"I’d say you held them very well," Mr. Frantom said. "I saw most of that show, and it was wonderful. What’s the chances we could get you to put it on for the whole school?"
"Pretty good," Dayna told him. "But not today. I don’t know if you heard about the trouble I had this summer, but right now I’m pretty bushed. I’ll be around for the rest of the month, though, so there’s no reason I couldn’t do it in a week or two."
"How about a week from Thursday, at ten?"
"I’ll be here," she smiled. And maybe as Jeanie the Genie, too . . . it might not be as hard as she thought to solo that act . . . but, no, at least not right now. There were other things to be done before the renfaire opened in Missouri.
* * *
One of the options that Dayna had been fuzzily kicking around in the past couple of weeks was the idea of putting together an all-out group, maybe four or five musicians. That wouldn’t involve busking, and probably not renfaires, but it would work for club dates and recordings, so deserved thought. It was still a possibility, but it was up the road a ways, and there were other things to do first. But, if she formed a group, over the next few days it became obvious who she wanted for a road manager: Emily Holst. Talk about talent going to waste in the Spee-D-Mart!
Emily took the news that there would be more than just the renfaire weekends in stride without blinking an eyelash – or even at the news that Dayna had contacted a booking agent and there was the possibility of a few club dates thrown in during the week within striking distance of the renfaires. Dayna didn’t want to let her schedule get too heavy, since the hour show for the kids was about as much as she wanted to do right then and she needed some serious rest afterward, but there was no point in just sitting around for the weeks between the renfaires, either. About all Emily said was, "Would it make it easier to have a car down there to get around, rather than having to uproot the motor home every day?"
Dayna’s affirmative answer brought Emily’s response: "OK, I’ll work something up. You take care of the music and getting yourself in shape."
The next three weeks were pretty awesome in their way. There was a lot that needed to be done to get ready for two months on the road, especially with the extra complications that would be involved with guests all the time, but about all Dayna had to do was observe that something needed to be done and it was arranged for, either by her folks, by Emily, or one of the other ’88s. Under normal circumstances Dayna would have been embarrassed to accept all that help, especially unpaid, but she realized that these people were buying her the chance to remake her career, and she had the hard work to do. In those three weeks, she concentrated on the renfaire act, practicing, running through it, working out the details.
She also put some time into working up a solo version of the club act; in a way, that was simpler, because it depended less on patter and prearranged jokes and more on sheer unrehearsed wisecracking. Musically it was a little different, but since Dayna had always been the lead singer it simplified things, too. There were songs she had to figure how to work Sandy’s part into herself or do without entirely, and several had to be dropped from the repertoire, simply because there wasn’t time to pull together adequate solo versions. But, some of the most important standards, likeCold Cold Heart, Turn Me On, Lonesome Midnight, and Genie in a Bottle could easily be done solo, although they sounded better with accompaniment. It could be done.
Meanwhile, Emily was hard at work. Dayna soon sensed that she saw this as a big adventure of her own, a chance to break free for a while from home and family, to sample that other kind of life that she’d envied, and Dayna figured she might as well let Emily have her fun.
Dayna had been looking forward to getting out in Home again – although she wasn’t sure she could call the RV that anymore, since Sandy wasn’t involved – and just being on the road toward a gig would help her feel better. But, Emily reasoned, and correctly, and Dayna admitted once she thought about it, that the RV rode hard and would tend to wear her out on what would reasonably be a multi-day drive. So, Emily put Dayna in her nearly-new Olds Cutlass Ciera for the trip down to the renfaire site the last part of the week before it opened. Kevin was still working overtime and couldn’t get away, but under Emily’s urging, Dean Sallows, another ’88 who normally was a truck driver, took on the chore of driving the RV. Used to getting on the road and getting it on, he left the day after Emily and Dayna, beat them to the site, and had it set up and waiting by the time they got there. All they had to do was drive him to a nearby truck stop, where it had been set up to meet his truck-driver brother who was coming back from California with a load of oranges; they could double-team back to Michigan and get there half a day sooner.
To top it off, Dean managed to get the RV parked next to Tim and Charlene. It had been a while since she’d seen Tim – their periods in southern Michigan usually didn’t match, and with Jerry and Jim now doing most of the work for the insurance business, they could stay gone longer. There was some catching up to do, and then they took guitars and headed for the stage that Dayna would be working on for the next four weekends. There, with only the three for an audience, Dayna ran through the whole show. Tim had a couple of very minor comments, and topped it off with, "I don’t know what you’re worrying about, you’ll knock ’em in the aisles."
"It’s just that I did it for so long with Sandy," Dayna said sadly. "We were always there for each other, to carry each other and give each other courage. It’s hard to face doing it by myself."
"You’re just going to have to get used to it," Tim told her. "Have you heard anything from her?"
"No," Dayna said sadly. "Not since Dad and I dropped off her stuff. We agreed that we’d better not try to have much contact, it might be too hard on her."
"I suppose that’s wise, but a damn shame," Tim nodded. "Hang in there, kid. The worst of it will be the first show tomorrow. Then the audience will carry you, like you told me those third graders did."
The next day Tim proved to be pretty much right. The audience laughed in all the right places, applauded in all the right places, got some extra laughs out of Tim’s comedy routine, and did a pretty good job of putting money in the buckets Tim and Charlene carried while Emily, dressed in one of Sandy’s old costumes, sold CDs and Dayna signed autographs.
Still, an hour show meant a longer period, what with dealing with the fans and CD sales. She was tired but elated after the first one was done and sat down in a chair at the back of the stage to recover. Her health was still far from all the way back, and she was still pretty weak, but she was able to keep the weakness off the stage. Doing four shows just about did her in, and it was a long, tough walk after the last one of the day to get back to the RV, where she collapsed on the bed in sheer exhaustion. But in a way, she felt better – she knew she could do the shows, now. She still missed Sandy, missed her terribly, but had proved to herself that she could carry on without her.
* * *
Emily made a terrific road manager, and Dayna soon wished that she could keep her for the whole two-month run, but that was out of the question, of course. She and Emily had been friends in school, if not close friends, and she could never be the close friend that Sandy had been, but they did some serious deepening of friendship in the next few days. Emily’s attitude was simple: it was Dayna’s job to conserve her strength and concentration for performances. Everything else was Emily’s department – cooking, cleaning, driving, you name it. Right from the beginning, Dayna realized that she literally could not have managed this gig without her.
Dayna played three school dates in the following week – she didn’t feel she was up to a double yet, since there had to be quite a bit of time spent one on one with kids in a school act, and that took a lot out of her. There was also one college show, arranged through the booking agency; that was a blues/pop show, her first excursion into solo performances in that genre before a prepared crowd – and since blues/pop were her main interest, rather than the renfaire stuff, and seemed to be where her future lay, she put a lot of effort and energy into it. She threw a hell of an act, and had the place rocking, and was obviously tiring a little as she wrapped the show up – Emily realized that she was near total exhaustion. From the minute she came off the stage, she was in Emily’s hands, and fell asleep almost as soon as she was in the Olds.
Fortunately, there was no show the next day, not even a school show; mostly they lay around in chairs under the awning of the motor home, with Emily urging sugar and carbs on her to build her up. Even now, months after leaving the hospital, she was still on antibiotics, and she still had not regained all the weight she’d lost so precipitously – a fact drawn home to her every time she put on a corset for a show, and it could be drawn all the way together without feeling very tight. But with Emily pushing the food at her, she began to come back a little better.
As that week rolled around to Saturday, she faced another weekend of four shows a day. Tim and Charlene had left on Monday, heading back to North Carolina where he had a show the next weekend, and even with Emily’s help it seemed a rather lonely prospect. Though the previous weekend had gone just fine, having Tim there to back her up had made up the psychological difference for what was lacking when she nervously walked up to the stage on Saturday morning, planning on having to face the audience alone.
There, sitting on the edge of the stage, was a guy with a brown monk’s robe, a guitar, and a disreputable, battered white cowboy hat. "John!" she cried in surprise. "What are you doing here?"
"I called your house a few days ago to see how you were doing, and your mother said that you were a little concerned about having to solo, so I hopped in the car after I got off and came over to offer you some moral support."
"Oh, John!" she cried. "You didn’t have to do that, but my God it’s good to see you!" And it was – while she’d never actually performed with him, he’d been doing solo acts under tougher circumstances approximately forever, and Faire Maiden had partly dripped off of his fertile fingers. While Tim’s insertion into the performance the previous weekend had been pretty much planned, she and John just winged it – and as a consummate showman, he really helped make the crowds roar, right from Dayna’s introduction of him as, "The greatest modern wandering minstrel, Steam Train John." A high spot was when he did an impression of Bob Dylan doing Scarborough Faire – even Dayna laughed until she cried the first time she heard it.
Perhaps it was the infusion of John’s infectious energy, but Dayna wasn’t totally wasted after the four shows that day – and for the first time since Mackinaw City, there was an impromptu party at the RV afterwards. Dayna kept her hands off the booze and did little of the performing, but John kept the place hopping with some of his fun, if modern songs. Just those good times made the next day go easier.
Emily had been rather cute when she did the scheduling. On Wednesday, she and Dayna drove to the airport, where they met Scott and Sonja Tyler. They all spent a couple hours catching up on old times and Scott and Sonja getting a serious briefing from Emily, after which Emily got on a plane for Michigan, promising to be back later for the move from Louisiana back to Michigan. She left her car behind for Dayna, Scott, Sonja, Vicky, and the other helpers to use. That would leave her without a car in Michigan, except for the fact that Diane Gritzmaker, a Bradford ’88 who now lived in Hawthorne, had an old beater of a Dodge sitting out in her front yard with a "For Sale" sign on it. Diane didn’t have the time free to come down and help with the renfaires, but the old beater would be more than adequate to get Emily around Bradford for the next few weeks.
Dayna had heard a lot about Sonja, but to that point had never met her. She was a beautiful, well-spoken, and intelligent dark-skinned woman with some oriental features to her face, and it was obvious from the first five seconds that Scott had made a helluva catch in her; she was a seriously cool lady.
Since there were going to be several different guys as helpers in the next few weeks, Dayna’s parents had pulled together a nondescript one-size-fits-all guy’s outfit, based on some leftover stuff from her dad. It worked OK for Scott, but Dayna, on a whim, got the idea of putting Sonja into one of the harem-girl outfits – and talk about a knock ’em dead effect! She was the absolute picture of a Middle Eastern harem girl, just exotic enough to really make it work. She had Scott’s tongue hanging out all weekend, and his wasn’t the only dangling tongue in the crowds. Scott and Sonja had never been to a renfaire before, but they really enjoyed it – and when they left after the next weekend, in their luggage was a very sexy and rather expensive harem-girl outfit.
The three were together almost two weeks, and the way Scott and Sonja treated Dayna was pretty much like Emily had done – she was to concentrate on building her strength and performing, while they did everything else. But still, they managed to have a lot of fun, just hanging out and being friends, and helping with the two club dates and five school dates that Dayna worked during the period. Sonja proved to be about as big a blues fan as Dayna, and they had some fun story-telling times, especially listening to Dayna relate stories from the recording sessions in Memphis and meeting such legends as Mr. Tom. She was sorry to see them go; Scott had been a friend in high school, though not a close one, but by the time the couple left, they had become close friends indeed.
When Dayna took Scott and Sonja to the airport, they left early so they could meet their replacements, who were flying in from Miami, rather than Michigan: Andy and Hannah Baker. The two lived about a hundred miles east of Bradford, and had cut short a planned vacation at Fantasy Fest in Key West to be able to pitch in with helping Dayna for a week and a half or so; Emily had given them a careful briefing about what to expect.
Like Scott, Dayna had been friends with Andy in school, but not close friends, even more distant than Scott. It didn’t actually come out for a couple days, but eventually Dayna put the pieces together that they had cut short more than a vacation to help out: they’d been married in the middle of the summer, about the time that Dayna had been barely conscious, and this was their first chance to get away for an extended period. Dayna was real impressed with their willingness to help out a friend, or flabbergasted with Emily’s power of persuasion – or both – when it finally hit her that the Bakers had cut out half of their honeymoon to help her! That was pretty awesome . . .
* * *
Like Sonja, Dayna hadn’t met Hannah before she stepped off the plane; for that matter, Emily had only met her once, for a briefing. On a call a couple days ahead of time, Emily said that Hannah seemed pretty straight, and was on an executive track at a mid-sized insurance company, in charge of a claims adjustment division, a pretty good step up for not having been out of college very long. From all reports she was damn sharp and highly regarded, if a touch on the religious side. She proved to be small and very thin, moving with the grace of a gazelle. She was rather soft spoken and shy, and although the subject came up though briefly and rarely, it was clear that she took her Methodism seriously.
The amazing thing was the change that had come over Andy. In school, even the last time Dayna had seen him at Vicky’s twenty-first birthday party, he’d been rather boisterous and easy going, casual, and a bit sloppy. So, it was rather surprising to see him getting off the plane in a business suit and tie, and to see Hannah wearing a tweed business suit. The realization only came over Dayna slowly that the boisterous, casual and easy-going Andy was a thing of the past. The only term that could be used to describe him was gentleman, and he was courteous, even deferential toward his wife – as she was with him. In fact, in both word and action they were quite polite with each other, and with her, almost to the point of being formal.
Considering that most of the people Dayna knew and hung around with were pretty loose and casual, such formality was strange indeed, and it started coming to her attention. One of the things that really caught Dayna’s interest was noticing when Hannah spoke to her husband, the word "sir" got dropped in fairly frequently, and he often used "ma’am" when addressing her. They did refer to each other as Andy and Hannah, but more often as "My Hero" and "My Love," and not infrequently as "Mr. Baker" or "Mrs. Baker." This was a huge change in behavior for Andy, and Dayna’s initial reaction was that Hannah had to have set her hooks in him pretty deeply to bring that about. But they were very devoted to each other, and it seemed even more than just newlywed devotion.
Dayna didn’t really think about it much for a couple days – they had to bail right off into a distant school show, and then a club date the Friday night before the renfaire opened on Saturday, and that would take a lot out of her. As with the others, their mission was to take care of her, and they did. Feeling a touch tired but much elated about the way the club date the night before had gone, Dayna helped Hannah get costumed. She was so slender that the regular renfaire outfits were out of the question for her – there were no corsets in the RV’s supply that would fit her – so they were pretty well stuck with one of the harem-girl outfits again. Hannah didn’t look quite as realistic as Sonja had, being a light-skinned brunette, but the effect wasn’t bad.