Wes Boyd's
Spearfish Lake Tales
Contemporary Mainstream Books and Serials Online

River Rat
Book 5 of the Dawnwalker Cycle
Wes Boyd
2005, 2010



Chapter 21

September 5-8, 1999

Grand Canyon Trip 7

They briefly pulled up on the shore below Lava to sort things out and change a few clothes -- and for both Scooter and Randy to get some more backslapping and congratulations. It turned out that he'd had no more warning that he was going to solo Lava than anyone else -- "I about shit when I saw Crystal turn around and walk away!" -- but he freely admitted he wouldn't have had the guts to do it any other way. He also admitted, rather sadly at that, while he'd rather be a boatman he was going to have to go back to his construction company.

After being half a day or more ahead of schedule in Upper Granite Gorge, by the time they were through with Lava, for one reason and another they were half a day or more behind. There wasn't much river left, so they had to push it. For the next several hours, they kept going fairly hard, with only a couple brief potty breaks, and for a briefer than normal lunch. They were getting down river now, and were in the open area below Lower Granite Gorge, so the horizon seemed a lot farther away. Lava had been about all the rapids they needed for one day, and until camp in the afternoon there were only minor riffles and a couple small rapids. While no one could say they were bored with the Canyon, it seemed as if there had been more excitement upstream -- there the rapids bore historic, often colorful names, here only numbers -- 185 Mile, 187 Mile, and so on, which would continue clear down to Diamond Creek.

Finally, along in the afternoon they pulled into Parashant Wash, at mile 198. Usually they liked to be a little farther downstream for the next to last day, but this was a perfectly reasonable spot. They'd have about the same amount to run to Granite Springs tomorrow as they'd done today, but without a big, tough rapids as part of the story.

Like many of the campsites, Parashant had a good hike out of it. However, it was a warm afternoon for early September, and most people were tired from the excitement of Lava followed by the long run. When Crystal suggested a hike up to some interesting rock formations she got few takers -- even Karin gave it a pass, to find a shady spot down by the river to sit with Al.

Even with the thrill of the Bubble Line, Scooter still had her doubts, but realized she could doubt her way through the rest of the trip and the chances were running out. She found Dallas sitting under a tamarisk, just taking in the shade. "Hey, Dal," she grinned. "Would you like to take a short hike with me? It's something that I think you'll enjoy."

"Sure, Scooter," he smiled.

"Great," she grinned. "Go get a couple beers out of a drag bag while I get my daypack."

A couple minutes later, she put the beers in the daypack, threw it over her shoulders and started to lead Dallas upstream through the bottom of the wash, and to a narrow beach beyond, dotted here and there with clumps of tamarisk. She took it easy for a half mile or more, just talking about nothing in particular. Finally, he asked, "Scooter, where are we going, anyway?"

"Not far," she smiled. "I'd say that little patch of tamarisks up ahead would do just fine."

They were there in a minute or so, and stepped into a sandy little alcove in the trees where they could see the river, but they'd be obscured to anyone who came along. "This will do," she smiled as she slid out of the daypack.

"Do for what?" he grinned, apparently suspecting the answer.

"For what I want," she said, swinging around and taking him in her arms, and pulling his face close to hers. His lips met hers, and they burned each other like fire.

After a long, long kiss, they pulled apart just a little. "Scooter . . ." he started to whisper.

"No promises," she said softly. "Just now, no longer."

"I'll take what I can get," he whispered back, as she felt the strings of her top being untied while she reached for his T-shirt.

Without remembering clearly how they got there, they both found themselves nude. "Just a second," she whispered, as if there were anyone here but him. She bent down, opened the daypack and pulled out a small tarp to spread on the sand, and from the pocket of the pack pulled one of the condoms she'd started to bring along on the river trips in case such an emergency should arise. It wasn't very much longer before it was in use, as she was lying on the tarp and feeling the exciting sensation of him penetrating her.

It went on . . . a long time, and not long enough. It had been a long time for her, and without knowing for sure, she suspected it had been longer for him, but they were hungry for each other and made love like they were starving -- actively, maybe even approaching violently. How wonderful it was! When the magnificent release they'd been looking for overcame them, she bucked and moaned, and he did too.

Presently they found themselves in each other's arms, just nuzzling and kissing a little, coming back down from the high they'd sent each other to. "Scooter," he whispered finally, "That was wonderful. Thank you."

"Thank you," she whispered back. "Dallas, you have no idea of how bad I needed that."

"Probably not as bad as I did," he said. "I've been dreaming of it for a week, now."

"Me too," she smiled, "Since that little pool back below Crystal Rapids, but I wanted to be sure I was doing the right thing."

"You did," he smiled, "And I'll be eternally grateful. Scooter, I'll be honest, there's a part of me that wants to take you home with me."

"No," she smiled back, "I've made it a rule for years, only one session to a customer."

"I knew you'd say that," he grinned. "The other part of me says that taking you home with me would ruin what I like best about you. You belong here, Scooter, or at least some place wild like this. You don't belong in a regular life in a city."

"You said it about as well as I could," she snickered. "That's what I meant, just for now, no promises."

"I understand," he said. "You're just going to have to be the most wonderful memory of this wonderful trip."

"I'll settle for that," she replied, then grinned, "But Dallas, I said one session to a customer, not one time to a customer."

"You mean . . ."

"Whenever you're ready."

 

Still with a larger than average distance to push in the morning, they got on the river early, with the idea of getting to Granite Springs with plenty of time for some extra end-of-trip activities. There were more of the anonymous numbered rapids -- 205 Mile, 209 Mile, where they stopped for lunch, then 212 Mile, 217 Mile, none of them particularly difficult but getting on down toward the last. Along in the afternoon, they pulled into one of the familiar campgrounds on the shady side of the Canyon at Granite Springs.

As Scooter helped with some organization that would have to be done in preparation for getting off the river the next day, and helped with dinner, she reflected that it was just as well that she'd had her dalliance with Dallas yesterday. If she'd let it go until today she might not have had the time to do everything they'd done. As it was, they'd barely made it back to camp in time for dinner; probably they didn't cover it up very well, even though Scooter said shyly, "I guess we went farther than I thought."

It had been the end of a several-years-long dry spell. Though Scooter knew she could never be as promiscuous or unselective as Andrea and Debby must be, or as Jennlynn must be, this had worked out well and she figured that she'd do it again sometime if the time felt right. But there was one special thing about Dallas -- he knew right from the beginning that it would never work outside the Canyon. Still, it was going to be as pleasant a memory for her as it apparently was for him.

The last dinner of the trip was always special -- frozen steaks that had been chilled even further by long exposure to dry ice, and then sealed in a thick cooler with more dry ice. Even in the hottest days of summer, it took gloves and tongs to get those steaks out of the cooler, although they thawed rapidly in the Canyon sun and then thawed even more rapidly on the warped griddle that had had so many meals cooked on it over the summer. Crystal and Scooter had long agreed to not replace it; there was something about it that made food cooked on it taste even more special. Dinner was expansive, laid back, relaxing, and sad with the fact that the trip had come to an end. Scooter found herself reflecting that this one had started out pretty rocky, but the second half had made up for it, in one of the better and more memorable trips of the summer.

It was still a ways until dark, when they'd have a final campfire. Crystal, Scooter, and the rest of the boatmen made a point of going around to each of the people on the trip for a brief word of goodbye, of pleasant memories. Sometimes it was more than just brief -- Crystal and Randy disappeared for a while, and were soon spotted on a ledge down river a ways, just sitting and talking. They were longtime friends, of course, and everyone knew they had special things to share.

The campfire was sad, of course; the last one always was sad. For the first time in several trips Scooter heard Al quote Major Powell's words about talking of the Grand Canyon, talking of home, and then people slowly drifted off to bed.

Scooter was getting ready for a good night's sleep when Crystal came up to her. "Hey, Scoot," she said. "You want to go for a little walk with me?"

"Yeah, sure," she replied. "We probably shouldn't plan on going too far in the dark."

"We don't have to," Crystal said. "But I need to talk with you, and I don't want to do it in camp."

"Sure, Crystal," she replied, wondering if she was finally going to be filled in on the mysterious subject that her friend had been unwilling to talk about for over a week.

"Let's grab something out of a drag bag," Crystal suggested. "This might take a while."

They wandered upstream for a ways, then found a sandy spot where they could rest their backs a little. "Scooter, I'm sorry I haven't been more open with you," Crystal began, "But a lot of this isn't really mine to tell, so we'll have to keep it between ourselves for a while." She let out a sigh. "Christ, I don't know where to start. The last few days have been the most unbelievable of my life, and it's been hard to keep quiet."

"I could see you've been, well, I don't want to say troubled, but pretty intense."

"That's a fair statement," Crystal nodded. "Scooter, do you remember when we were talking back after Louise's funeral, you know, about that song, And When I Die?"

"There'll be one child born to carry on," Scooter nodded. "We were talking about all the little hints that you're that one child who's supposed to carry on for Louise."

"Right," Crystal said slowly. "Scooter, I'm a little religious, although I don't show it much. Pete always hated anything to do with religion, but Noah down there on the Ocoee got me to thinking about it a little."

"Me, too," she admitted. "We had some fine discussions."

"God's hand has to be involved in this; it's all I can say," her friend replied. "The only logical conclusion I can come up with is that I am truly that child."

"You're getting pretty mystical, Crystal."

"Maybe so," she grinned, "But ponder this one bit of evidence, and it's the thing that more than anything else has to be kept a secret for a while." She took a deep breath, waited for a second, and then went on, "Scooter, the evening after we ran Crystal, Mom came clean with Al and me, up at a little water pocket above the camp. Something she covered up all my life. Pete, that jerk back in Chicago who Mom is finally leaving, isn't my father at all."

"Crystal?"

"Al is my father."

"Oh! My! God!!" Scooter struggled with the thought for a moment -- and then remembered talking with Al, clear back up at North Canyon, when he'd admitted to having a Canyon romance with Karin before Crystal was born. Yes, it could be true. Most likely was. Now that she thought about it, and knew of the connection, there seemed to be a lot of family resemblance between Al and Crystal. Well, there should be. And the other connections, the coincidences, the resemblances. "Oh, my Godddd!" she said again, after a few of those thoughts had flashed through her mind. "I can see why you've been keeping it quiet."

"They had a Canyon romance when she took that other trip," Crystal said, confirming the suspicion. "Mom says she thought about seeing if she could stay in the Canyon with Al, but back then he was just a broke boatman like a lot of people we know, and she didn't think she could hack the life. She went back to Chicago and started a whirlwind romance with Pete; they were married in a couple weeks. She didn't know she was pregnant with me until after she was married. She says that she knew right from the beginning that Al could have been my father, but she and I have the same blood type, so that didn't provide any proof. It wasn't until I grew up to be four inches taller than Pete and six inches taller than Mom that she was sure."

"And by then she'd long lost track of Al," Scooter nodded. "She couldn't very well have said anything then, anyway."

"Right," Crystal grinned. "She didn't know Al was even alive until Randy sent her that picture you took of me and Al on the last trip he was with us. When Pete left for Japan she was ready to leave him anyway, and that photo pushed her over the top. She came out here to apologize to me, but to make a clean break with Pete, too."

"So what happens now?"

"Mom's going back to Flagstaff with us, since we have an errand to run in Phoenix. Then she's going to fly back to Chicago, get her divorce started, and file for retirement. Then she's coming back out here." She was silent for a moment. "They both think it's a little soon, but the last week they've been exploring the idea of picking up where they left off."

"Oh, my God! Doesn't that just put the icing on the cake!"

"I think it's going to happen, too," Crystal smirked. "But really, it's too early to tell. Mom is supposed to go back to Chicago to get that stuff started, but she says she's going to hang around to see us off at Lee's on Monday. Me, I wouldn't be surprised if she signs herself onto the crew list and runs with Al and us, anyway. If she goes back to Chicago, she'll be back for at least another trip yet this fall, depending on how long it takes." She let out a sigh. "Not all the pieces are in place yet, so we have to stay quiet about it. The one thing that they have definitely decided is that because of the divorce and the fact that it's so soon after Louise died, they're going to be absolutely above board with whatever they do." She snickered and went on, "That doesn't mean sneaking out in the tammies like some assistant trip leader I know."

"Crystal . . ."

"Hey, so long as you had fun, I don't mind. You kept it real low profile and toward the end of the trip. This is way, way, way different."

"This is really going to change things, isn't it?"

"It's already started, and there's no telling where it comes out. A lot just sort of depends."

"So, what's this errand in Phoenix?"

"Mom thinks my brother is down there somewhere. Pete drove him out of the house a couple years ago." She sighed, and continued, "Well, maybe that's not quite true, but close. I visited Jon at his dorm at Georgia Tech the day before Randy and I picked you up so we could go start the AT. That was the last time I saw him. Mom and I have a couple vague pieces of evidence that point toward him living down there with a girl by the name of Tanisha. I met her at Tech that time. If that's what's happening, it would explain Jon leaving without a reason."

"Why's that?"

"She seemed to be a nice girl, but Scooter, she's as black as the night sky. I don't mean tan, I don't mean brown, I mean just as black as a person can be. If that bozo Mom married knew that, he'd blow a hell of a lot higher than he blew with me, and Jon would have known it." She stopped for a moment and apparently considered saying something else. "Anyway, Mom wants to see Jon again so she can update him on what's happened."

"That is the damndest thing, all the way around," Scooter said. "Not only are you getting your mom back and maybe your brother back, you're getting the dad you never knew back. Crystal, I'm happy for you, but I have to admit that I'm just a little bit jealous."

"Because you know it can't happen for you?"

"Yeah," Scooter said glumly, "I don't want to take a thing away from you, but, well . . . you know."

"Scooter," Crystal smiled, "You're involved in this a little bit, too. This summer you've turned into the closest friend I've ever had. I was close with Myleigh, but we looked at a lot of things way different. You and I are coming from damn near the same place. We understand each other. As far as I'm concerned, you're more of a sister to me than my sister ever was, and I'll tell that to Mom and Dad and Jon just like I'm telling you. There's going to be good things happen out of this, and I want you to share in them, too."

"Thanks, Crystal," Scooter said, "I really appreciate it. Damn it, you're the best friend I've ever had, by a long way." She snickered. "In fact, if it weren't for the fact that it'd make us both feel like lesbians, I'd be giving you the kiss of your life right now."

"Maybe it's a shame we're not," Crystal grinned. "You never had a sister, so you might not realize that sisters dump on each other once in a while, and I'm afraid I've got to stick you with a chore."

"What's that?"

"Mom and I are probably going to need more than a day in Phoenix to look for Jon. Al may go too, it isn't settled yet. That means I need to stick you with getting groceries Saturday, and maybe even loading and rigging on Sunday."

"Hey, Crystal," Scooter grinned, unable to resist sliding over to Crystal and slipping an arm around here. "Isn't that what sisters are for?"

"When your sister is your assistant trip leader, it is," Crystal laughed.


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