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 35

February 18 - 25, 2000

Back to Flagstaff

Several hours later, Michelle was on an airliner headed for Phoenix, while Crystal and Scooter turned the nose of the van toward Spearfish Lake. There had been times when Crystal had driven the trip close to straight through, but they weren't in that big a hurry and made a night stop along the way, calling to give Randy the head's-up that they were coming.

Crystal pulled the minivan into Randy's driveway about a month and a half after the wedding in Spearfish Lake. It was still the dead of winter there, not any warmer than it had been at the first of the year, but Crystal and Scooter had spent most of the intervening time in Florida and the Bahamas, so it seemed like it was a damned sight colder.

It was now Randy's slowest time of the year. Construction work would be picking up markedly in a few weeks, but right now there wasn't much that could be done, and what planning work there was had to be stretched out so that there'd be something to do when he headed into the office. As a result, Crystal and Randy had the best chance they'd had in years to just sit back and talk.

Randy and Nicole had been married a month and a half now, and they were settling in with each other. Now there was the chance to talk Appalachian Trail with her a lot more seriously than there had been in those hectic days during the wedding, and there was time to catch up on other stuff, too.

It was Scooter who asked the question that she and her two friends had frequently giggled about over the last six weeks. "So, Nicole, how long did he leave the handcuffs on you?"

"Oh, God," she sighed. "Did I ever put my foot in it on that one! I decided I wasn't going to ask Randy to take them off, just to see how long he'd leave them on me."

"It turned out that we were sort of working at cross purposes," Randy said. "I'd decided that I was going to leave them on her until she asked me to take them off. I was curious how long it would take her to ask."

"I wish I'd known that," Nicole shook her head. "I didn't find that out till later. Anyway, the day after we saw you out at the Inn, school started back up. When we got up that morning, I was still wearing the handcuffs and I had to go teach. I couldn't believe Randy was going to send me to work in handcuffs. But, I got dressed up and ready to go with his help, and then he said, 'Hey, you better get moving, you're going to be late.'"

"I couldn't believe that she'd actually go to school without asking me to take them off her," Randy said. "But by then, I'd have left them on her, even if she'd asked, just to see if she'd go through with it."

"I still don't believe I did it," Nicole laughed. "I mean, the principal and a lot of the teachers had seen Randy put them on me at the wedding, and I got some of the goofiest questions on Earth when I got to school. I mean, embarrassed, my God! So, I got to class, and the kids are all howling, and all I could do was make some dumb ass joke about the chains of matrimony, when Randy walked into the classroom and unlocked them. He gave me a kiss right in front of all the kids, and walked out."

"It was more than some dumb ass joke," Randy grinned. "She was standing there cracking jokes like she was Jay Leno or somebody." He shook his head and continued, "Actually, I lost on the deal. I guess we were trying to out-stiff each other. If I hadn't done it, she'd have worn them all day."

"As if I would have had any choice," Nicole laughed. "Needless to say, I didn't get a lot of teaching done that morning, the kids all thought it was a scream, and the story got all over town."

Scooter shook her head. "So, you wore handcuffs what, three days straight?"

"A little more than that," Nicole smiled. "Wearing them was a pain in the butt, but I knew Carole had managed it, so I really couldn't complain."

"You have to admit," Randy laughed, "It did make what there was of our honeymoon even more memorable."

"I can't imagine it," Crystal shook her head. "I mean, even two or three days would strike me as a real pain in the butt. But six years? Unreal!"

"She was still wearing them a lot of the time you were in and out of town," Randy said. "Up till the summer before the winter you spent out at Josh and Tiffany's. I can't believe you hadn't run across her."

"I wasn't here that much," Crystal shook her head. "And most of the time I was fairly busy."

"She was still wearing them when Myleigh met her, that summer she stayed with my folks after she graduated," Randy smiled. "They hit it off pretty well."

"We're moderately close friends," Nicole told them. "A couple different times she's commented that she'd like to meet you, both of you, in fact. I could call over and see if she's free."

"Actually, what we ought to do is take Crystal and Scooter over to see Carole and Wendy," Randy suggested. "Wendy doesn't get a lot of visitors, and she likes them. She'd be impressed with a couple Grand Canyon raft guides dropping by and yarning a bit."

"Good idea," Nicole said. "I could go call."

"Just a second," Randy said. "You can say no if you want to, but the one thing I need to warn you about is that Wendy doesn't get along well with people patronizing her or pitying her. I mean, if you can think of her as someone who needs glasses to get along, just more so, it'll be fine. She's a unique and brilliant person in many ways; it's just that she has to live a life that's a little different than the rest of us."

"You mean like outdoor bums have to live a life that's a little different than the sane world?" Crystal grinned.

"Well, yeah," Randy smiled. "But more so."

Whatever Scooter had ever thought a quadriplegic was like, if she'd thought about it at all, Wendy Carter wasn't it. She was actually fairly independent, mostly because her father was a mechanical engineer with friends who liked to tinker. Wendy more or less lived in the middle of a computer-driven, voice-activated support system called "Jeeves," which could do some remarkable things. She'd written one book, about Carole and a friend, and was deep in writing a complicated fantasy novel. She was quite personable and obviously brilliant, which could also be said of her sister.

"What I can't understand," Scooter said to Carole, being right up front about it, "Is how you could wear handcuffs for six years."

"It's not easy to understand," Carol said. "In fact, I can look back now and say I can't understand it, either. It seemed like a good idea at the time. We all like to feel a little special, a little different. Some people get piercings. Some get tattoos."

"Some people become Grand Canyon raft guides," Wendy snickered.

"Well, yeah," Scooter shook her head. "I see that part of it."

"While it could be tedious at times, it was often interesting," she smiled. "At times, it was a lot of fun, just to watch the reactions people would have when seeing something that outrageous in front of them. Toward the end of the experience, a friend of Wendy's and mine wore handcuffs for two months, partly because she wanted to see what it was like. We had a tremendous amount of fun playing off of each other."

"Randy and I caught Carole and Brenda down on the beach at Ft. Lauderdale one time," Nicole grinned. "They were wearing nothing but bikinis and handcuffs, and they were putting people on so bad that there were times that I had to sneak off to break down and laugh my butt off."

"There were good times and bad," Carole laughed. "That weekend was one of the best. Brenda and I could play off of each other much better than I could do as a solo act. It was a scream." She let out a sigh and continued. "What I did not realize at the time was that I had become thoroughly addicted to wearing them. I mean, I had no particular desire to take them off, but I didn't see that as an addiction. Then Wendy tricked me into taking them off, and then I realized just how bad an addiction it was."

"It was not real pretty there for a while," Wendy agreed.

"It still isn't pretty," Carole admitted. "I could no more dare to wear handcuffs voluntarily now than a recovered alcoholic could spend an evening with a bottle of whiskey or a heroin addict have a fix for old time's sake. Not even for a few minutes for the sake of a documentary that was filmed. The point is that even at the time I could admit that it was pretty weird, but I enjoyed it and saw no reason to quit. Brenda was getting hooked, too, and she didn't even have as good a reason to be wearing handcuffs as I did. Now, the question I have for you is this: don't you feel that way?"

"You mean, about being raft guides?" Scooter nodded. "It's what I want to do, I see no reason to change, and the Canyon is an exciting place, very beautiful. Why would I want to quit?"

"Even at the price of giving up a normal life, things like a husband, a home, family, children, all that sort of thing, for the sake of being a raft guide?" Carole asked. "Like I had to give up many of those normal goals so I could wear handcuffs?"

"Well, yeah," Scooter replied, seeing her point immediately. "It's part of the price I have to pay. I knew that, even before I ever thought of the Canyon. I'll admit, I'm not very normal, but I knew that. It would be very difficult for me to walk out of the Canyon and become a wife and a mommy and have a regular job. I'm not sure I could do it and know I don't want to."

"So you're addicted to the Canyon, or at least the life style that goes with it, right?"

"I wouldn't say addicted . . ." Scooter replied, then stopped and thought for a moment, then continued, ". . . but yeah, pretty close, maybe, depending on how you define it."

"Oooohh, boy!" Crystal grinned, "Scooter, don't we know someone who's addicted to being a teenybopper?"

"Oh, jeez, yes," Scooter grinned. "This gal is twenty-five, remarkable in a lot of ways, and you'd swear she was fifteen. She was with us until a couple days ago when she had to fly home, or she'd have been here with us. She really works at being a bubble-gummer."

"Just like you have to work at being raft guides?" Carole asked rhetorically.

"Well, she's one of us, too," Crystal laughed. "OK, Carole, we're crazy, I admit it at least. But at least it's a moderately acceptable insanity for a woman . . ." her words trailed off for a moment. "But it wasn't acceptable thirty years ago when some remarkable women opened the door, especially one we have a lot of respect for."

"Louise?" Randy asked.

"Yeah," Crystal admitted softly. "If you use Carole's definition, she was a Canyon addict, too. Scooter and I have pretty well agreed that we're trying to follow in her footsteps. I don't think either of us would be in the Canyon if she hadn't cleared the path for us."

"If it's an addiction, then it's one I'm comfortable with," Scooter said flatly. "And I expect it to be that way for the foreseeable future. I mean, it would be nice to have a guy, and some of that stuff, but I wouldn't want to give up the Canyon for him."

"Me, either," Crystal sighed. "Not taking anything away from Randy, but there's living proof. I couldn't give up being an outdoor bum for the guy I've liked best in my life. It's a question of priorities, and he wasn't at the top of the list. Sorry about that Randy, but that's the way it was."

"I knew that," he said. "I tried to deny it for some time, but I always knew the wild geese called to you pretty strong. When it became clear that I was pretty much going to have to be a home stander, I tried to figure some way to work it out, but in the end I could see there just wasn't going to be a way. Crystal, don't get me wrong, I enjoyed that trip down the Canyon with you last summer a lot. I hope to be able to do it again and take Nicole with me so she can see how neat a place it is. But I learned one thing: I'm not really cut out for that kind of a life. I mean, I can do it for a while and enjoy it, but it's nice to have a home to come back to."

"I guess I pretty well understood there was that difference between us, too," Crystal admitted. "I'm glad we both came to our senses in time."

"It would have broken down," he agreed, "And probably sooner than later."

"I enjoyed being out on the trail last summer," Nicole admitted. "It was the adventure of a lifetime for me. And it was hell to get off the trail, to stand at the top of Katahdin and realize I had nowhere to go but home. But I knew I had a home to go to and wanted to go to it. I like to get out and go, sure, and I know it's caused Randy some problems. But I'm sure we can work them out in the future or I wouldn't have married him. I came close to getting addicted to your kind of life, Crystal, but I think I managed to fight it off."


As it turned out, Crystal and Scooter were the first guests to overnight at Randy and Nicole's new house. It was a quite memorable house, and Scooter realized that it was a little sensitive for her friend -- after all, it could have been her house if she'd been willing to make the changes in her life that would have been needed to live there. She hadn't been able to, and this was the result; Scooter wasn't sure that Crystal wasn't just as happy.

It didn't seem to make much sense to cart the snowboards as far as they'd been carried and not get out with them at least once. So, on the weekend, Randy and Nicole took them out to the local ski hill, a relatively modest affair, and they messed around for the afternoon, having a good time. Originally the plan had been to make a revisit of some of the ski hills around Marquette, where Crystal went to college. But, they didn't think they should mess around with Michelle's mom's minivan without Michelle along, so on Sunday they drove over to Randy's folks house and cleaned Crystal's stuff out of their attic. There was a fair amount and the minivan was pretty well packed when they got finished.

"I really don't know if we should let you do this," Randy's father Ryan teased at one point during the process. "As long as this stuff was here we knew we'd be seeing you again sooner or later. Now we don't have that guarantee."

"I'll be back sometime, I promise," Crystal told him. "Probably not before next winter, now. After all, I have good friends here, and the various Clarks are right at the head of the list."

The six of them had dinner at Randy's parents, and then headed back to Randy and Nicole's to spend the night. Early the next morning, they said their good-byes, and Crystal and Scooter got on the road to Flagstaff. Once they were on the state road heading south, Crystal leaned back in the seat of the van and said to Scooter, who was driving, "Don't get me wrong, Scoot. Those are some of the best friends I have, but I learned a long time ago that the best view of Spearfish Lake is in the rear view mirror. I've often felt like I did the wrong thing by letting Randy go, but it would mean having to live there with him. I think I'd feel like I was chained down, whether I was wearing them on my wrists or not."

"He's a hell of a nice guy," Scooter agreed. "But I think I agree with you."

"You know what it is?" Crystal said. "We've got the late-winter blahs. Everything we've done this winter has been to kill time until we can get back to the Canyon, and it's starting to get to us. I guess Carole was right, we're addicted to it."

"I think so, too," she nodded. "Six weeks or so until we get our first fix, Crystal."

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To be continued . . .

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