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 45

December 2 - 29, 2000


The three of them covered a lot of ground in the next two weeks, snowboarding at some famous ski resorts like Alpine Valley, and some they'd never heard of before. At one point, it was only a couple hundred miles into San Francisco, so they decided to drive down and check it out. There were some things that caught their interests a little, but they were all mostly backcountry girls, and after a day or so they all pretty much agreed that it was all real neat but they'd really rather be on their snowboards. They checked out Yosemite, which was beautiful in the winter, and they all hoped to see it in the summer sometime, and stopped at a few more ski resorts. They had some good times, but they only slowly became aware of the turning of the calendar pages. Finally, when they realized they were cutting it pretty close on getting ready for Christmas, then Florida and the Bahamas, they drove all night to make it back to Flagstaff to start catching up.

Christmas at Al's was a little smaller this year, since several people who had been there last year didn't make it this year. Dave and Mary had to give it a pass; her grandmother wasn't doing well, and it might be the last family Christmas for her, so they drove from Mexico to her parent's home in St. Louis for the holiday. Jennlynn and Myleigh were also among the missing, as was Ben -- he'd found a job in Phoenix and wasn't likely to quit when spring rolled around -- but Carl and Duane were there, both newcomers. What with everything, including no dressing-up practical joke and no Myleigh with her harp, it seemed just a little muted from the year before.

Two days after Christmas, Al, Karin, Crystal, and Scooter headed down to Phoenix, and once again Jon and Tanisha dropped them at the airport. At one point there had been some discussion about them joining the surfing trip, but apparently there was something critical going on at Lambdatron, so they had to cancel. They had, however, informed the bosses that they were going to be taking off for the wedding, and if something critical was scheduled in that period, it was just going to be tough; they weren't going to be there.

Fortunately, their reservations were honored this time, since they couldn't call on Jennlynn for backup -- they knew she was out on the Hoffman's Nevada ranch somewhere and figured she was enjoying herself. A few hours later they were getting out of a rental car at Buddha and Giselle's, to find Myleigh already there -- and with a surprise! At the last minute, Randy and Nicole had decided to sneak down for a few days before she had to go back to teaching.

It turned out that earlier that day Myleigh had been surprised herself, to meet another surfer, Trey Hartwell, who turned out to be not only one of her students, but who had been stage manager for her at a concert she'd given at Marienthal a few weeks before. Neither of them even knew the other was a surfer, let alone that they were going to be at the same place so far from school. It had been a spur-of-the-moment thing for Trey, who was on the old side for a college student after spending several years in the Army. The professor-student relationship never caused much of a problem partly because Trey was a genuinely nice guy, and partly, as Myleigh put it, "Here we are but fellow surfers together upon the shore."

When you got right down to it, none of them were particularly good surfers, especially when measured against people like Buddha and Giselle. Nor was the water particularly warm, but the surf was good to moderate and they all had fun on their surfboards, on the shore letting the sun bake them back to warm, and around the campfires in the evenings.

Randy and Nicole had especially enjoyed the surfing; it turned out that they'd come here on their "honeymoon" during Nicole's spring break. It hadn't worked out too well -- the surf had been flat every day, and they had to break it short because Randy had a bid presentation right in the middle of the whole thing that he couldn't duck. As a result, he reported that they'd spent a couple days at Disney World, went back to Spearfish Lake for the bid presentation, then just went home, locked the doors and took the phone off the hook. "When you get right down to it," Nicole sighed, "That's what we should have done in the first place."

This was the first time since their abortive honeymoon that they'd been on any sort of a vacation out of Spearfish Lake. Randy's construction work was busy as hell from about April through November, but the winter was slow indeed, and some weeks he reported having as much as a day of paperwork to deal with. On the other hand, Nicole was a teacher, had the summers free, but had trouble getting away in the winter. It wasn't as if they hadn't known they were going to have the problem, since it had been going on for a couple years before they got married. They were going to try to take a real vacation together this spring -- shortly after the announcement of the wedding plans, Randy and Myleigh had been asked to do the music at the wedding. "It's a major hassle for Nicole to get off," Randy reported. "She has to take it unpaid, and still pay for a sub out of her pocket. But who knows when we'll get the chance to do the Canyon together again?"

Among the other guests planning to be at the wedding were Buddha and Giselle themselves -- Al had been looking forward to showing the Canyon to his old friend, who he'd asked to be his best man.

They were camping again -- one of the things they'd had to do before Christmas was to box up camping gear and some of the things that would be needed in the Bahamas, then ship it to Buddha and Giselle, since it would be too much stuff to take on the airline. There was nothing wrong with that -- this group was used to camping if any group could be. Randy was about the least experienced camper of the bunch; Trey had spent several months in field conditions in Kosovo, and from the stories he told it made the Canyon seem pretty soft.

Trey was there by himself, but as sort of a friend of Myleigh's, he was more or less adopted into the group. Part of the reason was that when there was work to be done, he was one of the first to pitch in and do it, something notable among a bunch of raft guides who were used to doing that sort of thing. He was always cheerful and friendly, and Scooter thought a couple times that she might like to get to know him a little better -- she wasn't that much older than he was, after all. Without discussing it, she could see Crystal was kicking the idea around a little, too.

It proved that Al was kicking around getting to know him better himself, but for a different reason. On the evening of New Year's Eve, they were sitting around the campfire just as it was getting going, when he asked, "Trey, you got a job lined up for the summer?"

"I've got a part-time job that goes through the summer," the kid replied. "The hours are kind of lousy for when school's out, though. I've taken summer classes the past few years, but I've pretty well taken what I can take. I've been looking into an internship, though."

"Well, if you're interested," Al said. "Come spend the summer working for me. I can always use swampers, someone to help out with the heavy lifting and stuff."

"I'd be a liar if I said I hadn't been thinking about asking you," Trey replied. "It sounds like a hell of an adventure."

"I've gotta be fair," Scooter piped up, "Even if Al won't be. The pay's not bad, but it's a hell of a lot of work. We live damn rough. You're up before everybody else, do a lot of shit work, and stay up later than everyone else. You get dirty, and it's hotter than hell, especially in July and August. Worst of all, it's addictive. It's like no place else on earth. You'd be a fool not to take him up on the offer, Trey."

"Can you wait a week or two?" Trey asked. "Believe me, I want to do it so bad it's not funny, after all the stories I've heard out of you the last few days. I'm pretty well committed to the internship if it comes through, but I don't know that it's going to. I should know right after I get back."

"If you made the commitment, then you've got to honor it, I guess," Al said. "That says more about you than you might think, in my book. Sure, no problem with a week or two, we're not doing anything this time of year, anyway."

"I'll let you know as soon as I find out," Trey replied. "And, really, whichever way it goes, thanks for the offer."

"Good deal," Crystal smiled. "Hope you can come join us."

By then the group was getting pretty well settled in around the campfire -- and it was a big fire, not the little things they had in a fire pan in the Canyon, due to the limited amount of wood they could bring with them. The group would be changing some the next day; Randy and Nicole had to be heading back, and Michelle would be arriving late. But it was a special night, since it was also Randy and Nicole's first anniversary.

"I've got to ask," Karin grinned, "Whether you're going to carry on the tradition you started at the reception."

Nicole blushed, and looked a little uncomfortable. "That was a little different, wasn't it?" she said noncommittally.

"Well, it was an interesting accessory to your wedding dress," Crystal prodded.

Buddha frowned. "I've heard that your reception was a little wild, but I don't think I've heard this story."

Some laughing went around. It had been pretty funny. Well, Buddha and Giselle hadn't been there, and not Trey, either; but everybody else had.

Nicole blushed a little, and said, "Oh, it was just something I brought on myself."

"She won't tell you unless you dig it out of her, Buddha," Myleigh laughed. "Randy had her in handcuffs at their wedding reception."

Giselle looked at the both of them with a strange expression. "He did what?" she asked curiously.

"Oh, hell," Nicole said, and told the story about some Grand Canyon raft guides spiking the punch, which led to her spending most of her wedding reception and her wedding night in handcuffs.

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

"Oh, it did," Nicole agreed. "You're never going to let me forget it, and neither is anyone else who was there."

"That still doesn't answer my question," Karin said with a huge grin, "Are you going to carry on the tradition?"

"I have to admit," Randy laughed, "I have given it some consideration. Really, I could stand for some advice. What does anyone else think? Should we do it?"

Nicole looked at him, very suspiciously. "You brought them with you, didn't you?"

"Nicole," Randy grinned expansively, "You're the Girl Scout leader. Isn't the motto of the Girl Scouts 'Be Prepared'?"

"Well, it is very nice to have some traditions in the family," Scooter said with an evil grin.

"Oh, good grief," Nicole said, holding out her hands to her husband. "You're all going to make me do it, aren't you? Go ahead, Randy."

"Thought you'd never ask," he said, pulling the pair of chrome Soliel handcuffs out of the duffle bag beside his chair, and started fastening them on his wife's wrists. "Karin's right. It'll make a good anniversary tradition."

"Randy, you're a lucky man," Buddha laughed. "Most wives in this world get upset if you forget your anniversary. You're going to have Nicole wishing you would."

"You're not going to make me wear these home, are you?" Nicole asked as Randy fastened the second cuff.

"No, I don't think they'd let us on the plane," Randy said. "Of course, that doesn't mean that you can't wear them to the airport."

"Karin, do you see what you've started?" Nicole said, in obvious mock anger, holding the handcuffs up so everyone could see them. "First last August, and now this! You're going to make people think I'm another Carole!"

"August?" Karin smiled. "What did he do? Carry through on his threat to chain you down to keep you from leaving town?"

"Not exactly," Nicole replied sheepishly. "I think it could be better described as demonstrating that he was really serious that he'd rather have me around, but it was two and a half weeks of demonstration."

"Two and a half weeks?" Crystal replied in a little bit of surprise. "All the time, 24/7? I'm surprised you didn't try to kill him."

"It was full time, two and a half weeks, with no break," Nicole shook her head. "I understood the point he was trying to make and he was right."

"And you didn't mind?" Scooter asked.

"Of course I minded," Nicole snorted. "It's uncomfortable, awkward, embarrassing, tedious, and a lot of other negative things. But I knew from Carole and Brenda that it wasn't intolerable, so I really couldn't have said anything."

"I would have taken them off if she'd seriously asked me to," Randy smiled. "As far as that goes, the keys lay on the kitchen table the whole time; she knew what they were and where they were."

"But I didn't," Nicole explained. "I understood that he'd put them on me and he'd take them off me when he was ready. Like I said, I could see his viewpoint."

"What brought this on?" Myleigh asked.

"It's a long story," Nicole sighed. "You and Crystal probably know if no one else does, that for several summers I was a counselor at a Girl Scout camp in southern Michigan, up to the year before I did the AT. I was the head counselor that year. Over the years, I'd gotten to be pretty good friends with Harmony, the camp director. That's a camp name, not a real name -- she calls me Marlin, which was my trail name, too. Harmony and I had reorganized the whole program of the camp away from cutesy-poo arts and crafts to learning outdoor skills that people really use. That's part of why I originally went to OLTA, and Harmony went there later. We knew at the time that it was going to take several years to really get the program to stick, because there's a bunch of old-time leaders who liked things the way they used to be."

"We've always done it that way before," Scooter smiled. "I know how that works."

"Right," Nicole nodded. "The only problem is that last summer, only a couple weeks before camp was to open, Harmony got messed up pretty bad in a car accident. The head counselor there was new and pretty young, they needed someone to fill in, someone who knew what the new program was all about, and really, I was the only candidate available since Jackpine was in Tanzania. I mean, I was off anyway and not doing very much since Randy was working fourteen- and sixteen-hour days like he's done in the summer for years."

"She had a good case," Randy admitted. "I mean, it was an emergency and all. But I'd lost her to the Girl Scout camp so many summers that it could have set better with me."

"I knew it," Nicole agreed. "He had every right to be upset about it. If he'd said no, I would have told the Girl Scouts no. So, there I was, running the camp and doing something that I really do enjoy, while he was slaving away at those sixteen-hour days, so I don't blame him for being a little jealous."

"Jealous doesn't quite describe it," Randy told the group. "Envious is probably better. For years Nicole got to get out in the summer and do fun stuff, a lot of which I would have liked to do, and that includes things like the AT and OLTA."

"It caused some real tension between us," Nicole said. "And realistically, when I gave him these handcuffs at our reception, I was also giving him my approval to lock them on me if he thought I was out of town too much. So, I wasn't terribly surprised when I got home that he got them out and locked them on me. I figured it was just going to be for that evening, just as a tease, but the next morning I woke up, he'd gone to work, and I was still wearing them." She let out a sigh. "I knew better than to ask him when he was going to take them off me."

"All the answer she was going to get was, 'When I'm good and ready,'" he smiled. "And I knew she'd worn them for a couple days in the past, and we both knew Carole and Brenda, so it was no big deal."

"It was no big deal except for the fact that I had a new classroom to set up, and about a hundred things to do to get ready for school, with two weeks instead of ten to work with," Nicole sighed. "But there's one thing that you can say about Spearfish Lake: after Carole's example over the years, and then Brenda's trying it out for two months and writing a national-award-winning story about the experience, when people there see you out shopping or something wearing handcuffs, they're not shocked; they just say things like, "So how's it going?"

"The summer tourists, that's a different story," Randy laughed. "She got some interesting reactions out of some of them."

"Yes," Nicole giggled, "Most of them thought that either I was pretty kinky or that he was. And I'll admit, there can be a certain amount of fun in that. But anyway, after two or three days it began to be more of a pain in the ass."

"Really, I'd only planned to leave them on her for a day or two," Randy said. "But then, somehow it turned into three or four, and there was never quite a good reason for me to want to take them off of her. I remembered Brenda saying one time that it's possible to learn something from wearing handcuffs for a couple of days, but after a week it gets to be a real bummer. After that, you really start getting used to it and get some interesting insights. So, I thought I'd let her work through the bummer, since she was getting pretty close to it."

"I was," Nicole sighed. "One of the reasons is that he had them on me pretty snug. Not tight, but not much room, either. There's a trick to changing clothes in handcuffs, Carole had showed me once, but for most clothes it involves the handcuffs being pretty loose, just tight enough to stay on. So I was really limited in what I could wear."

"I have to admit, I never thought about that angle," Randy admitted. "I would have loosened them up if you'd asked."

"And I thought you'd put them on snug for a purpose, so I didn't ask," Nicole sighed. "When I realized I was going to be wearing them for a while, I called up Carole, and she gave me a few pointers that really helped. And she was right, after a week or ten days I'd started to learn to adapt to them. Not that I was addicted to them like she was, but when Randy took them off me the first morning of school, I knew I could have done it longer if I'd had to. I'd learned a lot else, as well. I think I learned that this really is a sensitive area between us and I need to be more careful about it in the future, since there's no simple solution in the foreseeable future." She sighed and continued. "To top it off, Harmony is going to have to have more surgery and won't be back next summer. They've already asked me back for another summer, and I have to give them an answer pretty soon."

"Are you going to lock them on her if she does it again?" Crystal asked with amusement.

"I haven't made my mind up yet," he grinned. "She knows the option is there."

Nicole shook her head. "And if he decides it's necessary, so be it. When you think about it, it's a pretty lighthearted and gentle way for him to make his point, opposed to being seriously pissed and hurt about it, because really, my getting to take off for weeks on end doing something I enjoy is not fair to him. I'd feel a lot better about doing it again next summer if I could get Randy to take some time off this winter and go somewhere by himself."

"The problem is that I don't particularly want to do something by myself," Randy said. "It was a little different when we went down the Canyon the summer before last; we were in a group; I knew Crystal, and Karin when she turned up. We had some family stuff that screwed us up for these holidays, but I think next year we're going to draw the line about getting sucked into family holidays and go somewhere else. Unless one or the other of us does something really far out or a special circumstance arises, it's the only time we're ever going to be able to take a vacation and go somewhere together. We've been kicking around New Zealand, hike the Milford Track, and do some sea kayaking, maybe."

"Are you going to be able to get away all right for the trip next spring?" Karin asked.

"Yeah, but only from one of those special circumstances. We've got a special job that has to be done in a very short time frame, so we're throwing maximum effort at it. It's restoration of a rather famous and historic building that my grandmother designed. It's particularly special to my grandfather so he wants to have direct hands-on control. That blows me a little hole, although I expect to have my desk stacked up pretty heavily when I get back."

"And even doing the Canyon trip doesn't solve the problem of him being envious of me," Nicole shrugged. "Damn it, he needs to get out and do something where I can be envious of him."

Crystal got a big grin on her face. "Randy, are you doing anything the next two or three weeks?"

"Not particularly," he shrugged. "There's some busywork that can be put off."

"Then it's easily solved," she smiled. "Send Nicole home by herself. Michelle will be in tomorrow, and the end of the week she and Scooter and I are heading over to the Bahamas where we've got a thirty-two-footer rented. That's plenty of room for one more; it'd be a share-the-expenses deal."

"Thanks for the thought, Crystal," he replied immediately. "But I better give it a pass. It wouldn't look good in Spearfish Lake to let it get out that I spent a week or two on a yacht with three beautiful and single women."

"I appreciate your flattery, Randy," Scooter piped up. "But it doesn't have to get out."

"Boy, you don't know what it's like when you're a moderately prominent citizen in a small town, do you?" he snorted. "Hell, you could be the three ugliest women in the universe, which you're not, and you'd be Miss America contestants by the time it got back to Spearfish Lake. Besides, how would it look to Nicole?"

"Randy," Nicole protested, "I know we don't know Michelle, but Crystal and Scooter are friends. I trust them and I trust you."

"Nicole, think it through," he shook his head. "One of these women is a woman who for several years I expected to wind up marrying, and who I still like an awful lot as a friend. Another of those women is a woman I don't know as well, but who has several qualities I admire and who is more attractive than she'll admit to. I don't know Michelle well and only met her once for a couple minutes, but she is a very good looking young woman. From everything I've ever heard which includes some of the stories we heard when Crystal and Scooter were through last winter, she richly deserves the title 'Wild Woman of the Grand Canyon.' The only way they could make it much worse is if they included that gal who flew them in on her Learjet last winter. I'm sure glad you trust me, Nicole, because in that situation, with as much booze flowing as we heard about, I'm not a hundred percent sure I'd trust myself. Like I said, Crystal, I appreciate the thought, and it's something I'd love to do sometime, but not alone with the three of you. No way."

"But Randy . . . " Nicole started to protest, then stopped. "No, hell, you're right again," she sighed. "I do trust you, Randy, and your concern about me trusting you just proves it. But it's best to avoid the appearance of evil."

"Randy," Karin sighed. "If I didn't have state tax reports due by the fifteenth and W-2s and 1099s not long after that, I'd be willing to go along just to be a chaperone, because I still owe you a great deal. But you're right; no matter how honest you were, there would be reason for suspicion, and in the long run you'd be best to avoid it. You and Crystal have had a long relationship, but it changed as it had to when you got married. I doubt if she's fully aware of the pitfall."

"Yeah, Randy," Crystal said soberly, "I'm sorry, I didn't think it through. I was just thinking about how we used to take off and do stuff. Maybe some winter we can do it over Christmas and you could bring Nicole."

"I'd love to," he said. "But you see why the situation isn't as simple as it looks."

"Randy," Karin smiled, "I want to tell you that I admire you and Nicole, because you've obviously learned a mutual respect for each other's feelings that Pete and I never came close to managing in twenty-five years. I realize my part of the mistake, but I doubt if he does his side. I hope to do better this time around, partly because the situation is different and partly because I'm aware of the problem. Al, I feel I need to apologize to you for being so assertive about getting down in the Canyon some trips this summer."

"No apology needed," he smiled, "Partly because I understand that you're playing catch-up. I thoroughly understand being addicted to the Canyon, because I am myself." He got a grin on his face. "But if it ever becomes a problem, I'll just call up Nicole and get the address of the place where she got those handcuffs."

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