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 46

December 30, 2000 - February 3, 2001


Nicole was still wearing the handcuffs when she got up the next morning, along with a big grin which neither she nor her husband commented on, not that it required a lot of comment. It was pretty obvious that this wasn't the last anniversary where she'd be wearing handcuffs -- and enjoying it.

Unfortunately, she and Randy had to be leaving that morning -- an all-too-brief visit with some real friends before heading back to the frozen north. By midmorning they had to be heading for the airport, so Randy took off her handcuffs, they said their goodbyes, and they got in their rental car and left. Trey got in his Cougar not long afterwards, promising to let Al know about being a swamper as soon as he found out about his internship, that he now obviously hoped wouldn't be offered. He had a few days before getting back to college, but had to go through Indiana on his way to Kansas City to visit his parents for a few days.

Buddha and Myleigh both had doctorates in English literature and enjoyed discussing it with each other in such flowery, intricate, and obscure language that it was usually difficult to figure out what they were talking about, and even the language they were using might not be entirely clear. The surf was flattish, so that afternoon the two were going at it at full power and didn't mind being left behind when Crystal, Scooter, Al, and Karin drove to the airport to pick up Michelle.

Having Michelle around put a different spin on things; she could be pretty exuberant when she felt like it, and she was really up that evening around the campfire. Buddha and Giselle had heard the story about Jennlynn flying them to Randy and Nicole's wedding the year before, and now Michelle told an exceptionally funny version of their decision to visit her at the Redlite the month before -- always protesting her sheer innocence and naïvety, which no one who knew her believed the slightest bit of.

The surf was back up the next day and stayed pretty decent until Friday, when things were winding down, anyway. Crystal took Al, Karin, and Myleigh to the airport for their return to Phoenix and Kansas City respectively, while Scooter and Michelle stayed behind to pack up their camping gear and ship it back to Flagstaff, along with repacking what they'd need for their four weeks on the sailboat.

As the previous year, it took two flights to get to Abaco, but once they got to the harbor the Felicity Ann was waiting for them. Although only four feet longer than the Phoebe Lee that they'd used the previous year, it seemed a lot larger. Arrival was late enough that they just hung around Marsh Harbour for the evening.

The next morning, just for the sake of something different, they decided to head west to check out Grand Bahama, and then maybe go on to the Biminis, and maybe Andros if they thought they had time to get that far. The previous year they'd mostly messed around Abacos and Eleuthera, so it gave them a chance to look at something new. The run to Freeport was a really nice blue-water sail on a glorious day; Scooter was in her element, cigar in her mouth as she steered the Felicity Ann toward Freeport.

Freeport proved to be quite a bit more touristy and busier than they expected, and when they went bar crawling that evening, they didn't really find any place that suited their fancy, so they were back on board early. The next morning, without a lot of discussion, they decided to backtrack to the east, to check out the legendary deserted beaches of the east end of the island. Early that afternoon they found one that was just about as deserted as the brochures showed.

"OK, you two," Michelle piped up. "Here's the perfect place for you two to try out your new bikinis."

"What new bikinis?" Crystal smiled. "We hit some closeouts at K-Mart last fall; the ones we got there should hold us for a long time."

"Oh, these are gifts," Michelle snickered. "Some of the people at my family get-together the other day are fun, and I don't see them often enough."

"Are any of them as crazy as you are?" Scooter grinned.

"Well, some of them, maybe in different ways," Michelle laughed. "I've got this one cousin about my age who's got a neat business. She imports specialty clothing from some place she has it made in Mexico. It's swimsuits and like that, and some of them are pretty good. She has this one line called Wild Wet bikinis she distributes. I told her about our trip down here, and asked her if she had something that was really daring. She said she did, then she got a bunch of them out of her car and gave them to me. They're factory seconds, and she said to spread some of them around among my friends, so I brought some along. They should fit, they're pretty much one-size-fits-all."

She went below to her luggage and came back with a couple packages, handing one each to Scooter and Crystal. "You gotta wonder," Scooter said, "If the package is that small how daring the bikini is."

"They're supposed to be daring," Michelle grinned.

"Why do I suspect this is a Michelle special?" Crystal shook her head.

"You never know about this gal," Scooter agreed as she opened the package. "You're right," she said as she held up the tiny pieces of fabric. "That's pretty daring all right. I'd say it would cover about half what that yellow job you had last winter covered, and that wasn't much."

"On top of that," Crystal observed, "With fabric that thin, what it covers it must not cover very well, and that's dry. Wet, I'll bet it turns close to transparent."

"That's the general idea," Michelle grinned. "That's why they're called Wild Wet, after all. I think they'll do just fine at attracting some attention while we're messing around down here."

"Michelle, this is a little far out, even for you," Scooter protested.

"Hey," she snorted in reply, "Who dragged me into a whorehouse? And who did nude photos? This is damn near as close to the middle of nowhere as you can get in the Canyon."

"Oh, shit," Scooter shook her head. "Crystal, I'll do it if you'll do it."

A few minutes later they had changed, if the term could be used, and were in the Zodiac they towed behind the yacht, heading for the beach. "I swear to God," Scooter shook her head as Michelle rowed the inflatable. "I wouldn't feel as naked if I was naked."

"That's the general idea," Michelle snickered. "After all, you wear something like these bikinis to get attention. Aren't you hoping to find some guy on this trip that you can wave your body around dressed in one of these in hopes you can get him to take it off you?"

"That might be all right for the right guy," Crystal protested, "But the thing is, that doesn't cover much on you and you're pretty skinny next to Scooter and me. They're all the same size, so proportionately, we're even less covered than you are."

The beach really was deserted, and it was a very nice day, so after a little while they became a little less body conscious, even though the bikinis really did turn more or less transparent when wet. They dried out fairly quickly as they laid out in the sun, just taking in the day. "You know," Scooter said at one point, "We ought to get a snapshot of this to send to Randy, just to prove he was right. Send one of these bikinis to Nicole too, so she could model it and he could get a taste of what it would have been like."

"My God," Crystal shook her head. "Can you imagine what Nicole were to think if he'd come with us, and someone took a picture of the three of us and him, just like this?"

"Actually, it might do him a favor," Michelle snickered; she'd heard the story of Nicole in handcuffs, and Randy's rejection of the offer to come sailing with them. "I mean, Nicole wouldn't want to let him out of her sight after that."

"He'd appreciate that, but not that way," Crystal sighed. "Boy, I'll tell you though, I sure have had some second thoughts about him the past week."

"You mean because he locked Nicole in handcuffs like that?" Michelle asked.

"Well, yeah, a little," Crystal said. "But it obviously started out as a tease, and they didn't realize the serious undertones it had. The thing is, if a couple things had gone a little differently, like if Nanci had gone to some college around home, I could have wound up marrying him. But you know what? Sooner or later the very same issue would have come up, and I don't think I'd have been anywhere near as understanding as Nicole."

"You mean to go ahead and wear the handcuffs," Michelle asked, "Because she knew he was pissed with her, and it was a way for him to work it out?"

Crystal shook her head. "You're not getting it," she said. "He wasn't pissed, he was disappointed. I'd go so far as to say that he was more disappointed with himself than anything, because he couldn't just let her go out and do something like that."

"I still don't quite follow you," Michelle protested.

"I'm not sure I follow it myself," Crystal sighed. "Look, just for the sake of talking it out, let's assume that Nicole had kissed him off when I went back to Spearfish Lake after my first fall in the Canyon, and we went apeshit and got married, OK? So, spring rolls around, and I head back to the Canyon, because he knows that's what I want to do. But even though he would have known about it, wouldn't he have still been disappointed that I'd abandoned him for the Canyon?"

"Well, yeah," Scooter nodded. "Especially since you would have only been married for a few months."

"I know he'd be disappointed," Crystal nodded. "Randy knew from early on that I had these wanderlust issues, which is part of the reason we never got married in the first place. We realized that it was going to be an issue we couldn't overcome. Well, Nicole has a bunch of those same issues." She took a deep breath to think for a second, as much as anything else, then continued. "The one time I met Jackpine, the girl Nicole hiked the AT with, was at Christmas the winter I stayed in Spearfish Lake with Josh and Tiffany. The four of us were sitting around Nicole's house, I was telling AT stories, and they were all ears. Jackpine turned to Randy and asked if all the talk about us getting out made him a little jealous. And he said, 'No, it makes me a lot jealous. I'd like to do stuff like that but it's not in the cards. I get to go out and do stuff once in a while, not as much as I like. Hell, last week I got to drive all the way down to Camden. That was my big adventure of the fall. I don't try to plan anything very often since it usually gets shot in the ass before I can do it.' He tried to sound like he was joking, but he couldn't cover up that he was really pretty bitter about it. I mean, Nicole and Myleigh and I had been all over the place doing our own thing and he was in Spearfish Lake busting his ass on some construction site."

"Same exact issue, even then, right?" Scooter asked.

"Same exact issue," Crystal nodded. "We got to talking about the only break he was going to have with Nicole for a long period was a week at Buddha and Giselle's. I hadn't been there in a couple years, and I said it'd be fun to go, but I couldn't because I was up to my ass in dog shit. He asked if I remembered when we'd been down there two years before, back when Nicole and I were first talking AT. He told us back then that he'd love to do it too, but he had to work. And then he said, 'I never thought I'd get the chance to say this to you, but I'll give you back what you said to me: 'Bummer when you gotta work, isn't it?' That's going to carry me a long way.' He was not joking; he was seriously pissed and trying to cover it up."

"Pissed at you and Nicole?" Scooter asked.

"Pissed at himself," Crystal sighed. "Because he'd let himself get sucked into a position where he had to be a work junkie and couldn't do some of that stuff he really would have liked to do. But Nicole caught it right that instant. She said, 'Randy, I had no idea this was bothering you that badly. Would you rather I just forget about the hike?' I'll never forget it, because that was the second I lost my last chance with him. If he'd said yes, she'd have dumped the hike right there to stay with him. I would have had real trouble dumping the Canyon."

"But she went out and did the hike?" Michelle said.

"Right," Crystal nodded. "He told her to go out and do it, because he'd learned the hard way you have to get out and do this stuff while you can, the chance may not come again. But, more important, to go do the hike because when the time came that she didn't have the chance she'd resent him for keeping her from doing it while she still could. At the time I thought he was being philosophical about it, but I realize now it really burned his gut big time. Nicole knew that. I was too damn self-centered." She let out a sigh. "She'd dreamed about the hike for two years, and he still had to literally talk her into doing it, even though he knew he'd hate having her gone and he couldn't do that kind of stuff himself."

"Because he was respecting her goal even though it hurt him?" Michelle asked quietly.

"Exactly," Crystal replied. "Now, Nicole was well ahead of me by that point, but suppose we'd been about neck and neck. I was so self-centered about my desire to get back to the Canyon that I would never have picked up on how much it was burning him to tell me to go do it. I knew at the time she'd won, but I guess I didn't realize until last week what she'd won. That evening I asked him to come out and do a Canyon trip with me late in the fall when his work season died down, just to get out for a while and maybe take the sting out. That missed the point. It would have been a temporary patch on the problem, not something to do to try to overcome it."

"If it can be overcome at all," Scooter said thoughtfully. "It may well be the best they can ever do is to learn to live with it somehow, and it may involve Nicole pretty much staying home."

"The point, I guess," she sighed, "Is that I'm just as glad I didn't marry Randy. Nicole can understand his problem, bend with it good-naturedly. She could hack wearing handcuffs for two weeks just as a way to work out the tension. Me? No way, even though I understand now what's going on. Granted, Nicole had Carole as an example; that gave it a little extra interest and put it into perspective. If she goes and does that camp again this year, will he handcuff her for longer? Probably not. Will he handcuff her at all? Probably not, unless it's her idea to sort of apologize to him, and then it'll be just long enough to be symbolic. He's made his point, and she'll remember it. All she has to do is show that she remembers it."

"I think I understand," Michelle nodded. "Nicole was ready to do something she didn't really want to do to make the point that she understood his feelings."

"Right," Crystal said ruefully. "I'm too damn independent, too damn self-centered, to be married to Randy, anyway. Maybe it would be different with someone else. Maybe not, I don't know. It might be that I'll never be ready to be married."

"There are some points about being married that I think I could appreciate," Scooter said thoughtfully. "There's a stability involved that's not to be denied. The companionship would be nice. Crystal, for almost two years we've spent a lot of time together, and we've had some good times. I've never had a friend quite like that before, and I'm concerned about how lonely I'm going to be when we split into three teams next year. It's not going to be anything like as much fun."

"Yeah, Scoot," Crystal sighed. "I'm going to miss it, too. It'll only be for four months, but it sort of puts me in mind of what Randy must go through watching Nicole head off to that Girl Scout camp of hers. It's different with us, of course."

"Well, yeah, we're not in love," Scooter grinned. "You have to admit that guys do have their points. I mean, what the hell is the point of these so-called swimsuits, anyway? The only reason a woman would wear one of these things is to tease someone by flaunting herself, and it's the tease factor because I honestly don't think you'd be as sexy if you were naked. Wild Wet, you bet! It's all teasing. Tease each other, sort of like we're doing, or tease a guy into wishing he could take it off her, or tease him into actually doing it. I can see me wearing this sometime on this trip for just that reason, and now that I've gotten used to it I'm looking forward to it if the right chance comes. But you know what? Maybe I'm getting a little old for that. I mean, I look at these swimsuits and I can't help but think of the girls in the lineup at the Redlite Ranch."

"They would go over pretty well there," Michelle giggled.

"Right," Scooter nodded. "That's what I mean, maybe I'm getting a little old to be out chasing guys to do a little sportfucking. Wouldn't it just be simpler to sign up for a weekend at the Redlite? It accomplishes the same thing, which is getting laid."

"Well, it is fun," Michelle grinned.

"Sure, it's fun," Scooter said. "But I don't know if the girls at the Redlite aren't smarter than we are about it. I mean, even leaving out the money, there's no emotional attachments, safer in a lot of ways, both in terms of STDs and in terms of a guy getting rough. I guess what I'm saying is that there's a part of me that would like to have a guy to come home to. A guy I could wear one of these alleged swimsuits for, so I could tease him into taking it off me. Hell, the part of the story that Nicole left out but that you could read between the lines is that they had to be fucking like minks while she was wearing those handcuffs. It's all the better because they really do care for each other. It's not like they just picked each other up in a bar."

"Yeah," Crystal nodded, "I'm just not up for the one night stands, the one hour stands anymore. I know you guys have teased me a bit, like last year when you two were getting it on and I was sitting back on the Phoebe Lee catching up on my sleep. I think that's something I left behind with Randy."

"Crystal," Michelle said. "He is Nicole's now, you know."

"Oh, Christ, don't you think I know it?" Crystal replied pointedly. "Don't you think I've learned that if it worked in the long run it wouldn't have worked well with him? It doesn't keep him from being the last guy I really cared for, and I miss it. Sportfucking just doesn't fill the empty space that got left behind when I gave him to Nicole, so I haven't bothered with it."

"You're saying that deep down, you need a guy to care for, and to care for you?" the long-haired blonde smiled. "I get to feeling that way sometimes. I don't think I'm anywhere near ready yet, but the time will probably come."

"I don't know that I'm ready yet, either," Crystal sighed. "Probably closer than you are. Like I said, the right guy, maybe. But that begs the question of where I'm going to find him. It can't be just any guy, it about has to be someone who can put up with me being in the Canyon, having a lot of wanderlust. Hell, Randy is more tolerant than most. You know the story about Louise's husband, whatever his name was; I've never heard it."

"I never have, either," Michelle replied. "And I knew her longer than you did. About all I can say is that he must have really burned her butt."

"Right," Crystal smiled. "So then, she did the right thing, which is to say finding a guy who would be OK with her spending time in the Canyon. Hell, it's the same thing with Dave and Mary; neither of them would be married at all if they hadn't happened to wind up with their trips at Redwall Cavern during a thunderstorm."

"You're right," Scooter nodded. "There aren't a lot of guys topside who would care to have a wife they saw three days out of every three weeks for seven months out of the year. Realistically, I couldn't blame a guy in that position for sneaking over to the Redlite just to get some companionship and a warm bed once in a while."

"Right," Crystal said. "There are married guy rafters who can get away with being down in the Canyon that much for a few years, but you've heard Al say that spouses have cost him more good boatmen than booze ever could. Hell, he had Ben figured for a full-season rafter for a few years, but the only way he'll be back in the spring is if he breaks up with that chica of his."

"Well," Michelle shrugged. "I guess when the time comes I'll just have to find a rafter to marry."

"It sounds good," Crystal replied a little sarcastically. "But I'll tell you what, you'd better be getting your little blonde head thinking about it like I have. I mean, look at who we have at Canyon Tours now. We have Dan, Jerry, and Duane, plus a bunch of college kids. Michelle, you're already older than any of them."

"Well maybe there is an advantage to people thinking I'm a teenager," she snickered.

"Yeah, but you're not and you know it. But to get back to my point, of those three guys, I don't think I'd want to marry Dan if he were closer to my age, and I get the impression that Jerry is getting latched onto by that gal from Flag he's been hanging out with. Mark my words, if either of them is in the company two years from now, I'll walk down the main drag in Flagstaff in this bikini in a blizzard. That leaves Duane, who is a pretty decent guy, but we'd have to split him three ways, and he's still pretty young for us."

"Maybe someone from one of the other companies," Michelle suggested thoughtfully. "After all, that's how Dave and Mary worked it out. Some of them don't hire quite as young as Canyon Tours does. Like, there's Jim; he ran with us some last summer and swamped for Dave and Mary in the fall. He's, oh hell, pretty close to your age, Crystal."

"Could be," she shrugged. "He's a pretty decent guy, too. But that's another thing: because of Dad, I can't get into a Dave and Mary situation where I might have to go to a different company if a coin fell wrong. Actually, I only see two other solutions. One, to find a guy from outside and convert him, sort of like Duane. That's why I'm hoping Dad will push harder on getting full-season rafters and going to the shorter schedule. Maybe someday we'll get a customer who falls so in love with the Canyon and with one of us that they'll throw up a career to join us there. I've heard of stranger things happening, but don't hold your breath. The other solution I can see is to find a guy who's gone a lot. Say, like someone in the Navy; they're at sea a lot, and he isn't going to care if I'm down in the Canyon while he's out on some ship some place. The only problem is that I don't know how much I'd care for that sort of a marriage where we might only see each other for a month or two a year, unless the guy was really, really special."

"The one advantage I can see," Scooter added thoughtfully, "Is that we don't have to do something right away. We've got some time to work on it."

"Yeah, some time, but not forever. Scoot, I'm getting in sight of thirty, and you're gonna be there this year. I don't know if I want to have kids, but I'm not ruling it out. I always used to say no, but since Dad and Mom have gotten together, I've given that a little rethink. I'm not saying yes, but I'm not flat ruling it out anymore, either. But if I am going to have kids, I have to get hot on the issue in the next ten years at the outside."

"The hell of it is that having kids could take you out of the Canyon just as easily," Michelle said. "I mean, look at Mom and Dad. They tried to mix the two with Mike and me, and it didn't work. All they did was pass the bug on to me."

"It's just a little different with me, and there's another issue," Crystal shook her head. "To this point, nothing has been said, and I don't know if he's even thought about it, but it's laying there and I can't deny it."

"What's this?" Scooter asked.

"How old is Dad?"

"Mid fifties, I guess," Michelle said. "I don't know for sure, but along in there."

"What happens in ten years?"

"I see," Michelle said, the light dawning. "Who's his only child?"

"Right. So, I don't even have the option of leaving the Canyon, or at least getting very far away from it."

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To be continued . . .

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