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 56

May 24 - June 14, 2001

Team Three's Summer - 1

The Dodge had been moved slightly from three weeks ago, so apparently Crystal must have used it when she was on break. Scooter got in and headed over to the house, which was going to seem awful damn empty without either Crystal or Jim there.

The lights were on and the house was stuffy. When Karin had been living there she'd been home every night, at least as far as she and Crystal could tell. But they'd agreed to dial the air conditioner way back since someone would be home so rarely over the summer. She ran it up considerably, then decided the first thing to do was head for the shower and run the water heater cold, then while it was warming she could sit around and figure out what to do next. There really wasn't a hell of a lot to do, other than the usual shopping and laundry, until Jim got in tomorrow night. She headed for the bedroom, peeling off clothes as she went. She was down to the bikini bottom that she used for panties on the river this time of year when she noticed a note sitting on her bed. Curious, she stopped, picked it up and began to read it.

 

Scoot:

I suppose Mom or Dad has told you about Nanci and Preach and me, but if they haven't, Nanci did real well and is going to be a swamper for the rest of the summer. Preach has decided to quit Glen Hill Road and come to work for Canyon Tours, so he's on Team 2 with us.

Scoot, I spent the whole damn trip trying to figure out some way to get Preach to stay and never got to first base, then he hit me with it, and I've never been so surprised in my life. I thought years ago he was pretty cool, but knew then there was no way we could ever make it work. He and I have moved toward each other a lot in the last eight years, so maybe it's worth a try. As much as I used to like Randy, I used to like Preach even more, but since it would never have worked I never let on, even to him. We flew east and drove back with some of his stuff, and we talked a lot. We'll just have to wait and see.

Preach and I plan on keeping it as straight as Mom and Dad at least tried to appear. I told him after we worked some of this out that if I'd thought dragging him out into the bushes was the way to get to him, he'd have been dragged out there eight years ago. He won't be joining us at the house the rest of the season; he's going to stay with Kevin. Nanci will be staying with us; I told her to use Mom's bed for now, and we'll work it out after summer. I don't know what that's going to do to our winter plans, especially if Jim gets into the picture too, so we'll also have to work that out next fall.

The rumor is that you and Jim had a hot weekend last break. Best of luck. I thought about taking a run at him once but never got around to it. Now I'm glad, but that doesn't mean he wouldn't be pretty cool for you. I know we're both going to have lots to talk about when we see each other again. Only about three months to go, now. Hang in there!

See you on the river,

Crystal

 

She sat down on her bed and read the note over again. That was going to change the plans for the winter all right, but then if the thing with Jim worked out, that was going to change them, too. She really hadn't let herself think that far ahead, hope that far ahead, about him. Despite the good time they'd had three weeks before, despite the signs that it showed of moving past that, a lot could still happen between now and fall. Other than the last of the three weekends they'd be off at the same time, three weeks away, now, they'd only be seeing each other when they passed on the river, like they had the other day.

On the other hand, she'd known right from the beginning that all she could do was to get interest under way, actually getting somewhere might have to wait for fall, even winter. If it went that far, and he went back to Cooper Hill, maybe she could go there with him or something. And, now it seemed a little more imperative. Crystal sounded pretty positive in her letter, and there was no telling how fast things might move. If it went in the direction it looked like she was hoping it would go, it wouldn't be surprising to have Crystal and Preach moving in together in the next six months or year. That would leave her alone, unless Nanci, of all people, decided to stay with her. Or Barbie, or somebody. As she thought about it, she realized that she really didn't want to have to live alone again. Even the last two and a half weeks had been hard, being a trip leader with no close friend like Crystal around. Christ, if she didn't get something going with Jim, or whatever, was she going to be back to living in a rented travel trailer?

 

The next night she was sitting in the Dodge on the edge of the parking lot at Jim's shop when the two big semis rolled in, loaded with S-rig center sections stacked with rolled up side tubes and gear. The outfit didn't use a crew bus; the crews rode in the semis, either in the right front or in seats in the sleeper cab in the back. It was a lot longer run back from Pearce Ferry than it was from Diamond Creek, and Jim had told her that there was usually a lot of sleeping going on, too.

He seemed in pretty good shape when he got down from the cab; apparently he'd been doing some of that sleeping. "Welcome back, babe," she smiled as he came over to her.

"Good to see you again," he smiled. "We're still on, I take it?"

"Of course, we're still on," she grinned. "There's news, but nothing that needs to affect us this weekend."

"What kind of news? The word was that Crystal had found some guy, a Baptist preacher the rumors said, but no one could believe it."

"She did; I know the guy; he's a hell of a nice guy, but I can hardly believe it, either," she sighed. "You still have to unload, right?"

"Just rocket boxes, food boxes and like that," he told her. "We stay a little more set up than you do. I can get out of here in an hour or so."

"I can stick around and watch, or help out, or I can head back to the house and wait," she told him. "You don't have to share the shower tonight."

"What if I want to?" he grinned. "Tell you what, stick around, we'll head over to the Burro and have a couple, then go get in the shower so you can wash my back."

"I'll bet you'd rather have your front washed."

"That too, but there's probably not enough hot water to do the job I want."

It was close to three hours before they got to bed, but none of it was wasted. They didn't waste much time after that, either. It was not until late that they settled down to just cuddling and talking. There were several pieces of Canyon Tours gossip to pass along, mostly involving Crystal, since Jim didn't know Preach or Nanci or some of the others.

"Jim, I don't know how to say this," she said, "But whatever happens this fall or this winter, the odds are going to be that what we had planned is changed somehow, maybe lots. I can tell you this much: if the thing between Crystal and Preach is still going on when the season is over with, I'm probably going to have to get out of their way. Don't get me wrong, I've known Preach for years and like him, but if it works, the balance between Crystal and him isn't going to be anything like the balance between Crystal and me."

"And you'll be the odd girl out," he said understandingly. "What do you have in mind?"

"It's probably premature as hell for me to say this," she sighed. "But if it comes down to it, maybe we could plan on doing something together by ourselves this winter."

"You're saying live together, maybe?"

"Maybe," she sighed. "I don't know. There's so damn much that was pretty well in place that isn't any more that I just can't say. Were you planning on going up to Cooper Hill again this winter? The last time I talked to you it didn't seem like you were."

"Don't know," he said. "It depends on whether I can work as a boatman this fall. Otherwise, I'll have to do something just for money to live on. Cooper Hill is OK, but I could stand warm, too. Got any ideas?"

"I don't know," she told him. "We've got that sailing trip booked again, but we can get our money back up to September, and that could be screwed. Or maybe not, or whatever, I don't know. Frankly, I pissed away a good chunk of change on it last winter, it was fun but I could do without if I needed the money, too."

"Just throwing an idea out, there's that place down in Mexico that Dave and Mary go; they talked about it some last fall. It sounded cool, maybe we could think about that."

"It's possible," she replied. "That one hadn't crossed my mind. I really haven't thought about it that much; up until last night I thought things were pretty much going to be the same as the last two years, unless you and I were getting something going. I mean, hell, I've been thinking the last three weeks that you and me doing something together this winter would be more fun than Crystal and me, whether we went beyond that or not."

"Scooter," he smiled. "You just don't know. I've been thinking the last three weeks that something like us spending the winter together would be fun, but I figured Crystal would be involved, at least till I started picking up boatman gossip on my last break. How about if we leave it that it sounds like a good idea, but maybe we'd better wait until things settle out a little before we start making reservations or canceling them. I'm not opposed to the idea of our spending the winter together, but right now we can't tell if or doing what. I think we could come up with something cool to do, even if we don't have a lot of bucks. Does that tell you what you wanted to know?"

"Yes," she sighed, "You're right, we'll just have to wait and see."

She felt him squeeze her tight. "Scooter, don't worry. Something will work out. Besides, I'm getting to the point where I'd like to spend the winter with you anyway."

Al didn't always come up to Lee's to help with rigging, but he often did, and was along this time to observe how well things worked on the abbreviated setup schedule; so far, they were going pretty well. These days Karin was usually with him, and Scooter wondered how long it was going to be before she was on the river again. After all, it had been almost three weeks that she'd been off the river, and she was obviously getting uneasy. Scooter was about willing to bet money that Karin wouldn't be making any last-minute hop-aboards on this Team 3 trip, but she wouldn't have been surprised if it happened in a couple weeks when Team 2 launched again, with Crystal, Nanci, and Preach. If Scooter was curious what was happening, how much more would Karin be?

Along in the afternoon, as things were going together nicely, Scooter got Al over to the side for a minute. "Al, you know I don't like to ask special favors," she told him. "But if it works out that you're going to have Jim as a fill-in boatman this fall, do you think you can rig it around so that he could run with me, and maybe Crystal and Preach?"

"Could be," Al told her. "At this distance it's a little hard to tell what the fall boatman picture is going to be. We've got Barbie that didn't run last year and Duane if we need him. If they run and no one else bombs out, then we're probably covered. If they want to run, they got dibs; they're our people, not pickups. Karin gets into the picture too, especially if she doesn't run in the summer. But that's months off, and I guarantee you things will change. As far as I'm concerned though, Jim is at the head of the list for pickups, and if it works out I'll try to set him with you. Good enough?"

"Can't ask for much more, Al," she said. "I don't know where this is going with us, but it's tough to get it to go anywhere on the schedule we have."

"I understand," he said. "I went through that a few years ago with Dave and Mary, but you two have it even tougher. I take it you like the guy?"

"I like the guy, Al. I've liked him since I met him two years ago; it's just that now, it's threatening to get serious. I don't want to rush into something that I might not want to rush into, and on the schedule we're running I think I'm getting tempted to rush things because there's not time to do it any other way."

 

It was warmer this trip, getting into June; some days got into hot, and the next trip, Scooter knew, would be well into the oven. This was a better group of people than last time; at least half the trip was a large family group, and they were all good people -- but there were allegiances and fault lines between people that were beyond understanding, and Scooter didn't try. There were a handful of serious hikers who liked to get out and go; with Duane on the crew that didn't have to be entirely Scooter's specialty, so they more or less traded off doing the longer hikes. Every trip Scooter tried to stop someplace she hadn't stopped before, or hike someplace she hadn't hiked before. This time she made both the same place, at 24 1/2 Mile rapids, where there was an interesting-looking if steep side canyon to scramble up, though with a nice view of the top in the more-constricted-than-normal topography.

The second day out -- the day they headed into 24 1/2 Mile -- Joe and Jim passed them on the motor rigs again. As usual there wasn't much time to talk, although Jim idled for a moment and told them they were going to push pretty far, maybe to Nankoweap, and he'd see her again in a few days. Of course, that got her to thinking about him again. It was too damn bad that he was on the motor rigs; he'd told her several times he would really rather be on oar boats, for the more relaxed pace, the chance to get to know the customers better, for the quiet. It was a damn shame that the companies were testy about jumping people around, but still it happened now and then, she knew. She wasn't going to let herself get into a situation where whether she was riding motor rigs or oar rigs rested on a flip of a coin, like had happened with Dave and Mary. Maybe that might be something she could approach Al on over the winter if things went that far.

As they got farther down the river, Scooter noticed that Jerry was getting a little testy, a little upset -- never bad enough for her to go to him and ask him what the matter was, but enough to give him a little more slack than normal. When they got down to Phantom, he volunteered to hike up to check the mailbox, and she suspected that he had another thing in mind -- get on the phone and call Kelly. She didn't mention it, and he didn't say anything either, but she noticed that he was no less testy the rest of the day. She suspected things were a little less than perfect in paradise, and maybe that was good. Kelly seemed like a nice enough gal, but the Canyon didn't do anything for her, and Jerry was going to run into trouble trying to have both. A couple days later, Jerry's testiness had faded into the background; maybe he was getting over it.

Since the local high school had let out the Friday before they left, they had a kid on a trial swamper run. He really wasn't very damn good; he acted like he knew everything, wasn't willing to learn, and had to be pointed at everything to be done. Scooter remembered how quickly Nanci had picked up the idea. She hardly doubted that Nanci had dumped and hosed out the rocket boxes at the end of the trip without comment, except maybe having to ask where to dump them; Scooter suspected someone would have to stand over this kid with a baseball bat to get him to do it. The kid wasn't quite bad enough to be told to start hiking when they got to Phantom, but Scooter had already made up her mind to give him a recommendation of, "Not just no, but hell no!"

The hell of it was that there was a customer kid along, in a family from Los Angeles, who was as good about pitching in and working as the local kid was bad. In fact, the only thing the local kid was good at was getting the Los Angeles kid to do his work for him. Finally, a few days from the end, Scooter got the Los Angeles kid off to the side, and told him he'd done a damn good job. "You think you might like to spend a summer doing the swamper job like Wade and Hannah?" she asked. "In time, you could probably work up to getting to row your own raft if you want to, but it'd take two or three years."

"You're kidding!" he said with astonishment. "You mean I could do that?"

"You're what? Going to be a senior next year?" she smiled. "It makes a good summer job if you're going to college, a lot of the boatmen and swampers are college kids, you know that. If you're interested, I'll talk to the boss for you. He sometimes comes to the pickups, sometimes not, but if he's there, I'll introduce you to him."

"God, that would be so neat!" he smiled exuberantly. "God, you're so lucky to be able to do this all the time!"

"They been letting you row any?" she grinned.

"A little," he sighed. "I like it, what I've got to do of it."

"You make sure you're on my raft in the morning," she grinned. "I'll give you a little better taste of it."

The kid was a natural! Scooter wondered if he wasn't some old-time boatman reincarnated. In two days of rowing, he picked it up so well that with a little coaching he was at the sticks for 205 and 209 Mile Rapids, which were pretty damn tough for a kid with so little experience. As luck had it, Al was at Diamond Wash, and Scooter got a chance to briefly introduce the kid and his family to him. Al told them, that on her recommendation, he was willing to put the kid on the call list for next year if he was interested, and both the kid and his parents were not only interested, but excited at the prospect. As the crew bus carried the customers up to the top of the hill, Scooter made a mental note, that if the kid showed up next year, to talk to him about OLTA. "That's not the usual way we find them," Al grinned, "But if it works, so much the better. You know Ernie, up on Team 1? He came to us that way."

"I remembered that," Scooter grinned. "In fact, I remembered that Bill picked him out when the summer tryout on the trip bombed. Changing the subject on you, any news from Team 2?"

"Not really," Al said, "Other than we lost Trey, which I was expecting. He was a sound engineer playing at being a swamper, after all. Jennifer and Blake put him to work mixing the recordings at about three times what we were paying him. No problem, since we were one heavy with swampers on that crew anyway, what with Nanci there."

"I take it the recordings went pretty well, then?"

"Oh, yeah," Al grinned. "They didn't get a lot of time before they were on the road, but Trey played several raw recordings for us. The one from right here at the takeout a week ago just about made me cry. I am really waiting to hear that album. Trey said he'd see if he couldn't send us a rough cut after they've done some editing."

"Sounds cool, I want to hear it. How about Crystal and Preach?"

"Still hanging in there, but beyond that it's mostly no news is good news. Nanci too, Crystal said that Nanci did an even better job now that she knew what she was doing; she was rowing more and getting better at it."

"Al," Scooter raised her eyebrows and shook her head, "You don't suppose . . ."

"Wouldn't that be a kick in the ass?" he grinned.


<< Back to Last Chapter
Forward to Next Chapter >>

To be continued . . .

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.