Spearfish Lake Tales
Contemporary Mainstream Books and Serials Online
It was not a short trip over to the Wamputa Beach Campground that Bonnie was so enthusiastic about, and without getting an answer by calling ahead Roger thought it was most likely a fool's errand. But for all that, he went along with the idea of the three of them getting in the Taurus to drive over and check it out. After all, the calling around and Internet searching had come up with three likely places to leave the motor home. Even though they would be expensive, there was no question they would work, so that concern was dealt with. That meant they had five days to mess around and nothing in particular to do, so spending some time driving around and checking out the coastline seemed like a perfectly adequate way to kill one of them.
And hell, Roger thought, Bonnie's reasoning might be convoluted, but it might also be right -- and there was nothing to be lost if she was wrong.
The road behind the coast was flat, and Roger presumed only a few feet above sea level. Much of it was wooded, but they were woodlands like he wasn't familiar with, filled with strange pointy plants that didn't look very inviting. A little to his surprise, Roger noted several places that showed signs of wind damage, things like trees down back in the woods, and occasionally damaged buildings. "I didn't think Katrina made it this far east," he commented at one point.
"I didn't either," Catalina replied. "But it was a big storm and it did a lot of damage."
The going was slower than he expected, and it was getting on toward noon when they found the narrow sandy dirt road that in theory would take them back to the campground. "That road doesn't look all that good," he commented after stopping to look at it critically.
"This has to be the road," Bonnie said from the back seat, referring to the notes she'd taken off the website. "We just passed the bridge, so this about has to be it. It's supposed to be a little less than two miles."
Roger took another look at the narrow track and sighed, "What do you want to bet we get back there and find a chain across the road and a sign saying 'Closed' hanging from it?"
"If we do, we do," Bonnie said. "But if it's open and someone just isn't near the phone, we may have found what we're looking for."
"And if it's closed, I might have to back up two miles before I can find a place to turn around. That doesn't sound like much fun to me."
"Oh, Roger, you're just being a grump again," Bonnie teased. "How can you ever have fun if you don't take a little risk once in a while?"
When you got right down to it, he thought, she might be right. "Well, might as well go see," he said, letting his foot come off the brake and turning down the road.
It was not a road to go fast on. It was rough, soft in spots, and had plenty of holes he had to ease through. He probably never got going much faster than about fifteen miles an hour, which made the road seem longer than it was as they drove through the strange but nondescript woodland. Occasionally, he glanced at the odometer, which at least told him they were making progress. About the time he began to think they were going to run out of road without finding much of anything, they noticed a small hand-painted sign nailed to a tree, saying "Wamputa Beach Campground - Private" pointing off to the left.
"I'm surprised," he said. "We must be on the right road after all, such as it is."
"Well, let's go see," Bonnie smiled. "At least if it's closed you won't have to back out as far as you thought you were going to have to."
"There is that," Roger admitted, and started to ease the Taurus down the side road, which so far was even more of a faint trace than the dirt road. "It's just a longer walk out if we get stuck."
The road wound around a bit, so they couldn't see very far ahead of them. After several bends and several hundred yards, they came to another sign, this one somewhat bigger, reading "Wamputa Beach Naturist Campground - PRIVATE PROPERTY". There were a couple posts where a cable could be stretched across to keep vehicles out, but the cable was piled near one of them. "What do you think?" he said to the women.
"Let's go check it out," Bonnie said. "They can't do much more than throw us out."
"True," Roger replied sarcastically. "I doubt any sane cop would want to drive down that road."
Easing forward again, they went around another bend before they could see open skies through the trees ahead. A couple hundred yards farther on they came into a grassy and sandy area perhaps a hundred yards across overlooking a wide bay, with blue sky and a few clouds over the ocean ahead of them. A glance around the clearing revealed that there wasn't much there -- a couple of buildings that lacked roofs, obviously from wind damage, and one that looked like it was in much better condition from obvious new work. Behind the buildings a silver Airstream trailer and pickup truck were parked. "Not much of a campground," Roger noted.
"Well, the website said it was primitive," Bonnie replied defensively. "And it sure looks primitive to me, not that it's necessarily bad. Let's get out, wander over to that trailer and see what we can find out."
Roger decided that where he was sitting made a perfectly good place to park, and he was ready to stretch his legs. He'd done enough driving in the past couple days to hold him for a while. Once outside the car, they could hear the whine of a Skil saw biting through some wood.
"Well, at least someone's here," Catalina said. "Maybe they'll be able to fill us in."
As they got closer to the building, Roger could see it had taken some storm damage in the recent past like the other two buildings, but someone was obviously repairing it from the thump of a hammer he heard inside. The front door stood wide open, but rather than just head inside, he stood at the door and called. "Hello, anybody here?"
The hammering stopped, and he heard a man's voice call from inside. "Yeah, just a second." In a moment, they could see an older man dressed in jeans and a flannel shirt walk toward them. "How can I help you folks today?" he asked when he was close enough to talk at a reasonable level.
"We were wondering if you were open," Roger asked. "We tried to call earlier and we didn't get an answer."
"No big surprise," the man shook his head. He looked to be about in his sixties, with some gray hair mixed with some darker hair, lean and obviously in good shape. "Local independent phone company, the land line doesn't work half the time. Don't you have the cell number?"
Bonnie spoke up. "I didn't notice it on your . . . good God, Bill, is that you?"
"Bonnie!" the guy smiled. "This is the last place I ever expected to see you show up! What are you doing here?"
"Looking for a place to camp," she explained. "It's a long story. I didn't see you at ComicCon last month, and I was wondering what happened to you."
"That's a long story, too," Bill said. "Mostly fixing this building up. I decided I'd better get it done. Did you do Lum again this year? I hardly recognize you without green hair."
Roger turned to Catalina. "Cattail, did you ever hear of a TV show called The Twilight Zone?"
"Deedle-deedle, deedle-deedle," she shook her head. "I remember watching reruns of it when I was a kid."
"You two are squares. Both of you," Bonnie snorted. "No, I caught a cold in that Lum outfit two years ago, so I did a Japanese schoolgirl. That was kind of square too, but at least I wasn't coughing and sneezing and blowing my nose for the next two weeks. Bill, this is my daughter Catalina and her boyfriend Roger. Kids, this is Bill Simpson. The last time I saw him he was a Ronin warrior. He really looked the part, too."
"More like groanin' warrior, with all that crap on," Bill laughed. "So what brings you down here, of all places?"
"We're looking for a place to camp for a few days, and a safe place to leave my motor home for anywhere from a week to a couple months," Roger explained. "Bonnie thought from the website that this might have possibilities."
"Yeah, we can probably work something out, so long as you understand that this is really off season for this place and things are even more primitive than normal. I'm the only one staying here right now while I try to get things ready for warm weather. Still got a lot to do, the hurricane kicked the crap out of this place."
"I didn't think Katrina got this far east," Catalina commented.
"It wasn't Katrina," Bill told them. "It was Dennis, back in July. Knocked down a lot of trees, washed out a couple of buildings. Christ knows why the ones I have left are still here."
"You own this place?" Bonnie asked.
"Only since the last part of August," Bill smiled. "Allen and Vickie Goldwaithe used to own it, and it was pretty well trashed when Dennis came through. I didn't have anything better to do, so I offered to help them clean it up since they didn't have any insurance on the place. Then when it looked like Katrina's eyewall was headed right for here, they sort of decided they'd had all the hurricanes they needed, and it was better to risk the tornadoes in Kansas. I made them a ridiculously low offer on the place, and they hopped on it like flies on shit. We made a cash transaction at the county seat that afternoon, and we all headed inland to ride the thing out. Then Katrina turned west and I figured I'd made a pretty good deal. Even if the place had gotten washed out, it still would have been worth more than I paid for it."
"You get a lot of business?" Roger asked.
"Pretty crappy last fall; there were a few regulars here, but the hurricane season had everybody gun shy," Bill explained. "I've got the place sort of technically open but not really; there's still too much to do, but if you're self-contained you're welcome to park here. Something's shorting out in the wiring to the hookups, I haven't had a chance to figure out what the hell it is yet."
"We're only going to be a few days, but maybe we can pitch in some," Roger offered. "Catalina and I have been doing volunteer house rebuilding over around Gulfport, and I've got a bunch of tools and stuff in the motor home."
"Yeah, jeez, it'd be nice to have a little help from someone who knows which end of a nail goes into the board. Some of the people here back in the fall tried to help me out where they could, but they really weren't a lot of use."
"I'm no master carpenter, but I've done a bit, know a little about it," Roger said.
"Then you're going to be welcome around here," Bill grinned. "Not that you're not welcome for bringing Bonnie with you. Lum here and I had a real good time back there a couple years ago. Come on inside, take a load off. I was getting ready to knock off for a bit anyway."
The three of them followed Bill inside, to discover a fairly large room that had a fireplace and some plastic beach chairs and tables scattered around inside. "This is the office and clubhouse," Bill explained. "I'm starting to get this wound up. Should be a few more days, then I'll be able to clean it up and call it ready for the season. There's still plenty of work to do, I've got to get the bathhouse next, plus put a new roof on the picnic shelter and get it screened in."
"Should be a nice place when you get done," Bonnie smiled.
"It was a nice place before Dennis came through. Small and primitive, but quiet. There's a dump station back in the trees; it's just a holding tank, and I have it pumped out when it gets full. There's no fresh water, so it has to get trucked in and we have to be careful about using it. The beach really ain't much, just a narrow strip maybe fifty yards long when the tide is high, but when it goes out it ain't bad. The water is shallow way out, so when the tide is out it's a couple hundred yards wide, and there's plenty of room for people to spread out. The neat part about this place is that there's a salt marsh to either side, so we don't get many beach walkers snooping the place out and bothering us. I discovered this place back before I retired, and I like the privacy."
"Doesn't it get kind of buggy?" Catalina asked.
"The bad part about this place is that there's salt marsh to either side, so if you're not careful the bugs will carry you off at night, or if you go back into the woods during the day. But when the sun is out and there's a nice onshore breeze there's none to be seen. That's why I really need to get the picnic shelter done before warmer weather gets here. People tend to hang out there in the evenings rather than risk all the mosquitoes. I mean, nudists get used to bugs, but with all the bare skin there's a limit. The bugs ain't bad this time of the year, but they will be as soon as it warms up enough for bare skin. You ought to think there was a lesson there, but we're too dumb to see it."
Roger thought he could see the point of the lesson easily, but realized other people might not see things quite the same way. Getting back to business, he asked, "Is there going to be any problem if we camp here for a few days, pitch in with the repairs a little, and then leave the motor home here for a bit?"
"Naw, shouldn't be, so long as you've got a small motor home. There's a couple turns on the way in here that are a little tight for people with mobile cottages, but then they usually don't like to go places they can't get full hookups anyway, and the crappy road keeps some of the curious people out."
"I don't even have to ask if Bonnie is sold on the idea," Roger grinned. "Catalina, is it going to be all right with you?"
"Yeah, sure," she grinned. "It beats the hell out of having to stay in Hattiesburg."
Roger glanced at his watch. "Well, it's like this. If we get right out of here and hustle, we ought to be able to be back with the motor home by the time it gets really dark. Otherwise we're going to be boondocking at a Walmart again tonight."
"That's going to be a long time in the back seat again," Bonnie shook her head. "Bill, would you mind if I stuck around and helped out where I can until the kids get back?"
"No, Bonnie, fine with me," he grinned. "I'm a little sorry I missed you at ComicCon last month, but you can see I had my hands full here."
"It's a deal," she grinned. "Catalina, Roger: you might as well get moving. I'll see you when you get back."
• • •
"You know, that's kind of a relief," Catalina said as soon as she and Roger were back in the Taurus and headed out to the highway.
"How do you figure that?"
"Oh, get real," she laughed. "Mom has been sniffing around you ever since she met you. I figured it was only going to be a matter of time before we woke up and found her in bed with us."
"Might be a little difficult, considering how small the bed is," Roger laughed. It was nice to talk to Catalina one on one again knowing Bonnie couldn't jump right into the middle of things.
"It'd just make it more cozy, but it wouldn't slow her down much. I mean, I don't really know what she does at those comics conventions, but I've always figured she didn't dress like an eighteen-year-old slut just to get some laughs. The real fun has to come when she gets out of that getup after the show closes for the evening. How much would you like to bet there isn't a lot of work that gets done around Wamputa Beach this afternoon? I mean, since she knows we're not going to be around, and she isn't going to be horning in on my territory."
"We haven't talked about it much," he replied thoughtfully. "But I can't help but think that where there's smoke, there's fire."
"You got that right. She wasn't quite like that while Dad was still alive, but she and Dad could still get pretty wild at times. I suppose a little of it has rubbed off on me."
"Not that much. You're pretty normal, at least compared to her."
"I'm still a little wild, compared to you."
"You're probably right," he nodded. "But still, I can't see you going to a comic convention wearing green hair and a tiger-stripe bikini."
"Well, yeah, there are limits," she grinned. "But you haven't seen my wild side, yet."
"What makes you think I wouldn't like to see your wild side? Cattail, I think I've learned a few things from your mother. When I compare myself to either of you, yeah, I'm a little dull. I think I'm ready to loosen up a bit while I still can."
"I've sometimes wondered," she said distantly. "It seems like you're putting yourself out a lot for me, especially putting up with my mother. I'll admit, she gets on my nerves sometimes."
"I think she'd get on my nerves if I was around her too much," he agreed. "I mean, don't get me wrong, she's a lot of fun and the nuttiest stuff comes out of nowhere. But she hit this camp deal right between the eyeballs out of nowhere, and I have to admit it was good thinking."
"Oh, she's not dumb, she's just goofy. I think that if I had to hang around Amherst as much as she does I'd get a little goofy too, just out of the sheer boredom. So I can't blame her. At least I've got a life that I pretty much like, and I'm doing stuff to help people. I'm just wondering what comes next."
"What do you mean by that?"
"Oh, I don't know," she shrugged. "I've enjoyed working on the Katrina cleanup, and I think you and I are going to like doing it some more. But I'll tell you what, I'm not too damn sure how bad I want to be down in this neck of the woods when the temperature and the humidity are both in the nineties."
"Yeah, that thought has crossed my mind from time to time," he agreed as he carefully drove the Taurus down the winding woods road. "Maybe we can find something to do where it's a little cooler. I don't have any idea what that might be, but maybe we can think of something."
"Back in Wychbold, maybe?"
"I don't think so," he replied slowly. "I think I've managed to spend enough of my life there. It probably wouldn't hurt to be able to stop by there once in a while, but I've been wondering a little if it's worth the trouble and the expense. I keep thinking that maybe I could sell the house, we could get a little bigger and newer motor home and make do with it."
"You're saying 'we,' right?"
"If you want to," he said, glad to see the highway in sight ahead of him. "Really, it's up to you, but I don't think I'd be quite as ambitious about finding new things to experience without you pushing me a little."
"I hadn't thought that far ahead, but I'm not going to rule it out. Not by a long shot."
• • •
Roger moved the Taurus right along once he got back on the highway. He was sure he wasn't going to be able to make it back to Wamputa Beach before dark and wasn't looking forward to driving the motor home up that road in the dark, but now he was pretty well stuck with doing it. By the time they made it back to the parking lot in Panama City where they'd left the motor home it was even later than he'd hoped. "We might as well grab something to eat now," he suggested to Catalina as he pulled into the place.
"Yeah, my butt is already getting tired of the car seat and there's more to come," she sighed. "I'm beginning to wish we'd just stayed in Michigan and shoveled snow."
"I've never been in favor of that," he said. "Not even when I was younger. We get through the next few hours, and I'm going to enjoy sitting out beside the ocean, even if it's a little cool, and thinking about all those people up north who are having to mess with it."
"Yeah, you've got a point. At least we're going to have a few days off, or at least doing carpentry, and I think I'm going to appreciate them."
The drive back to Wamputa Beach was even longer, since the motor home didn't move like the Taurus. They were only a little more than halfway back when Roger saw the sun setting in the rear view mirror, and by the time they reached the turnoff to the campground it was fully dark. At least he wasn't quite as concerned with driving the motor home up the rough dirt road -- it had a truck chassis, after all, not the cheesy ones they put under cars these days. Modern cars weren't up to much back-road treatment, but the Taurus hadn't been a bad car to buy for driving to work. Now he had questions, but he realized he could think about them another time.
The road back to the campground didn't seem quite as long as it had in the daytime, possibly because he'd been over it before, but it was still a while before they passed the signs and pulled out into the clearing at the beach. There were lights on in both the Airstream and in the lounge building; he pulled over and parked at what looked like a campsite near the building, mostly with the thought in mind that he'd have less distance to haul tools the next day.
It felt good to shut off the engine of the motor home and get out. Once again he'd spent a lot of time behind the wheel of one vehicle or another, the third day running, and it was nice to know he wouldn't have to do it tomorrow -- and not for another four days.
Catalina was just getting out of the Taurus as he stepped down. "Everything go all right?" he asked.
"Yeah, but I'm getting tired of being on the move," she said. "I just want to sit around for a while. I wonder where Mom is."
"In the lounge, maybe?" he wondered. They headed inside the building, to discover Bill and Bonnie cuddled very close, more or less wrapped in a blanket on an old sofa they hadn't noticed before, just looking at the fire and touching. This was a nudist camp, so even considering the season it still wasn't very surprising that both of them were dressed for the location.
"Hi, Mom, Bill," Catalina said cheerfully. "You been enjoying yourselves?"
"Oh, yes," Bonnie giggled. "Very much indeed."
Although Bill suggested that they throw some more wood on the fire and sit a spell, it seemed like an intrusion to both Roger and Catalina, so after a little low-level teasing they retreated back to the motor home. "Well," Catalina giggled as soon as they had the door closed, "What do you want to bet that Mom won't be staying here tonight?"
"I'd say the chances are pretty good," Roger grinned. "I thought there was some pretty good reason she didn't want to go back to Panama City with us."
"It looked like it to me. In fact, it looked like a pretty damn good reason to me."
"You don't mind?"
"Hell, why should I mind? She deserves her fun, and she's been watching us for days. We've been pretty good about not rubbing her nose in it, but still, like I said this afternoon, I always figured there was a little more than cartoons about her interest in those conventions, and I guess now I'm just as glad. And I could stand a little of that."
"It is inspirational, now that you mention it. It's too early for sleep, but I don't think it's also too early for bed. Tell you what, why don't I get the jacks down and get this thing leveled while you get the heater going and light a gas light? There's no point in running the battery down any more than necessary, and I don't think I want to disturb the quiet by running the generator."
It took a while to get the motor home stabilized in the dark, working from the light of a flashlight in the chill of the evening, but in a few minutes he decided it was good enough for tonight, and he could finish it in the morning. He headed back inside to find Catalina sitting on the bed, wearing nothing but her tattoo. "It's still a little cool in here," she snickered. "But I figured, what the hell? This is a nudist camp, after all."
"You know, Cattail, I really like that tattoo," he grinned. "But do you know how I like it best?"
"When I'm lying on it, right?"