Wes Boyd's
Spearfish Lake Tales
Contemporary Mainstream Books and Serials Online

Cattail
Wes Boyd
2010, 2011



Chapter 11

As both of them expected, there was no sign of Bonnie the rest of the night, which was just fine with them, because much of the time her appearance would have been an unwanted intrusion. Although the two of them had enjoyed an active evening, Roger was considerably more relaxed and at peace with himself when he realized he was awake and that the morning had come, and having Catalina sleeping quietly next to him had a lot to do with that.

Catalina was sleeping on her side, close to him, an enigmatic but peaceful expression on her face. How different a woman Catalina was, compared to Colleen, he mused. She was bright, active and energetic, interested in going places and doing things, and mostly cheerful. Even when she was upset at something she was fun to be around.

In the last years before the accident, Colleen had seemed unhappy most of the time except when she was glued to the TV set, ready to gripe and bitch at the drop of a hat. It had been part of the reason he'd more or less decided to not get involved with another woman after Colleen's death; his life had been boring, but for the most part it had been peaceful. Now, it had happened and while what would happen in the future might still be in doubt, he figured he might as well enjoy the present while it lasted.

He heard the door of the camper open behind him. He rolled a little bit to see Bonnie out of the corner of his eye, and it wasn't surprising that she was nude -- this was a nudist camp, after all -- even though it had to be cold out there. Not wanting to disturb Catalina, he kept his silence, watching Bonnie as she dug out a suitcase and pulled out underwear and work clothes and began to get dressed, apparently trying to be as silent as possible.

In a few minutes she was dressed, right down to a lightweight jacket, and headed back out the door silently. "Wow," he heard Catalina whisper. "It must really be cold out there for Mom to get that dressed up at a nudist place."

"I was kind of thinking the same thing," he whispered back. "I thought you were asleep."

"No, just not ready to get up yet and hoping I could stay here like this for a while longer," she smiled. "You know, I kind of like this."

"Well, I do, too," he yawned. "But that old Ford internal alarm clock is telling me it's time to get up and get moving."

"I suppose you're right," she smiled. "I guess Mom must have had a good time last night."

"That's what I think. As far as I know she wasn't back here all evening."

"Good old Mom, grab it when you can." She yawned and added, "In fact, it sounds like a pretty good idea to me, too."

They stayed in bed for a while longer, even if they weren't quite as inactive as they had been earlier; in fact, they got up a little tired but very refreshed when they heard the sounds of hammering and sawing coming from outside. Taking their cue from Bonnie, they decided they might as well get dressed fairly warmly, if not Michigan level.

The air was cool and crisp when they stepped outside to discover Bill and Bonnie working on the picnic shelter. "Getting at it early, huh?" Roger called.

"We got to talking it over last night and figured we might as well get at this today," Bill told them. "This is a job that's going to take extra hands, but we should pretty well be able to get it wrapped up while you people are here."

"Well, we'll be with you as soon as we get some coffee in us."

"Don't worry about making it; there's a pot in the lounge. In fact, Bonnie and I were just thinking about taking a run at it ourselves."

A few minutes later the four of them were sitting in plastic lawn chairs in the morning sun, shielded from the cool breeze coming off the ocean. "So, Mom," Catalina snickered, "I take it you had a good night?"

"Oh, marvelous," Bonnie grinned. "Early to bed, and all that. Bill and I caught up on a lot of old times yesterday afternoon and even got some work done, too."

"I'm getting close to done in the lounge," Bill said. "There's still some finish work to be done, but Bonnie finished a lot of the cleaning up that needed to be done."

"I don't suppose you spent the evening discussing anime," Catalina smiled.

"Well, some," Bill grinned. "Turns out I had a couple DVDs your mother hadn't seen before."

"We'll get to watch them sometime, too," Bonnie explained with a huge smile, making it clear they hadn't bothered to waste any time watching TV.

"You know, I really hate to point this out," Roger shook his head, "But it seems crazy for people your age to be all hung up on kid stuff like that."

"It's not really kid stuff; it's an art form of its own," Bill explained. "I'll admit, my granddaughter was the one who got me interested in it, but I've had a lot of fun with it. She had to drag me to my first anime festival, and it wasn't all that long before I was the one dragging her to them. But, I'll tell you, it was really a surprise to have an enthusiast like Bonnie here show up without warning."

"So how did you wind up coming here?"

"Oh, I've been coming here for years," Bill explained. "My wife was the one that was really into nudism at first, and she just about had to drag me here. But after a while I got comfortable with it. I'll tell you what, if any of the people I used to work with had known what I did on vacation they'd have just about shit. I think they thought I was out driving a race car some place, and I was just as happy to let them think it."

"So, did you drive race cars?" Catalina asked.

"When I was younger, but I gave it up before I retired. I used to work at a Ford plant outside of Detroit, and I ran street stocks at Flat Rock for years. After a while it quit being fun anymore so I gave it up."

"Where was that?" Roger asked. "I retired from Ford Saline last spring."

"Ford Rawsonville," Bill smiled. "Back when I was racing and Bill Elliott was winning all over the place, the guys in the plant used to call me 'Awesome Bill from Rawsonville.' So, did you do thirty?"

"Twenty six and change, I got an early retirement." Roger replied, mentally calculating that Bill probably was at least ten years older than he was. "Still getting used to it. I hadn't expected to retire quite so soon."

"Yeah, you don't want to sit on your ass, that's for sure," Bill told him. "I started making that mistake, and then I finally figured I had to find something else to do. This came along at about the right time. I thought about building a home in the edge of the trees, and I might do it yet, but not right now. That's the advantage of the Airstream -- when a hurricane takes aim on this place I have the opportunity to run and take home with me."

"You have to wonder about all the homes near the water's edge in this neck of the woods," Catalina commented. "I mean, you have to think that sooner or later a hurricane is going to come along."

Bill shrugged. "I haven't actually made my mind up yet, but if I do build a place here, it's going to be something pretty simple and hurricane resistant. It might not do a lot of good against a storm surge, but then again it might. I mean, I know we can get a storm surge up here, the place got flushed out, but at least not real bad."

"I thought the damage looked like a little more than wind damage," Roger replied.

"I don't think it got much more than about knee deep at the buildings, but it sure messed stuff up. Wind did most of the damage, though, wind and rain. That's what took the roof off the picnic shelter, which Bonnie and I just got started on this morning. The bugs get so bad here that I really need to get that thing done. The bathhouse can wait for a while since a lot of people who come here are self-contained anyway. I don't know how the walls managed to stay up on either of them when Dennis took the roofs back into the trees somewhere. I suspect there's boards and shingles scattered all through the woods, and maybe sometime I'll have to go out and clean them up."

"I have to say that we've seen worse," Catalina told him. "Over around Gulfport they wouldn't even consider this place messed up."

"Yeah, that was a lot worse than what happened here, although you haven't seen all of it. A couple smaller buildings just disappeared. They were just sheds and not fastened down very well, I guess. I'll tell you what, I'm just as glad I wasn't here to see it when it happened."

Roger looked what was left of the structure over. "So, what's the plan?"

"First thing is to get what's left of the roof off the place, not that it's going to take very long. Then we can get started laying out rafters. With the four of us, I don't see why we can't get the roof back on before you people head back north, maybe some shingling done depending on how well we work at it. Hell, might even get all of it done. I'd kind of like to get the screens on while I've got extra hands here. I can nail on shingles by myself, but the screening is going to take extra hands."

"Well," Roger said. "I guess the logical thing to do is to polish off this coffee and get started."

Bill was right; it didn't take long for them to get rid of what little remained of the roof, which he informed them was going to be campfire material later in the year. With that done, they cleared away space on the floor of the picnic shelter, and Roger dug out his Skil saws. Bill already had a stock plan for the rafters he wanted, but Roger had to take his carpenter's square to lay out the cuts for each one. Still, it went quickly, with Catalina helping him measure, Bonnie bringing two-by-fours from a stack behind the lounge, and Bill nailing the rafters together. After a while it became something of a production line, and they got into the swing of it.

The day grew warmer, and soon the jackets disappeared, although it never warned up enough to strip down beyond T-shirts. "You know," Bill said sometime along during the day, "It might not be the dumbest idea to stop and have some lunch."

"I really hate to stop," Roger told him. "We've got it down to a science now, and we ought to be able to finish these up in another hour or so." Bill had to agree that Roger had a point. It was getting to be early afternoon by the time Bill and Roger nailed the last rafter together, and they broke for lunch, just sandwiches that Bonnie threw together in Roger's camper along with soft drinks from the refrigerator in the lounge.

They didn't take an exceptionally long lunch, just enough to rest up a bit; Bill and Roger spent much of the lunch break exchanging factory stories. Before long Roger and Bonnie were handing rafters up to Bill and Catalina, who were nailing them into place, along with a row of four-by-eight sheets of waferboard for the first row of decking. It was getting late by the time they got them all up, but there was still some light left, so they kept at work while the sun was sinking. They almost had the job done by the time it was getting too dark to see, but there wasn't much left to be done in the morning.

"Damn good day's work," Bill said as they clambered down from the roof. "It would have taken me a week or more to do that by myself. I think we're all a little too tired to screw around with making supper. Roger, if we can take your car, there's a place up the coast a ways that cooks up some of the finest red snapper you'll ever eat, and I know their beer is cold. After what we got done today, I'm buying."

"Bill, I think you've talked us all into it," Roger agreed.

They all piled in the Taurus and headed out for dinner. The seafood place was a good fifteen miles up the highway and wasn't much to look at when they got there -- it was rather more than a bit run-down and had suffered some still-unrepaired storm damage of its own. But the food was excellent, the beer was cold, and they all got a little happy before they headed back to the campground. To no one's surprise, Bonnie dug a change of clothes out of the camper and headed for Bill's Airstream, obviously to spend the night again.

"Shit, I don't know how she does it," Catalina said as she stood by the motor home watching her mother walk over to Bill's place. "I've been working my ass off all day, and I want a shower, maybe a massage, and a good night's sleep. She's been working all day, and she looks like she's planning on playing all night. It sounds good to me, but I don't think I could stay awake long enough."

"The question is whether Bill is up for it," Roger grinned. "I mean, he worked as hard as the rest of us. If he is, more power to him."

It was no great surprise that Roger and Catalina managed to make it up before Bill and Bonnie the next morning. They had coffee and a quick breakfast, then headed out to the picnic shelter to get back to work on nailing down the rest of the decking. The two older folks emerged from the Airstream sometime later, both showing the signs of being a little tired and aching, but it was hard to say whether it was from the exercise of the day before or that of the night before. Still, once coffee and ibuprofen had a chance to take hold, Bill and Bonnie were out there working like they meant it, nailing down roll roofing, and later shingles. The picnic shelter wasn't all that large, and the shingling went quickly; by late afternoon they had it done, and decided to take the rest of the day off.

Roger had been just too busy and had worked too late the previous two nights to string a cord over to the lounge building so at least there could be electricity in the camper. Rather than doing that he thought he'd take a crack at figuring out where the short was in the wiring to the campsites. He was no electrician, but thought the problem might be something simple. With Catalina taking charge of the breaker box in the lounge, he started disconnecting the more distant part of the circuitry, and soon realized that wherever the problem was, it was well beyond the camper, so after disconnecting part of the circuit they had power for the evening. He was on the trail of the problem by then, and decided that as long as he'd gone that far he might as well track it down the rest of the way. He soon found a burned-out junction box far away from the lounge building; it wasn't anything he could repair right away since he didn't have the parts, but he disconnected that portion of the circuit so Bill could do the replacement when he got to it.

Bill dug out a charcoal grill, and he and Bonnie grilled sirloins and roasted potatoes. "We got a lot done again today," Bill said over the steaks a little bit later. "Roger, I really appreciate your weaseling out that wiring problem."

"Turned out to be pretty simple."

"Yeah, if there was an extra set of hands available, which I haven't had. That's like tomorrow, I want to get the screening up on the picnic shelter while I have you folks here. I'm afraid you folks are running out of time, but I'd like to get that up and at least get started on the bathhouse while you're here."

"It's smaller, it might not take as long to get the roof on," Catalina pointed out.

"Well, even a good start will help. I really appreciate the way you folks have pitched in on this. It's going to make life a lot simpler around here. I should be able to be done with the heavy construction before too long, at least for now, but there's plenty of diddly stuff needing to get done before the real season starts."

"I'm not sure when Catalina and I are going to be back down here to pick up the camper," Roger told him. "Like I told you in the beginning, it could be a week and it could be a couple months. We just don't know; it's all going to depend on lawyers. But when we come back, I suppose there's no reason we can't spend another couple days working on stuff if we need to."

"Well, if you don't mind, we can put the bathhouse off till then. Let's concentrate on getting the screening up tomorrow since I'm going to need some help for that, but hell, it's going to be New Year's Eve. Let's get that done, and maybe have a campfire on the beach and a few beers to celebrate the holiday. We can piss around with little stuff on Sunday, or maybe not even work at all. We all need a day off anyway, and you people have earned it."

With four sets of hands, the screening went up quickly on Saturday. Even with that finished there were still little chores needing to be done, like hanging the hood for the big circular fireplace that was the centerpiece of the picnic shelter -- that took much of the afternoon, but with it done there wasn't much left to do. They took a break in the middle of it since it was a warm afternoon, and went down to the beach, stripped off their clothes and went for a quick swim. The water was cool but enjoyable, and although Roger still didn't consider himself to be a nudist, he found he could be comfortable with people who were. Still, it was cool enough that he was glad to get dressed again.

Later, once they were done with the picnic shelter, they hauled several plastic laundry baskets of scrap wood down to the beach. After dinner, dressed for the cool of the evening, they built up a big fire, and just sat around telling stories and enjoying themselves. It probably wasn't anywhere near midnight when the fire burned down and they headed back up to bed, Bonnie again, of course, staying with Bill.

It was hard to get up on Sunday without the intent of doing anything, and when push came to shove they couldn't manage it. "Tell you what," Roger told Bill over about their third pot of coffee, "Let's at least get the rafters built for the bathhouse. That'll give you a running start when you finally get around to it."

So, they did. Once again they got into the swing of production, and by the middle of the afternoon had a set of rafters sitting up against the building for when Bill got around to building the roof, which Roger suspected might wait until he and Catalina returned, whenever that might be. They knew their time was getting short, and they'd have to be heading back in the morning to be back for the meeting with the lawyers on Wednesday. Once again they had a fire on the beach, just because it was enjoyable to do, and once again they wrapped it up early.

It was hard to get around Monday morning. They'd all worked hard for the last four days, but it had been enjoyable work, and getting on the road and heading back to the snow of Michigan wasn't all that appealing. Roger closed up the camper, took in the power cord, and did the other things needed for it to be left for a long stay, and along in mid-morning they all said goodbye to Bill, got in the Taurus, and headed north.

Bonnie seemed especially depressed at leaving, for reasons obvious to Roger and Catalina. "Damn, I'd liked to have stayed around for a while," she said as soon as they were on the bumpy dirt road heading out of the place. "I mean, even though it's not really warm enough for nudism, that was fun."

"I don't suppose having a reliable bed partner has anything to do with that," Catalina smirked.

"Of course it does," Bonnie sighed. "That was very nice, you know. He's very gentle and kind as a lover, and it's been too long since I've had enough of that. Catalina, I suspect he's a lot like Roger in that regard. If you hadn't been so selfish, you could have lent Roger to me a while back so I'd know for sure."

"Mom, I told you to keep your hands off my guy. I think he's done a pretty good job of it, too. Besides, you've got a boyfriend of your own, now."

"Not really," Bonnie shook her head. "He's behind us, and I have no idea when I'll be seeing him again. If it weren't for wanting to be around for your meeting with Delmer, I'd have been tempted to stay for a while."

"Yeah, I'm not looking forward to that," Catalina agreed. "I can't help but think that he has to have gone really nuts after discovering we snuck out of town on him."

"It was much more fun than having to put up with him and the snow up in Amherst, that's for sure," Bonnie smirked. "Although I expect to have some more fun listening to him squeal like a stuck pig when your lawyer drops that proposed settlement on him, whatever it is."

"I'm interested in that myself," Catalina said. "I can tell you this: even the ninety grand would go a long way toward solving the problem of what I'm doing next, and if Roger is right and it comes to a lot more, it could put a completely different spin on things. I really don't want to have to spend another year or two teaching English overseas, but I don't feel like I want to sponge off Roger once my savings run out, either."

"That's something that can be worked out," Roger told her. "There's a lot of angles to that which we haven't talked about, or even thought about. I have enough money coming in that we can manage quite well if we're careful. Social Security is still a ways up the road for me, but if we watch our pennies and maybe work short periods every now and then, we could probably get along without too much difficulty."

"Yeah, but that's sponging off your money," Catalina protested. "I feel like I want to put in at least something toward my fair share. The interest off ninety grand isn't all that much, but it is something."

"Well, that's not a question that we have to work out the answer to today," Roger told her as they reached the highway and turned east, heading for the road that would take them northbound. "Maybe we'll know more about it in a couple days, but if you want my guess, I'm guessing we won't."

"You don't think so?"

"No," he shook his head. "All I know about Delmer is what you've told me and what I saw at that meeting with deBoer. But I doubt very much that he's going to accept whatever fair settlement is laid on the table in front of him, unless whatever's driving him is really driving him badly. Although I'd like to think differently, I don't see any way this is going to get settled this week."

"Unfortunately, I think you're probably right," Catalina replied unhappily. "I just have the horrible feeling this is going to take years, and Roger, that means that if it isn't settled sooner or later I'm going to be sponging off of you whether I want to or not."

"Don't count your chickens, and all that kind of thing," he shrugged. "I mean, I could be entirely wrong and whatever is driving him will cause him to sign whatever paper is set down on the table in front of him. I'm not expecting that to happen, but it could happen, after all, Anything is possible."

"With Delmer?" Bonnie snorted, wrinkling her nose. "Never happen. No way, bay-bee."


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