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

Cattail
Wes Boyd
2010, 2011



Chapter 15

One thing about working with the Amish crew was that there wasn't a lot of time left over. Although they could have driven the Mustang, Roger and Catalina had gotten used to walking over to the camp in the evening after they knocked off for the day, then walking back to the motor home as darkness gathered. By then they were usually pretty tired; usually they just had a shower and gave each other a massage, and then headed off to bed, mostly but not quite always with the idea of getting enough sleep to get through the next day. Though their bedtime activities suffered, neither of them minded it very much, for they could see they were accomplishing a great deal. Without discussion, they agreed there would be plenty of time for sex and play later.

There were still things to be done. As before, the Amish took a day of well-deserved rest on Sunday, which meant that Roger and Catalina could take off with the motor home to dump the holding tank, do their laundry and some shopping, and other such chores. Sundays were also a day of rest for them, too. They could use the cell phone arrangement to check their e-mail, lie out in the lawn chairs if the weather was reasonably nice, work on their tans if it was very nice, or just sit around the camper to read and do more personal activities if it wasn't. Were it not for the Sunday breaks, they could easily have lost track of the days, and even the weeks.

After dark on Wednesday of their first week with the Amish, Catalina barely remembered to call her mother to check up on how things were going, mostly to see how much of a pain in the butt Delmer was being.

Not bad, Bonnie reported, a little to their surprise. She'd seen him at a distance around town a couple times, but each of them had made it a point to not talk to the other one. There had been no phone calls, not even messages left on the answering machine, and no e-mails.

"That's really strange," Catalina responded.

"He's got to be up to something. I don't know what it is, but he has to be up to something, and it has to be underhanded. It's really pretty frustrating. I was looking forward to him being his normal pain in the ass so I could go off on him, but he's not cooperating."

"Maybe he got the message that he wasn't getting anywhere by being an asshole."

"That'll be the day," Bonnie laughed. "We're talking about Delmer, after all. Anyway, I'm taking off for Cleveland tomorrow so I'll be fresh for the Friday activities. Maybe I'll get lucky and get to spend a little extra time somewhere."

"You mean, with someone?" Catalina giggled.

"What else would I mean? I know you don't keep your phone on, but call me when you get the chance."

"Well, have fun. Roger and I are going to bed. It's nothing but early to bed and early to rise for us these days."

"Very early to bed, I'll bet,"

"What do you think?" Catalina responded. She turned her head away from the phone a little and dropped her voice to a husky, breathy moan and added, "Oh, Roger, I love it when you do that to me."

Roger looked up from the cheap paperback murder mystery he was reading on the far side of the room and snickered at the way Catalina was teasing her mother. He glanced at her with a grin on his face, but said nothing.

"I don't know about you two," Bonnie giggled. "Things sound like they're warming up down there."

"Uh, yeah," Catalina replied, sounding a little flustered. "Uh, Mom, I think I better go. Something has come up. Bye, now." She clicked off the phone.

Roger just shook his head as he put down the book. "Cattail," he smiled. "That was cruel, but I think I'd better not make a liar out of you."

"That was the general idea," she giggled as she peeled off her sweat shirt. "But I didn't want to spend the next half hour listening to her rave about all the cheap thrills she'll be having at ComicCon while I could be having some thrills of my own here."

Another week passed before Catalina thought to try to call her mother again. Except for Sunday they'd been busy, and they'd had a particularly busy day, made worse by the fact that the power situation meant they had to run back and forth across the street all day. They were just getting ready for bed again, this time with no real thought of recreational activities, when Roger happened to mention that Bonnie ought to be back from ComicCon by now; Catalina was already in bed, half under the covers and the rest of her bare body exposed. "Yeah, you're right," she replied. "Hand me my cell phone, would you?"

Bonnie's number was programmed into the phone, so it was only the matter of a couple of button pushes to make the call. The phone rang and rang, but there was no answer until the answering machine clicked on. "Mom, it's Catalina," she said after the beep in her ear. "Everything is fine here and we've been busy. We were just wondering how things had gone at ComicCon. I'll try and call again in a few days." She clicked the phone off and said to Roger, "Sounds to me like she had a real good time at ComicCon, and is still having it."

"If there's a good time to be had I think I can safely say your mother is going to find it," Roger snickered.

"Well, true. Sometimes I think my mother is old enough that she ought to grow up."

"That implies that you think you're grown up."

"God, horrible thought when you put it that way, isn't it?" she sighed. "At least you have to admit it's better than just sitting on her butt and watching TV. At least I usually can find something interesting to do."

"From the stories I've heard you tell, it would seem like it," he smiled as he put her cell phone back where it belonged before sliding his underwear down his legs. The sight of her lying there in the buff was giving him second thoughts about bypassing sex for the sake of exhaustion this night. "So, that brings up the big question. Have you figured out what we're going to do this summer yet?"

"No, and I haven't even thought about it much," she sighed. "I suppose we ought to at least talk about it a bit. I mean, it's still the middle of January, but spring will be coming soon. I take it you're not thinking about staying around here in the summer?"

"It's a possibility, I suppose," he replied, tossing the underwear into the dirty clothes bag and heading over to turn out the lights. "God knows there's enough to do down here. But I can't quite get myself enthused about being out on a roof when it's ninety-percent humidity and ninety degrees on the thermometer in the shade when I'm out nailing shingles on a roof with no shade."

"To tell you the truth, I can't either," she agreed as he slid into bed next to her in the dark. "I mean, I wouldn't mind showing off my tattoo a little more, but that strikes me as being just fucking silly. On the other hand, every time I watch a family move into a house that we helped build, it makes me feel like we've been doing something worthwhile."

"There is that," he agreed as he snuggled up next to her. For whatever reason, and it wasn't the small size of the bed, they had a tendency to sleep a lot closer together than he and Colleen had done for many years. He had come to enjoy the warm touch of Catalina's body next to his, back or front, it didn't matter. "But you've got to figure there could be things we could do elsewhere, someplace where the heat and humidity aren't quite so rugged."

"Well, we could get in touch with Habitat for Humanity, maybe look on their website. They might have some projects somewhere up north we could get involved with."

"I suppose," he agreed, throwing his arm over her. He couldn't feel her tattoo, of course, but he knew it was there and one of the things that made her seem especially exotic to him. "But just between you and me, while I don't mind being a saw guy for the Amish, I'm not sure how bad I want to do carpentry all summer, either. Don't get me wrong, I like doing the carpentry, but I don't want to get into a rut with it, either. I know what ruts are, I had twenty-six years to learn that, so I'd like to do something different, something I've never done before."

"Yeah, when you get down to it you're probably right," she said. "I like doing volunteer work, it's fun and rewarding, but I think by the time these Amish are ready to be heading back north, I'm going to be ready to quit being the saw girl for a while, so I wouldn't mind doing something totally different, maybe out west somewhere."

"Me, too. Colleen and I never traveled much, and I never got out west at all. I'm told there's some nice country out there, and I wouldn't mind seeing some of it."

"Well, God, we're going to have to do that then," she said, squeezing a little closer to him. "I'd really rather have something useful to do rather than just travel around rubbernecking out of the motor home, but maybe we can find something. Tell you what. Let's not get crazy about it right now, but Sunday let's get on the Internet and search for volunteer opportunities in the west."

"Why wait till Sunday?"

"Because we're already in bed and I'm finding that I'm not too tired to do something I really want to do," she snickered. "Besides, you remember that truck stop we went to last Sunday to dump the holding tank?"

"Yeah, so?"

"They had a sign, 'Free Wi-Fi.' There's no point in burning up your cell phone minutes to get a slow connection to search some of those big websites when we can do it there and get high-speed for free. I mean, the cell connection is fine for e-mail but some of those sites could take minutes just to load."

"You've sold me," he said, "Both on going to the truck stop, and the other thing."

Sundays were lazy days, good for sleeping in -- and the only chance they got with working six days each week. But there were still things to do, for Sundays had become their shopping and maintenance day. Since they were eating with the Amish the majority of the time, getting groceries at a re-opened supermarket out near the interchange north of Gulfport had become a fairly simple process, and washing laundry at a side street laundromat wasn't much more complicated, although it ate up a couple hours. With those chores done they headed on over to the truck stop, dumped the holding tank, topped off the gas tanks, then took the laptop and headed into the restaurant.

It took them a few minutes to figure out how to set up the computer to use the Wi-Fi connection -- neither of them had done it before -- but once they had it working it was another world from the very slow dial-up connections they'd been using. Everything seemed to load in an instant, and typing "volunteer opportunities" into the Google screen brought back in an instant more information than they could take advantage of in a hundred lifetimes. "Jeez," Roger said, clicking on a link for "Federal Government Volunteer Opportunities" more or less at random. "I'm not sure this is a lot better than not having any ideas at all."

It turned out that there were several federal government agencies looking for volunteer help. "Try the National Park Service link," Catalina suggested. "I've always been impressed by the way they do things."

The volunteer opportunities with the NPS were broken out by states, and Catalina suggested the northern mountain west as places to look. There were lots of possibilities, as campground hosts, visitor center workers, trail workers, and a host of others. "I think we'd better narrow down the list a little," Roger suggested. "Let's start out by limiting it to places where we can stay in the motor home, and not have to pack in or something."

"I've done backpacking, you know that," Catalina pointed out. "I wouldn't mind doing some more."

"I haven't." Roger said. "And while I wouldn't mind trying it out sometime, I don't think I want to commit to a summer of it without having done it a little. And while we're at it, we've been working pretty hard. I wouldn't mind doing something a little less strenuous."

"Well, me either," she admitted. "But that still leaves a lot of possibilities."

They were just as glad that they got the other maintenance work on the motor home done first, because they were until well after dark exploring possibilities. They sent in applications on ones that sounded particularly good, noting on the applications that their e-mail access was intermittent and that it might be a few days before they could answer. They agreed that they needed more information on some of the places they applied for, but that they weren't committed to do anything.

"One of those ought to be a hit," she said as the laptop started beeping "low battery" and it was clearly time to shut down for the evening. "Some of those would be something really different to do."

"I don't know that some of them would be something I'd want to do every year," he agreed. "But we'll have to start keeping a closer eye on the e-mail. Something more than once a week, anyway."

"Yeah, we need to do that anyway," she agreed. "I tried to call Mom again, and there was no answer. I know she'll turn up sooner or later, but I'd still like to know what happened to her."

"You think Delmer might be involved?"

"Hell, I don't know what to think. I mean, in one way I really don't think I need to be worried. She's a big girl and she can take care of herself. She's done it enough while I've been gone in the past, and sometimes we went months without getting in contact other than the odd letter, and when I was in the Ukraine the mail could take months. But knowing I ought to be able to get in contact with her and not being able to is worrying me a little, and there's no denying it."

The days and weeks passed quickly, one much the same as the next: early to rise, a quick breakfast with coffee in the camper, lots of sawing and occasionally helping with something else such as nailing down shingles, a picnic lunch provided by the Amish ladies, more work in the afternoon, a walk over to the Amish campsite for supper, and early to bed. It was hard to keep track of the days, and only the breaks on Sundays helped them to keep things straight.

About once or twice a week Catalina tried to call her mother again -- but every time she tried all she got was the answering machine. It was something to be concerned about, but Catalina tried to not get exceptionally worried about it. "Maybe there's a neighbor or someone you could call," Roger suggested once.

"She has a neighbor up the street she's friendly with," Catalina replied. "But she has an unlisted number and I don't know how to get in contact with her. It's probably nothing. We'll have to be heading back north soon enough, and we can figure it out then."

One evening toward the end of January they were sitting around after supper talking with Aaron and his grandson, Michael. Although they'd long since become friendly with many of the Amish around the site, Roger and Catalina had become even closer with these two, mostly because they were so open and personable. Over the course of the weeks they'd been working with the Amish, some of the things that had seemed so strange weren't so strange anymore. This was partly due to familiarity, but partly due to the patient way that Aaron and Michael had explained why things were done the way they were. The logic of things didn't always make sense to Roger or Catalina; it was just the way they were done. Once they got past that the Amish didn't seem so strange -- they were just people, after all: people with some strange beliefs and ways to be sure, but people who laughed and cried, people who were happy and sad, just like anyone else.

While they heard a lot of stories and talk over the supper table with their Amish friends, a lot of the talk concerned the construction projects, too. "I'd think we should be done with this street by the end of the week," Catalina commented.

"Yah, if it doesn't make wet on us," Aaron agreed. "Then things will slow down on us. We're going to have to red up the next lots before we can build. There were supposed to be some volunteers to do it, but we've seen them not."

"That's the next one up the street toward the camp, right?" Roger asked. There was a lot of hurricane debris around the lots; some damaged houses that hadn't been totally removed by the storm, and downed trees. Aaron had told them weeks before that the area they were working in had been cleaned up (red up) by a crew of volunteers back in the fall, and they were rapidly running out of damaged houses in the area that had been cleaned up. "That's going to involve some heavy equipment."

"Yah, it will be slow if we have to do it ourselves," Michael nodded. "The horses can help some but it's not going to get done hurrieder."

Roger and Catalina had picked up a few of the odd turns of phrasing that the Amish used, and were coming to the point where they'd occasionally drop one of them into the conversation, even between themselves. "I don't know that we'd be able to help that much with redding up if we were here," Roger said. "We're going to have to take off for a few days at the end of the week. I've got a chain saw in the garage at home. I'll throw that in when we come back. Maybe that will help some."

"You're leaving us?" Michael asked.

"Yeah," Catalina said. "I thought we told you about that. I have a court date in Michigan to settle an inheritance. I don't know how long we'll be gone, probably a week or so."

"Yah, well," Aaron said, "There are things that have to be done. Is it a large inheritance?"

"Fairly big, for me anyway," Catalina admitted, not wanting to get into the details. "An uncle left some land to a cousin and me, and my cousin is being a pain in the neck about the settlement, so it's going to court. I'm hoping the judge will order the land to be sold so my cousin and I can split the profits."

"Very much land?" Michael asked conversationally.

"A quarter section a few miles out of Amherst," Roger explained. "About sixty acres of farmland, and the rest wooded."

"Wooded land can be worth some money," Aaron replied knowingly. "It wonders me what the timber must be like."

"I really don't know, except that there are some big trees in there," Roger said. "I've only been there once. I can tell walnuts and oaks when the leaves are off, and there's a lot of nice ones there, at least in the area where I've been. Some other hardwoods that look like they'd be worth logging, but I don't know what they are."

"Yah, they'd be worth some money then," Michael agreed. "I can see why you'd be anxious about it."

"All I'm looking for is a fair settlement and to get this off my back," Catalina told them. "This is going to be the third trip Roger and I have made up here for it, and I hope it's the last one."

"I have to ask," Roger interjected. "We're probably going to only be gone a week, or two at the most. Would it be all right if we left the motor home here at your camp so you can keep an eye on it for us?"

"It would be fine," Aaron told them. "Don't come back hurrieder than you need to. We'll be here for a few weeks yet. You've done us a great many favors, and it's only right that we would be able to return one to you now and again."

"I really appreciate it," Roger smiled. "And as far as returning favors, your feeding us with some of the great cooking goes a long way toward returning favors, but this one will be a bigger help. The last time we went north we left the camper at a friend's place over on the other side of Panama City, and that added almost a day's drive to the trip that we want to keep as short as possible."

"It could be worse," Michael grinned. "Think how long it would take in a horse and buggy."

"Yeah, but it would be a lot of fun," Catalina grinned. "You can go what? Maybe twenty-five miles a day with a horse and buggy?"

"Yah, sometimes a little farther, but not for day after day if you wanted to be hurrieder," Michael explained. "Sometimes not that much."

"Michael and I talked it on the ride down here," Michael's wife Rebecca spoke up from beside him, where she had been talking with a couple of the other Amish women. "It would take a month. While it would be a month we don't have to waste, it would be fun to do and a proper way to do it."

"Roger," Catalina grinned, "All I know about horses is you feed one end and clean up what comes out the other. Do you know any more than that?"

"That pretty much sums up my knowledge, too," Roger grinned, picking up her thinking. "But you're right, it would be fun. Something to think about sometime for something different to do."

"If you're needing to learn about horses and buggies," Aaron grinned, "I think we might could help you with that."

Roger and Catalina sat and chatted with their Amish friends for a while longer, then allowed as how they had to be getting back and getting some sleep. "You know," he said as they walked back to the motor home in the gathering darkness. "It does sound like something that would be fun to do. Start, oh, about the middle of September and take our time getting down here. Aaron's already said they're not going to be down here as early next year since they had to depend on some English neighbors to get their crops in to be able to come down here at all."

"Yeah, it does sound like fun," she agreed. "We couldn't be taking the Interstate of course, just the back roads, but there's often more to see there anyway. We could sort of follow fall south."

"I don't recall if they allow horses and buggies on the Natchez Trace Parkway," Roger said, exploring the possibilities in his mind a little more. "But it would be easy enough to find out. The problem lies in the fact that neither of us knows jack squat about horses, and it might take all summer to learn enough to be amateurs. If we were to do it next fall, we'd just about have to commit to spending the summer in Wychbold."

"There are worse places to spend the summer, and worse things to do," she smiled. "I'm still interested in finding something to do out west next summer, but let's at least throw that one on the list of possibilities for sometime in the future, especially if we're still coming down here."

"We wouldn't have to come down here," he pointed out. "I've often thought it would be fun to see what it would be like to follow the old Oregon Trail westward all summer long. Again, it's not something we could start now, but we've still got a few years left, Cattail."

"That sounds like fun, too," she smiled. "All right, let's put that one on the back burner for this year, but maybe another year sometime. You know, Roger, if we can put our heads together we ought to be able to find plenty of fun things to do the next few years, and that doesn't include what we do when we outen the lights."


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To be continued . . .

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