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

The Homestanders
Book Four of the Bradford Exiles
Wes Boyd
2005, 2011



Chapter 17

As it turned out, it didn’t matter that they were running late, since Emily had said only that they’d get to Scott and Sonja’s “after noon sometime.” But that hadn’t been all she’d been vague on; she’d only said she and Vicky were going to “drop by for a bit” and with malice aforethought didn’t mention motorcycles. So it wasn’t surprising to see Scott, Sonja, and their kids pour out the side door of the house when the rumble of the Harley invaded their driveway; but it was a little surprising to see Aaron and Amber and their kids join them.

“Good God, it is you two,” Scott shook his head as Emily and Vicky took their helmets off. “When I think of you two, I think of a couple cheerleaders running around school in your short skirts. I sure didn’t expect to see you rolling up on a couple Harleys!”

“Oh, mine is only a Honda,” Vicky laughed. “But it may be a hog next year.”

“Well, hey,” Aaron said, “It’s good to see you two again, even if we didn’t quite expect it to be this way.”

“After you called,” Scott explained. “We decided to invite Aaron and Amber and the kids over, and heat up the grill out back since it’s going to be a nice day. We hang out together quite a bit and trade babysitting back and forth.”

“Sure,” Emily said. “Glad you did, the more the merrier.”

“Did you have a good ride up?” Sonja asked.

“Real good, especially with the flying cantaloupe,” Vicky laughed. “That was something I wasn’t expecting.”

“Flying cantaloupe?” Amber frowned.

“Right,” Emily laughed. “We found out a cantaloupe makes a pretty good splat after you toss it a quarter mile.”

“What are you talking about?” Scott shook his head.

“Tossing cantaloupes,” Emily smiled. “It’s a lot of fun. We’d have been here sooner but we had to stop and launch a couple.”

“I still don’t get it,” Scott said.

“With a trebuchet,” Vicky laughed. “Emily and I know some of the damnedest people.”

“A trebuchet? Oh, that story you did in the Courier last winter,” Aaron smiled, the light dawning.

“This sounds like a story,” Sonja smiled. “Why don’t we head out back and you can tell it?”

It was warm in the fenced-in back yard, out of the cool spring breeze. The black leathers were hot, so Emily and Vicky soon peeled down to the T-shirts and jeans they had on underneath and settled into lawn chairs while Sonja served beer and soft drinks and Scott fired up the grill. The two couples had a total of four pre-schoolers, although Scott and Sonja’s Sabra and Amber and Aaron’s Clayton would be heading off to kindergarten in the fall. To keep the kids from getting too out of hand, and so the adults could talk a bit, Scott and Sonja had invited a neighborhood teenager, Brianna, to ride herd on the little ones.

When you got right down to it, Vicky didn’t know either the Tylers or the Heislers very well. She remembered Scott and Aaron from high school, and had in fact dated both of them way back when. She’d met Sonja at the weenie roast after her sophomore year in college, but hadn’t met Amber before the reunion last fall. It had been in the early days after marrying Augie, and he wasn’t much on hanging out with her old pals.

Sonja was a dark, exotic beauty – not in-your-face beautiful in the sense that Jennlynn worked at being – but Sonja had a quiet, reserved, natural handsomeness and placidity that was awesome. Back at the weenie roast Vicky had learned that while Sonja had been born and raised up in Pontiac, outside of Detroit, as natural an American girl as Vicky was, she sure didn’t look it. Sonja had briefly told the story: her father’s step-parents had taken him out of a Japanese orphanage as an infant; his mother was Japanese and likely had been a prostitute, so his birth father could have been anything. Bob liked to think he was American Indian, but there was no proof. Sonja’s birth mother Zivah was an Israeli, but of equally mixed lineage – her father was Mexican, and her mother was Iraqi Jewish.

Sonja’s father and mother had been married for a while, but she was an Israeli reservist. When the Yom Kippur War broke out in 1973, she left Sonja and Bob to go back to Israel to fight the war. While she was there, she’d decided she’d really rather be a patriot than a mother, and got invited to officer school. It was not quite a pre-run of Jason and Jody; the two had tried a transatlantic marriage for a while, but they soon found out it wasn’t working. They’d agreed on an amicable divorce, with Bob getting custody. He remarried not long afterward, and everyone remained good friends except for the period that Zivah was trying to twist Sonja’s arm to do her duty in the Israeli army. That had led to Sonja hiding out with Scott and his family at the time of the weenie roast; shortly afterward, Sonja’s mother showed up in Bradford looking for her, and with Emily’s warning the two blew town on literally no notice.

Scott and Aaron had been pretty good friends in high school, if not best friends – good enough friends to go to each other’s weddings – but in the years following, each couple had made moves and had sort of drifted apart. It was not until the reunion last fall that they mutually discovered they’d managed to wind up less than ten miles from each other and had been there for years. That and the Halloween party shortly afterward had turned them into close friends who spent a lot of time hanging out with each other.

It was even more than that: “We were sitting around one day last winter griping about how cold and miserable it was, and how we ought to take off and go someplace warm for a few days,” Aaron grinned. “I was thinking maybe Daytona, but Scott and Sonja had a better idea: take us to Eilat.”

“Eilat?” Emily frowned. “I never heard of it.”

“Israel,” Sonja grinned. “Down on the southern end, on an arm of the Red Sea, near Akaba in Jordan. The perfect place to warm up and dry out after a Michigan winter.”

“It was a great trip,” Amber reported. “Scott and Sonja tell all these stories about what a hardcase Zivah is, but she was our guide for the whole trip and was the perfect hostess. She’s warm and friendly, very talkative. We had a ball.”

“You caught her on her good behavior,” Scott snorted. “You were our guests, so she wasn’t going to turn hardnose on us. Believe me, that worked so well I’m not sure I want to go there again without taking guests.”

“She was a little disappointed we didn’t bring Sabra and Scotty,” Sonja reported. “But we explained it was supposed to be a grownup trip, so she understood.”

“Yeah, but still, she’s quite a woman,” Aaron grinned. “Jeez, I’d like to be in the shape now that she’s in at what, Sonja? Fifty-four?”

“I think,” Sonja nodded. “Something like that.”

“Solid muscle,” Aaron shook his head.

“And you could tell it,” Amber added dryly. “What they’re not saying is that Zivah had booked us into this real nice beachfront hotel but didn’t tell us that it was a topless beach.”

“It’s how it’s done there,” Sonja shrugged.

“Yeah, but you didn’t warn us,” Amber blushed. “So here we are, getting set to head down to the beach, and Zivah comes out of her room wearing only what I have to call a G-string and a towel thrown over one shoulder. Muscles all over the place. I mean, I never really knew what the term ‘statuesque’ meant until that instant.”

“So did you join in?” Vicky couldn’t help but grin.

“Of course,” Amber replied casually, the redness of her face giving voice to her true feelings. “I mean, we didn’t want to stick out, or anything. Of course, that meant the guys had on swimsuits that would make a Speedo look conservative. I mean, I wouldn’t wear a bottom that skimpy on a beach around here. The only thing that saved either Aaron or me was we’d gotten used to nude in the hot tub with Scott and Sonja.”

“You do nude in the hot tub?” Emily asked.

“Well, not when we have each other’s kids with us,” Sonja explained. “I’m really to blame; it comes from my dad. He was brought here as a baby and didn’t grow up with any Japanese cultural tradition. He tried to pick some of it up here and there and pass it along to Traci and me. It’s really no big deal; Scott and I are used to it. I honestly thought we had told Aaron and Amber the beach at Eilat was a little on the skimpy side.”

“Maybe you did,” Amber shook her head. “But if you did we didn’t realize it was that skimpy. God, I never saw so much skin in my life. But it was a lot of fun; we got to see the Holy Land and everything.”

“That was just a little bit of a trip,” Aaron grinned. “Getting taken to places like Bethlehem by a serious Jewish woman. It put a little different spin on things. But Zivah was glad to take us, she knows how to get around there with the least chance of tangling with a dumb bomb, so nothing happened.”

“You weren’t picking up everything that was going on,” Sonja smiled. “What you have to remember is I’m Jewish to Mom since she’s Jewish, no matter that I’m a Methodist. It gets passed along matrilineally. So she took us to the Wailing Wall and gave us the real tour-guide lecture. She was sort of leaning on me in the process and I knew it, but I think I managed to shut her up there for a minute. She was saying, ‘Sonja, you should pay more attention to your heritage,’ so I fired a string of gibberish back at her. She speaks four languages but didn’t know what I was saying, so she had to ask what it was. I told her it was Japanese for, ‘You’re absolutely right, honorable mother.’”

There was a round of laughter and Sonja picked up the story. “It really was pretty neat; I’d always wanted to see some of those places we’d never gotten to on any of the other trips I made there. She took us some places I’d never been, like the Dead Sea, and the Jordan River. My grandparents live pretty close to the Sea of Galilee, so we stopped off and saw them for a while. I don’t know them very well, and we don’t have a language in common. I know just about enough Hebrew to be able to find the bathroom, so Mom had to translate, of course. Well, not totally – Aaron and granddad could talk Spanish at each other a little.”

“I’ve lost a lot of what I learned in high school,” Aaron said. “But we could get along a little. They are a couple of neat people. In fact, it was a very neat trip all the way around. We were only there a week but it was the best week’s vacation I’ve ever spent.”

“Not wanting to change the subject,” Scott piped up, “But if you want, I can get started on the steaks.”

“We’re talking beef, not goat this time, right?” Emily smiled.

“We’re doing it straight, although we talked about grilled lamb,” Scott replied with a grin. “Lamb is darn good on a grill, but we figured after goat the last time you deserved a break.”

“That goat tasted wonderful,” Vicky agreed. “At least, until the next day. Never again will I laugh at commercials about flaming hemorrhoids.”

“That sauce has some powerful aftereffects,” Scott agreed. “I’m still not sure whether Zivah did that to us intentionally or whether it’s the way it’s really supposed to be. For all I know it could be some kind of Israeli or Iraqi biological warfare weapon. In any case, we’ve gotten hooked on it a little. Would you like me to marinate your steaks in it?”

“I think I’ll take a pass on that,” Vicky said dryly. “After all, I’ve got to ride a motorcycle back to Bradford.”

“I can do straight, even if it’s kind of dull,” Scott smiled. “How do you want yours done?”

While the smell of grilling beef filled the air, the talk turned to other things. Vicky had learned long before that any time Emily was with classmates there was going to be a serious catching-up session. Emily did more than just gossip; she kept a notebook in order to keep up on people. She was in regular contact or had pretty good information on about half of the class, and addresses, at least, for about half the remainder, but the rest had pretty much vanished, except maybe for a rare word or two.

Scott and Aaron weren’t able to add anything to what Emily already knew about other class members, but she was able to update them on a few. “The biggest news recently is about Shae Kirkendahl,” she reported. “I haven’t talked to her directly, but I called Eve the other day and she told me about it. You know that kids’ show she was working on in New York? Charley’s House?”

Vicky wasn’t much on watching children’s television, but after Shae had told everyone at the reunion about working on the show part time, she’d made a point of watching a few episodes. In the show, Charley’s house sat in a somewhat-unusual neighborhood; one of the neighbors was a family of giants, which helped tie in with the show’s basic theme – be kind to other people, and it’s all right to be different. Shae played one of their little kids – just a little kid who at over seven feet tall in platform shoes was half again as big as the adults of the neighborhood. She was a mature little kid in an innocent way, sort of the neighborhood peacemaker. Her parents were never shown on screen, except for below their knees – it was a blue-screen effect, Shae had explained, where they can superimpose different shots for special effects.

“Since she told us about it, I’ve watched it with the kids some,” Sonja replied. “It really is written at little-kid level, but they enjoy it, and there’s lots worse stuff they could be watching. What did Eve say about it?”

“What she told me is a couple of the principal actors thought they had a lock on the show and tried for a huge salary increase, and then found out the producers didn’t think they were worth anything like that,” Emily reported. “So it got canceled.”

“Bummer,” Amber said. “Our kids liked it, too.”

“Not all the way canceled,” Emily grinned. “It’s being rewritten with a lot of the same characters --not all of them – and a tentative new name for the show of The Giantess of Avalon. You get one guess who she is!”

“The lead?” Aaron grinned. “That’s cool! She’s not going to do sports coverage anymore?”

“Eve wasn’t clear on that, but thinks she may keep doing it part-time as a fill-in.”

“Good deal for her,” Scott smiled. “She was such a gawky kid in high school, I was real surprised to go to the reunion and discover she’d turned into a real babe.”

“One you’d like to see at the beach at Eilat?” Sonja snickered.

“There’d be no blending in for her, that’s for sure,” Scott replied, maneuvering to get out of Sonja’s tease. “Of course, there’s no blending in for her anywhere. That’s got to be a little hard on her sometimes.”

“It might make it a little easier if she didn’t wear six-inch heels everywhere,” Aaron shook his head. “But then she always used to say if she was going to be a freak there was no point in being half assed about it. You know, I’ve mostly thought she was right.”

“Emily,” Scott asked, “You wouldn’t happen to have an address or an e-mail for John Engler, would you? We were good friends in high school, but I hadn’t seen him for years until the reunion, and then I forgot to get it.”

“Not with me, but I’ve got it at home,” Emily replied. “I could shoot you an e-mail when I get back. It turns out he didn’t get married to that girl he thought he was engaged to after all. He got home from the reunion to find out she’d moved out on him.”

“Simpler that way,” Aaron snorted. “He doesn’t have to go through a divorce. So I suppose he’s sniffing around someone else by now?”

“I don’t know,” Emily replied. “I only talked to Mandy. She’s gone through another husband since they broke up; that sort of leveled the playing field and they can be friendly again, but friends at a distance. She said he said he’s through with trying to marry women.”

“That’ll be the day,” Scott snorted. “I never have seen anyone chase quite like him.”

“She may be right,” Emily said. “She didn’t exactly say what he’s doing, but she did say he’d found out Jennlynn wasn’t joking, so I take that to mean he’s made a trip to Nevada.”

“You know,” Aaron replied thoughtfully. “That might not be such a bad idea for him. Might even cost him less than alimony and settlements.”

“You might be right,” Vicky commented, remembering a fun summer many years ago. “John was a very nice guy, but I think he would be hell to live with on a long-term basis.”


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