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


Pulling Even
Book Seven of the Dawnwalker Cycle
Wes Boyd
2004, 2009, 2011



Chapter 9

The hot tub was full, but was a ways from getting up to temperature, so the four of them returned to the living room and just talked casually about things. Debbie, especially, was an interesting conversationalist and often had a different way of looking at things. When Randy and Danny were negotiating the deal on the hot tub, Danny had mentioned that he had class. Randy hadn't asked at the time, but now they learned that the class was in the Shakahatche language. As far as anyone knew, he was the only white man who spoke very much of it, which was unusual indeed in that there were only about three dozen people left in the world who spoke it, most of them quite old. He was really enjoying learning of the different culture and was very interested in it.

It was a far cry from the Danny who Randy had known as a child, a rather self-sure and overbearing athlete, or from the Danny who had come to dinner last winter, broken and dispirited from a rather nasty divorce. Though he and Debbie had been together a little less than six months, Debbie had really worked her magic on him. Now, he seemed to be a well-rounded adult, and a rather likeable one, which was more than could sometimes be said for the earlier versions. Though Danny and Debbie were a few years older than Randy and Nicole, they were all getting to the point where a few years age difference didn't mean much. Wordlessly, Randy and Nicole agreed that the two were people they would like to get to know better.

Eventually, Danny headed back out to the porch again to check on the temperature. "Getting there," he reported when he came back. "I'm not one of those people who like them hot enough to boil a lobster, anyway. Come on out, and I'll tell you how to manage one of those things."

It turned out to be pretty simple. A lot of the things like the temperature and water level were automated, although chemical balance had to be checked regularly. There were some do's and don'ts, and Danny told them to make sure to give him a call if they had any questions. "You ready to try it out?" he asked finally.

"If you think it's ready," Randy said.

"One other point, now that I think about it," Danny said. "A lot of people who have hot tubs have a rule, no swimsuits in the hot tub. It's always been that way around my folk's place, of course. Some people justify it by saying the swimsuits can screw up the filter, but to be honest that's a load of horse puckey. Over time, the chlorine will screw up the fabric of some swimsuits, but that takes a lot of use, not just a dip or two. You can play it like you want to, but to me a swimsuit in a hot tub is like having sex with a condom, so I don't do it unless someone else insists on it."

"I guess I hadn't thought about it like that," Nicole admitted, a little sheepishly. "I guess I'd figured mostly nude, but I guess I'd just figured it would mostly be just Randy and me."

"You know where I'm coming from," Danny said. "I happen to think a little social nudity breaks down barriers. I don't have any problems with it, of course, since I was brought up with it."

That was indeed something Randy hadn't thought about. In fact, it rarely crossed his mind that Danny's father Gil, who despite being decades older and one of his closest friends, was on the board of directors of the West Turtle Lake Club, the nudist resort northeast of town. Of course Danny would think it normal. Randy didn't think Nicole had ever been out to the club, but he had – mostly the summer before, when Clark Construction was doing some major renovations and repairs to Commons, the huge log central building at the Club. It had been his grandfather Brent's first big building project more than half a century before, and really had been the place where Clark Construction had started. But, when Randy had been out there, it had been strictly business, and he'd kept his clothes on. "Debbie, do you go out there?" he asked, at least partly to allay his nervousness from being put on the spot.

"Not till last summer," Debbie replied. "I told Danny that since he was spending so much time learning my culture, I ought to spend a little time learning his. It was a little nerve-wracking to think about it, but fine once I got used to it. We'll probably be out there more next year. But you guys don't have to do it for us. In fact, if you want, we have swimsuits out in the van."

Randy looked at Nicole, who looked back at him with the same question in her eyes. There was a few seconds silence before she started to peel off her sweat shirt and sighed, "Oh, hell. When in Rome, do what the Romanians do, I guess."

"Yeah," Randy shook his head and started to unbutton his shirt. "When you get right down to it, I guess I never cared for sex with a condom all that much myself."

"Beats the hell out of no sex at all," Danny laughed as he and Debbie started to undress as well. "Believe me, I've been there and I know. That's what I got for marrying a lesbian the first time around."

Danny's was a sad and bitter story that Randy and Nicole had heard before, so being able to joke about it now was a sign that things had indeed changed in his world. That sort of eased the initial shock of the group strip-down, although both Randy and Nicole shared red faces for a few moments until they got below the waters of the tub.

"See?" Danny teased. "That wasn't so bad. Maybe Debbie and I will have to have you out to the club sometime this summer."

"I'm not going to positively, absolutely, no-way rule it out," Nicole replied, a little more confidence in her voice, "But, I'm not saying yes right now, either."

"Understandable," Danny said gently. "At least you're willing to consider it, which is more than most people will do. I could give you the nudist party line song and dance, but what it comes down to is if you're comfortable with it and it feels good, 'If it harms none, do it.' We are adults, after all. Now, the best thing to do is to not dwell on it, and just continue to socialize like we were doing earlier."

"You can say that," Randy snorted. "We're in your comfort zone. We'll have to get you into ours sometime. Like, back when we were talking about it last spring, you said you'd like to try snowboarding sometime. You still want to give it a try, assuming we ever get any snow?"

"Yeah, sure," Danny said. "I don't know if I'd ever be any good at it, but getting to do stuff like that was something I really missed when I was living in Florida. Well, that and a lot of other stuff."

"I'd like to give it a try sometime," Debbie commented. "I don't spend a lot of time following what the tribal council is up to, but I know they've kicked around the idea of a ski resort. They'd like to have something besides slot machines and golf courses."

"Norm Eaglebeak has mentioned that once or twice," Randy said. "I've always figured it was something they'd get around to sooner or later. We could stand a decent ski resort within reach. I mean, Snow Snake is all right when it's open, but if it's open it means someone new is losing their shirt on it. I even thought about taking a swing at it once. It would give me something to do in the winter when I'm not busy and Nicole's teaching school, but I finally figured I wasn't all that interested in losing my shirt, too."

"That makes it a little awkward for you guys, doesn't it?" Debbie asked.

"More than a little awkward," Randy sighed. "In fact, I'm going to be honest and say it's caused some problems in the past and is still causing them." He went on to explain the acute frustration dogging him the last few days, but also that it had begun clear back when he'd left college.

"So, here these girls were out having all kinds of fun and adventures," he said after a while. "Not just Nicole, but Crystal and even Myleigh as well, and I was stuck back here in Spearfish Lake with my nose to the grindstone. You think I wouldn't have liked to hike the Appalachian Trail? Or ride a fishing boat down the Inside Passage? Or do a course at OLTA, or be a boatman on the Colorado? Or a lot of other things the three of them have done. Nicole and Myleigh have settled down at least some, and Crystal may be heading that way, but I never got to do those things. One day I was in college and the next I was out on a construction site. Hell, even when I was in college I spent my summers out on a site, while the girls all got to do their thing, pretty much. Well, Myleigh had to work, but she enjoyed it. Now, the only time I can get away is in the winter when Nicole is tied up."

"Neither of us likes it," Nicole said. "But there's not much either of us can do about it. It is definitely a stress point and always has been."

"It's just too damn bad you didn't get the chance to screw around a little after college," Danny shook his head. "Hell, I'm a prime example of what can happen. One day I'm in college, the next I'm pushing vitamin supplements that didn't work, to people I didn't know and didn't care about. If I'd taken a year or even six months off I might have come to my senses and might even have avoided marrying Marsha. But no, I did what I thought was the right thing, until one day, I couldn't take it anymore and walked out of that life. Randy, I hate to say it, but if you don't get this under control, I can see you in a few years saying the hell with it and just walking away from everything. You'll become a raft guide or surf bum or something because it's more rewarding to you, more like what you really want to do."

"Yeah," Randy said glumly. "I guess I sort of see that. I mean, I'd never thought it out quite like that since I'd be turning my back on so much. But I'll tell you, there's hardly a day that goes by that I don't find myself thinking, 'Fuck this shit, maybe I'll call Al down at Canyon Tours and see if he needs any extra hands.' Now, I don't think that very loud or very often, and Crystal isn't involved in any way, because I could never see it really happening. But, it's tempting as hell sometimes, because I've had a taste, and it's something I know I like and know I can do."

"I knew that," Nicole said. "I've known it for years. I mean, not quite in those words, but I've known it. Randy, why do you think I've kept pushing you to get away and do something in the winter sometime? You need the break, and I know it."

"And you know why I've always dragged my feet," Randy replied. "I'd hate to do something like that alone. I'd really rather do it with you."

"It can't happen very often, but it can happen," Nicole said flatly. "Just the other night we were talking about places like Patagonia and Tasmania and South Africa. I've heard the surfing is incredible along the Skeleton Coast of South Africa and we could have a marvelous time there. You could go and not be by yourself. I know there are tours that do that sort of thing."

"It's still not the same thing. I'd rather go with a friend if I can't go with you. Hell, just to make a point – Danny, Debbie, if money was no object, would you be up for a surfing trip to South Africa this winter?"

"Sure," Debbie said, "Bearing in mind that I've never been on a surfboard in my life. I'd really prefer a chance to learn something about it before I get into trip of a lifetime stuff. Take me surfing some next summer, or down in Florida or something, and I'd be up for it. How about you, Danny?"

"Sure. Same thing about having to learn to surf, of course, so probably not this winter. I can't get away very often and not this winter while we're getting the new store up and running, but once that's done Dad could fill in for me from time to time."

"Great," Nicole said. "We'll just have to get some time free this summer and take you guys surfing. Maybe we can have Myleigh and Trey along, too; they're both pretty good surfers."

Randy shook his head. "The problem with that whole scenario is if I took a trip like that, I'd want you along with me, Nicole. I'd like to share that with you, not have you jealous of me."

"And you're not jealous of me?" she snorted. "I know you don't give a rip about the Girl Scouts, you just miss me, but didn't it burn your butt when I did the Appalachian Trail? Or took that raft trip this summer? Yeah, I know, you said it was for my own good, and you were a gentleman about it, but you've never bothered to more than glance at the pictures I took. Or my trail pictures, either. Hell, Randy, I want to be jealous of you, just to even things out a little."

Randy let out a sigh and shook his head again. "What you have to understand," he told Danny and Debbie, "Is this isn't a new discussion. It's the same old one, over and over again, without being able to resolve anything. And the way things work for me, it's almost impossible for me to do something that could get her jealous."

"You've got a problem there, all right," Debbie said thoughtfully. She was silent for a moment, and then continued in a different tone. "Nicole, I have a story. Do you have any candles?"

"Candles?"

"Candles would be fine," Debbie said quietly, but seriously. "Could you get me a couple, please?"

"You mean like birthday cake candles? Or, I have some of those things you use under a warming tray."

"Those would be fine," Debbie replied serenely. "Please get them."

"All right," Nicole said, obviously wondering what was going on. She stood up, stepped out of the hot tub, and headed for the kitchen naked, with water dripping off of her as she moved quickly out of the room, leaving Randy sitting there, also wondering what the hell was going on. The jovial, laughing Debbie, always one with a wisecrack, seemed like a different person, more solemn, more distant . . . well, more mystic. He stole a glance at Danny, and he seemed a little more solemn and mysterious as well, although there was a faint smile on his face. All of a sudden, Randy realized he was seeing the katara side of Debbie, something he hadn't seen before.

Nicole was back in an instant, carrying the candles and a box of kitchen matches. "What do you want me to do with them?" she asked.

"I think on either side of me, on the edge of the tub," Debbie said solemnly. "When you get them lit, turn off the lights and come rejoin us. Turn off the blower, too. It's distracting."

A minute or two later, Nicole was back in the hot tub, snuggled up close against Randy, holding hands with him while he had an arm around her. It was very dark in the room; Debbie was the best lit in the meager light of the two tiny flames, but it was enough to see that she'd gotten on her knees on the seat, her large, dark breasts above the water. Interesting though they were to look at, Randy's interest was elsewhere; her eyes were what drew his attention, the serious look on her face, making it seem as if her mind was far away. She was silent for a moment or two, but the time seemed to pass endlessly before she spoke:

"One day, Coyote was walking along a lake. He saw a flock of ducks, which put him in the mood for a good duck dinner. So he stuffed a bag full of grass and walked past the ducks, stepping lively and singing a catchy tune. 'Where are you going?' asked one of the ducks.

"'I am going to a circle,' replied Coyote. The duck asked him what was in the bag, and Coyote said, 'Songs that I am bringing to the circle.'

"'Oh, please sing your songs for us,' the ducks all said.

"'I'm very busy,' Coyote said, but the ducks begged him, 'Please, please, please, please . . .'

"'I'm running late,' Coyote said, but the ducks kept begging, and finally Coyote said, 'Oh, all right. I will sing a song for you, but I need your help. All of you stand in three lines. The fattest ones in the front, those in the middle who are neither fat nor thin, and the thin ones in back. All of you close your eyes and dance and sing as loud as you can. Don't anyone open your eyes or stop singing, because my songs are very powerful and if you do that you may go blind! Is everyone ready?'

"'We are!' replied the ducks, and they fell into lines and began dancing and singing along with Coyote's tune. Coyote moved up and down the line, thumping the ducks on the head and stuffing them into his bag. The ducks were singing and dancing so hard that no one could hear the thumps or know what was happening.

"This would have gone on till none were left, if not for one scraggly duck in the back who opened his eyes and saw what was going on. 'Hey, he's going to get us all!' cried the scraggly one. At this, the other surviving ducks opened their eyes and made their getaway. Coyote wasn't too upset; he already had the fattest ducks in his bag. He went home and ate good for a good while.

"The ducks went home and mourned their dead, and gave thanks to The Great Duck that one of them had been wise enough to open his eyes, and that the rest of them had been wise enough to listen to the one who gave warning.

"That is the story of Coyote and the Ducks," Debbie finished, and then visibly relaxed. She let out a sigh and continued. "Many peoples have stories of Coyote. Sometimes he is Raven; sometimes he is Fox; always, he is a trickster; often tricking evil for the cause of good and making things right with the people. I am sure there was something for you in the story, but you must find it. I am not the one to tell you what it is." She slid back into the water, and it seemed as if whatever spirit had come upon her had left her.

Again there was silence for a moment.

"That's . . . something," Nicole finally whispered to Randy, reluctant to break the spell that Debbie – or something – had created.

"Uh, yeah," he said, mostly considering the implications of what he'd heard in the last few minutes. There was a powerful lesson there if he could open his eyes to it . . . this was going to require some thought.

Debbie shook her head, dunked it under water, then came up and took a deep breath. "Was it a good story?" she asked.

"Very good," Randy said. "There's a lot there."

"Oh, good," she smiled. "What was the story?"

"You mean you don't know?" Nicole said.

"No, I wasn't aware of it," Debbie replied. "Danny, what was the story?"

"Coyote and the Ducks," Danny smiled.

"Oh, yes," Debbie grinned. "I've heard it before. That's a very good story." She changed the subject. "You know, I've often thought snowboarding might be fun, but I've always been afraid I'd fall and break my ass."

*   *   *

"Well done again, Debbie Do-Right," Danny snickered as the two of them were headed home in the van a couple hours later. "Except that I've thought about it all evening and I can't see where Coyote and the Ducks has anything to do with their problem."

"Danny Boy, I don't know about you," she laughed. "I've told you before that the point of a Coyote story isn't the story but what people will dig out of it. They believed the message was meant for them, so they will find what they need in it. They both know what the answer is; they just have to admit it. Do you think they believed?"

"Oh, they were right with you every step of the way. That was powerful katara work."

"A little non-traditional, but you do what you have to do," she laughed. "I have to admit, though, that's the first time I ever told a Coyote story naked in a hot tub."


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To be continued . . .

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