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 34

Tuesday, January 22 - Sunday, January 27, 2002

Needless to say, they were a while longer getting around, and there were five serious hangovers on the Felicity Ann when Scooter finally got them under way. Feeling some of the pain herself, Scooter kept the boat in the lee of Eleuthera, keeping the speed down. By noon some appetites were starting to come back, so Mary threw together some sandwiches, which they ate on deck. "Let's anchor out tonight," Scooter suggested as they ate. "There's a little anchorage up around the corner that we stopped at last time we were here, and it was pretty good. Except maybe for Alien, I don't think anyone is really up for bar hopping tonight, but I guess we can stand to eat on board."

"I think I'm a little beyond bar hopping," Randy sighed. "I think last night ought to hold me for tonight."

"Yeah, well, tomorrow is another day," Scooter said. "I'm thinking maybe tomorrow we can hop over to Cat Island. Alien and I have never been there, so with any kind of luck, our Canyon Tours reputation won't have got there yet."

"You mean Alien's reputation," Jim snorted. "I think the rest of us were just along for the ride. You have to figure there'll be some kind of a bar there, though."

"Most likely," Scooter agreed. "Anyway, since we're headed that way, I think we could maybe go on down to San Salvador or Rum Cay or something, then on to the Exumas. After we get done there, we can head over to Andros and just fart around there until it's time to head back."

"Sounds like a plan," Jim agreed. "When you get right down to it, I don't care. It's all new to me."

It was the middle of the afternoon before they dropped anchor in the quiet little cove that Scooter had been talking about. "Good place for snorkeling," Michelle said. "We should have a ball."

"Enjoy yourself," Scooter said. "I think I'm going to get the Bimini top up and take a nap in the shade."

"Anybody want to go with me?" Michelle said. "Randy?"

"Yeah, what the hell," he smiled. "I guess I'm feeling a little better now."

"Great, I'll run down and get our stuff."

"God," Randy said as he watched her head down the hatch. "I was right. Alien. She's ready to rumble."

Like the rest of the women, Michelle had been topless since getting away from the shore earlier in the morning, but when she came up from the cabin she was bottomless, too. "Going all the way, huh, Alien?" Randy smiled.

"Well, it's one of those suits that turns transparent when it gets wet, so there's no point in screwing up the fabric, is there?" she snickered. "You can do it too. After all, we were nude in your hot tub."

"Oh, hell," Randy said, rolling his eyes. "Anybody else mind?"

"No, in fact it sounds kind of fun," Mary said. "I better braid my hair back up first."

"Snorkeling nude with two nude women," Randy laughed. "Yep, that's skin diving all right, and I have to admit, some mighty pretty skin."

"Just remember what we agreed with Nicole and Duane," she smirked. "Look, but don't touch. Well, don't touch too much. Us aliens keep our word."

*   *   *

The next ten days or so went pretty much like that, day after day, to the point of repetition. There were brisk sails almost every day. Often they anchored for the night in some quiet little cove, did some snorkeling, told some stories, had a few beers and relaxed. They took the Zodiac with its outboard to do some exploring at several places too tiny to take the Felicity Ann, or they lay on the beach taking in the sun – just hanging out. As often as not, Michelle and Randy got their guitars out in the evening and messed around with them, mostly singing novelty songs but working up some of the pieces they'd gotten from Jennifer and Blake, too.

About every second or third night they stopped at some small town, had a restaurant meal and hit a bar or two. Nobody got quite as blasted as they had the first night out but there were often some big heads the next morning, except for Michelle, of course.

One of those nights was in Cockburn Town on San Salvador, and as luck would have it, the next day they'd planned to head for Georgetown on Great Exuma. The wind was strong out of the southwest that day, blowing a ton with some fairly big seas, and the course they were on meant they were hard on the wind, sailing as close to it as they could go. It was a wild ride, with the wind howling through the cockpit and the seas splashing up against the bow every few seconds sending sheets of spray back over them; the Felicity Ann's ride was anything but gentle. Randy thought it would have made a ride in a cement mixer seem calm. Between the wild ride and the hangover from the night before, he spent a good part of the trip hanging over the lee rail, and he wasn't the only one. He was glad to see Georgetown pull into view as sunset approached. Of course, to recover – or to celebrate – they found another bar, and the next day was not pretty.

They spent the next day recovering on Great Exuma, just doing shoreside stuff and getting away from the boat, but their second night in Georgetown seemed dull. They only had a couple drinks in another waterside tavern from the one they'd been in the night before, when Scooter made a proposition. "I'm thinking we need to hop over to Andros from here," she said. "But it's a long haul, we can't do it in one day, and there's no good place to stop for the night. What I'm thinking is we get up in the morning, take our time getting around, and get out of here, then head southwest until we're a ways away from these islands, then turn northwest and sail all night. By morning we still ought to have plenty of sea room and should be able to find Andros without too much difficulty."

"That'd be cool," Michelle said. "I've never sailed all night like that before."

"I have, and it'd be no big deal," Scooter told them. "Except it would be a new experience for most of you."

"How would we do it? Stand watches?" Jim asked.

"Yeah, just like you did in the Navy," Scooter replied. "I'm thinking we split up with an experienced hand and a new hand. I'd guess maybe me and Mary, you and Dave, and Alien with Randy. We could set it up to have them up in the middle of the night where there wouldn't be much for them to run into."

"That ought to work," Jim nodded. "Just guessing about the speed, if we got moving along in the morning we ought to be pulling into Andros Town by the middle of the next afternoon."

"Right, that's about how I figure it," Scooter said. "Anybody object to the idea?"

"No, it sounds like fun," Mary smiled, and Dave nodded with her.

"Good, we'll do it," Scooter said. "Let's not get too drunk tonight so we don't have as much of that puking over the rail stuff as we had yesterday."

"I can do without that again," Randy agreed.

Thus it was that they got under way about nine the next morning, sailing around the end of Great Exuma, then southwest to get well away from the land. This took them out over Tongue of the Ocean, a big deepwater area that divides the eastern Bahamas in that area from the Western ones. With the islands very low, they were soon out of sight of land, and this time it felt like they were on a real ocean voyage, rather than just island hopping.

They got the watch setup going from the beginning, and it seemed to work better than things had gone in the past, when people just switched around as they felt like it. They were still sailing along out of sight of land when the sun set in the west-southwest, now on a northwesterly course, and the night made the sailing seem a little eerie. The wind dropped a little, and the Felicity Ann loped along peacefully, not bouncing around very much.

The way it had worked out, Michelle and Randy were going to be on the helm from midnight to three AM, so both of them went to bed early. It seemed strange to have Scooter come to wake them up in the middle of the night, but they were soon on deck, dressed in long sleeved shirts and pants to ward off the cool night air. "You kids keep it cool," Scooter said before she departed to head below for some sack time for herself. "If you have any problems, don't feel afraid to call me."

"Sure, we will," Randy assured her. "You sleep tight."

"Hey, Randy," Michelle said. "You like some coffee? I know we've got some singles, we don't have to piss around with doing it river style."

"Sure, Alien, I'd love some," he said. "I'll keep an eye on the wheel."

Randy leaned back in on the seat behind the wheel, checking the compass now and then, although there was no need; the wind pretty well told him what direction he should be steering, and it did a pretty good job of keeping him on course. This was a new experience, to be steering the boat through the blackness of the night on the open ocean, another new experience to be added to a list of new ones on this trip. It would have been nice if Nicole had been there with him, he thought. Maybe another time.

Michelle was soon back, carrying a couple mugs of coffee. "Thanks, Alien," he told her. "That's going to taste good tonight."

"Yeah," she said, resting back on the seat on the windward side and bracing her feet against the far side of the foot well. "God, it's pretty out here, isn't it? The stars are so bright, it seems like you could reach out and touch them. And they're all over the place, almost right down to the horizon. You never see that in the Canyon, the walls are always there and get in the way."

"We see them pretty good up in the woods, too," Randy said gently, not wanting to disturb the quiet of the night, and the quiet whisper of the water against the Felicity Ann's hull. "There's not a lot of lights around to wash them out."

She didn't reply, obviously lost in her own thoughts. Things were silent except for the night sounds of the ocean for quite a while before she said softly, "Randy, what's it like being married?"

"It's different," he said. "I used to think I was close to Crystal and Myleigh, and I guess I was. But it's different with Nicole. I don't have to wonder if she's going to be there for me; I know she will. While I've mostly enjoyed this trip, I wish the hell she were here."

"I don't know that I ought to say this, Randy," she said, still in a wondering voice. "But the stories I've heard about you said you really had your ass burned with Crystal, Myleigh, and Nicole out doing their thing while you had to stay back in Spearfish Lake and work."

"Yeah, it ground at me for a while," he said. "Maybe it still does, but it's more the memory of being upset about it. But I can't fault them for having their fun while they had the chance. I might have been able to make the chance, but I blew it. I'm mostly OK with it now. That's one of the things that being married does to you. It makes you a little more sensitive to things."

"I can see how it might," she said after a moment. "Oh, Christ, Randy. I don't know what to do."


"Yeah," she said. "You remember the Michelle Special back on our first night of this trip?"

"How could I ever forget something like that?" he chuckled. "Hell, I sort of knew about them, I've heard stories, but I couldn't quite believe it when I saw it and still don't now."

"Yeah," she said. "The Michelle Special. The Alien, now. Do you have any idea how many guys that's scared off?"

"Too many?" Randy said softly, getting an idea of where this was headed.

"Way too many," she said. "Randy, I've always been me. I've always had this thing for the Canyon and never thought I needed a guy for much more than a fuck buddy, so I guess I was just as glad I scared them off. But Duane, he's seen it, he's heard all the stories, he knows what he's getting into, and he hasn't run away. What's more, I don't want him to. Randy, I miss him on this trip about as bad as you miss Nicole, I think, and I just hope I'll be able to see him a while before he heads off to Alaska."

"It won't be forever," he told her gently. "Only a couple months at the outside."

"Yeah, I know," she said. "Shit, I know you said goodbye to Nicole for – what was it, five months? Six months? Whatever it was when she did that hike of hers. Now I feel like I'm in the same boat."

"Not much you can do. He's committed, you're committed. Tell him to have a good time and that you'll be waiting for him to come back. It's not the end of the world, it really isn't. Duane is a good guy. If I were you, I'd think he was a keeper."

"Yeah," she said. "I pretty much realize that. But you know what, Randy? That means I've got something in my life other than the Grand Canyon. Right now, I can have both of them at once, but I don't know if I want to keep it that way. Back at Christmas, Al reminded me that my mother once was pretty much the same as I am. I mean, committed to staying in the Canyon, never a thought about getting married or having a family. Now, some things I thought I was pretty sure about, I'm not so sure about any more. Maybe I'm growing up, and that scares me a little."

Randy looked around. In the distance there was a light on the water, probably a boat far away. Nothing to be concerned about right now but something to keep an eye on. It gave him an excuse to think for a moment. "So, what you're telling me," he said, "Is that you're not sure you want to be the Wild Woman of the Grand Canyon anymore."

"That's it in a nutshell, Randy. Maybe the time has come for me to move on. Duane and I will be running together this year, and most likely in future years, too. That's OK, but I think I'm going to have to be more focused on him and less on the Canyon. And, suppose we get serious. What happens if we have to leave?"

"You can't make a decision like that now," he said. "It would have to depend on circumstances at the time. Michelle, there really is a world beyond the Grand Canyon, believe it or not." He let out a sigh, and continued. "There was a time on my first trip when for at least a couple minutes I was ready to say the hell with everything in Spearfish Lake, throw it all away, and become a boatman. I still think it would be fun, but I know I'll never be able to do it now. There's Nicole, our house, our jobs. I know Clark Construction is a small fish in a big pond, but it's been a successful fish for quite a while. With things changing, it's going to be a challenge to keep it that way. Running rapids is a challenge, Michelle, but it's something you know you can do. I think I know myself enough to know that, while I'd enjoy that challenge for a while, the time would come when I'd be thinking things like, 'Oh, shit. Lava again. I better not change my socks till it's over with.' or 'I can't wait to get to a toilet that flushes.'"

"I've felt that way a few times lately," she giggled. "Maybe it means I'm getting close to the point where I've had enough."

"I don't have the experience to tell you that," he told her. "I can tell you that having a serious boyfriend or girlfriend does change your perspective on things. I think the frustrations I had about Crystal and Myleigh and Nicole being gone all those times when I was working were because I was ready to have someone to share things with, and none of my choices were ready yet. Nicole was the first of them to come to that conclusion, too."

"Crystal seemed really frustrated about it when we were down here last year," she said. "I think she was ready, too. Scooter too, for that matter, although she wasn't ranting about it. I don't know if it's all of a sudden I feel left out, or maybe I'm beginning to feel that way, too."

"If you're looking for my advice, I'd say to not worry about it too much right now. Go with the flow, like you were running Lava. You'll be with Duane all summer anyway. See how you feel about it when fall comes and he says it's time to head for Spearfish Lake for the winter."

"Yeah, I guess you're right, Randy," she replied.

"There's not much you can do but run and go see," he smiled. "I think by next fall you'll know the answer to your questions without ever having to ask them. You'll have more questions, sure, but you might have an idea how to answer them."

"I suppose you're right," she sighed. "Randy, I guess I've always pretty much been a do-er, not a thinker. It sort of hurts to have to think about this stuff."

"Don't let it worry you," he replied. "Go have fun in the Grand Canyon with Duane. God, Icewater and the Alien. That could be the basis for new legends."

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