Spearfish Lake Tales
Contemporary Mainstream Books and Serials Online
Under the circumstances, being hospitable was something Randy and Nicole had to do, even though neither of them felt very hospitable. Fortunately, their friends took over the work, so all Randy and Nicole had to do was to be cordial. Nevertheless, this evening both were glad to see the last of their visitors leave, even Crystal and Preach, who had decided without being asked to move on over to the tighter quarters at Myleigh and Treyís.
"Well," Nicole said as soon as she closed the door after Randyís parents headed out to their car, "Iím glad thatís over with."
"Yeah, I think Iím just as glad," Randy agreed. "I think you and I need some time together by ourselves. I donít know about you, but I think Iím good for one good, stiff drink and then hit the sack."
"I wish I dared have a good stiff drink," Nicole sighed. "It probably wouldnít hurt the baby, but I just donít want to take the risk. You go ahead, though. Iíll just settle for a good stiff cup of hot chocolate."
"I donít have to," Randy said, trying to show his sympathy for her condition.
"Oh, go ahead. It wonít be the first one that Iíll have put on my Ďto do somedayí list."
A few minutes later theyíd settled in the living room, which had already been pretty well cleaned up Ė again, their friends had been at work. "I have to admit, that was interesting," Nicole said. "I learned a lot about your grandfather that Iíd never known."
"I did, too," Randy replied as he swirled the amber liquid around in his glass, his thoughts at least partly elsewhere. "Oh, I knew the outline of some of that stuff, but not the details. Brent was a pretty private man when he came to his personal life, and really, I guess I canít blame him much. Iím actually pretty glad Danny was here. He knew a lot of stuff from the stories in his family that apparently Dad didnít even know."
"I saw that," she said. "You know, considering that your grandfatherís and great-grandfatherís family lives were pretty dysfunctional, your Dad seemed to overcome it. Iíve always been impressed by how close you and he are."
"Mom had something to do with that," Randy mused. "But then, I think Dad knew what he was missing when he grew up and made a real effort to not let it happen with him. Really, we were all pretty close when we were growing up, and hearing those stories tonight just makes me understand how big a change it was. It wasnít until after everybody grew up and left that we started pulling apart a little. I mean, well, Rachel as much as anyone, and pulling away from the rest of us is something she did on her own. Ruth is still pretty close, considering that she lives quite a ways away and doesnít get up here much. But she has her own interests and theyíre not here, anymore."
"So what happens now? I mean, with the companies?"
"Well, Clark Construction you pretty well know about. Itís been set for a while that I wind up with it, except for whatever share Dad gets. Iím not sure about that. Dad got me off to the side tonight and reassured me that Iíll be winding up with it, but he and Brent swapped ownership of Clark Construction and Clark Plywood back and forth for years. It was kind of a tax dodge, and Iím not real clear on what that status is currently. It could have changed back before the first of the year to fit whatever tax strategy they were working with. I didnít get involved with that stuff much. I guess Iíll have to, now."
"How about your grandfatherís shares in Clark Plywood?"
"I honestly donít know," Randy replied. "I suspect it falls into that tax shuffle deal, so weíll have to wait and see." He let out a sigh and took a sip of his drink as he tried to organize his thoughts. "Nicole, you heard Dadís rant about keeping the companies locally controlled. He meant every word of it, and I pretty much agree with him, or I would never have come back to Spearfish Lake when I got out of college. The deal with my coming back here is that if I did and made a success of it, Iíd wind up with a majority share of Clark Construction when Brent died, whatever else happened."
"So, how much is Clark Construction worth?"
"Thatís a damn good question," Randy shook his head. "A lot of it depends on who you talk to. If I totally screw up and it comes to a forced sale, probably not a lot. Just the real estate and equipment, and at an auction those could go for pennies on the dollar. Now, at the same time, I wouldnít be surprised to get a call from Solkow-Warner down in Camden in the next few days just to sound me out on the idea of selling out to them. Iím just a little curious to see what kind of numbers they throw around. Itíll be at least ten million and could easily be more than that. Theyíd like to get their hands on some jobs we more or less have a lock on."
"Youíre not thinking about it, are you?"
"Well, if they offered me fifty million I might be tempted to take them up on it, go run rafts with Al and Crystal for a while, then come back, start a new company, and run them out of the area again," he grinned. "But I donít think Larry Warner is that crazy, and it would have to be a cash deal, not stock. Realistically, he would have to be out of his mind. The capital value of the company is just not that high. Itís actually higher than it shows on the tax assessorís books, because a lot of the equipment is old and fully amortized. That means they see it as worthless, where we keep it in good shape and itís worth a lot to us. They carry the machinery in the concrete plant, for example, at scrap value, and it could take ten million to replace it. And weíre going to have to spend that ten million to do it, but a little at a time, over the next ten to fifteen years, maybe even longer. One of the things that Brent taught me is that every penny spent on preventative maintenance is something that gets paid back ten times over in savings, and I believe him."
"So you donít know what the company is worth?"
"Well, yes I do and no I donít. What itís worth depends on whoís saying what itís worth. If I had my back to the wall Iíd point to the tax assessor and say the capital value is about four million, but depending on who it is, you could move the decimal point one space either way. Then you get into cash assets and liabilities and it gets complicated. Clark Construction is a lot smaller in capital value than Clark Plywood, but Clark Plywood works on a much tighter profit margin, so if youíre speaking in terms of dividends, you get another answer. Brent could have given you a straight answer if heíd been of a mind to, and probably Dad, too, but since itís been a family matter theyíve kept it pretty close to the chest."
"The word Iíve heard around town is that Clark Plywood is worth around fifty million," she commented.
"Iíve heard that, too. In fact, Iíve heard it for years, and it probably came out of the tax assessorís office, which doesnít reflect the whole story, neither ups nor downs. About all I can tell you is that itís just the same as the question of what Clark Construction is worth. It depends on who youíre talking to."
"So how is that going to affect us?"
Randy looked into the fire for a moment before answering, "About all I can say right now is that weíre going to come out of this pretty well fixed, at least better off than we were before. I canít say how well, and thereís several unknowns out there. How that affects me, Dad, and Clark Plywood, well, thatís going to have to come out in the wash, too. Iíll know more Wednesday. Dad has an appointment set up with his lawyer."
Nicole shook her head. "Youíre saying Iíd better not quit my day job, then."
"Not yet, and not soon," Randy said. "Remember that Mom has taught school for almost thirty years. Thereís a reason for that, and itís not because she didnít want to be just a housewife. I personally think itís better to be seen as a worker, and I think it is for you, too."
"Iíve always known that," she replied. "Clear back when we were going together in high school. You know, that may be the reason Crystal decided she didnít want to marry you."
"Howís that?" he asked, taking another sip of his drink.
"Back when she and I hiked together that time, we got to talking about it," she said. "We were talking about the fact that you werenít likely to leave Spearfish Lake because you had too much reason to stay here. She didnít think it was all that big a deal until I told her about Clark Plywood being worth maybe fifty million dollars, and she just about crapped her panties. Then when I explained the implications of that, she began to understand that it was an anchor keeping you here. At that point in her life she couldnít understand being that tied down to money that you canít spend."
"Well, itís true, but I never knew you told her that. At least not like that."
"That was when we each sort of decided that weíd stand back a little to let the other have a shot at you, so neither of us tried," Nicole shook her head. "That was a hell of a mistake on both our parts. At least I was able to work through it."
"Iím glad you did," he nodded, after upending his glass. "Iíve come to believe that it wouldnít have worked between me and her in the long run. You and I have had enough trouble coming to terms with what I want to do as opposed to what I have to be, and you knew what you were getting into. She didnít and she never would have understood it, at least the way you do."
"Oh, I agree," she nodded. "Iím not sure I thought that at the time we made our little agreement or non-agreement or whatever it was. After all, I was really trying to give her a shot at not being homeless, because I wasnít sure what I wanted to do, anyway. But since then, well, Crystal is a friend, and I hope she stays one forever, but Iím just as glad I wound up with you instead."
"Couldnít have said it better," he said as he stood up. "Letís blow out the candles and go to bed."
"Go to sleep go to bed, or maybe . . . "
"More than maybe," he smiled.
* * *
Randy and Nicole could have slept late the next morning, but their internal alarm clocks took over, and they were up before dawn like they would have been any other day. From what they could see it had the makings of a pretty decent day, although the sunrise they watched over a light breakfast and coffee was nothing like as spectacular as the one the day before.
Along about eight, Myleigh called, inviting them down to their house for breakfast. "Weíve already eaten," Nicole told her, "But we might as well come down and hang out for a while. Weíd better check in with Ryan and Linda to see what the plan for the day is."
"Weíll expect you by the bye," Myleigh replied.
A quick phone call across town resulted in the news that there really wasnít much they needed to be doing before early afternoon when Randyís sister Ruth and her husband were expected to show up. So, Randy and Nicole got on outer clothes and just walked up the street to their friendsí house.
Trey and Myleighís house was a relatively small two-bedroom, rather immaculate, with the front room filled with a huge quantity of old books and a brass concert harp. The harp was the main reason the couple had a minivan in the first place Ė if Myleigh was playing a concert within driving distance, they often took the big harp along with the smaller Celtic harp that she was renowned for playing.
Though Myleigh had developed a fair amount of fame for her magic with the harp, she was still primarily an English literature professor at heart and wasnít about to give that up for the sake of her avocation. Both she and Randy still played in Jennifer Walworthís backup group, the Boreal String Band, although the band played two dates outside Spearfish Lake each year at the most. For some years it had been something of a hobby for Randy, something he wouldnít have wanted to give up even though he knew he never would be the musician that either Myleigh or Jennifer was.
"I dare say youíve made it in time for breakfast," Myleigh announced when Randy and Nicole walked in the door. "I know you said youíve already eaten, but since the food has been prepared you might as well partake of it."
"You know," Nicole sighed. "Thatís the other downside to funerals. Everybody wants you to eat too much. Iím going to have enough trouble as it is getting back into shape after I have the baby. There wonít be that much time until summer, and summer doesnít last long enough as it is."
"Youíre going to put on some weight," Debbie consoled Ė she was the only one of them who had been through the process. "But you donít want to be too frantic about taking it off afterwards, either."
Breakfast took a while Ė it was more of a social gathering than it was a meal anyway, and the discussion headed toward Ryanís revelations about his father. "You know," Crystal commented, "as much time as Iíve spent around Spearfish Lake, last night was the first time I ever heard of there being a nudist resort around here."
"Hell, I donít know how you could have missed it," Randy snorted. "After all, you spent that winter working for Josh and Tiffany. She just about grew up out there, and I know Josh spent at least some time there, way back when."
"It never was mentioned," Crystal protested. "Like I said, I never heard anything about it."
"Probably not," Danny shrugged. "People who are active there historically donít talk much about it. I mean, I know what Iím talking about, I just about grew up out there in the summer. Dad and Mom have been up to their ears in it, Mom all her life, but thereís never been much comment about it around town. Itís a sensitive issue and a lot of people would be just as happy if their textile friends and neighbors didnít know. Now about my family, of course, it was common knowledge, and I took some shit over it. My next older sister, Tara, took a lot of shit over it. The rest of us kids in the family all have pretty tough skins, and back in school if someone got in our faces about it weíd bust heads, but Tara was thin skinned, artistic, and rather sensitive, so it hurt her a lot. She was counting the days until she graduated and could get out of town, and I donít think sheís spent a cumulative month here since. Of course, her being a lesbian may have had something to do with that. Sheís pretty much buried the hatchet with the town but she still doesnít want anything to do with it."
"How about Jennifer?" Myleigh asked. "Surely she must have been affected."
"Well, yeah," Danny said. "You have to remember that Jennifer is enough older than me that I wasnít all that tuned in to what was happening with her in high school, but from what I understand she managed to float serenely above the furor, a lot like she does with anything. If you know Jennifer at all, you know what I mean."
"I dare say," Myleigh shook her head. "I was the butt of much treatment of that ilk when I was in high school, and it seriously affected me. But knowing Jennifer as well as I do, I can see how she would have chosen to ignore it. It takes a special type of person to be able to do that, and I fear I did not share that ability. I must admit that Commons is a most interesting building and there are some nice people out there, but it certainly is not what I imagined it would be like."
"Hold it," Crystal said. "Youíve been out there? My prissy ex-roommate?"
"Why certainly," Myleigh snickered. "It was a most interesting experience. Randy, your grandmother did an excellent job with the acoustics of Commons. It was one of the most interesting concerts Iíve ever played."
"You? At a nudist resort?" Crystal looked as if she wasnít playing at being shocked.
"Why certainly," Myleigh replied smugly. "After all, when my beloved managed to schedule our honeymoon at a nude beach in Mexico, it was but a small step to follow up when Danny asked me to perform."
"Good grief," Crystal shook her head. "Are Preach and I the only ones here who have never been out there?" She looked around the room at the grins on everyoneís faces, and that was all the reply she needed. "Sorry folks," she shook her head. "I guess itís just as well that Preach and I are busy in the summers."
"To be honest, weíve only been out there a couple times as Dannyís guests," Nicole smiled, about as smugly as Myleigh. "It really isnít a life style that appeals to me, but I donít mind it. Itís kind of fun for something different."
"It is indeed something out of the ordinary," Myleigh agreed. "And truthfully, Trey and I have only been there on a couple occasions as guest of the Evachevskis ourselves. Crystal, I cannot help but think that this new schedule you and Preach have been talking about would leave you with a little extra free time in the summers, so perhaps you would care to schedule a visit here sometime so that you could enjoy the experience."
"Yeah," Randy agreed, seeing that Myleigh had Crystal on the run for real and deciding to help out. "You might enjoy it. After all, I seem to recall that you donít mind a little skin."
"I, uh, well," Crystal struggled for an answer that wasnít going to cause her to lose face. "There is Preach to consider, heís a minister and all . . . "
"Doesnít have to mean anything," Danny grinned. "My exís grandfather was a member out there for years and years, I grew up with him out there, in the summers anyway. He was an interesting guy, and in the long run I liked him better than I liked his granddaughter. A lot better, in fact. He always said that no one should be ashamed to stand naked before God, to reveal the glory that God had made in his own image."
"Good point," Preach smiled, coming to his wifeís rescue Ė or perhaps piling on a little. "Iíd have a lot of difficulty refuting that. A lot of church people make too big a point of modesty for its own sake. Did he give services out there like that?"
"Oh yeah," Danny grinned. "Again, I grew up with it. It always left me with the opinion that Christian nudists were a little less hypocritical than the regular kind."
"Might have to check that out," Preach grinned, mostly to check out the shocked reaction of his wife. "Crystal, we might have to do it some time."
"Preach?" she said in a small voice. "Are you sure you didnít get taken over like a pod person or something?"
"Relax, Crystal," Danny laughed. "No one is forcing you into it. Believe me, Iíve seen a lot of people have real problems with being forced into it, especially if theyíre not approaching it with an open mind. I grew up as a nudist, so Iím familiar with it. I was a pretty active nudist up till I left my ex-wife. I go out to the club here some, but only rarely, and then because itís a family thing. However, Iím pretty careful to check ahead and make sure that my exís parents are not around when I do. Theyíve always been good friends with my parents, but they havenít had much good to say about me for years now, just like I donít have much good to say about their oldest daughter. Itís just as well. Itís not something I feel I have to do, but something I can do if I need to. If you have a big mental block about it, thereís no problem. For example, one of my sisters has a husband who canít hack it either, and she knows enough to not push him about it, along with everyone else in the family. If you donít want to do it, no one will think less of you."
"Good," Crystal sighed. "I was starting to get worried about it. You guys were scaring me."
"Oh, but it is most enjoyable to see you take fright," Myleigh grinned. "It does not seem to happen very often, so we must enjoy it upon the occasions when it arises. You are not always as cool as you think you are, Crystal, so when we manage to locate a chink in your armor, so to speak, we have to take advantage of it. That having been accomplished, would anyone care for more coffee?"
"I could stand a cup," Randy said. Several others agreed with him, and Myleigh headed for the coffeepot.
Once she had everybody refilled, Randy took advantage of the moment of silence to say, "I just want to thank all of you again for helping out last night. That came on pretty quickly, and itís good to have friends who will pitch in when something like that happens."
"It was nothing, Randy," Myleigh said. "Iím sure you would have been willing to help out had something similar happened with one of us. Should you desire anything else during this period of travail, you need but ask."
"Well, I hope I wonít have to," he sighed. "Crystal, Preach, Iím just sorry that we canít be as good as hosts as we would like to be. I donít know if weíre going to have either or both of my sisters staying with us tonight or what, but I appreciate you making the room without asking."
"No big deal, Preach and I are used to sleeping on whatever sand bar happens to be available," she replied. "This stuff happens, and it happens to all of us, so weíre happy to help out where we can. Just tell us what you need, and weíll help out."
"Randy, is this going to be a big funeral?" Myleigh asked.
"I really havenít talked it over with my folks, so I donít know," he replied. "If you were listening last night, youíll know that my grandfather didnít have a lot of family, and no one but Dad was particularly close. But there are a lot of employees, especially at Clark Construction and to a degree some at Clark Plywood who he worked with for years, so weíll probably have a good turnout of them. Thatís hard to guess."
"Thatís not all bad," Preach pointed out soberly. "Your grandfather may not have had a lot of friends or a lot of family, but he affected a lot of people in his life, and from what I can tell most of it was for the good. That is not a bad legacy to leave behind. Remember him proudly, Randy, for from what I can tell he gave you reason to make you proud."