Spearfish Lake Tales
Contemporary Mainstream Books and Serials Online
The bed felt pretty good to Randy after Myleigh and Trey dropped him off as it was starting to get light out over the lake. There had been times in the past when he’d pulled all-nighters, although not many of them, well, at least not since college, and he knew his sleep schedule was going to be screwed up for days as a result. Well, it was all in a good cause, he thought as he lay under the covers on his side of the bed. It felt a little empty without the familiar feeling of Nicole next to him, but he didn’t contemplate it for long – he was just too tired.
It was around noon when he woke up, still tired and short of sleep but unable to sleep any longer. There were things that had to be done. Thinking that he might get to bed earlier than normal that evening but suspecting he wouldn’t, he conceded that he might as well get up. It took him no longer than normal to get himself organized for the day, then went downstairs to see what he might be able to find to eat.
Randy was actually a fairly decent cook – Nicole had had that effect on him in the years since they’d been married – but he really wasn’t in the mood to do anything more than necessary. Rationalizing that it was noon, he decided to not cook something that meant breakfast, and went rummaging around in the pantry for something that would appeal to him. He came up with a can of stew – something he liked, but Nicole didn’t care for. It would do, and best of all, all he had to do was to dump the contents of the can in a bowl and shove it in the microwave. It wouldn’t take long to heat, and while the microwave was humming he thought about things he had to do.
There was no point in even trying to do anything at the office; it was Saturday, after all, and he would be the only one around. Although there were a couple of things that needed his attention, this time they could wait until Monday. The most pressing item was finalizing the Newton house estimate, and with any kind of luck Carlos would have gotten that under control after Randy left the afternoon before, except for final decisions that would have to be made. That could wait.
Among the things he needed to do before he headed back down to Camden to see Nicole and Brent was to call Crystal and Preach with the news. He and Myleigh had come to the agreement on the way back the night before that he was the one who needed to make the call, and considering the time difference there had been no point in trying it when he’d gotten home. Crystal could be hard to find at this time of the year, and he wasn’t clear enough on her schedule to know if she was on the river or not, so it probably was best to get started calling now.
The 800 number for Canyon Tours was easy to remember, and Randy had known it for years. It only took a few moments to punch the number out on the land line phone in the kitchen. In only seconds he had the familiar voice of Crystal’s mother, Karin, on the phone. "Is Crystal around?" he asked.
"They’re out loading," Karin told him. "They’re going up to rig at Lee’s in the morning."
"Then I guess I’m glad I called today," Randy said, knowing that Crystal was going to be progressively harder to get hold of in the next few hours, and then would be absolutely impossible to reach for the next two weeks.
"So," Karin asked, "Has Nicole had her baby yet?"
"Last night, early this morning, actually, about three AM our time," Randy told her. "A little boy, eight pounds, six ounces. We’re going to call him ‘Brent’ after my grandfather."
"We were starting to wonder out here," Karin said. "Let me go get her. I won’t say anything to her."
"Fine, thanks," Randy said, and heard the phone being put on hold. Over the years he’d had reasons to call out to Canyon Tours, and in the past he’d always felt a wish that he could be out there, loading up for a river trip. He’d made three trips down the Grand Canyon over the years and wanted to do another one, but now he couldn’t help but wonder if he ever would, at least anytime in the next couple decades. The old pangs of longing to be out there with Crystal and Preach and the boatmen just weren’t there this time, and he couldn’t help but wonder if they’d ever return.
It took a while for Karin to get Crystal, and in that time the microwave dinged. No point in letting it get cold, Randy thought; he tucked the phone on his shoulder, got the dish out and set it on the table, then found soda crackers and a Diet Pepsi in the refrigerator. He was just getting set to sit down and get to eating when Crystal came on the line. "Hey, Randy!" he heard her say. "So what’s the news in Spearfish Lake?"
"The population increased by one along about three o’clock this morning," he told her. "A little boy." He gave her the statistics like he had given to Karin.
"Well congratulations," Crystal replied. "Nicole’s OK and all, right?"
"She was pretty tired when I left her a few hours ago," he said. "But considering that she’d been up all night, I guess I don’t blame her."
"So, are you doing all right?"
"As far as I can tell. I just got up. I’ve got a couple things to do, and then I’m going to be heading down to see them."
"Well, take care, and tell them congratulations from Preach and me, as well as Scooter and the rest of the gang. I’ll pass the word out here to the people you know, or at least Mom will. I guess maybe she told you we’re loading today, we’re heading up to Lee’s in the morning for our first rig of the season."
"It’d be nice to be with you," he replied without a lot of feeling; this time he really didn’t want to be heading out on a river trip. "But this time there’s no point in wishing; I have to be here. So, how are things going?"
"First rig of the season confusion; there always is something that gets goofed up, but we don’t have any newbie boatman or swampers this trip so it’s not going too bad. Hey, we won’t be back until after the end of the month, but we’ll give Nicole a call then."
They talked for a few more minutes, just generalities. He’d had the feeling back in January that he was pulling away from Crystal a bit – not that they weren’t still friends, but their lives had diverged an awful lot since they left college, which was starting to feel like a long time ago. "So," he said as he realized that he didn’t have a lot in common to talk about with her anymore, "Are we going to be seeing you next winter?"
"Maybe, maybe not, it’s still too early to tell," Crystal told him. "We’re still kicking around the idea of a big trip south next winter, but we haven’t settled on anything. The ideas you mentioned last winter of surfing South Africa or sea kayaking the Falklands are still on the board, but we’re not close to a decision yet. Either of them could take a couple months and there’s a chance we might even do both. There are some other possibilities too; and New Zealand is still on the list. Scooter and Jim might be willing to go with us. That’s still up in the air, too. We’re gonna have to be making up our minds here pretty quick, because the summer goes fast, and we don’t get a lot of time off the river to make arrangements. With the schedule we have this year we’re gonna have even less off-river time than normal. All I can say is that we’ll keep you posted."
"Can’t ask for much more than that, although I’ve pretty well given up on ever being able to take a big trip like that," he sighed. He’d considered all three of the trips Crystal had mentioned at one time or another, although with the exception of going to Patagonia back at Christmas none of them had ever gotten past the wishing stage. Now, after last night, it seemed likely they never would. His life had just gotten another step further from Crystal’s, and that was that.
He felt vaguely disquieted as he hung up the phone. It had been good to talk to Crystal, but only within limits. He knew he’d see her again sooner or later, but he didn’t want to bet on sooner.
The canned stew had cooled off a bit, but wasn’t too cool to eat if he got right at it. He tried to put the conversation from his mind, or at least the ruminations about it, and concentrated on making a mental list of other people he had to call. Carlos, of course, and he could ask how things went with the Newton estimates after he’d left the office. He needed to call Regina, and some others from work deserved the courtesy, too. He also needed to call his parents and see when they’d be ready to head back to Camden.
He finished his lunch, rinsed the dishes, and put them in the dishwasher, then took what was left of the can of Diet Pepsi to the living room and started in on the calls to fellow workers. Those were mostly routine, although Carlos said there were a couple things on the Newton estimates that would need his review. Finally, he called his mother, and said he could head back to the hospital anytime they were ready. "We’ll pick you up in a few minutes," she said in a voice that sounded less than cheerful. "We’ve got something we need to talk about, although we might as well do it in the car."
Randy couldn’t help but wonder what was on his mother’s mind as he went around the house, shutting off lights and such, not that he’d had much reason to turn any on. He was just getting his on coat when his father and mother pulled up outside. He locked the door of the house and climbed into the back seat of the car.
"So, did you get some rest?" his mother asked.
"Not as much as I would have liked, but maybe it’ll help me get to sleep tonight," he yawned. "I called some people from work with the news, and Crystal. She said she’d pass the word among the Flagstaff gang. So, what was it you wanted to talk to me about?"
"I figured I ought to call Rachel," his mother said from the front seat. "It wasn’t that I thought you wouldn’t call, but I thought Joel would have fewer objections if the call came from me."
"And he didn’t?" Randy replied, getting the drift.
"Rachel said it was very nice and offered her congratulations, but she seemed very nervous," Linda replied. "I mean, I could hear Joel complaining in the background, nothing very clearly but you could tell that he wasn’t happy that Rachel was talking to me again, and it was the first time in weeks. I hate to say it, but it sounds like things are getting worse out there."
"Doesn’t surprise me in the slightest," Randy said. "I’ve done some reading on emotional abuse since I got back last month, and one of the things that abusers tend to do is to try to cut their victims off from friends and family. Brayton said pretty much the same thing, and I believe it."
"I knew I should have waited until Monday when he wasn’t likely to be home," his mother sighed. "But you think that for news like this Joel would have been halfway reasonable."
"Joel has never been reasonable about anything," Ryan said from behind the wheel. "I suspect that if it hadn’t been for the possibility of Rachel getting cash out of the legacy they wouldn’t have been here at all after my father died. But that leaves us with the question of what do we do now?"
"I suppose we don’t have anything useful from Brayton," Randy remarked.
"Not really," Ryan said. "I talked to him on Thursday, and he really didn’t have much for us. He says the investigation is progressing and he’s dead sure that Joel is sneaking around on Rachel, but knowing it and having hard proof are two different things. It’s going to take a while, but if we want hard proof we’re going to have to wait it out."
"That makes it just that much harder," Linda added. "But your father and I have talked it over, and we pretty well have agreed that we’ve got to have solid proof to present to Rachel or she’s going to drag her feet. She might still be reluctant, even then. I’m thinking that maybe we ought to have Ruth come along when we present it to her."
"Probably not a bad idea," Randy agreed. "Have you been keeping Ruth up to date on this?"
"We haven’t said much, at least about what we’re planning," Ryan told him. "I know that Ruth talks to Rachel more than we do, and it could be that there are things Rachel is telling her that she’s not passing along to us, I think out of fear that you’ll fly out to California and twist Joel’s arms off, just on general principles."
"The idea has crossed my mind," Randy said in a hard voice. "And it’s still on the table if it needs to happen, but I don’t think things have gotten quite that far. At least yet. I’m not saying it’s not going to happen, though."
"I’m hopeful things won’t go that far," Ryan shook his head. "I think what I’ll do is call Brayton on Monday, tell him that things seem to be heating up out there, and to get a little more serious. I don’t know what else we can do right now."
"I’m starting to get more worried about Rachel and Jared," Linda announced. "I’m really reluctant to wait any longer than we have to, but I agree that we’re going to need really good proof of what Joel is up to or Rachel may not go along with us. As far as Ruth is concerned, she needs to know what’s happening, but I don’t think just yet. I don’t want to have to put her into the position of having to talk out of both sides of her mouth, but she’ll have to know before we take her out there."
"I almost hate to bring this up," Randy said, "But so far we’ve only given consideration to taking this to Rachel and trying to convince her to leave him. What we need to do is to plan a little further ahead, like what do we do if she says yes? And, for that matter, what to do if she says no?"
"About the only thing I can think of is to ask her to come back here if she says yes," Linda said. "I think it would be best if she’s here, at least for a while. We don’t know what reaction Joel is going to have if she leaves him, and she’s going to need some support and protection. We can’t provide it if she’s out there, or anywhere else, for that matter."
"Right," Ryan agreed. "At least here she’s in our territory, and it’s foreign territory to Joel. I’ve done some reading on the subject too, Randy, and it’s clear to me that Rachel is going to need some family support to buck up her self-esteem."
"I’ll tell you what," Randy said. "She’s going to need more than that. I think she’s going to need a job. She told me she would like to have one, but he won’t let her even look. I can find something for her to do at the construction company if you don’t have anything in the office at the plant."
"I can probably find something," his father agreed. "You’re right. If what we think is happening is even close to correct, and I’m pretty sure it is, she’s going to have a lot of self-worth issues to deal with, and that ought to help at least a little."
"And if she says no?" Randy asked.
"God, that’s a good question," Ryan shook his head. "I can’t imagine just turning our backs and walking away from her, but if we have to, it needs to be clear to her that she has a place to go if she decides to leave on her own. I’m just worried that if that happens she won’t get the chance."
"Well, I guess there’s not much we can do but to wait and see what Brayton comes up with," Randy offered. "But when he comes up with something solid, I think we need to be ready to move as soon as we can. I figure the best thing to do is to be ready to walk in there on a weekday morning with no warning, right after he leaves for work, then do our best to have her out of there and out of the state before he has any idea what’s happening."
"He’s going to guess where she is pretty quickly," Linda warned. "And then he’s probably going to come after her."
"So what if he does?" Randy snorted. "Like Dad just said, this is our territory, not his."
They talked about the issue all the way to Camden, throwing out a few ideas but not getting much further than they already had. It was clear that there was nothing much they could do but wait for the investigator’s report and try to hurry Brayton along. But, they also decided to not tell Nicole what was going on, at least just yet. She was aware of what had happened on Randy’s trip to California and that Randy and his parents were very concerned about Rachel, but now just wasn’t the time to drop the latest news on her.
It was hard for Randy to not tell her about the discussion when he walked into her room a little later, for it was still very much on his mind. Nicole was awake, cheerful, and busy feeding Brent on one of her breasts. "This is a very strange feeling," she told them. "I suppose I’ll get used to it, though."
"Well, you look very motherly," Linda grinned. "I mean, I’ve already been a grandmother for a while, but that just makes me feel it even more."
"He’s so tiny," Nicole sighed. "I still can’t imagine what it’s going to be like to watch him grow up."
"I suspect he’s going to wind up bigger than his father," Randy grinned. "Not that that’s going to take a lot of doing."
They talked for a while until they started to run low on things to say. "So, I suppose you’ve called everybody and their brothers with the news," Nicole grinned.
"There may be someone in Timbuktu that hasn’t heard yet," Randy said. "I talked to Crystal about noon today; she said she was going to pass the word around the Flagstaff gang, so that’s covered. She and Preach and Karin sent their congratulations, of course."
"So how are they getting along? I haven’t heard much from them since they were here in January."
"About the same," Randy said. "They’re loading up; they start their first trip of the season Monday. They’re still looking at doing a big trip next winter, although they haven’t decided what, yet. I don’t want to guess whether we’ll see them next winter or not."
"Did she say anything more about their having a baby?"
"The subject didn’t come up," Randy admitted. "I guess things are still pretty much the way they were, they want to get one more big trip out of the way before they make up their minds on that one."
"And then it will be another one, and another one after that," Nicole shook her head. "She’s older than I am, and I’d be the first to tell her that if they’re going to do it they need to be getting serious about it."
"Like I said, I didn’t talk about it with her," Randy shook his head. "But I think you’re right. The thing you have to remember is that it’s going to mean a much bigger change in their lives than it is for you and me. They’re going to have to admit to doing things like spending time off the river in tripping season, and they’re going to have to think of finding a place to live that isn’t a tiny house that’s shared with two other couples."
"In other words, they’re going to have to grow up," Nicole smiled.
"Yep," Randy grinned, "Every bit of that. Crystal has resisted the idea more than most, but to remember her talking about it when they were here last winter, she and Preach are at least giving some thought to the idea. I can imagine Crystal being a mother, just not easily. Now, if you want to talk about someone who I can’t imagine being a mother, we’re talking about Scooter."
"I have to admit, the idea of Scooter as a mother seems like a bit of a reach to me," Nicole shook her head. "But stranger things have happened, especially out there."
"I have this vision of how uptight Al would get if Crystal, Scooter, Mary, and Michelle were all to be pregnant about the same time," Randy laughed. "Now there’s a guy who would be going nuts."
"Well, at least they’re all husband-wife leader teams, so he wouldn’t be totally out of luck," Nicole giggled.
"Yeah, but now that he has his personnel situation more or less under control, that would pretty well put it out of whack again. I hope someone out there has enough sense to not drop that bomb on him. Of course, if they do, I wouldn’t put it past him to tell Crystal, ‘OK, I’m retiring, you figure it out.’"
"It’d serve her right," Nicole giggled again at the thought. "It’s going to be interesting to know how all that plays out, but I’ll bet we don’t hear much about it at least until fall."
"Yeah, probably not," Randy said. "I was thinking after I called Crystal that we’re getting even more detached from those people with Brent coming along, and I guess that’s the way life is, whether we want it that way or not. We’ve been good friends with her, especially, but with her out there we’re not going to be able to maintain that kind of closeness. At least we have good friends here to make up for it a little."
"That does make up for it," Nicole agreed. "I mean, with Debbie having their second one in a couple months, our friends are getting all domestic on us. I know Myleigh and Trey have been thinking about a baby, too, but I don’t know where they’re at on it."
"We talked about it some on the way home last night or this morning or whatever it was," Randy sighed. "To sum it up, they haven’t made up their minds yet, and even after yesterday I don’t know what I’d advise them to do. I mean, we’re talking Myleigh, after all."
"Good point," she smiled. "It wouldn’t surprise me either way."