Spearfish Lake Tales
Contemporary Mainstream Books and Serials Online
As Susan was waking up the next morning, there was a shock of non-recognition. This wasn’t where she was supposed to be, in her comfortable room in the Hauner house in Regensburg. This was a strange place! She looked around in confusion for a moment, until she realized that this was her room at home, in Spearfish Lake – it had been her room as long as she could remember, and now it seemed strange. Go figure.
She yawned and twisted her body around to sit up on the edge of the bed. There was still a touch of strangeness here as she looked around the walls to see familiar if barely remembered posters, mostly travel posters for various places in Europe. There was a really neat poster of Neuschwanstein Castle that looked almost as if it was out of a fairy tale. It looked even neater in person, as she’d seen it back in the spring. There was another one of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, which she hadn’t been to but hoped to someday.
On the other hand, there were a couple posters of teenybopper rock groups that she used to idolize, and now could barely stand. Those would have to go. Soon. But not right now, she thought as she yawned again, trying to shake off a little of the stiffness that came from being in bed too long.
She wasn’t sure what time they’d gotten home the night before, but knew it had to be well after midnight, since it was that long of a drive under the best of circumstances. She vaguely remembered getting out of the car, stumbling up the steps to the deck and through the back door, then going to her room, stripping off her outer clothes and crashing on the bed, but that was all. She must have really needed the sleep, she thought.
She glanced at the clock in what she remembered was the normal place beside the bed. Zehn und zwansig, she thought. Twenty after ten she corrected herself; she didn’t always think in German but she did a lot. That was a habit that was going to take some breaking, if she really wanted to break it at all. Time to get up and get moving in any case, especially with that stupid welcome-home party this afternoon.
It felt good to peel off her bra; she’d been wearing it too long. She rubbed her breasts to clear up some of the mild itchiness that she felt, and helplessly thought about how good it had been when someone else had rubbed them. God, that was far away, she thought. There were much better ways to wake up and with someone was one of them, but that obviously wasn’t going to happen again for a while. And boy, she thought, Mom and Dad really don’t need to know about that!
Might as well do it, she thought, no matter how much she’d like to sit there and wallow in unreachable memories. Scheisse!
She got up and peeled off her panties, glad that she’d decided not to wear a thong for the trip; it would have gotten uncomfortable. Nude now, she realized that her bags were on the dresser and on the chair beside her bed; Dad must have brought them in. She opened one of them and dug out her shampoo, conditioner, and body wash – familiar brands, but with German labels. She was really going to miss her hair dryer; the one she had in Germany did a fantastic job, but was the standard German 220 volts, so there was no way she could use it here. She hoped Elke would get good use out of it and remember her when she used it. Damn, she missed Elke, maybe even more than Hans. The things that girl knew, the way she could make her feel! But that was something else far away now, she thought as she made a mental note to send an E-mail to the Hauner family telling them that she’d arrived all right, and maybe more private, personal E-mails to Elke and Hans.
Carrying the bottles, she headed out her bedroom door and down the hall to the shower, not caring that she was nude. This was one place where she could say that home beat the Hauners’ – she didn’t have to worry about wearing clothes around the house. No one in the McMahon family had very much body modesty and all were comfortable with being casually nude around each other. It had always been that way; the family had been active nudists since her father and mother had gotten together, and for a while they’d actually had a cabin out at the nudist resort at West Turtle Lake. That was before Susan’s time; it had been sold about the time the family had moved into this house, not long before she’d been born. They still got out there occasionally, although she hadn’t in a couple years.
Not much had changed around the bathroom in a year; everything was still in pretty much the same place. It still took an awful long time for the water to warm up in the shower; the Hauners had a European-style demand water heater for the bathroom, and when you turned on the water it was hot now.
While she waited, she checked out her nude reflection in the full length mirror on the back of the bathroom door. Not bad, she thought; I looked a little different the last time I looked in that mirror. She had filled out a little over the course of the past year, and had tan lines she wouldn’t normally, although this late in the summer it seemed hardly worth the effort of worrying about them. She was tall, though hardly model-slender. On the other hand, only someone with anorexia could call her fat. Well, she could stand to lose a little around her waist, she thought, but only a little. She was a little bigger, a little thicker than the American ideal, although just about the German ideal; with her blonde hair she could almost pass for Brunehilde. Her breasts were just about right, she thought; big enough, but not too big like Alanah Emmendorfer’s back in Regensburg – big enough to be in the way and a problem to herd around. Alanah didn’t have all any problem drawing the boys, she remembered with a smile, so maybe it wasn’t all that bad.
She cut short her musing at her reflection when she realized that the water in the shower was finally running warm. She fiddled with the cold a bit to make it comfortable, then got in and closed the door. It felt good to have the water running over her; it had been nearly two days since she’d last had a shower and she had been more than ready for one. She spent a few minutes at it, first washing and conditioning her hair, then going over her body, luxuriating in the sensation.
Once out of the shower, she spent some time drying off and otherwise getting prettied up. Like any teenage girl it took her a while, but she knew without asking that she was going to have to spiff up today and make a good appearance for the people coming over. Finally, it was time to go meet the world. She needed to unpack her bags, but there was no big rush on that. More important, after nothing but the airline’s so-called food yesterday she needed something real to eat, so she headed down the hall to the kitchen.
She saw her mother working at the kitchen counter at something or other. “Hi, Mom,” she said conversationally. “Anything happening today?”
“Susan!” she heard from behind her. “Go put some clothes on! Have you no shame?”
“Not particularly,” she smiled at her sort-of sister-in-law, Cindy, who had been living with her brother Henry since they’d been sophomores in college, and friends for several years prior to that. If Cindy and Henry had gotten married it was news to her. It might have been a big deal in some families but not this one; Susan’s parents had lived together for sixteen years before they got around to getting married, so they had little room to complain. It was why Susan had the hyphenated last name, after all, even though most of her German friends knew her without the McMahon.
“But Susan!” Cindy protested, “what if Henry should see you like that?”
“Big deal, he’s seen my bare butt since day one,” Susan smiled, shoving the needle into her sort-of sister-in-law. “It’s nothing he hasn’t seen before.”
“You should have at least some respect for others,” Cindy said in a huff.
“Hey, it’s my home, lighten up,” Susan smiled, knowing she had Cindy off balance now. Although Cindy had spent a lot of time around the McMahon house over the years, she’d never warmed to the casual nudity in the hot tub or around the house that the rest of the family did very comfortably. Susan had often wondered if it might have something to do why Cindy and her brother hadn’t gotten married. Knowing from experience that the best way to deal with Cindy on this topic was to ignore her, Susan turned to her mother and said, “Is there anything I can snag for breakfast?”
“There’s tuna salad in the refrigerator if you want a sandwich,” her mother suggested, ignoring Cindy as well – she’d decided long ago that Cindy was just going to have to live with the way the McMahon family operated. “Or, if you don’t mind waiting a few minutes, I can throw together an omelet or something,” she added.
“How about both?” Susan said. “I can have the sandwich while I’m waiting on the omelet. I had to deal with airline food yesterday, I’m starving.”
“I’ll throw them both together for you,” her mother smiled. To make clear that she didn’t disapprove of Susan’s apparel or lack thereof, she added, “Make yourself comfortable.”
“So, Cindy,” Susan said as she sat at the kitchen table, “if you’re here, Henry must be around somewhere.”
“He’s asleep,” Cindy said, aware that she’d been put in her place. “He had to co-anchor the early news last night, so we had to drive most of the night.”
“I’m a little surprised that you’re still there,” Susan commented. “I thought the plan was to move on by now.”
“Probably pretty soon,” Cindy said, unable to quite look Susan in the eye. “He’s got resumés out, but the station got short-staffed a while back, so they decided to bump up his pay to keep him around for a while.”
“So, how are you liking Springfield?”
“It’s OK,” Cindy sighed. “I’ve been in worse places. I guess it’s not that bad, but I haven’t found the job market to be very attractive. I’m just hanging on to what I’m doing until we can move, since there’s no point in trying to get anything worthwhile now.”
“You know, Cindy,” Kirsten piped up as she set a paper napkin with the sandwich in front of Susan, “speaking as the publisher of the Record-Herald, both Mike and I would be thrilled to have you and Henry move back up here.”
“I know,” Cindy sighed. “Of course, it involves having to move back up here. If there’s nothing to do but sit and watch the buns rise like it was Saturday night in Toledo, Ohio, then there’s really nothing to do in Spearfish Lake. And that assumes I’d want to move back here at all, which is about the last thing on my list, and you know why.”
“That’s all in the past,” Susan’s mother replied placidly.
“Yeah, but people don’t forget in a town like Spearfish Lake,” Cindy protested. “My mother managed to sour me on this place forever.”
Susan knew the reason for her concern. Although she’d only met Cindy’s mother a handful of times, Susan knew that she was very bossy, obnoxious, and controlling -- not just of Cindy, but of everybody who had any real contact with Cindy. Henry and Cindy had managed to keep their relationship quiet through high school, mostly by being very low key. Susan’s family had given Cindy something of an occasional refuge. Susan could remember Cindy sitting at this very table and announcing that her one main goal in life was to graduate from high school and get as far away from Spearfish Lake and her mother as she could. Cindy’s mother was in Florida now, for all anyone knew, but the threat of her showing up without notice was always possible for Cindy and Henry, which put a strange twist to their relationship.
“I don’t think it would be that bad,” Kirsten protested as she turned to making the omelet. “People here know that you went through a lot.”
“True, but I still want to put it behind me. It’s even hard to come up here for something like this, if you’ll excuse me for saying it, Susan.”
Fortunately, Susan had just finished swallowing the first bite of the sandwich, which only served to remind her of how hungry she was. “Oh, I don’t mind,” she replied. “If there’s anything I learned in the past year, it’s that the horizons are pretty close in a place like Spearfish Lake. There’s a whole world out there, and I haven’t seen all I want yet.”
“Yeah,” Cindy replied thoughtfully. “I can see how you would feel that way. Spearfish Lake must seem pretty tame to you after that.”
Susan shrugged. “Not that I’ve had any chance to find out, but I guess that’s what I’m anticipating. It seems so, well, prosaic to be coming back here after the year I’ve had. I mean, really, I’ve been feeling like Cinderella when the clock struck twelve. Sic transit gloria mundi.”
“The glory is departed,” Susan shrugged. “It’s Latin.”
“Oh,” Cindy replied, a little confused. “You know stuff like that, I guess.”
A little smile crossed Susan’s lips, and to avoid replying she took another bite of her sandwich. She knew that in spite of a college degree, Cindy wasn’t an intellectual giant. Cindy had been a better than average student at Spearfish Lake High School, though not by much, and she probably hadn’t read many books that hadn’t been assigned, where Susan was a reader, in four languages, and pretty much an all-A student. The thought made her wonder once again if she was going to be doing anything more than marking time in her senior year in high school, especially if Cindy was the kind of product the school turned out – not that any other American school was any better.
“Well,” her mother said as she worked on the omelet, “it must feel good to be back home for a while.”
Susan continued to chew on her sandwich as she searched for a diplomatic way to reply. “Yeah, it is,” she finally replied once she’d swallowed. “It just is going to seem dull after the last year.”
“Are you going to go back to Germany some time?” Cindy asked.
“Maybe,” Susan said. “Hans and Elke and I talked about doing a long bike trip sometime, maybe France, or the Low Countries, or something. They don’t have the long summer break that we get here, so we’d have to hold it down to a month or so. Maybe next summer, if I can come up with the money, or maybe another year. Hans will be heading off to uni this fall and Elke next year, so it’s pretty much something that has to be done before we graduate.”
“Have you done any thinking about where you’re going to college?”
“Not really,” Susan sighed. “Hans is going to Universität Albburg but Elke doesn’t know yet, although she’d like to go there, too. I’ve given some thought to going there myself. My German is good enough to handle it, but there are a number of other difficulties, and I probably wouldn’t be able to use any American student aid. So, that’s something I’ve got to work on over the next few months.”
“I hadn’t heard about that,” Kirsten said. “But I doubt if there’d be enough money to do that.”
“I figured that,” Susan nodded. “It’d be a nice thought, though. Maybe I can find some place with a good junior-year-abroad program.”
“Have you even figured out what you want to study in college?” her mother asked.
Susan shook her head. “Not really,” she replied. “Nothing to do with languages, that’s pretty obvious. I don’t want to be a high school language teacher and wind up in a town like Spearfish Lake. I want to see the world.”
“Being a teacher has the advantage of having three months off in the summer,” Cindy observed.
“Right, but I’d have to pay for the travel myself,” Susan smirked. “And then I’d be stuck with having to be a tourist and go places in the height of the tourist season. No, I want to figure out some way of traveling out of someone else’s pocketbook.”
Cindy shook her head. “Good luck on that. That’d be some kind of a dream thing.”
“There’s got to be some way,” Susan said. “I’ve just got to figure out what it is. One thing I’ve learned is that the world is becoming increasingly global, and in the future it’s going to be harder to be the insular Americans that we are in Spearfish Lake.”
“That strikes me as a rather European viewpoint,” Kirsten commented as she pulled the omelet from the pan and put it on a plate.
“Well, I’ve had a year to learn it,” Susan smiled. “Mom, I think you’re going to have to learn to accept that you’re not going to have me living across the road like Tiffany.”
“That doesn’t surprise me,” her mother said as she set the plate on the table. “In fact, I’m just a little surprised that Josh and Tiffany are still in Spearfish Lake. Oh, well, one out of three isn’t bad in this day and age. So, what are you planning on doing before school starts?”
“Mostly just facing up to the fact that I’m back in Spearfish Lake,” Susan replied immediately as she picked up the fork and prepared to dig into the omelet. “Hang out with friends a little, try to get squared away for school, that kind of thing. Maybe try to spend a little time researching colleges and figuring out what I want to do there. I really don’t plan on being bored.”
To forestall further discussion, she dug into her breakfast, thinking about things as she ate. Maybe the next couple weeks would be a good time to do some thinking about the future. Issues like college were going to be coming up fast, and it would be a good opportunity to do some planning and goal setting based on what she’d learned over the past year. Today wasn’t going to be a good time, what with having to be nice to all the company showing up, but there ought to be some peaceful times over the next few days.
The idea of traveling and seeing the world was almost a given. It wasn’t new; it had been with her a long time. If anything had come out of the last year it had been the discovery that there were a lot of interesting places out there that she could indeed visit – many of them in fact. In Germany she’d visited a few such she’d never even heard of before, in spite of all the research she’d done before going to Europe. Those experiences had only enhanced the desire, but how to do it was definitely going to involve some thought. In fact, it might be a good time to lay out some plans and goals for the next year, and for life in general. As far as that went, there might not be a better time, what with her German experience just behind her.
In any case, today was going to have to be gotten out of the way first. Really, she did want to see some of the people who would be showing up – in fact, most of the people. There were several she wanted to have a serious talk with, but today probably wouldn’t be the time for that.
Oma Birgit – for good reason Susan always thought of her grandmother by her German familiar title – was right at the head of that list. Her grandmother had been responsible for much of what had happened in the past year. Back when Susan had been very small, Oma Birgit had been Susan’s main babysitter when Mike and Kirsten were working. She didn’t mind, having recently retired and looking for something to do. She’d been a German war bride and came to the country in 1949 not speaking much English; she was still considerably more comfortable in German than she was in English, even after more than a half century.
As a result, Susan had started speaking in German not long after she started to talk, and Mike and Kirsten still had stories to tell of how Susan mixed the two languages when she was very young. By the time she was three, Susan had learned that she was dealing with two different languages, and although she didn’t know the names of them, English is what she spoke with her family and German was what she spoke with Grossmutter. The early language training had probably had more than a little to do with the fact that Susan seemed to have an ear for languages. In fact, when Susan’s mother was a little girl, she learned German much the same way, although not as completely and she didn’t use it enough to be fully fluent in it.
For several early years, Susan spent a lot of her time with Oma Birgit. At first, the language was just convenient, but as she grew older Susan decided she wanted to learn more of it, so Oma got kid’s books and videotapes in German to expand Susan’s knowledge. The end result was that Susan’s German friends and teachers could only detect a trace of an accent when she spoke – and that accent was more North German Plattdeutsch than it was American.
The fact that Susan was for all intents and purposes bilingual was not unknown through the school. When she was in seventh grade there was a German exchange student at Spearfish Lake High School, and Susan made friends with the guy, whose name was Manfred. This gave her a little more experience with the language, and gave Manfred at least two people he could speak comfortably with in his native language.
Susan had been vaguely aware of the exchange student program up to that point but had never really paid attention. She looked into it a little and discovered that American kids could be exchange students, too, although not a lot of Americans did it for a whole year the way Manfred did. It seemed like something she could do, and something she wanted to do. With encouragement from Manfred and Oma, Susan’s parents agreed that it might be something worth looking into. The year she’d just finished in Germany was the culmination of nearly four years of planning, preparation, and research; Susan was not unaware of the fact that it had done much to shape her life, as well.
That proved one thing, she thought as she finished the omelet. She could make a long range plan and carry it out successfully. It had been good practice for the real thing. Now, this next year was going to be the time to make other, more serious and long-range plans. The planning and preparation to spend a year as an exchange student hadn’t been simple and hadn’t come together all at once, so there was no reason to expect that this was going to be any different.
Her mother’s voice broke her out of her reverie. “Susan, you might want to think about getting some clothes on,” she suggested lightly. “It’s getting late enough that we might have some people showing up any time now.”
“Aw, do I have to?” Susan grinned, feeling the desire to tease Cindy some more. “It feels so good to sit here bare-assed.”
“You don’t know who might be showing up,” her mother said reasonably.
“Hey, we still have the family membership to the club, don’t we?” she asked with a grin. “Maybe after the party we can take Cindy out to West Turtle Lake and get some serious skinny dipping in. After all, maybe she needs to learn a bit about the finer things in life.”