Spearfish Lake Tales
Contemporary Mainstream Books and Serials Online
It was still in the middle of the afternoon when Susan got back to Spearfish Lake, but she didn’t go by the paper to tell her parents the news. It was paper day, and all her life she’d known that Tuesday afternoon was the time that things were nuts around the Record-Herald. It was always very busy around the paper on paper day, and not the time to bother them unless something really important happened, like, say, the house was on fire. It hadn’t caught fire yet, but if it did they’d be likely to show up with a camera in hopes of getting the story on the front page.
So, she went right home, parked the Cavalier in the driveway, and went in to change clothes. Once again, dressing nicely and not like a teenage slob had helped to make things work for her – they’d made her seem more mature and serious to people like Mrs. Thatcher, who was more used to teenagers coming in like they’d dressed out of the rag bag.
With nothing else to do, she gave a thought to calling Megan to see if she was doing anything useful, but rejected it almost instantly. First, she wasn’t sure how much she wanted to encourage Megan after the scene on Sunday, at least not just yet, but more importantly, she wanted to talk to her parents about everything that had happened and settle on a few decisions before she told anyone about her new plan. So, now that she was home and it was still warm outside, Susan just took off the nice clothes she’d worn down to Riverside and didn’t bother to put anything on to replace them. She took the package of information she’d picked up at the college and hauled it out on the deck, then spread herself out in a lounge chair. She had the intention of at least briefly doing something about her bikini lines while she went through all the material, trying to pick out what courses she wanted to take and work out a schedule.
The only course she absolutely wanted to be sure she had on her schedule was English 101e, the course about researching and writing papers. Although in her own mind Susan wasn’t planning on darkening the door of Spearfish Lake High School ever again, if it worked out that she still could get a diploma from there it was the one course she absolutely had to have. It would be vital for transferring elsewhere at some future date, at least if she wanted credit for it. She soon discovered that it was only offered on Tuesdays and Thursdays, although in a choice of three different sessions, all of which Mrs. Thatcher had told her were open. That meant, to limit the driving, that she wanted to schedule the rest of her courses as much as possible on those days, and that’s when the juggling started.
She had to interrupt her nude sunbathing twice, once to go into the house and get a pad and a pen to make some notes, and the second time when the pen ran out of ink. At one time or another she had penciled herself into all three of the sessions, but each time she did that meant something else had to be moved or scratched. It took her a couple hours to work out a schedule that seemed like it would work. She could take up to eighteen hours as a full-time student, but reasoned early on that it would be better to hold it to fifteen, since that was going to be a lot to manage going down there only twice a week. It still meant that she was going to be there from eight to five on Tuesdays, and then eight to nine on Thursdays, as that day had a class that only met once a week.
Even with a couple of holes during the day, including time for a two-hour lunch break where she figured she could get some studying in, it was going to be a tough schedule. At least she’d have plenty of time at home where she could hit the books, assuming she didn’t have to show up around the high school. It seemed workable, but she had little doubt she could manage it. While she’d had a lot of fun in Germany, the Johannes-Staudinger Gymnasium worked her a lot harder than the classes at Spearfish Lake High School ever had, even with the extra course work she’d done to get ready for her exchange year.
Let’s face it, she thought as she considered the tight schedule. The classes shouldn’t be that bad; almost all were basically intro classes for students coming in from high school, probably not the top students, and with only limited preparation for college. There weren’t going to be many students coming into a place like Riverside who were on a par with the kids she’d known in Germany. These were going to be the B and C and maybe even D students, not the curve-wrecking top-end A students you’d find at a place like State. That meant that the courses were going to be, well, dumbed down in comparison, and that gave her confidence that she could handle it.
While Riverside had opened a real door for her, one she hadn’t quite expected, she was aware that the place was not exactly Harvard or Princeton, either. When you got right down to it, it was really rather a Hauptschule of a college, at best a Realschule and it might be a reach to say that. It would do to get some of the simple requirements out of the way. It would do for a year, but the list of classes that Mrs. Thatcher was pretty sure would transfer to most schools in the country started to get a little thin to stretch it out for two, at least so long as she didn’t include some major or specialty. It would probably be best to think about moving on at the end of the year, when her hopefully former high school classmates would be looking at starting college, too. Except, she grinned to herself, that she would be starting at a higher-level school as a sophomore, rather than the freshmen that they would be. That felt like a victory, no matter how she looked at it.
So, while Albburg was still on the list of potentials for next year – and in a very high spot on the list, too – the idea of getting out of college a year sooner was a real possibility. Or, if she stretched out a four-year college an extra year, it meant that she could pick up a lot of skills that might be useful in her search for an international job. She might be able to work out two majors, maybe even three, in fields that were largely unrelated in order to make her a more appealing hire. And then, there was the possibility of grad school, too – lots of possibilities, more than she really wanted to contemplate right at the moment.
She was still considering the broad spectrum of possibilities when her parents got home. By now the sun was down low enough that it wasn’t helping her tan much, and she’d done a couple turns in the hot tub just to relax and get away from staring at class schedules. She’d thought about getting supper going, but decided against it. It was Tuesday, after all, and sometimes that meant her folks got home at five PM, and other times as late as nine or ten, but the latter usually only if they had a council meeting, which thankfully wasn’t on the schedule that evening.
They actually showed up at six-thirty, which meant that they’d had gotten out a tough but not impossible paper. “Hey, Mom!” Susan said. “What’s for supper? I’m willing to cook it, but you’re going to have to tell me what it is.”
“We’ve got fried chicken on the menu board,” her mother told her. “But right now I’d settle for a carry-out pizza as long as I don’t have to cook it.”
“Tough day?” Susan asked.
“Very tough,” her father said. “Fall sports issue, so you know what that means. Not only all the team photos and schedules from Spearfish Lake, Albany River, and Warsaw, but all the stuff that goes along with it. Anissa was just about going nuts, and it was all we could do to keep her from driving us nuts, too.”
Susan knew exactly what her father meant. While Anissa Hodges was a sports fan and a good writer and photographer, she wasn’t exactly up to speed with some of the other details about getting pages made up for something like a major special section. Since the fall sports section was one of the three biggest the Record-Herald ran each year, it meant others had to fill in for her. No junior reporter to help meant the duty would fall on her father and mother. It also meant it had been a very good idea that she hadn’t bothered them when she got back from Riverside. “I could grill the chicken, I suppose,” she offered.
“Do it,” her mother said. “We have some left-over potato salad to go with it, and I’m pretty sure we can make up the rest of dinner from something in the refrigerator. The chicken should be thawed and in the refrigerator.”
“Just take it easy,” Susan suggested. “The hot tub has felt pretty good to me this afternoon, and I’ll bet it will to you.”
In spite of being tired, Susan’s mother helped her get things organized for dinner a little, and soon Susan was presiding over the gas grill out on the deck. She was wearing a full apron; she’d learned long before that grilling chicken in the nude was a good way to get some nasty burns in places that she’d really rather not have them. Her parents were settled in the hot tub before her father got around to asking, “So, how did it go with you today?”
“Much better than I expected,” Susan told them. “I won’t go into all the details right now, but I can be a fulltime student at Riverside this fall if I want to be, and if it’s Alles ist in Ordnung with you.”
“I thought you could only take six hours,” her mother asked.
“Well, normally,” Susan told them. “That’s all they’ll go for on the dual enrollment deal, and I couldn’t be a fulltime student without being a high school graduate. But then I waved the Abitur around showing that I am a high school graduate, and it was all downhill from there. Oma Birgit really had something there when she suggested last night that I take it along.”
“So where does that leave you with high school?” her father asked.
“I’m not sure.” Susan told him. “But I’m not sure I care, either. I’m just darn tempted to not even bother with it, except for them picking up the cost of six hours’ worth of credit. Other than that, I think if anyone asks in the future, I’m just going to tell them I’m a 2004 graduate of the Johannes-Staudinger Gymnasium in Germany and not even try to explain the Abitur to them unless I have to.”
“Somehow, that sounds like my girl,” Mike grinned. “Never meet a problem head on if you can go around it.”
“There are going to be places that are not going to be impressed by that,” Kirsten pointed out.
“Probably true,” Susan said as she flipped chicken parts on the grill. “But I think by the time I’m a college graduate no one is going to split hairs over it. Anyway, going to Riverside full time this year means that I could probably graduate from college a year sooner, anyway. Nevertheless, I’m looking at doing a full load of fifteen hours this semester. It’ll just be Tuesdays and Thursdays, even though they’ll be some long days. That’ll leave me plenty of time to study.”
“You mean on top of your work at Spearfish Lake?” her mother frowned. “That’s going to get complicated.”
“Not really,” Susan shook her head. “Especially since I don’t plan on doing any work at Spearfish Lake. I mean, I’d be a full-time college student, why should I bother?”
“Well, yeah,” Mike said. “But if you’re going to get the school to pick up six hours’ worth of credit you’re going to have to make it look like you’re still a high school student there.”
“I suppose,” Susan sighed. “Although, if you’re going to give me college funds the way you did Henry, it might be simpler not to try to fake it and just pay the extra money.”
“You could look at it that way,” Mike told her. “And I agree, it might be simpler. But, well, I haven’t thought it out all the way yet, but I think it would be good if you could at least appear to be a high school student for a while yet, if only to keep up the façade. I haven’t done any more thinking about this Gingrich business since we talked about it yesterday. But, I can’t help but think that it might not be a bad idea to keep you looking like a high school student just so we can see what he’s going to try next. Besides, Harold stuck his neck out for us and especially for you. He’s caught in the middle on this, and I’d just as soon not make it any worse for him.”
Susan glanced at the way the chicken pieces were coming on the grill; they were getting ready to turn again. She took the tongs and began to work on them as she laughed, “I was mostly thinking about the grin he’d get on his face when he tells this Gingrich joker that his policies have just caused me to drop out so I could go to college, costing him $13,400 along the way.”
“Well yeah, but things sometimes don’t work that simply around a school, and you should know that as well as I do,” Mike told her. “Especially with a joker like Gingrich around. Don’t get me wrong. Harold is a friend and he’s been a friend for a long time, but there are things he’s not going to tell me unless he has to. That’s part of his job, and we both realize it. I’d really rather not get him in trouble if I don’t have to, and you never know where trouble is going to come from when you’re dealing with someone like the new superintendent.”
“He’s been a big help,” Susan agreed as she continued turning chicken pieces. “So I don’t think I’d want to cause too much trouble for him, not that this hasn’t been a bunch already and for both of us.”
“I think we need to talk to him again,” Mike said. “In fact, I think I need to be the one to talk to him, but is there some course you could take, say, first thing in the morning so you wouldn’t have to waste the day there and still not get counted as absent? I mean, something you could pass even if you fell asleep or were actually doing college homework while you’re in class?”
“I suppose there’s something,” Susan replied. “I could take Spanish I for instance. I could be asleep and still pass the final for that one right now. But the problem with that is that I’d have to take it five days a week, and to make my fulltime schedule work at Riverside I’d still have to skip two days a week at Spearfish Lake.”
“I don’t know how it would work, but that’s something else that I’d have to talk to Harold about,” Mike said. “But since you’d be on dual enrollment, maybe you could get an excused absence for those two days. That would at least keep you legal here.”
“That would work, I suppose,” Susan frowned. “But if Gingrich finds out I’m only in class three periods out of five a week and spending the rest of my time down at Riverside, isn’t he going to cause trouble?”
“He could,” Mike grinned. “That’s sort of the point anyway. I’d kind of like to see what he’d say. Maybe if we got lucky he’d do it before the fourth Friday count.”
Susan grinned back at her father. Finally she understood the point that he was driving at. The fourth Friday of September count was a big factor in determining the money the schools received from the state. With her being all but a “fuck you” from being a dropout, there’d be some leverage with Gingrich to at least keep her in school until after that date. There would also be the room for him to make a mistake that could be used against him in the Record-Herald, or at least to generate something that could lead to a story. “Well, maybe,” she said. “But I’d just as soon be out of there by the fourth Friday count just so he could eat his damn $6,700.”
“That’s an appealing thought,” Mike said. “And it also should be long enough for the school to burp up the $1300 or whatever it is that they’re going to have to pay Riverside. We might as well work both sides of the street if we can.”
“Well, I could sign up for Spanish I, I suppose,” Susan shrugged as she started turning chicken pieces again. They were getting close to done, and everyone in the family liked them pretty well done anyway. “Like I said, I could sleep through every class including the final and get an A on it. But even three days a week, it would be time wasted that I could spend on real studying.”
“Yeah, but three or four weeks,” Mike mused. “That might be worthwhile, especially with the money involved. Thirteen hundred or whatever it is isn’t peanuts, and money not spent now can be used later.”
“OK, I concede the point,” Susan said. “At worst I’d be in class a dozen days, and that works out to better than a hundred dollars an hour. That’s pretty decent pay when you stop to think about it.”
“It is,” Mike said. “And I think it’s worth the effort for other reasons, like I explained earlier.”
“Susan,” Kirsten piped up, “I think your father has a good idea, and it’s probably worthwhile to explore it a little. How’s the chicken coming?”
“Alles ist in Ordnung, getting close to done.”
“Why don’t you just go ahead and finish it up?” her mother suggested. “I’ll go get the plates and potato salad and the rest of dinner and set it up so we can eat out here. I don’t see any reason to get clothes on just to do it.”
“Sure, Mom,” Susan replied. “Someone is going to have to do that or stand here and turn the chicken some more.”
There wasn’t much talking the next few minutes, except to work out the details of dinner. Within minutes the three of them were sitting around the picnic table on the deck, not wearing a stitch of clothes among them, digging into dinner. For a Tuesday dinner that had been thrown together quickly, it was pretty good.
Once the eating died down a little, Mike turned to Susan and said, “All this has gotten me thinking about something else, and I’ve got a question for you. How much are you going to have to study for this fifteen hours of college credit you’re proposing for this semester?”
“Good question,” Susan shook her head, and spooned up a little more potato salad as she continued. “I can’t give you a real answer on that, but somehow I can’t make myself believe it’s going to be all that much.” She went on to explain her thinking that most of the kids in her classes weren’t exactly likely to be the cream of their high school crop, and that the classes were pretty much going to have to be dumbed down to make them comprehensible. “Obviously there’s going to be some work to do, reading to do, and it’s going to take some time, but I just don’t know how much it’s going to be. But I was thinking that it’s likely that I’ll have worked a lot harder at studying in Regensburg.”
“Well, you might be right on that,” Mike said. “And I suppose there’s no choice but to say that you’re just going to have to find out. I’d warn you to make sure that it doesn’t keep you from doing your best work, because if there’s some question about being able to transfer your credit, well, an A looks more appealing than a C. But what I was thinking was this: We’re still without a junior reporter, and right at the moment it doesn’t look like there’s going to be a new one aboard real soon. As long as we’re short there, it’s going to get in the way of my looking into this Gingrich. Now, with you having classes on Tuesday, if you were to get your homework out of the way over the weekend, it means I could at least have you in the office most of the day on Mondays to do some of the running I’ve been doing. Maybe you could throw some time at it on Wednesdays and Fridays, working on features or something. That’s all stuff you know how to do.”
“Yeah, sure,” Susan said. “But you were the one who said that my studies have to come first. I mean, I’m willing to pitch in when you’re in a pinch, I always have.”
“Both you and Henry,” Mike agreed. “And there have been times that it’s been a hell of a big help. Now, until we get a new junior reporter, I don’t know how many hours you can work, but even half time would be a huge help. Since we don’t have a junior reporter now, I could pay you out of that budget. It wouldn’t come to a huge amount of money, but it would help you stick back some money that will be useful when you go to college for real, whether it’s Weatherford or Germany or somewhere in between. And since it’d be a little more formal than it’s been in the past, it could serve as a line on a resumé.”
“Sure,” she replied. “I’m not going to turn down the money, and if it buys you some time to work on this deal with Gingrich, so much the better. Just don’t be expecting me to stay with it until you retire so I can take over for you.”
“It would be nice,” Mike grinned. “But I’m already aware that I’m not going to be able to keep you in Spearfish Lake much beyond this time next year and I’m sure you’d just as soon be gone sooner than that.”