Spearfish Lake Tales
Contemporary Mainstream Books and Serials Online
Susan was tired when she finally got home. Although the sun was still high enough that she could have laid out on the porch to enjoy some of it, her bed felt much more welcoming. It had been an early start to the day and she needed the nap.
She didn’t get to sleep real long; her mother woke her up for supper a couple of hours later, and although Susan felt a little grumpy at having to get up, she at least rationalized that it was probably just as well. While she was going to have to get used to getting up earlier than normal because of the long drive down to Riverside, this day could have easily knocked her sleep schedule way out of kilter. At least now she had a chance to make it fit reality.
The topic of conversation around the dinner table mostly was of Susan’s experiences at the windmill, and how something that odd was going to go over around Spearfish Lake. People would find it strange, no doubt, but Mike was of the opinion that they’d get used to it in time.
Susan felt a little at loose ends after supper. There wasn’t much that really needed to be done, and the issues that had plagued the last few days seemed behind her now. For lack of anything better to do she sat down and put together a long e-mail in German to her German friends and exchange family. It mostly talked about her experiences at the windmill, but mentioned in passing that it looked as if she wouldn’t be going back to high school at all, but attending Riverside. She didn’t get into the reasons for the decision; it really wasn’t something they needed to know, at least not just yet. However, she did announce that she was giving some consideration to attending university in Germany the following year, although a final decision to do that was still far in the future.
She was tempted to spend a little time on the computer researching what would be involved in getting into university in Germany, but decided against it. They still had dial-up Internet service at home, and it was a sluggish dial-up connection at that, so doing almost anything was slow and frustrating. They had high-speed at the Record-Herald, very high speed at that, a legacy of the days when Marlin Computer had occupied the building before the paper moved in there, and her parent’s friend Mark had left all the pieces in place for a T-1 connection. As a result of that, other than the servers at the new Marlin Computer office, the Record-Herald had the fastest Internet connection in town, so in comparison that made surfing from home even more frustrating. Susan thought she’d have plenty of time to do the research she needed while working there, even if she had to go in during the evening to use it, so she figured she might as well do something else.
About the only thing she could think of was to call up Megan. She didn’t want her friend to think that she was being ignored, and after the discussion around the addressing table the day before the idea of going to the game the next night was still a reasonable one. If she was going to bring it up it had to be soon, but Susan decided that she’d still better not say that she was going to be going to college instead of high school.
She shut down the dial-up connection, but left the computer on in case she might think of something she needed it for later, and turned to the phone on her desk to dial the Szczerowski home. It wasn’t long before she had Megan on the line. “So,” Susan asked. “What’s been happening with you?”
“Not a lot,” Megan sighed. “I’m actually starting to look forward to being back in school. It’s been boring all summer, but it’s been really boring this week. I thought I’d hear from you before this. What have you been doing?”
“Mostly working down at the paper,” Susan told her. “There’s been some running around to do, too. It turns out that I’m going to be taking some classes down at Riverside, so that had to get set up.” There was no point, Susan decided, in telling her friend just how many classes she was going to be taking at the community college – that would come out soon enough, and there was no reason to get the gossip mills going any sooner than necessary.
“I thought about doing something like that,” Megan sighed. “But it seemed like an awful big drive down there, especially in the winter. Now I kind of wish I’d done it, but with school starting next week it’s probably too late.”
“I don’t know,” Susan told her. “I was under the impression that I was getting close to the limit, but everything seems to have worked out all right. It would have been nice to have someone to ride down and back with just to make the drives go quicker, but the odds are that our schedules wouldn’t match up anyway.”
“Yeah, probably not,” Megan said. “It’s going to be good to be back in school though and catch up on what’s been happening with everybody. I mean, there’s people I haven’t talked to all summer, and it’ll be good to find out what’s happening with them.”
“Yeah, and other than you I won’t have seen them for over a year,” Susan agreed. It was one of the downsides to going to Riverside, because it would have been nice to make contact with a few of those kids. On the other hand, there weren’t many people besides Megan who she considered to be close friends, and she hadn’t talked to any of them in over a year, so maybe she’d already made her break and ought to take advantage of it. Again, though, it wasn’t something she could say to Megan just yet, but it was going to come out in the next few days no matter what.
“I suppose,” Megan said. “There has to be a lot that’s happened that you don’t know about.”
“Probably,” Susan agreed. “There’s going to be some catching up done, and I probably never will get all of it. But I was thinking that maybe you and I could go to the game tomorrow night. That would give me a head start on catching up with some of them.”
“Susan!” Megan exclaimed. “You? At a football game? Are you sick or something?”
“Not really,” Susan said. “I’m just thinking I need a little taste of something American to get me back in the mood. I mean, since I’m back here and all.”
“Well, sure,” Megan said. “I mean, sorta sure. Jimmy is back, and I’m planning on going along with him, but I don’t think he’d mind if you rode along, to the game, anyway. Maybe we could drop you off afterwards, and, uh, well after that . . . ”
“I get the picture,” Susan smiled, wondering if Megan’s parents were in a position to overhear her. “Gonna give it another try, huh?”
“Well, yeah. Well, maybe not then. I’ll have to see how it goes. Jimmy and I went down to the Frostee Freeze last night and hung out for a while, and it was good to be with him, but we’re still getting back together after he’s been gone all summer, if you know what I mean.”
“I don’t have to go if you think I’ll get in the way,” Susan replied, at least a little glad to know that Megan was still interested in him. It might have been fun to do something a little more personal with Megan than had happened on Sunday, but there were good reasons not to, as well. That was especially true if Megan was still going to be in high school for the rest of the year. If it didn’t happen, it didn’t happen, and no big deal; it was, as she’d told Megan on Sunday, just all in fun. “And for that matter,” she added. “You might want to call him up and ask if it’s all right if I tag along.”
“Sure, I can do that. I don’t think he’ll mind, but you’re right, it probably would be a good idea to ask. Why don’t I give him a call now and call you back in a few minutes?”
“Sounds good to me.”
Susan hung up the phone and wondered what she could do until Megan called back. There was no telling how long it would be. Her eye fell on the copy of The Da Vinci Code in German that she’d been reading on the plane; it had barely held her interest, but maybe it would serve to kill a little time since she hadn’t come close to finishing it. She’d just settled in on her bed and found the bookmark when the phone rang; it proved to be Megan. That was quick, she thought.
“I talked to Jimmy,” Megan reported. “He said it would be fine if you went with us and we dropped you off right after the game. We, uh, we have something we want to do afterward.”
“Just as a hint,” Susan said, “if you go on up the road a couple miles past our place, the road comes to a dead end at a bridge that’s been out forever. I get the impression that it’s not used for parking very much, so you might not be disturbed there.”
“That’s good to know,” Megan laughed. “The last time Jimmy and I went somewhere, it was like a drive-through at McDonald’s or something. Maybe that was part of the reason we never got very far. I’m up in my room now so I can talk a little more freely. I was downstairs before and my parents could hear what I was saying, so I didn’t want to say too much.”
“I sort of wondered,” Susan grinned. “So I take it you’re going to try again?”
“I think so. I’m still, well, not crazy about the idea, but like you said, it’s all in fun. After Sunday, I’ve been thinking that I ought to at least give it a fair try even if we don’t get all the way. I mean, after that girl at camp last summer, and then you, well, I don’t know what to think.”
“Hey, I still like guys. In fact, I like them better than girls, at least as long as they’re the right guy. Girls can be fun for a change, but there’s something about a guy that girls just don’t have.”
“Yeah, right,” Megan laughed. “And I know just what you’re talking about. The hell of it is that’s the thing that I’m still a little scared of. It seems, well, just so strange.”
“When you stop and think about it, it really isn’t,” Susan replied, enjoying talking around the subject. Maybe all her worry about Megan getting hung up on her was just that: worry without anything behind it. If Megan could get some of her concerns sorted out, there might still be some chance for fun, but on Sunday it seemed like she just didn’t have the mindset to use it just for fun. “I mean, it’s been done that way for millions of years.”
“Yeah, but still,” Megan sighed. “I just don’t know that I’ll ever be able to look at it the same way you do.”
“So you don’t, big deal. Jimmy is a nice guy, you and I have both known him forever, and I’m sure you can have some fun with him. I’ll admit, he isn’t the kind of guy who’d make me want to stay around Spearfish Lake, but I don’t think that kind of guy exists here, anyway. I’ve got other fish to fry, and you know it. I mean, I knew some nice guys in Germany, but while they were pretty cool and a lot of fun, there wasn’t anyone there who could turn me into a typical hausfrau. I don’t think I’m cut out to be one, anyway.”
“Hausfrau? You’ve always slipped in German words that I don’t know, and I don’t know that one.”
“Housewife,” Susan sighed. “You know, with a house full of house apes running around, and only interested in kinder, kirke, und küche. That means kids, church, and kitchen. I can’t see it happening to me, here or anywhere else.”
“I know you’ve been places I’ve never been, and want to go places that I’ll never go, much less want to go,” Megan replied reflectively. “But I can hardly wait until, oh, our twenty-year class reunion and see just how well that holds up.”
If I ever go to a class reunion, Susan carefully did not say. After all, unless something really weird happens I’m not going to be part of the graduating class, and for practical purposes I’ve been gone for a year, anyway. And, on top of that I have no real desire to see most of those kids again anyway, except for a few like Megan. She’ll be someone I can keep track of pretty easily, no matter where in the world I happen to be. It’ll be interesting to see if she finally winds up liking guys or girls better, and if it’s the latter she’s probably not going to show up around a class reunion in twenty years, either.
At one time, the football season in Spearfish Lake didn’t start until after school started, but the state athletic association realigned their playoffs in order to include more schools – not that the Spearfish Lake Marlins had been involved in many years. That meant that the season had to be pushed forward far enough that it started before school got under way. This early in the season it meant that the first half of the game would be played while the sun was still up, although the sun was setting noticeably earlier every day. By the time the season was half over with the games would be played completely under the lights.
It was well before game time when Jimmy and Megan picked Susan up and headed back into town for the game. He was driving a full-sized four-wheel-drive pickup that was jacked up high in the air on huge tires, a truck that Susan hadn’t seen him with before. But then, she hadn’t seen Jimmy in over a year, either. The big off-road-type truck was popular with students at Spearfish Lake, especially the guys – it was almost a status symbol, and it said something about Jimmy that he’d come up with one, albeit an older one. Susan knew that a lot of guys liked the big trucks like this since there was more room in the front seat than there was in the back seat of any car. What was more, the bench seat was more convenient for driving down the road with a girl snuggled up by their side.
Jimmy hadn’t really struck Susan as being the kind of guy who was affected by that kind of status symbol, but, once again, she hadn’t seen him in a year and that could have changed, too. She knew Jimmy a little better than some of the other guys in the class, and considered him a friend if not a close one. She was at least a little familiar with him since he worked out at her sister Tiffany’s dog barn, helping to feed and take care of the stable of dogsled racing dogs. That was a chore that Susan had been pressed into doing from time to time in the past, and one that she didn’t care for. Things got busy in the winter with training the dogs and getting some miles on them in preparation for racing; she’d been pressed into that chore in the past, too, and also didn’t particularly enjoy it. That had been one of the good things about Germany – she’d been thousands of miles from her sister’s dog teams, although it wasn’t something she dared to say out loud.
Even with the three of them on the seat of the pickup, there was plenty of room, especially since Megan was pressed up against Jimmy like there was some kind of a static charge that kept her clinging to him all the way to the game. They were there early enough that there was plenty of room for parking, not that Susan expected there wouldn’t be – Anissa had complained that people didn’t show up for the games the way they once did. That was understandable, Susan thought; a win for the Marlins was a rare occurrence, and most people wouldn’t want to see the team getting repeatedly obliterated.
And, as expected, the stands were only about half full and not filling very fast, even though it was getting close to game time. “You two get a seat if you want,” Susan told Megan and Jimmy. “I think I’ll roam around for a while and see if there’s anyone I want to talk to. I’ll come back and join you about the time the game gets under way.”
As it turned out there weren’t very many people there she wanted to see, and some she particularly didn’t. For example, she saw Bobby Lufkin there, hanging out with some loudmouthed and obnoxious friends. One of the few pieces of information about Spearfish Lake High School that had made it across the Atlantic to Germany in the last year was that Bobby had been kicked out of school, mostly for excessive bullying. Susan thought sarcastically that if he’d been on the football team he might have gotten away with it, but in any case she wouldn’t have to be in school with him any longer. She gave him and his friends a wide berth, and went on looking for other people she wanted to say hello to.
One of the few people that she was glad to see was Mr. Hekkinan. She’d seen him earlier in the day, when she went to at least officially register for classes, most of which she had no intention of taking and intended to drop on Monday morning. It had seemed like a waste of effort but if she wanted to keep up the façade of actually attending Spearfish Lake High School for another few days it had to be done. “I’m a little surprised to see you here at the game, Susan,” he commented with a grin. “I’m sure I ought to remind you that the ball is brown and oblong.”
“Come on, I didn’t go to football games in Germany, either,” she replied. “But I had any number of Germans try to convince me that a football is round and white with dark spots. I think if it came down to a worldwide vote, that would win.”
“You’re probably right, but it’s not the same thing,” he said. “I’m looking forward to seeing you in school on Monday.”
Probably less of me than you think, she thought without saying anything. Although he knew she was taking some classes at Riverside, he didn’t know how many – or how few she planned on taking at Spearfish Lake.
She wandered around the stands and the concession area, trying to be friendly, and saying pretty much the same general thing about how much she had liked Germany over and over, but otherwise not feeling like she was accomplishing anything. Of course, she had to say, “See you Monday,” to several people without meaning it, but at least there was the chance of it happening. She sure didn’t plan on seeing many of them on Tuesday!
Finally, it got to be game time, and she headed back to where Megan and Jimmy were snuggling in the stands. “Find anybody you wanted to see?” Megan asked.
“A few, more or less,” Susan replied. “I was surprised to see Bobby Lufkin here. I thought he’d be in jail.”
“Good question why he isn’t,” Jimmy said. “He’s probably making an appearance so he can set up a few sales for later.”
“From what I hear, he’s the leading marijuana dealer in town,” Jimmy explained. “A few other things, too. He probably won’t have anything with him, but he’ll probably be selling plenty of it somewhere afterward. I figure the cops have to catch him at it sooner or later.”
Someone else she was going to be glad to leave behind in Spearfish Lake, she thought, although there was always somebody dealing everywhere; there had been in Regensburg, and she’d given it a try when someone had been passing a joint around at a party one evening. It had been OK, but she’d decided she would be just as happy to stick with beer.
Soon the game got under way. The talk in the stands was that there was a good chance that the Marlins could win this one, since Warsaw was a considerably smaller school and they reportedly weren’t real good this year, anyway. It would have been hard to tell in the first quarter or so, which went scoreless. In the second quarter, the Marlins managed to put together a promising drive, but it looked like it was going to go for nothing when the quarterback was sacked and had to be helped off the field.
But things turned around when the backup quarterback came on the field. He was only a sophomore, and Susan didn’t recognize the name, but he demonstrated that he was there to play with a long pass on the next down. By some miracle, the receiver managed to pick it off, and had an easy run in for the score. The stands went ecstatic; it was the first time in five games that the Marlins had put points on the scoreboard.
Warsaw managed to score in the third quarter to tie the game, but the Spearfish Lake quarterback just wasn’t able to get the ball moving on the ground, so took to the air again. Three passes connected, the last for a score, which gave the Marlins a lead that held for the rest of the game.
It sounded dramatic and everyone was happy about the win, but even a total football non-fan like Susan could tell that it had been an ugly game. There were lots of fumbles and errors on both sides, but at least it could be said that somehow Spearfish Lake had made slightly fewer of them. For what it was worth, though, at least Susan could say that her first and last Spearfish Lake football game had been a win for the home team, so there was the possibility of a pleasant memory for the future.
Everyone was pretty happy on the way out of the stadium, and Susan talked superficially with a few more people, but for the most part she was happy to be heading home and have that part of her life over with, too. Megan and Jimmy dropped her off at her house, and Susan noticed that when they left the driveway they turned up the road toward the dead end, rather than back to town.
Good luck, Megan, she thought. Hope it works better for you this time, and that you have a better night than I did. At least you stand a chance of getting on the scoreboard, which I sure won’t tonight.