Spearfish Lake Tales
Contemporary Mainstream Books and Serials Online
One of the time consuming chores that a junior reporter at the Record-Herald had to deal with on Monday mornings was to take a trip around to the sheriff’s department and jail, the police department and the courthouse to collect all the records from the previous week. The police and sheriff’s reports were among the more carefully read items in the paper, mostly because people wanted to see if any of their neighbors or relatives had gotten into trouble with the law, had filed a marriage license application, or things like that. If what had happened was major enough, it might turn into a separate story, but things like a routine bar fight or domestic disturbance mostly just rated a brief paragraph in the paper, and sometimes not even that.
It was nothing Susan hadn’t done before – in fact, she’d done it as early as the seventh grade, and it had worked out all right so long as she’d taken careful notes, which she always did. At least, no one had ever complained that she’d gotten anything wrong, which was more than could be said for some of the junior reporters who had gone through the paper, which she found included Lindeman.
Because she had to be at the high school for the opening of classes, Susan got started on the chore a little earlier than a junior reporter normally would have done. She found nothing terribly out of the ordinary, except for three drunken driving arrests on Friday night. The timing was such that they might have been from football fans celebrating the win, but not necessarily, and she’d learned a long time before to just report the arrest and not speculate on the reason. She was a little disappointed to see that Bobby Lufkin didn’t appear in any of the arrest records, enough so that she commented about it to Corporal Charlie Wexler, the city patrolman on duty.
“Knowing something and proving it are two different things,” he smiled. “You know that. In a town this small it’s hard to set him up with someone he doesn’t know. We’ll get him sooner or later.”
“Well, good luck,” she said, pointedly not volunteering her services. Keeping as much of a distance as she could from Bobby Lufkin was one thing she was anxious to accomplish.
She had to break off her rounds before she made it to the courthouse, where there were a number of things like marriage licenses and the court docket that needed to be checked; it would have to be done later since she had to head over to the school. Where some junior reporters dressed about like they would have as high school students, which is to say slobs, she was nicely dressed, with the black pencil skirt she’d worn to Riverside the previous week and a nice blouse. It was a little out of place for the school but today it wouldn’t matter.
Things were the predictable confusion at the school. She parked the Cavalier in the student parking lot, went inside, and headed for Mr. Delahayne’s room, where her first class was scheduled. Along the way, she got a few comments about how nicely she was dressed, and stopped to exchange words with a few people she hadn’t seen at the football game. She arrived at the classroom just in time to not be late for the Spanish I class.
It was good to see Mr. Delahayne again. He had been one of her favorite teachers as a freshman and sophomore when she’d taken French I and II from him – the basis for her knowledge of French, and one of the few things she could say that she’d actually learned at Spearfish Lake High School. She’d learned since that his pronunciation wasn’t all that good – her teacher in Regensburg had complained that she had a horrible American accent, and had done what he could to flush it out of her, but even now no Frenchman would mistake her for being French.
It could have been worse. Her Spanish teacher at Regensburg, Herr Fretillo, who spoke beautiful Castilian, had complained that somehow she managed both an American and a Mexican accent at the same time. This was, not surprising since she’d learned most of her early Spanish from Arturo Martinez and his family, who had run a Mexican restaurant in Spearfish Lake for several years. She’d been friends with all of them until they finally decided that a Mexican restaurant really wasn’t going to fly in the town and moved away. The empty building had been for sale when Susan had left for Germany, and she’d noticed since her return from Germany that at least it had been sold while she’d been gone. At least that much had worked for them; she missed Arturo and hoped to see him again sometime although she had no idea where he was, but hoped things were working out for him and his family.
The class was mostly freshmen and sophomores, with a small scattering of juniors and seniors; Susan recognized a few of the latter and none of the former. Mr. Delahayne made a brief introduction to the class, telling them that this was the first year that Spanish was being taught at Spearfish Lake since the state was going to eventually require that it be taught to all students in the state system. Once he was done with that he turned to Susan and said in Spanish, “I’m surprised to see you here, of all people.”
“I have to take something,” Susan replied in Spanish. “I’m just hoping you don’t mess up the Castilian accent I’ve been working on for the last year.”
“You seem to have picked up quite a bit of it,” he said, still in Spanish, of course. They were talking over the heads of most of the students, the majority of which, she was sure, barely spoke ten words of it and possibly less. “Your Spanish was better than mine even before you went to Germany. There’s not a chance you’re going to learn anything useful here, and it might be best to not run the risk of picking up my accent. About all you’re going to be able to accomplish here is helping me drill the rest of this group. As far as I’m concerned, you already have an A for the semester.”
“Tell you what,” she smiled. “Just write that in your grade book and I’ll get out of your hair. That way I can’t correct you when you pronounce something in Tex-Mex instead of Castilian.”
“Sounds like a good idea,” he shook his head. “I’d rather some people around this place didn’t know how little Spanish I really speak, and that way you can’t embarrass me. Drop in sometime if you haven’t got anything better to do. I’ve missed you, Susan.”
“Mr. Delahayne, you’ve got a deal,” she laughed. “I’ve got other things I need to do anyway, like get back to work.”
“Enjoy yourself,” Mr. Delahayne said in Spanish, then turned to the class and said in English, “That was a demonstration that you can learn Spanish while living in Spearfish Lake. It takes some work to learn to speak it that well, but it can be done, so let’s get started.”
As he was saying that, Susan got up to leave. “Nice catch,” she teased to Mr. Delahayne in Spanish from the doorway. “I’ll see you around.”
“See you around, too,” he replied, in English this time. “Nice to see you again Susan, and don’t be a stranger.”
That went better than she had expected, she thought as she walked down the hallway. She had thought that Mr. Delahayne would be pretty flexible. With her college schedule she was going to have to miss his class two days a week. She really wouldn’t have minded helping him with drilling some of the students, though it would have been a pain in the neck. As she had said, she had other things to do.
It was still pretty busy around the school office, and there was a line at the window in front of Mrs. Foxbender’s desk. Susan got in line and patiently waited her turn; it was a several minutes before she got to talk to the secretary. “I need to see Mr. Hekkinan,” Susan told her.
“He’s pretty busy,” Mrs. Foxbender said. “It may take a while. Aren’t you supposed to be in class?”
“That’s what I need to talk to him about,” Susan told her. “It shouldn’t take long.”
“I’ll try to squeeze you in,” Mrs. Foxbender said. “It may take a few minutes.”
It was a good twenty minutes before Susan got in to see Mr. Hekkinan. “Good to see you,” he said as she walked in the door. “But after the last few days I’ve come to expect that seeing you means more trouble for me.”
“It probably does this time too,” she said. “But it might be a fun kind of trouble.” She handed him a stack of papers that she had been carrying and said, “These are my drop slips for every class I’ve got scheduled, except for Spanish I.”
“Spanish I?” he shook his head. “Like I said Friday, if there’s any class you don’t need to take, it’s Spanish I.”
“Mr. Delahayne agrees with you,” she smiled. “He just passed me for the whole semester, so you won’t be seeing me around here for a while. It’s just as well, since I’m registered full time at Riverside.”
“Full time?” he shook his head. “I thought you had to be a high school graduate to manage that.”
“I am,” she grinned. “I’m a graduate of the Johannes-Staudinger Gymnasium in Regensburg, and they accepted that at Riverside. I learned something finding that out. I’m probably not even going to mention Spearfish Lake High School on any other applications or resumés I have to fill out. There’s no point in confusing people unnecessarily.”
“I should have known you had something up your sleeve,” he shook his head again. “Why didn’t you drop the Spanish I class, too?”
“Leaving my options open,” she said. “And it leaves options open for you, too. I can still technically be a student here if you need that fact in your hassles with Mr. Gingrich, and that includes the school picking up part of my tuition for the semester. Or, if it would work out better for you, I can be a dropout before the fourth Friday count comes around. Not only would it cost him the $13,400 he thought he was going to get by screwing me over just to prove something, but you can point out that his policies forced the likely valedictorian to drop out rather than put up with them.”
“Does your father know this?”
“Most of it,” she admitted. She hadn’t planned the way things had turned out with Mr. Delahayne, but that just happened, not that she was complaining. “Maybe not a couple of the implications, but they signed off on my going down there full time.”
“Well, that’s one way,” he sighed. “Maybe not the best way, but it’s one way. I really wish you were staying here, Susan, because I think you have a lot to offer the rest of the student body, but after the deal that got pulled on you I can’t blame you for leaving, either. I’m sorry about that, and I’m sorry I didn’t think about your German diploma when this first came up. It might have saved a little heartache all around.”
“Macht nichts,” she shrugged. “It doesn’t matter,” she explained in English. “I have to say that I don’t think I would have gotten much out of my last year here, anyway. I was really dreading to have to take some of those useless classes just to fill out a schedule. It would have been nice to be able to graduate with my friends and the kids I went to school with, but a lot of this year would have been wasted anyway.”
“You’re probably right,” he shrugged. “Well, good luck down at Riverside, and keep in touch.”
“Oh, we’re still friends,” she smiled. “And with that, I’d better get out of here. I’ve got to get back to work, and I’ve got real classes tomorrow.”
A couple minutes later she was out the door, heading for the Cavalier in the student parking lot. Spearfish Lake High School was now most likely totally in her past, and with luck she’d never set foot in the building again, or at least she hoped not.
The first day of college can be a traumatizing experience for many students. There is the new place, new classes, new people, and new doubts. It even bothered Susan a little, although not very much – she’d gone through much the same experience the year before, and in German at that. This ought to be a walk in the park, she thought, as she drove the Cavalier down the state road to the Riverside Community College campus early the next morning.
It would have been better, she thought, if she had been able to have a little more time to work on the whole college issue. Riverside had come up strictly as an afterthought, and close to the last minute. If she’d had a little time to work on the issue, say, a month or two, it seemed likely that she most likely would have been going somewhere else – possibly Weatherford, possibly a state school like Northern Michigan University. A lot of kids from Spearfish Lake seemed to wind up going to Northern; Mr. Clark had told her out on Windmill Island the previous week that he’d gone there and done pretty well with it. Probably not State where her father had gone – that was a bigger school, and reportedly a little harder to get into, but there was no way of telling. But, macht nichts – Riverside would do fine for a year, although probably not for a second one, but then she’d be going somewhere else. Where that somewhere would be was up in the air, of course, but she had time to work on that one – at least it was an issue that wouldn’t have to be settled in a dead rush.
The rest of the previous day had gone pretty well; she’d headed back downtown to the courthouse, made the calls and took the notes that she had to make, then went over to the Record-Herald to write up the various reports. With everything else, including the brief stop at the school, it took her until after noon to wrap that up, still less than it would have taken the average junior reporter. There was still plenty to do the rest of the day, and it kept her busy. That helped keep down most of the melancholy feeling over the way things had ended at Spearfish Lake High School.
But that was yesterday, looking back, and this was a new day. It had been with a degree of pride that she’d put the Riverside Community College student parking sticker on the Cavalier – she hadn’t done it the day before since she didn’t want someone commenting about it around the high school. It was a special thrill to park in the student parking lot there – she was a college student now, while her former classmates were still messing around with high school.
Her first class of the day was European History 101 – a basic-level class, and mostly intended for students who would transfer elsewhere, much like the English 101e she would be taking after it. At least in the beginning, the course went easily. The instructor was a man in his sixties, and from what little he said he was retired from doing something else, but at least he seemed to know what he was talking about. The lecture started with Ancient Greece, it was a lot of ground to cover in a single course so of necessity it tended to be pretty superficial, and a lot of it hinged around Athens and Sparta. Susan took good notes on the lecture, of course – it was a habit that she’d picked up from her parents and her reporting.
Up until this point, she’d had little idea of how complicated or detailed the course might be, but she figured that it ought to be pretty easy after taking a similar course at Regensburg. Her first look at the syllabus mostly confirmed her reckoning – this would be going over very familiar ground, although it only went up through the Reformation. Apparently, the later period would be the subject of the 102-level class in the spring. Either way, she didn’t mind; she’d read a lot about the period in the past, although admittedly the later part of the medieval period, especially in Germany, drew most of her interest.
As she glanced around the classroom, it struck her that she was one of the better-dressed students in the class if not the best-dressed one. Without having talked to any of the students more than slightly, she got the impression that most of them were taking the class because it was a transfer requirement, much like she was, but that most of them didn’t care about it very much, either. Still, she resolved that she was going to bear down hard on this class, and on every class; good grades might be important in getting into whatever school she decided to transfer into.
The class ran an hour and a half, with the instructor asking for questions at the end. There were some, and a few of them were even intelligent, but it seemed to Susan that at least some of the questions she heard indicated that the students hadn’t been paying much attention to the instructor.
Finally the class broke up. It was half an hour until her next class; she didn’t think there was time to go over to the snack bar to get something, especially with her next class in the same building and not far away. With nothing better to do, she just went up the hall to the classroom, which proved to be empty, and took a seat in the middle of the room. She pulled out her European History text, and decided to do some reading while she had some time to kill.
She barely had the book open when a girl came into the room, also carrying books and a notebook. She seemed vaguely familiar, and Susan realized that she had been in the European history class as well. “Got some time to kill too?” the girl said.
“Might as well do it usefully,” Susan said.
“I’m a little worried about that class,” the girl said. “I’m not real big on history, and so much happened. It seems like he made a low pass through it.”
“He about had to, with as much ground as there is to cover,” Susan replied. “Fortunately I’m pretty familiar with the whole subject and had a good class on it last year, so it doesn’t look very difficult to me.”
“You must have gone to a pretty good high school,” the girl said, taking a seat close to her. “I went to Rochester High, and they barely touched on the fact that Europe exists, let alone that it has a history. Where’d you graduate from?”
Well, here went any hope of being an anonymous student around this place, Susan thought, but it would be nice to stand out a little, too. Although it was already clear that this place wouldn’t have the social structure that she remembered in Spearfish Lake, with all the little cliques that went with it, there was still bound to be some of that kind of thing since the kids starting here would be used to it.
“The Johannes-Staudinger Gymnasium in Regensburg, Germany,” Susan grinned. “I guess that means that they put a little more emphasis on European History than an American school would.”
“Wow!” the girl said. “Are you German? If you are, you sure speak English pretty good.”
“No, I’m an American,” Susan smiled. “I’m actually from Spearfish Lake.”
“Wow, and you went to school in Germany,” the girl replied, dazzled by the thought. “Did you have to like speak German and all?”
“I speak German like a native,” Susan told her. “I was brought up with it, and I speak it well enough that people there can’t tell I’m an American.”
“That’s pretty cool,” the girl gushed. “I can’t imagine doing something like that. I had a couple years of Spanish in high school, but I’m afraid I didn’t learn very much.”
“I speak Spanish as well,” Susan said in Spanish. “An educated person in Europe is more or less expected to know several languages.”
“I, uh, oh hell, I can’t even do that in Spanish,” the girl said in English. “I guess I didn’t learn very much, and I only managed to barely pass the class. So you know three languages?”
“Quatre actuellement, Je parle Française aussi.” She took a little pity on the girl and switched to English to explain, “I also speak French. I thought about taking Russian while I was in Europe, but figured it was better to brush up on the ones I already knew.”
“Wow, you must like be pretty smart.”
“Not really,” Susan protested, although suspecting that she had to be at least a little brighter than this girl. It seemed to her that she’d barely made it out of high school, from what little she’d said – unless, of course, she had something that Susan hadn’t seen yet. “I just have a talent for languages, the way some people have a talent for music or something. I have a pretty dead ear, can’t play a note, and really don’t care much for music unless it’s to drown out some noise that’s even more annoying.”
“You know, in a way that’s kind of a relief. I’m never going to be a professional musician but I play several instruments. Some friends and I have a little band, we’ve played a few gigs, and I do a mean lead guitar. I want to get into a nursing program, I’m pretty good in sciences, but it’s going to cost me less to go here for a couple years. Is that sort of what you have in mind?”
“Pretty much, although I’m not sure what I want to go into yet,” Susan told her. “Possibly video production, but I haven’t settled on it yet, by any means.”
That was the start of a pretty good discussion that lasted up until the next class started. The girl’s name proved to be Bianca Harriman, and like Susan this was her first day of college, although she was a year older, something that Susan decided she wouldn’t mention just yet. It struck Susan that Bianca really was pretty marginal as a college student, but that she might make a fine nurse. Bianca was more of a Realschule-type person than a Gymnasium-type, but then, Susan would have been surprised to find many of the latter around this place anyway, except maybe for some kids trying to save money on their college careers. That didn’t keep Bianca from being a pretty nice person, and before students started filing in for the next class Susan decided that Bianca would do just fine for a campus friend.
The rest of the day went pretty well. She and Bianca had lunch in the snack bar, and got to talking to several other kids who had been in the two classes; Susan tried to keep it to herself, but Bianca just had to say that Susan had gone to school in Germany, and spoke four languages. That was something Susan would just as soon not have rubbed in other people’s faces, but on the other hand, maybe it was nice to have somewhat of a good reputation right from the beginning.