Wes Boyd's
Spearfish Lake Tales
Contemporary Mainstream Books and Serials Online

Book Two of the New Tales of Spearfish Lake
Wes Boyd
Copyright ©2010, ©2012

Chapter 16

A little to Susan’s surprise, the Intro to Psychology class offered some new ideas and concepts that interested her, and it wasn’t anything she’d paid any attention to in the past. That meant, she thought as she drove home that evening, she would possibly learn something useful in the class, and maybe even be challenged a bit, which would be a little refreshing.

That line of thought only carried her so far on the hour’s drive home up the state road, so Susan spent much of the time thinking about Mizuki. The girl fascinated her in a number of different ways, but the thing that Susan came back to the most was that she was the only American Susan had met since her return from Germany who shared an intensely internationalist viewpoint. It was almost as if Mizuki had a foot, or at least a toe, in Japan much as Susan had in Germany, but both of them were aware that there was an interesting world beyond American shores, and in a way that even Oma Birgit would no longer quite fit. It seemed to Susan that all too many Americans she met were very insular, and just didn’t care that there was a whole world out there.

The two of them spoke foreign languages fluently, although apparently Susan was a little more fluent or at least comfortable in German than Mizuki was in Japanese. Moreover, they shared the experience of having spent a year in the school systems of those countries, and could compare and contrast the strengths and weaknesses from personal experience.

One of the things that really impressed Susan about Mizuki was that the Japanese-American girl not only already had a definite career chosen for herself, but at this early stage of her life she also seemed to have a plan mapped out on how to best achieve her goal. Susan envied that in a way, but at the same time wasn’t sure that she’d want to have her own future planned that well. She still held the goal of being a world traveler, someone comfortable in many parts of the world, and her way there paid for as well as paid to be there. From what she could see at this point, getting all that meant being flexible above all. But again, the contrasting viewpoints between her and Mizuki might hold some lessons. She looked forward to spending some more time with Mizuki, and in learning more about this fascinating girl.

Still, thinking about Mizuki made Susan wonder if maybe it wouldn’t be a bad idea to spend a little more time narrowing down what it was she was going to study. It was still a wide-open question in her mind, although journalism and media in general had slid down the list of possibilities a little in the last couple weeks, at least partly due to the observations Henry had made. There had to be something logical out there; it was just going to have to be a case of finding it. It was something that needed some thought and research – in fact, Susan supposed, maybe it was the most important thing that needed some thought.

It was after ten when Susan finally parked her car in the driveway and headed up to the house, carrying her books. Her discussion with Mizuki, while fascinating, had meant that she had gotten very little reading done, and the psychology class was probably going to take more study time than she had anticipated. She knew she was going to be doing some work for the Record-Herald at least part of the day on Friday, but then she had little planned for the weekend, so there would be plenty of time to hit the books.

Her father and mother were sitting in the living room watching TV when she came in. “So,” her mother said, “how was school?”

“Long,” Susan told her. “I’m not so sure that I really wouldn’t have rather had to drive down there for classes three days a week than have to put up with a day this long, but what’s done is done, I guess. I can survive it for a while, but I don’t think I want to make that mistake again.”

“It does add up to a long day,” her father said. “I sort of wondered if maybe you were biting off a little more than you could chew, but it’s only one day a week, after all.”

“Yeah, I suppose,” she replied. “So anything interesting happen around here today?”

“Well, yes,” her father said. “I had a call from Harold this evening. I’m not sure how it happened, but somehow Gingrich found out that the girl he thought he was going to have in school for an extra year dropped out, and is attending college.”

“And I’ll bet he wasn’t very happy about it,” Susan smiled.

“You could say that,” Mike grinned. “And, at least if I’m reading Harold right, you could say downright pissed. I take that to mean that Gingrich reamed Harold out pretty good, like saying that Harold was supposed to keep that from happening somehow, and Gingrich wanted Harold to, quote, ‘Put a stop to that shit right now,’ end quote.”

“As if that’s going to happen,” Susan smiled.

“I guess that’s what Harold told him, that you can do what you please since Riverside accepted your German graduation certificate. That apparently really set Gingrich off; he said he’s going to call down to Riverside in the morning. He’s going to see if he can put a stop to your going there by pointing out that you’re not an American high school graduate and that you’re attending college without the permission of your high school.”

“Oh, God,” Susan shook her head. “Does that mean that I’m going to get the short end of the stick from him after all?”

“I don’t think so, and what’s more, Harold doesn’t think so. Riverside doesn’t answer to the school district, and they don’t get direct state support, so they can damn well admit what students they please. We talked it over quite a bit, and the worst that can happen is the school district can cancel that part of your tuition they’re paying for, but you’re still on a dual enrollment program so that might be hard to do. Of course, I wouldn’t put breaking that rule past Gingrich since he’s broken a lot of others already.”

“I suppose,” Susan sighed. “I guess if we have to pay the whole thing, then we just pay it. In fact, it might even be better since Gingrich won’t have any hold on me.”

“That’s what I’m thinking,” Mike said. “Hell, you’re seventeen now, if you want to drop out there’s not much the school can say about it, no matter what Gingrich thinks. Granted, it puts Harold in a bit of a tight spot, but it’s not going to be the first time he’s been there with this joker. He said to tell you to just hang in there and not let this bother you.”

“Well, that’s good to know,” Susan shook her head. “But damn it, I thought I was leaving all that stuff behind me.”

“I look at it this way,” Mike smiled. “In a couple weeks this will all be settled, or Gingrich won’t be a problem, and with any kind of luck, both. We just are going to have to not let him buffalo us.”

“It sounds good,” Susan said. “But I still can’t help but wonder if college instead of high school isn’t going to go to hell on me before it gets started. Now I’m worried that I’m going to go down to Riverside on Tuesday and they’re going to tell me that I can’t go to school there anymore.”

“I really doubt that’s going to happen,” Mike said. “Like I said, the worst that can happen is they’re going to want the balance of the tuition the school was going to pay. I don’t think they’re going to kick you out. The system doesn’t work like that. You’ve paid your money, after all, now it’s up to them to deliver.”

It sounded good and Susan was pretty sure her father was right, but that didn’t mean she wasn’t gun-shy about it for the next few days. After the last go-round with Gingrich, she was feeling a little paranoid about him, and she felt like she had every reason to feel that way. While it supposedly was a long shot that he would be able to do anything about her attending Riverside, the chance was there and it worried her. It was mostly because it was too late to do anything else now if he was successful, at least before the start of the next semester and maybe not until she turned eighteen next summer. That would really mean a year wasted!

Well, maybe not entirely wasted, she thought. If Gingrich managed to get her thrown out of Riverside she could work full time at the Record-Herald for a year and save her money. Back in Germany, there had been some discussion with Hans and Elke and Lothar and Freya about doing a big bike trip next summer. They’d talked about doing a month or six weeks, possibly through the Netherlands and Belgium and northern France, the classic kind of trip where they bicycled the back roads and bike paths, staying in hostels and cheap hotels, and most likely end up in Paris. The whole plan had been rather general and frothy, with a lot of “ifs” and “maybes” and whether Susan could go would probably depend on where she was going to college. But it was something to think about, and if she wound up going to uni in Europe, was pretty much a sure thing.

Right at the moment, going to uni in Europe didn’t seem like such a bad idea. She wanted to do it anyway, although there were several issues that might get in the way, but at least Gingrich couldn’t bother her there! There wouldn’t be any way he could call up the registrar at Albburg and demand that she not be allowed to attend uni because she wasn’t an American high school graduate. She could damn well take her marbles and go to Germany, and there wouldn’t be a thing he could say about it.

There was a good chance that things wouldn’t go that far. If what Henry turned up down in Springfield came fairly close to what they’d dug up on the Internet, then Gingrich was likely going to be too busy to bother her very much anyway. Of course, if the story came out and the board didn’t take action against him, then he was going to be vindictive indeed, at which point going to Germany might be an even better idea.

All in all, it added up to a frustrating few days. She went to the Record-Herald on Friday, and spent at least a little more time tracking down some online leads, but there were other things for her to do, too, so she didn’t get as much time to work on the problem as she’d hoped. About all she could do was keep on with her work and her studies and hope that when she got down to Riverside on Tuesday that she wouldn’t be called in and told she was no longer welcome there.

On Saturday she realized that she had to do something to get her mind off of Gingrich, and she didn’t have many ideas. She especially didn’t want to talk to Megan about it since Megan could almost be depended on to run off at the mouth if Susan were to let any of her concerns – or worse, confidential information – slip. What was more, it would be nice if she could accomplish something useful. Along in the middle of the day she happened to remember mentioning to Mrs. Clark that she wanted to talk to Dr. Hartwell-Harris, if for no more reason than to help clarify her thinking about where to go to college if it was going to be in the states. Weatherford was a leading contender, of course, so maybe talking to her would be a good idea and a way to get her mind off of Gingrich.

Susan was a little leery of calling Dr. Hartwell-Harris – she didn’t know her well, having only talked to her that one time at the open house, but she finally decided to call, figuring that the worst that could be said was “no.”

“Why, it would be fine with me, Susan,” Dr. Hartwell-Harris told her after Susan asked if she could come over and talk to her about Weatherford. “I am doing nothing of import at the moment, and my husband is down at the studio. If you’d like to come over, I shall put on some tea. However, I seem to recall I asked you to call me by my given name, rather than by the honorific.”

“Uh, yeah, Myleigh,” Susan replied, testing the unfamiliar word. “It’s just that in Germany everything is much more formal than it is here, so I’m still having trouble getting used to it.”

Susan took the time to pull on some decent clothes – she’d been lying around the house in shorts and a T-shirt but that wouldn’t do for this visit – and drove over to Myleigh’s house on Lakeshore Drive. The house proved to be a small one, and Susan remembered it well – Cindy had lived there before she’d gotten out of high school, and Susan had been there a number of times for various things.

However, when Susan walked into the house it hardly seemed like the same place. The living room was surrounded by bookcases, mostly full of what looked to be old books, and in the middle of the living room sat a huge brass concert harp – about as far from the nondescript room she remembered as could be imagined. Her hostess was wearing a short black skirt and a colorful blouse, and somehow Susan couldn’t imagine that she’d thrown it on for the prospect of company coming.

“So,” Myleigh said as she invited Susan to take a chair in the living room, “what, may I ask, is upon your mind?”

“Would you believe it if I told you that I’m not very sure?” Susan said. “I’m facing two big questions right now, and I thought maybe someone who doesn’t know me very well might be able to suggest some alternative opinions or even answers to one or both of them. The one that’s really hanging on my mind right now is where to go to college next year. I think I told you that I have the option of going to uni in Germany, and there are a couple of reasons that choice could be very appealing. However, there are also some arguments in favor of going to college in this country, and if I do, where I’m going is the big question. It would be nice to go to some big, well-known school like State, but I’ll be on a budget that doesn’t cover all the costs, and I’d rather not get myself buried in student loans.”

“You are doubtless wise to avoid that,” Myleigh said. “I assure you that I was on an extremely tight budget as an undergraduate and an extensive collection of student loans proved to be a necessity, despite some good scholarships. Fortunately I’ve been able to pay them off, but that came as a result of my modest success as a recording artist. Had I not had that, I fear I would still be deeply in debt on them, as being a literature professor is not exactly the most remunerative of professions.”

“I suppose I could do it if I had to,” Susan shrugged. “But I really don’t want to. I think I told you my intention is to get a job that will allow me to travel and get paid for it. I think I’d be willing to accept a relatively low-paying job to be able to do it, but to hold a job like that and have to pay off a big student loan debt might be a little too much to handle. I’ll have some money from my folks to work with, but not a lot.”

“Then I would advise you to get working on scholarships without delay,” Myleigh told her. “In fact, you may have already closed the door on some of them. If Nicole is correct in what she told me, you’ve essentially dropped out of high school in order to attend Riverside for a semester or two. Am I understanding that correctly?”

“Pretty much. I’m still technically a student there, but with any kind of luck at all I won’t walk into the building again. I’ve been told that I’ve already passed the one class I have scheduled there this semester.”

“I fear to tell you that it’s going to complicate things,” Myleigh told her. “However, the situation is not impossible. When I was a senior in high school I was not particularly cognizant of the financial aspects of attending college, and then after I graduated from high school the authorities there were not of a mind to be particularly helpful to me. Fortunately, I had determined to attend a state college where I was able to get good scholarships and grants. Yes, I should have liked to have attended a school with a nationwide reputation, but that door was not open to me so I did not even consider it. I feel lucky that I ended up where I did, for I managed to make what I hope will be lifelong friends there, which include Randy and Nicole.”

“I thought Mrs. Clark – er, Nicole – went to Weatherford.”

“She did, but I met her through Randy,” Myleigh explained. “In fact, at one time I fancied that I might one day wed Randy, but it was not to be, for at the time I did not feel that I wanted to spend my life in Spearfish Lake. You may indeed assume correctly that I find it ironic that I ended up here anyway.”

“That must have made you feel pretty silly,” Susan grinned.

“Well, unforeseen events have a way of changing things,” Myleigh smiled. “In any case, you are doubtless correct that it can be of some assistance in your career to have a degree from a nationally known and respected school. If that cannot be managed, at least a known and respected school can be of considerable use, as well. That leads to a pointed question that I must bring up. You say that you are considering a school that’s well-known in Germany.”

“Yes,” Susan said. “I have a friend going to Albburg, and several friends who are considering going there next year if they can get in. It’s one of the oldest, best-known and best-respected unis in the country. I think that with my Abitur score I shouldn’t have any problem getting accepted there.”

“You may well be correct,” Myleigh shook her head. “But I have to admit to the fact that I never heard of it until you mentioned it, and while I have spent but little time on the continent I am not exactly unaware of the culture and the history. Dare I point out that no matter how well known and respected it may be to someone in Germany, there’s a good chance that it will mean nothing to an American who will make a hiring decision?”

“It’d show that I can handle myself in a foreign country,” Susan replied.

“Perhaps, but what is to keep that person from assuming that it is nothing more than a foreign diploma mill for American students who are too dumb or too lazy to get a real college degree?”

“Uh, yeah,” Susan replied, the reality of Myleigh’s statement hitting her. “I mean, unless I’m working for a German company or something, and there could well be immigration issues that I have no knowledge of. At least if I had a degree from State or something, well, people here would have heard of it.”

“Very true, and it is a factor that you should take into your consideration. I grant you that Weatherford, as an example, is not as well known as Michigan State, but at least we are a respected school, and anyone who takes the slightest amount of interest in investigating the institution will be aware of that fact.”

“I can see that,” Susan conceded, not wanting to mention Gingrich – but she remembered researching him a few days before, and although she’d never heard of the college he’d attended, there was no doubt that it was a respected, if small, private college. It might not exactly be Harvard, but then not a high percentage of college graduates had been to Harvard, and Susan was as sure as she could be that she would never be one of them. She wasn’t that rich, she wasn’t that smart, and most of all she didn’t have those kinds of connections. When looked at from that viewpoint, Michigan State started to look pretty good. She wasn’t real sure she would get accepted there, though, or if she would be able to cover the tuition without considerable help from scholarships. Those might be out of reach for her, especially as a dropout despite the good grades she hoped to get at Riverside. “So, do you think Weatherford would be a good move for me?”

“I really can’t say, at least at this point,” Myleigh said. “It would depend on what you wish to learn. In some areas I think the school as an institution is about as fine as can be found in the country. I don’t think our literature program, for example, is of the finest in the country, at least not yet, although we are working to improve it. However, if your intentions are more toward practical subjects, my own opinion is that we are weak and need to improve. Weatherford is mostly a rather conservative regional liberal arts school, with all of the good and all of the bad that entails. It is possible to get a fine education there, but in your case, I am not altogether sure that it would fill your needs.”

“That gets to the other question I have to work out the answer to,” Susan said. “You know that my ultimate goal is travel on someone else’s money, and I’m pretty firm about that. But I cannot for the life of me figure out what to study to help me reach that goal.”

“I fear to tell you an answer to that question is a little beyond my expertise,” Myleigh grinned. “I am, of course, a proponent of the liberal arts, because a good education in that curriculum can take you in many directions. However, in all too many cases those directions can converge toward working the drive-up window at a fast food establishment. Employers these days seem to demand specialization, and you have to guess right as to what specialties will be best for reaching your goals as you graduate. But let me do some thinking, and I shall ask some people who know more about it than I. Perhaps I shall be able to offer you a useful suggestion in a few days.”

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To be continued . . .

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