Spearfish Lake Tales
Contemporary Mainstream Books and Serials Online
Susan and Myleigh covered a lot of ground that afternoon, and much of it had little to do with college. The woman was even more impressive to Susan the longer she talked to her – it seemed that she was very intelligent indeed and had a huge range of interests. Susan thought she was smart – hell, she was smart, at least in comparison to most people, but with the exception of her talent with languages, there was no way she could ever hope to be compared to the bright little woman. The afternoon soon got away from them, and Susan was pleased to be invited to drop back over at some future date. She knew she would – what a fascinating woman!
But as Susan drove home late that afternoon, she also knew that Myleigh had thrown a new factor into the discussion of where to go to college: the question of attending a foreign college, Albburg or anywhere else. She’d had a good point, and while it didn’t exactly kill the idea it made the wisdom of it a little more questionable. Susan felt the importance of the need for Americans to realize that they were part of an international world, not just an insular one. No matter how important that seemed, it also seemed pretty clear that her career was going to have to more or less consist of working for an American company that did business overseas, much like Mizuki had planned. Having a degree from a foreign uni might help get an American job, or it might not, and the more she thought about it, the more she thought the latter might be the case more often than she desired.
It would be nice to go to uni with Hans and the rest of her German friends; they shared a good deal that was special, and there was the hope that it could be continued. But it might not be the wisest thing to do in the long run, unless she more or less intended to live in Germany, which she wasn’t sure she wanted to do. Although she spoke the language and liked the country, there were other places to see, too. Though Mizuki hadn’t cared for the school experience in Japan, she still liked the country in much the way Susan liked Germany. It sounded fascinating, and it appeared to be a place she’d like to visit and get to know. It would be better if she could speak Japanese, and Susan thought in the back of her head that maybe she could pick up a little bit of it from her new friend.
Anyway, Myleigh had a point, and it was a checkmark, a pretty big one, on the “American college” side of the scoreboard. It was something to think about, and Susan resolved that she’d spend a little more time examining her options – and maybe something would turn up that would give her a better idea of just what it was that she needed to study.
At least the time spent with Myleigh had given Susan something else to think about besides worrying over whether Gingrich had managed to shut her out of Riverside. As her father had said, there was little chance that he could do anything, but it didn’t keep her from worrying about it.
Monday was much like the week before, except that she didn’t have to waste most of an hour at the high school. Once again she was making the rounds of various city and county offices, reporter’s notebook in hand, keeping a finger on the pulse of Spearfish Lake. The pulse had been relatively quiet, at least partly because the football team had played Coldwater the previous Friday, and had their heads handed to them. That toned things down on Friday night after the somewhat exhilarating win from the week before. Spearfish Lake usually opened the season against Coldwater and would again next year; perhaps that would mean the season wouldn’t get off to quite as promising a start, not that Susan cared much.
It was midmorning when she got back to the Record-Herald and started doing the reports from her notes. It was getting close to noon before she had the worst of them done, although there were still a few easier ones to do. She was just starting to think about lunch when her father called her into his office; her mother was already there. “Shut the door, Susan,” he said when she walked in. “We’ve got to talk.”
Susan felt her heart fall. “Don’t tell me that Gingrich got to the administration at Riverside,” she said glumly.
“If he has, I don’t know about it,” her father said reassuringly. “But I just got off the phone with Henry. To make a long story short, he didn’t get all that he hoped he could get by now. His work got in the way, and he had trouble catching up with a few people over the weekend.”
“So, we’re not going to run the story?” she said, in about the same tone.
“Oh, we’re going to run it,” Mike said. “Except that I think it would be wise to not run it just yet. Henry says that what we have is rock solid, but there’s more there. My feeling is that we need to do more than just hit Gingrich with a brick; we need to drop the whole shithouse on him. So, just from the way things work, we’re at a decision point. That is, to go with what we have, or sit it out another week and most likely have more and better information, maybe on some areas we’re not too clear about. I still want to know more about this allegation that resulted in an out-of-court settlement, as we still have no idea what that’s all about.”
“Does Henry think he has a chance of finding out?”
“He’s not sure. He thinks that he may be able to get something off the record, and he may be able to weasel something out on the record. It’s hard to say, and it’s not made any easier for him in that he has to do most of this stuff on his own time. That means he’s not getting the time to work on it that he wants.”
“So that means we don’t have everything we’d like to run a good story.”
“We’ll probably never get everything on this we’d like to have,” her father pointed out. “We just have to be sure that we have enough to do the job. Remember, we have two different things here: Gingrich, and who screwed up or whatever in hiring him. I’m thinking the bigger a ruckus we can make over Gingrich getting hired, the better the chances that someone will let something slip that they shouldn’t, and that gives us an angle on the other part of the story.”
“So you’re saying that you think we ought to sit on it for a week,” Susan shook her head. “In a way I hate to do it, but I can’t help but think it’s the right thing to do, just so long as we eventually do it for sure.”
“Oh, we’ll do it,” her father promised. “It’s just that we need to do it right. Next week will actually work better in a couple ways. It’ll be closer to the school board meeting, so when there’s some kind of an uproar there’ll be less time for it to die down. That increases the chances of someone on the school board reversing their position and booting the guy.”
“I’m just a little concerned about that,” Kirsten said. “They may not like the guy but they may feel they have to keep him and keep a close eye on him. If he’s got a contract, they may have to pay him for the full term of it even if they boot him early.”
“You know,” Mike shook his head, “that might even be the angle he’s trying to play. Take the money and run, either to pay a lawyer or make restitution at Byzantium. Or just run. That may be the fly in the ointment, but if it is we may still find out who screwed up in the first place.”
“It’s not as good as getting him booted out of here on his butt,” Susan said flatly. “There are too many chances for him to screw something up in the what, three years he’d have to work out his contract?”
“Probably something like that, they usually work in three-year segments,” Mike agreed. “That’s just another argument for waiting until we can dump everything on him we can. It may help the board to vote 4-3 even if it costs them the money. There’s always that kind of gamble in this kind of thing.”
“Well,” Susan said, “I guess all I can say is do what you think best. I can sit on it for another week if I have to, but if I get down to Riverside tomorrow and find out that he’s talked the registrar into booting me, I’m going to be thoroughly pissed.”
“You’re not the only one,” her father shook his head. “But I told you before, I really don’t think there’s much chance of that happening.”
Susan wasn’t convinced of that when she headed down to Riverside on Tuesday. She went right to her first class, European History 101, and was a little relieved that there was no note ordering her to report to the registrar’s office. Although she tried to pay attention to the lecture about the decline of the Roman Empire, the problem with Gingrich was near the front of her mind all the way through it, and not knowing was bothering her more and more. When the class finally ended, she decided that the best thing to do was to head over to the registrar’s office and find out once and for all if she still was a student, or what.
Bianca asked if she was going to the snack bar, but Susan said she had some business to take care of, and headed across the campus. In a few minutes, she was sitting in front of Heidi’s desk, talking in German again to keep other people from understanding what was going on.
“Oh, yes,” Heidi smiled. “We had a call from him back on Friday. He was quite adamant that we must not enroll you so you could be sent back to high school where you belong. I’m afraid I had to tell him three or four times that having passed the Abitur means that you are a high school graduate. I also tried to tell him it’s not the first time we have used an Abitur as proof of high school graduation, and that your score on it was the highest that we’ve ever seen.” She shook her head and continued, “I’m afraid I couldn’t get through to him very well. He finally hung up on me. A few minutes later I had a call from the college president telling me to ignore him, that he was just a hothead who didn’t know what he was talking about.”
“So that means I’m still a student here?” Susan sighed, vastly relieved.
“Oh yes, you’re still a student. You should not have worried about it. There may be a problem if he tries to revoke your dual enrollment payment, but it has been paid and it could take months to get that question ironed out.”
“Don’t tell anybody, and I mean anybody, that there’s a good chance that he’ll be gone before that can happen,” Susan told her. “But if it does get revoked, I can come up with the money.”
“Good,” Heidi smiled. “I should add that I told the college president a little about your background and he’s pleased to know that we have such an interesting addition to the student body as you. He’s only sorry that you’ll probably only be here one year.”
“Well, most likely. I’m still working on what I’m going to do next year.”
Susan walked out of the registrar’s office feeling much better. As it turned out, all the worry over the weekend had been for nothing. After the talk with Heidi, Susan felt pretty safe against whatever Gingrich might pull next. It sounded like there wasn’t much of anything he could do, but that didn’t keep her from wondering if he was going to try something else. It was just too bad, she thought, that Henry hadn’t been able to come up with enough to be able to run the story this week. That would, she hoped, keep Gingrich too busy worrying about himself to think of something else he could try to pull on her.
Her next class, English 101e, couldn’t exactly be called interesting, but at least it was informative, which was good. Although this was only her third session, she felt like she was getting something useful out of it. As the students filed out of the classroom after it was over, Susan found both Bianca and Mizuki waiting for her. Bianca was wearing teenager typical cutoff jeans and a T-shirt, while Mizuki was wearing an outfit similar to the one she had worn on Thursday, but of a different color – the pleated skirt and middy blouse with a sailor’s cape, and again with a ribbon tie. “So,” Mizuki said, “how are you doing with this class?”
“Just fine,” Susan said. “A lot of it doesn’t make much sense, but I guess if that’s the way they want things done, then that’s the way we have to do them.”
“I dunno,” Bianca shook her head. “I’m finding it pretty dull.”
“Oh, it’s dull, all right,” Susan replied. “But just because it’s dull doesn’t mean it’s not important. We’ll be using the things you learn here all the way through college, and if you don’t get it right then it’s going to hurt your grades.”
“Susan is right,” Mizuki added. “Believe me, it could be presented even duller than it is. I learned that in school in Japan.”
The three of them walked over to the snack bar to take their long break. At least Susan thought it good she was up to date with her studying, because it was clear that there wasn’t going to be any done over lunch. Susan was especially surprised to discover that they had bratwursts on special at the lunch counter. It turned out they weren’t particularly good – nothing like what could be expected in Germany, and there was no chance of having the beer that would make it taste better, but at least it was something decent for a change.
They found a table over in the corner and settled in to eat. Bianca had only briefly met Mizuki previously, so the Japanese girl had to explain a little of her background of having spent a year in high school in Japan. “My mother would have liked me to stay for another term,” Mizuki explained, “but it’s a wonder I managed to stick it out as long as I did. I wanted to have an American diploma, not one from Japan that no one in this country could read.”
“Is your mother still in Japan, then?” Bianca asked.
“Yes, she’s still there, taking care of my grandmother,” Mizuki explained. “I don’t think she’s very anxious to come back to this country, and I think she would have liked to have kept me there. But as a gaijin I would not have had much of a future there. I was just as glad to get back to this country so I could be with my father.”
“You don’t like Japan, then?” Bianca wondered.
“Oh, in one sense, I like it well enough,” Mizuki shrugged. “But liking it to visit and wanting to live there permanently are two different things. Although I may look Japanese and I respect and even love some parts of the culture, I’m still an American, and there are some things about the Japanese that are so narrow-minded that they made me want to scream.”
“Now you’ve got me curious,” Bianca said. “What did you not like?”
“It’s still a very sexist society. Women have their place and are expected to be in it. We talk of women having a glass ceiling in their careers in this country, and to an extent it may be true. But the glass ceiling in Japan is much lower and much thicker. Susan,” she said obviously wanting to turn Bianca’s attention away from her, “was it like that in Germany?”
“Not really,” Susan replied. “My general impression is that there’s about as much opportunity for a woman in Germany as there is here. There’s still a belief that women should primarily be a hausfrau, but that’s faded quite a bit.”
“That’s about what I thought,” Mizuki said. “And while there are many things Japanese that I identify with and even like, I have no desire to be that Japanese. As I said, I’m still an American.”
“You seem to dress what I think of as Japanese,” Bianca observed. “I mean, you look like a Japanese schoolgirl.”
“Well, I am a Japanese schoolgirl,” Mizuki laughed. “I don’t always dress in a sailor fuku like this, but I decided to for a while just to see how many people picked up on it. You’re the first who’s mentioned anything about it.”
“I noticed that,” Susan said. “I just didn’t think I should say anything. You look like you just stepped out of an anime cartoon.”
“You know anime?” Mizuki perked up. “I’m quite a fan!”
“I never saw much of it in Spearfish Lake,” Susan said. “There was a girl I knew in Germany who was a real fan, and occasionally a group of us would get together to watch her collection of videos. That was fun, watching Japanese cartoons with a bunch of Germans. The cartoons were all in English since no one has apparently dubbed them into German.”
“I prefer to watch them in Japanese, naturally,” Mizuki grinned. “But I keep a few around in English so friends can watch them with me. Sometimes the translations are terrible!”
“It makes you wonder what would happen if they dubbed them into German from the English versions. I’ll bet that would get really messed up!’
“I’ll bet,” Mizuki agreed. “There are some cultural nuances there that even I have trouble getting sometimes, and they’re probably lost on most other gaijin, too. There’s a lot of different types of anime. Do you have any types that you particularly like?”
“Not really,” Susan shook her head. “I will say that the ones my friend in Germany liked seemed to have more than a tinge of lesbian to them, which is probably why she liked them.”
“Not so much lesbian as yuri, which is girl-girl love,” Mizuki explained. “I like some of those, too. Some of them are so sweet! But I’m afraid that some of the nuances get lost in the translation.”
“That always happens,” Susan shrugged. “I don’t suppose you speak any German, do you?”
“No, I’m afraid not,” Mizuki shook her head. “I mean, I’m really not very good at learning languages. I only know Japanese because I grew up with it. Well, I learned a little Spanish in school before I went to Japan, but I struggled with it.”
“Well,” Susan sighed. “There goes that theory.”
“What theory is that?” Bianca asked.
“There are some people in my family who think I’m so good at languages because I was brought up bilingually,” Susan said. “Now maybe I can point at you and get them off my butt about it. But I have to say that that outfit really does make you look like a Japanese schoolgirl.”
“It’s supposed to,” Mizuki grinned. “But it makes me wonder just how German you would look wearing a dirndl.”
“I have a couple,” Susan grinned. “And they make me look very German, especially if I have my hair done in braids. They weren’t all that common there, except at festivals and the like, but I think I look really good in one.”
“You’ll have to wear it to school sometime,” Mizuki grinned. “We’d make a good pair, Japanese schoolgirl and German beer maid.”
“Yeah, that might be fun,” Susan grinned. “It might catch a few eyes.”
“You both look so well-dressed all the time,” Bianca said. “I can’t see why you’d want to go to the effort.”
“Mostly because I think we like both like to look well-dressed,” Susan replied. “I can’t speak for Mizuki, but I think it makes me stand out and look serious about what I’m doing. It says that I’m not here to goof off, I’m here to accomplish something.”
“I think Susan is right,” Mizuki agreed. “But dressing up like I do is fun, too, and I may keep doing it. It manages to send the message that I’m both serious and trying to have fun”
“Maybe we ought to both come to school in jeans and T-shirts sometime,” Susan suggested, “just to prove that we really are normal teenagers. The problem with that is nobody would recognize us.”
“Neither of you are normal teenagers,” Bianca said, “and I don’t think you ever were.”
“You’re probably right,” Mizuki agreed. “Susan and I have had some experiences that most American teenagers would never dream of, and it has to have affected us. But then, I think we can say that we wouldn’t have had those experiences if we hadn’t been ready for them, especially in knowing other languages. So I suppose that sets us apart a little bit.”
They sat and talked for more than an hour, just being friends, getting to know each other better and learning about each other. As they talked, Susan realized that Mizuki was right – she and the Japanese-American girl shared a lot of viewpoints, and having Bianca there only made them stand out even more than if Susan and Mizuki had been talking one on one. It also pointed out that she and Mizuki were smarter and more mature than Bianca, and probably a lot of the rest of the students at Riverside as well. In fact, even though Susan and Mizuki had experienced vastly different things in their time overseas, it still seemed as if they were often talking over Bianca’s head.
Eventually the time wound down to when they all had to be going to their next class, one that Susan and Bianca shared, while Mizuki was going to a different one. “Let’s get together again Thursday,” Mizuki said. “This has been an interesting discussion, and it’s nice to be making friends here. Susan, perhaps we can plan on having dinner together again.”
“Sure,” Susan replied. “I’d like that.”
As Susan and Bianca walked to class, Bianca asked, “Are you really going to wear one of those dirndl things to class?”
“Probably sooner or later,” Susan smiled. “It won’t be long until October, and that’s beer festival time. Maybe I ought to look the part.”
“I don’t know,” Bianca shrugged. “Maybe I ought to dress up a little more. You two seem to be way out in front of me.”
“It can’t hurt,” Susan said trying to sound noncommittal. It was clear to her that she and Mizuki were out in front of Bianca in a lot of ways, and not just in dress. Mizuki seemed as if she were well on the way to being a close friend, which didn’t quite seem to be what was happening with Bianca. At least, Susan was sure that she wanted to get to know the little Japanese-American girl better than she’d managed so far.