Spearfish Lake Tales
Contemporary Mainstream Books and Serials Online
Wednesday was addressing day at the Record-Herald, as usual. As far as Susan was concerned, this week’s paper seemed dull and lifeless, knowing what could have been on the front page if they’d had the information they needed from Henry, but maybe next week would make up for it. At least the discussion wasn’t as much about Susan’s experiences at Riverside as it had been the previous week.
At least she didn’t have the worry that Gingrich would do something to have her thrown out of Riverside – that much had been made clear from her discussion with Heidi the day before, but still some of the paranoia lingered. What would the joker try next?
Once the papers were on the way to the Post Office, Susan sat down at the junior reporter’s desk and worked away at some of the other things that needed to be done. These included a couple things that she had thought of to try and search on the Internet about Gingrich. However, increasingly she was running into dry holes with that, and she didn’t really turn up much in the way of new information.
It was after lunch when her father called her into his office, and asked her to close the door. “I heard from Henry,” he told her. “He’s still got a few leads to run down, but he pretty much came up with chapter and verse on the story on Gingrich. We still need to work on the best way to present it and make it comprehensible, but I think we’re to the point where we can start putting it together.”
“Wow,” she said. “That’s a relief. I was beginning to wonder.”
“Don’t ever doubt that your brother is a good reporter,” Mike told her. “It’s just that he’s had other things on his plate, and this hasn’t been first on his agenda.”
“I realize that,” she smiled. “But still, it’s been hard to wait.”
“I know it has, but sometimes you have to sit on a story until you can tell it. This has been one of those times. But this is also one of those times when we need to be really careful about what we say, especially in terms of the news story. This is going to be pretty complex, and we have to take the reader through it point by point, including the fact that this was in the news down in Springfield before his application showed up here. Since we don’t know what was in the investigative report, if there even was one, we’re going to have to make sure the dates are made clear but not point any fingers.”
“So, how do we jump from the Gingrich story to the investigation?”
“Good question,” Mike shrugged. “What I’m thinking right now is that we run what we have in all the detail we can get. Then once the story is out, I’ll call up George Battle and get his reaction. Since he’s the school board vice-president and since he’s George, I suspect he’ll point all the fingers needed, and all we have to do is quote him. Then we can see where the dust settles. But that means we’re definitely going to have to run the story next week.”
“Too bad we couldn’t have run it this week,” Susan sighed. “It’s going to be hard to have to sit on it that much longer.”
“Yes, but we’re going to have to. I think it’ll have more impact if it comes out of nowhere. That means we’re going to have to be careful how we handle it around here. What I’m thinking is that we need to look like we’re leading the paper with something else next week, right up to the last minute, and then make the switch. Fortunately, we can hold the front page until after the rest of the staff has gone for the day and make the change then.”
“You really want to keep this close to your chest,” she shook her head. “I don’t ever remember you doing something like that before.”
“There’ve been a couple times,” Mike told her. “Not recently. One of my real big concerns is that the paper is printed at the Camden Press and they have had a habit of going over our front page and stealing the ideas on a main story before we can get it out to our readership. That doesn’t look good. In this case, I wouldn’t mind if the Press stole it since it would look more authoritative, but I would like to get it in front of our readers first. Now, assuming they know what the story is, do you think they can get enough online to knock out a story on it in a few hours?”
“If they know what it is, probably,” Susan said. “I haven’t seen what Henry has come up with, but I think I came up with enough online to be able to have been able to run the story this week.”
“Well, Henry has been able to come up with a lot more detail,” Mike said. “I’m thinking that if we run it as a copyrighted story under his name it might slow the Press down enough for us to get it to our readers first.”
“Maybe I’m reading the politics of this wrong,” Susan said. “But it seems like the important thing is to get the story in front of the readers and stir things up as much as possible. I could be wrong but worrying about the Press is secondary as I see it.”
“That’s the other side of the coin that I’ve been thinking about. I suppose if we run it like normal, but have the story copyrighted, well, if they steal something that isn’t online, at least I have grounds to call down there and pitch a bitch. I have to do that every so often anyway. It might make a little more impact with them if we run it as a copyrighted story from Henry, as a special to the Record-Herald.”
“Makes sense,” Susan agreed. “Especially when Gingrich starts squealing.”
“Right, it gives us a degree of deniability, even though we already have most of the story from your online research. Now, I’m thinking that it might not even be a bad idea to include some links to the Springfield Democrat so people can see that it’s the real deal.”
“Again, not a bad idea,” Susan said. “I printed out most of the stuff that I got online, just so there’d be a paper record of it.”
“Damn good thinking,” her father told her. “Now, what I’m proposing is that you go through Henry’s stuff. I’ve read it already and think I know how I want to tell the story, but I want to have you check it over to see if I’m missing anything. What’s more, I think we need to be able to document the sources of the charges as completely as we can, because it wouldn’t surprise me if one of the things we hear very early from Gingrich is ‘libel suit.’ That’s why we need to be pretty damn careful about what we write.”
“You’re saying we write it, but put Henry’s name on it?”
“Pretty much, but if we can get it done fairly quickly I’ll ship a copy down to Henry and let him go over it, making any changes that he thinks necessary. He already has a pretty good start on the story in his cover letter; we just need to file off some rough edges.”
“OK, Dad,” she smiled. “Sounds like a plan. What do you need me to do except check you over?”
“I need you to write two stories, and we’ll have to coordinate the lengths so they’re pretty much the same. Because it’s an off week for city council with the holiday, I need you to head over to the county offices and get a story about their preparations for snow season. They’re getting a couple of new snowplows, but it’s strained their budget a bit. I know you don’t know the background, but I’ll help you with it. You’ll have to write it so it can be seen as a lead news story or as a feature.”
“That’ll be the fake lead, right?”
“Right. But I also need you to write a feature on something, I don’t know what, so that we can rip it up at the last minute to put the snow removal story in place of it. We can run the feature another week or something. I’m sorry I have to put you in a background role on this because I know you feel that you’re the one who got burned by Gingrich. But with your position as a student, and still at least technically a high school student, I think it’d be best if we tried to keep you out of the direct line of fire.”
“So we’re still not going to say anything about Gingrich trying to keep me here an extra year, right?”
“Right – for now, anyway, and probably not ever. That would turn this deal to look as personal as it really is, and that’s something we’ve got to avoid.”
“All right, Dad,” she said. “I guess my work is cut out for me. Let’s get writing.”
Susan got a good start on the snow removal story that afternoon – there had been previous stories in the Record-Herald on the topic, so she could pick up quite a bit from them – and at least thought about what she wanted to do about a relatively innocuous feature story. She was a little at a loss about that until she looked over the story idea whiteboard and saw a note about a guy who was getting in fifty to a hundred miles a day riding his bicycle around the area. That caught her fancy a little bit, mostly since she’d been thinking about the long bike trip across the Low Countries and France with Hans, Elke, Lothar, and Freya next summer. She had no idea if the trip was ever going to come off, but she also knew she’d never done any long-distance bike touring and figured that she might be able to learn something from the guy that would be helpful if the trip actually happened.
The guy proved to be easy to find. He was a retiree, but in awesome shape; Susan could only hope to be in half the shape when she was that age. He had a mound of stories to tell about riding his bike around the area. He also told her that he had plans to do a cross-country bike trip later that fall, starting in southern California and winding up in his winter home in Florida. That sounded pretty ambitious to Susan but she had little doubt that he would complete it. When she mentioned the possibility of her own European bike trip the next year, he really lit up. He gave her several important pieces of advice, the biggest one of which was to get in training for it – starting off cold with little or no time on a bike would bring big problems very quickly. An indoor exercise bike wouldn’t quite fill the gap but would get her started in the winter months when riding a bicycle outside in the Spearfish Lake weather was a little beyond sensible.
While Susan knew that she had some more work to do on the snow removal story, the biking story was a snap to write, and she knocked it out Wednesday evening before turning to her studies to prepare her for class on Thursday.
At least Thursday was becoming normal to her. It was her long day again, and began before the sun came up when she headed down to Riverside. Again she spent her morning break and lunch break with Bianca and Mizuki, talking about various things, but when the evening break rolled around it was nice to talk with just Mizuki and not have to explain everything to Bianca.
“She’s a nice girl,” Mizuki commented as the two of them talked over dinner. “In high school I would have just about killed to have had a friendly, sociable pal like her, but I guess I was always just a little too different to be taken seriously. I mean, too much of a gaijin for the social types. Then I got to Japan and discovered what it really meant to be a gaijin. At least when I got back I managed to have a little social life for my last year in school, but I was never a popular kid.”
“I sort of know how that works,” Susan agreed. “I was never really a popular kid the two years I was in high school at Spearfish Lake. I was always too busy taking extra courses and studying so I could spend my junior year in Germany. That almost turned into a waste, but in the end it worked out.”
“What do you mean by that?”
“Well, we’ve tried to keep it a little bit of a secret,” Susan explained, but went on to explain that the school superintendent had gone back on the agreement that allowed Susan to take her junior year off, and planned on keeping her in school for an extra year. She carefully didn’t go beyond that and get into what they’d learned about Gingrich at the Record-Herald.
“Wow,” Mizuki shook her head. “That would really suck. I had a lot of catching up to do when I got back to do my senior year, since they wouldn’t allow much credit for what I’d done in Japan, and things are enough different that it’s probably just as well. But then, we didn’t plan ahead like you did. It was something that only got worked out in a month or so, and I was a little tired of high school, so I figured that it would make a nice break. I couldn’t believe how happy I was to get back to an American high school.”
“And I’ve done my best to avoid it, but then, we went about it differently,” Susan said to her new friend. So, did you make any friends in Japan?”
“A few,” Mizuki admitted. “Being a gaijin made it a little more complicated, but it made me a little exotic, too. I discovered a couple girls who were anime fangirls, and we found that we had something in common, and we all liked yuri, so I had friends who would get me through some of the really hard times. It wasn’t like you had it, where you were dropped into a family with kids your age so you could be instant friends. It was very lonely until those two came along. The dating scene in Japan is really different than it is here, but they were able to open the door for me to get out with some guys a few times, too. That helped a lot.”
There was something that Mizuki had said in that statement that Susan wasn’t sure she’d understood correctly, like there was a veiled secret being revealed, but she wasn’t sure she wanted to pursue it at the moment, at least not very directly. “Yeah, I had it good in that respect,” Susan agreed. “I had a couple of instant friends, and they introduced me to their best friends, a brother and sister, so the five of us hung out a lot, sometimes with some other kids. It all got to be a lot of fun. So, did you do any dating after you got back?”
“No, not much,” Mizuki said. “Oh, a little, but nothing serious. After all, I was trying to catch up on stuff I’d missed, so I was very busy. I got out a little, though. Fortunately nothing much. How about you?”
“I haven’t been back long enough,” Susan sighed. “I mean, it’s still less than a month. It wasn’t like I’d left a boyfriend behind or anything, and now that I’m not involved with the school there’s no point in trying to get something going at home. I’ll tell you the truth, I’m not all that sure I want to do any dating while I’m here, since I’m not planning on being here very long. I’ll settle for a good friend or two – ones who don’t threaten to turn into anything serious, just maybe something we can do for fun sometime.”
“That’s about how I see it,” Mizuki agreed. “I don’t want to run the risk of something turning serious while I’m here, and maybe not when I continue on with my undergraduate work. If it got out of hand, it could interfere with my plans too much. Don’t get me wrong, I like boys and I’ve managed to have a little fun with them, but boys are not something I absolutely need in my life right now. Maybe someday, but not now. A little fun is one thing, but falling into a serious relationship unexpectedly when I don’t need one in my life is something else. Maybe that’s the yuri fan in me speaking, the romantic, but I just don’t need to deal with a guy along with everything else right now.”
“I pretty much feel that way,” Susan agreed, again hearing something in Mizuki’s statement that someone else might not have heard – but something that struck home. She decided to press just a little and see if she got a positive reaction from Mizuki. “Guys can be such a pain in the butt at our age, anyway. Given a choice, I’d as soon kiss a girl.”
A broad smile crossed Mizuki’s face, showing that not only had Susan picked up on her message, but that Mizuki had picked up the response. “It is very romantic, isn’t it?” she grinned, the unspoken communication flowing like a river. “Boys our age don’t understand romance very well, do they? Maybe when they get older they get wiser.”
“Sometimes,” Susan sighed, but with a grin on her face as big as Mizuki’s. They were talking about the same thing after all! This had loads of possibilities. While she missed some of the things she’d done with Hans and Lothar, she also missed what she’d done with Elke and Freya. Her experience with Megan a couple weeks before hadn’t been the same thing – Megan hadn’t been approaching it with the right mindset – instead she was being too serious and much too uncertain about it. If Megan had been of a mind to just have some fun with it, it could have been fun, but she was trying to read too much into it, and that wasn’t good – and not something Susan had wanted to get involved with. “Boys sometimes just don’t understand that there are times that a girl just wants to have fun.”
“Or at least their idea of what’s fun for a guy may not be fun for a girl,” Mizuki smiled. “I’m not saying that I’m giving up on boys until graduation, or maybe after that, but there are parts of it that aren’t very appealing. I mean, I’m open to a little fun, but I don’t want to let it get out of hand.”
“My feelings exactly,” Susan agreed, reaching for a way to say what she was saying without saying it, or at least saying it in such a way that anyone would know what they were talking about. After some of the discussions earlier Bianca might have picked it up, but Bianca wasn’t with them now. “Maybe we’ll have to get together sometime. If you have any yuri anime with an English dubbing, it would be fun to watch some of it.”
“I would have to translate the best ones,” Mizuki grinned. “They just don’t have the same feeling as when they’re subtitled. But there’s no rush. I would rather wait for the right time so we can thoroughly enjoy it.”
“It sounds like fun,” Susan said, letting her mind run free. She wasn’t exactly eager, but it was something to look forward to, and with a much better attitude than if she were having something like this discussion with Megan. She hadn’t heard from Megan in a few days, anyway, and a corner of her mind wondered just what was happening with her friend and Jimmy. But that was something to think about at another time. Besides, from what she could pick out of the discussion, Mizuki not only knew what they were talking about but felt much the same way. “We’ll just have to work something out. We’ve got plenty of time, and right now is not a really convenient time for me, anyway. Hopefully in two or three weeks things will settle down so I can put my full attention to it.”
“I’m sure we’ll get the chance,” Mizuki said. “I think it would be a lot of fun. I would much rather we took our time and waited for a good opportunity rather than have it spoiled by being rushed and uncomfortable.” She dropped her voice and whispered, “God, can you imagine what Bianca would think if she’d heard this conversation?”
“She’d just about shit,” Susan grinned, realizing that they’d managed to cover enough ground that they didn’t have to talk around the subject any longer, at least as long as they knew it would just be between themselves. “Assuming it all didn’t go straight over her head.”
“There’s a good chance that would have happened,” Mizuki smiled, sitting back up and letting her voice return to normal. “She really isn’t a bad girl, but there are some things where she’s just about clueless.”
Without saying anything more about it, the two of them mutually agreed that they’d better not talk about the subject anymore, at least just now, but the idea of getting together for a little sensual fun had been broached, and Susan found herself very receptive to it. While she didn’t have any great urges at the moment, she could see how it could be very interesting to have some intimate fun with the little Japanese-American girl. Now, the Japanese schoolgirl outfits that Susan had always seen her wearing didn’t seem just cute, but sexy, and she thought she understood why.
She tried to keep her mind on her class through the long session, and mostly succeeded, although admittedly her mind strayed from time to time. Finally the class let out, and she and Mizuki went their separate ways, but not without a few private words that carried double meanings with them.
Susan thought a lot about the encounter on the drive back to Spearfish Lake. This would be much more satisfactory, she thought, than getting involved with Megan, if for no more reason than Mizuki was comfortably out of town and nobody there knew her. It was clear that it wasn’t going to be anything serious, just fun, a friends-with-benefits arrangement.
Susan understood the part about waiting until the time was right, too. It would have to wait until they could get together someplace comfortable with no likelihood of being disturbed, perhaps for several hours, and an opportunity like that was worth waiting for. Since both of them were living at home, and didn’t have something convenient like the dorm room at a regular college, a time like that might be a long while coming. It would most likely be worth the wait, at least if Susan had read Mizuki correctly – and she was pretty sure that she had.
Although the culmination might not be for a while, it seemed to Susan that she’d found a new friend, one likely to be a close one, and fun to know. And yes, at this point in her life, it was clearly going to be better than the hazards involved in getting just as close with some guy who was as clueless as Bianca.