Spearfish Lake Tales
Contemporary Mainstream Books and Serials Online
Susan was not surprised that the phone was ringing just about continually in the Record-Herald office that afternoon. It was almost impossible to get a call out, and there were some that she wanted to make. Ultimately, she borrowed her father’s cell phone to be able to make a few calls as she worked on the story, and was able to pick up a few scattered bits of information that mostly corroborated what Battle had said in the office earlier in the day.
As the afternoon wore on, it seemed that a lot of people had heard about the story, and it would be interesting to see what kind of calls they got when the mail subscribers got the story the next morning. Probably not as many calls, she thought; most of the people who had picked the paper up at the stores had probably already told their friends about it. And, papers were selling well at the stores; it was good that her father had ordered the Camden Press to run some extra copies, because some stores were sold out by the middle of the afternoon and someone had to go and resupply them. McKee’s Sunoco had run out of papers along in the morning, and then ran out again shortly after school got out, even with a resupply larger than their normal order. There seemed to be little doubt about what the main topic of discussion was going to be around the Spearfish Lake dinner tables that evening.
The phone at home was hardly less busy that evening, pretty much the same topic as at the office, but from people who had been working until after the Record-Herald closed. It was something of a relief all around when Susan heard her mother calling her, “Susan! This one’s for you. Drag it out a bit if you can, your father and I need the break.”
Susan picked up the phone, to discover that it was Megan. “Wow,” she said. “Is that all true about the superintendent being a crook?”
“To be honest, we didn’t call him a crook,” Susan said a little defensively, but surprised that her friend would actually take interest in the story. “He hasn’t been convicted yet, so we had to be a little careful about how we worded it, but you have to assume that the prosecution down there has a case against him.”
“Yeah, but still, he sounds like a crook to me,” Megan replied. “How did the school board wind up hiring him in the first place?”
“That’s a long story, and we’re still working on the answers to it, but the simple answer is that they got lazy and screwed up. So I take it the story is all through the school?”
“Oh, yeah,” Megan said. “There was some talk around the school that it would be good if we could have a demonstration against him, but I doubt that it’ll happen.”
“Well, if it comes off, be sure to call the Record-Herald. I’ll be in classes all day tomorrow; it’s my long day, but I think Dad or someone would want to come over and get a picture if you do.”
“I’m not the one talking about it, but if it comes off, I’ll try to remember.”
“So, what else is happening around the school?” Susan asked, wanting to get off the topic at least a little bit. She’d been over the story so much and there had hardly been anything else happening all day. It would be good to think about something else.
“Oh, nothing much,” Megan replied. “We’re getting the usual bullshit from the football players about how great they are, even after they got blown out by Coldwater last Friday night, but I think a lot of kids are tired of hearing it. You were lucky to be able to get out of there, Susan. A lot of it is same shit, different day. I wish I’d thought of taking dual enrollment so I could get out of there at least a little. So how’s it going with college?”
“Pretty well,” Susan admitted. “Most of the classes are pretty easy, especially with the stuff I learned in Germany. My English 101e class is a little harder, mostly because it’s dull, but I just need to pay attention. A lot of the stuff in Pysch 101 is new to me, although a lot of it seems like common sense once I hear it and have time to think about it.”
“So, are you meeting any interesting guys down there?”
“Not really,” Susan said. “Oh, I’ve talked to some guys, and some of them are even worth it, but I don’t want to start dating some guy when I know I’ll be going to school somewhere else next year. If I got serious about someone, it could be, well, inconvenient. I’ve gotten to be friends with a couple girls down there, and one of them is real interesting.” She went on to talk about Mizuki for a bit, about how she’d spent a year in school in Japan, and some of the contrasts and comparisons that they’d made. However, Susan stayed far away from indicating anything of the personal discussion she and Mizuki had had almost a week ago.
“Well, it’s good that you’re finding some friends down there you can talk to,” Megan replied when Susan had finished. “You know I don’t exactly have a lot of close friends here, and with you gone it’s that much worse.”
“Yeah, we need to keep a little better contact,” Susan said, but not really meaning it. Megan was a long-time friend, but the relationship was likely to get even more distant as time went on. They were both heading in different directions, and at least Susan knew it. With the plan to spend at least part of the summer in Europe in the works even if she didn’t get to go to school in Albburg, she might not even be spending very much time in Spearfish Lake after this winter. In her mind, Susan associated Megan with Spearfish Lake and times gone by, and even though she was pretty involved right now, the end was in sight. In an effort to change the topic Susan said, “So what’s happening with you and Jimmy?”
“Oh, that’s pretty good,” Megan said, brightening. “We were hanging out at his house last night, and his folks had to go to some meeting or something, so, well, uh, Jimmy and I had some fun.”
“Was it good?” Susan asked, getting Megan’s meaning instantly. The vision popped to mind of Megan and Jimmy naked on his bed, getting it on. It was a nice vision, and made Susan just a tiny bit envious; it had been a while since Hans, and it was likely to be a lot longer before she saw him again.
“Oh, yeah,” her friend said. “It wasn’t anything like as bad as I thought it would be. You were right, Susan, and I’m glad I listened to you. It was a lot of fun. I’m just glad it didn’t have to be in his pickup out past your place.”
“Told you so,” Susan replied, glad that her friend had worked the issue out. If Megan had come to her again with the same message she’d had right after Susan had come home from Germany, it might have been interesting, but there were also a lot of obvious dangers and problems involved, too.
“Yeah, I know, I shouldn’t have been such a worry wart,” Megan replied. “But you know, well, after what we talked about that time, I sort of wonder what it would be like to be with a girl some time.”
“It can be a lot of fun, too,” Susan replied with just a little dismay that she didn’t want to reveal. “Maybe if you go do that camp thing next summer your friend will still be there and you can find out,” she added, hoping that Megan would pick up the message that she was trying to brush her off a little without exactly saying it.
“Yeah, I suppose,” Megan said, either not getting the message or letting it roll off her. “I don’t know if I’m going to work there again next year or what. I know I’ll get paid better if I do.”
“That might be a good idea,” Susan replied, “but now that you’ve really got something going with Jimmy, you might want to be pretty careful about it. That sounds like about the right distance to keep rumors from coming back and getting around town.”
“Well, yeah, I suppose there’s that,” Megan replied, starting to act like she was getting the message. “But at least it’s fun to think about and it might be fun to do sometime. After next summer, it probably won’t matter much. You’ll be gone somewhere to school and I suppose I will, too.”
“Got any ideas about where you want to go?”
“Well, Nicole thinks it would be a good idea for me to go to Weatherford. That’s where she went, you know. Randy says I ought to consider Northern, where he went. It’s quite a bit bigger school and there’s more things to study. My guess is that it’ll be one or the other, and most likely Weatherford. Do you know Myleigh Hartwell-Harris? She teaches down there, and I think she’d be fun to take a class from.”
“I know her,” Susan said, glad that the subject had moved on. “And I think she’d be fun to take a class from, too. How do you know her?”
“Oh, she and her husband are big friends with Randy and Nicole; I’ve gotten to meet her any number of times. Don’t you just love the way she talks?”
“I find it’s a little hard to get used to,” Susan replied honestly. “But she is pretty interesting, isn’t she?”
“Oh, God, is she ever. I don’t know how a person can be that smart. She’s really pretty nice, but you never forget that you’re talking to someone with a lot of brains. She doesn’t rub your nose in it, which is one of the things I really like about her, but like I said, you don’t forget it, either.”
“Yeah, that’s the truth,” Susan agreed. “So, have you made any progress on what you want to study?”
“Not really,” Megan said. “I keep thinking that I ought to do something sensible like accounting or something, since that’s always going to offer the potential of getting a job, even if it’s only doing someone’s taxes or something. But that seems pretty dull, and I keep thinking about doing something that strikes me as more fun, even though getting a job might not be as easy. How about you?”
“Still thinking about it. I guess I’m looking at doing things the hard way. Getting a job that involves a lot of travel or working overseas looks like a chancy long shot when you stop and think about it, but if I don’t try for it then it won’t happen.”
“I suppose you’re right, but still, it would be fun if we could go to school together. I missed you a lot last year and I’m still missing you even more this year.”
Mindful of her mother’s request to drag the conversation out, Susan kept Megan talking for most of half an hour, never really saying much of anything but at least renewing their friendship a little. Once the call was ended, Susan tried to get her mind back on her reading for the Psych class – well, actually re-reading -- she’d been over it once before, over the weekend. Her mind really wasn’t on it; the conversation with Megan had set her mind going in different directions.
Darn it, she thought, it would be fun to have a little playtime in bed with Megan, at least if Megan approached it as fun and not as something serious. Now with her big hurdle having been passed with Jimmy, it seemed like she might even be able to do that. It could be fun; even with the prospect of having some other fun with Mizuki sometime in the future, it still was a possibility. It wasn’t as if she had to have the sex, because she didn’t, but she wouldn’t object so some fun and games. She could imagine what it would be like with Megan, and there were some parts about the notion that were very appealing. She had a soft, girlish body that would be fun to touch and play with, and she already knew that Megan was fun to kiss, so there was little doubt that going farther could be fun, too – maybe lots more fun.
But, it still wasn’t a good idea right now, with Megan still in high school and both of them living in Spearfish Lake; the gossips were still out there, and it wouldn’t take much to get Megan in trouble she didn’t need, with Jimmy and with everyone else. In a few more months, most of it wouldn’t be an issue. It still probably wouldn’t be a good idea if both of them ended up going to Weatherford, since it was still much too close to home, but it wasn’t something that should affect her going there, she decided.
Finally, Susan just put down the Psych book and lay back on the bed, thinking about which college next year, and trying not to let Megan affect her judgment very much. While she now liked the idea again, it just wasn’t something that she dared to do very soon, unlike with Mizuki.
Once again, she toyed with the idea of going to Weatherford and wondered what it would be like if she and Megan went there and shared a room. The more she thought about it, the less she thought it a good idea; Weatherford just didn’t seem like a good deal, and being there with Megan had its obvious downsides. Leave Megan out of it for now, she thought, and examine the Weatherford as if her friend wouldn’t be there at all.
As much as she liked Dr. Hartwell-Harris – and if Susan went to Weatherford she’d have to start thinking of her by that name again – Weatherford just didn’t seem as appealing now as it was really too close to home. While she hadn’t been totally out on her own last year, since she’d been living with the Hauners, it seemed a lot more like it. Getting a few hundred miles away from Spearfish Lake seemed like a good idea. She could be a lot more independent, and if she were to happen to have a little fun in bed with either a guy or a girl, there was less chance of any word getting back home, or mattering if it did.
Since she planned to spend much of her life on her own and far from home, a school several hundred miles away seemed like a pretty good idea. It wasn’t that she hated her parents or anything, and in fact she liked them a lot – but the horizons seemed so close in Spearfish Lake that she could barely stand it. The place was very insular, and even as important as the issue with Gingrich had become, it seemed like a tempest in a teapot in the larger order of things. She hadn’t even mentioned it to Elke the other day – it was so far away, why should she care?
While it didn’t disqualify Weatherford, it did put the place far down on her list all by itself, and other factors also contributed to its being there. Several other schools Spearfish Lake kids often went to, Northern Michigan among them, also were too close to home and were too likely to have several other kids from the town enrolled, which increased the danger of rumors getting back home, too. They’d never really even been in the running.
After finances had factored into the equation, a state school had some advantages, and there were several good ones downstate, ones she needed to spend a little more time researching. Southern Michigan was on that list, and would be higher on the list if her financial situation were a little better. Although she tried to not let Mizuki enter into her thinking as things weren’t sure between the two of them, and could well turn to nothing, it looked as if it could be a worthwhile school for her, and she wasn’t ready to strike it off the list just yet.
Really, Michigan State still was at the head of her list, although getting accepted and the higher costs there made it an open question. It was a big enough school with a reputation good enough to be known that she might be willing to get involved with student loans, although she really didn’t want to let those get out of hand. While it seemed appealing, it also seemed like a long shot. One of the things the US, Germany, and Japan all seemed to have in common was the mentality that getting into the best school possible was a ticket to bigger things. You had to make it through the school, of course, but getting in was the hard part. Michigan State seemed like the best possibility within reach.
Another possibility was Central Michigan. It was a good school, and had a fine journalism program, for what that was worth, but in the past she’d pretty much rejected it because Henry and Cindy had gone there. Her decision there was more than just not wanting to follow in their footsteps, though. Perhaps she was being cynical, but if they would graduate someone with Cindy’s rather vapid and limited intellect, how good could it be?
But the journalism program . . . maybe that was something to think about. Her father was right, she’d grown up around the Record-Herald and she had obvious talent for it. It ran in the family, after all, and Henry proved that. However, it had never really attracted her, mostly because she didn’t want to go through all that effort just to wind up doing Restaurant Report Card for some tiny TV station in a town that virtually nobody a hundred miles away had ever heard of. She didn’t think Henry would be in Springfield for long, but still, it might be something to fall back on if some of her other plans didn’t work out. And just because she had a degree in journalism didn’t mean that she had to work in the field; it could be applied to a lot of overseas jobs. Maybe her father was right – maybe it was something to think about.
She’d always understood that the chances of getting assigned as a foreign reporter for an American publication or network were just about nil, especially as a beginner. She’d never really even given it consideration. But it didn’t mean that there weren’t other possibilities. Again, the key was to be flexible.
Maybe if she were to minor in journalism, and major in something else, or even take multiple minors instead of a major, it would give her a broad enough background to go several ways. Make a specialization of being something of a generalist – that was what a reporter had to do, wasn’t it? It was something to think about.
The next day was her long Thursday again, made longer by the fact that she would really have liked to have been back in Spearfish Lake, for once, just to see what reaction was coming in to the office from the Gingrich story. It made the classes seem even longer than normal, and if she’d had a cell phone she most likely would have called up to see, but she didn’t. She’d never had one, and it would have been useless to her in Germany anyway. But that was then. Now that she was back in the States things were different.
As always, she made a threesome with Bianca and Mizuki for the half-hour morning break between classes, and again over the long lunch break. “I might have had something slip into place on my decision about what to do in college,” Susan reported to the other two. “I don’t want to get into the background, it’s about a story we’re covering at the place I work part-time, but I’m thinking that I might want to minor in journalism, after all. Maybe even major in it, I’m not sure yet.”
“It’s really something you should be thinking about,” Mizuki nodded. “We can mess around a place like this without really declaring a major, but it’s going to be important almost the first thing next year.”
“I realize that,” Susan replied. “That’s what I’m thinking about. I still don’t know what I want to do, but I have to come up with some kind of a major that will allow me to go several different ways. I heard it said one time that ‘indecision is the key to flexibility’ and God knows I’ve been indecisive on this.”
“Well, at least I don’t have to worry about that,” Bianca shrugged. “I know I’m going into nursing, and I’d just as soon go to Northern or Lake State, but I’ll go anywhere I can where they’ll let me in. I’ve got another year to worry about it.”
“It’d sure make that kind of planning easier, there’s no doubt about that,” Mizuki said, then turned to Susan. “You know, that almost makes it seem like the door is still open for you to go to Southern.”
“Well, yeah, it’s there,” Susan agreed. “But finances are the issue. Anyway, after last night my main hope is still Michigan State, even though it’s a long shot, but it would be worth the extra price.”
“But there’s that joint program with Notre Dame,” Mizuki persisted. “That’s supposed to be one of the best journalism schools in the country.”
“It may be,” Susan snorted. “But when I hear the words ‘Notre Dame’ I don’t think about journalism, I think about football. If I did get a journalism degree from there people would automatically wonder if it was all sports writing. Even if I could afford to go there, which I can’t, that little item would just about kill the place for me.”
“That might not have to be the case with that extension program,” Mizuki shook her head.
“I thought you were thinking real hard about that school in Germany,” Bianca said, taking a sip of her Diet Coke.
“It’s still on the list, and I probably could still go there,” Susan admitted. “But it’s not as high on the list as it was even a couple weeks ago. A friend of mine pointed out that no matter how good any school in Germany might be, no one in this country is ever going to have heard of it, and my most likely prospects for a job are with an American company. Right now I’m trying to come up with a plan that allows me to go to school in this country, and measure what I can do here up against what I could do if I went to uni at Albburg. It’s not simple, and it’s not easy.”
“If you’re leaving Michigan State and Southern Michigan off the list, what others are left?” Mizuki asked.
“I’m still thinking about that one,” Susan admitted. “It about has to be a state school, unless maybe Weatherford, and I’m thinking I could only afford to go there if I commute. That would be a long drive. I’ve got to do some more studying, but right now I’d have to say that Grand Valley is probably pretty close to the next choice. But I don’t know. I’ve got to spend some time on their web site, and the connection we have at home is so slow that I usually don’t do anything but e-mail on it. Maybe this weekend I can sneak into the office and spend some time doing some research there.”
“Well, you’re making some progress, anyway,” Mizuki smiled. “It’s good to see that.”