Spearfish Lake Tales
Contemporary Mainstream Books and Serials Online
The way the bus connections ran it was Friday evening before we made it back to Winchester. The trip back was slow. As expected there were some really creepy people at the bus stations and on the bus, and it wasn’t a lot of fun. Both Rachel and I were glad to make it back; Winchester looked pretty good after the bus rides.
When I saw Rachel and Nate at breakfast the next morning, I had the impression from her that she’d rather still be out on the water going someplace too. At least Nate told me that he was glad the trip had come off without any real incidents. While nothing was said, apparently he thought I’d done well and was worthy of his trust.
The heck of it was that I was out on the fuel dock in the hot July sun, and that wasn’t as much fun as being out on the lake, now that I had a real idea of what it was like out on a boat. Almost any boat. I know I envied the people heading in and out of the harbor on their boats, wishing even more than before that I was going out with them, and I gave the sailboats going through a much more knowing look than I had been able to before. Someday, I thought, I was going to have to have one of those. It probably wasn’t going to be anytime soon, but at least I could dream about it happening.
I quickly fell back into the routine of fueling boats and all the other little odds-and-ends chores I did, especially helping Debby out in the kitchen in the early mornings, at least if there weren’t any fuel customers. By the time a few days had gone by, the fun of the trip was receding into memory.
I was working out on the fuel dock as usual on the Thursday evening of the week after Rachel and I delivered the Mary Sue to Sandusky. There happened to be a brief break in the fueling action, and I was picking things up around the fuel dock when Barb called out to me, “Hey, Jake! Can you come up here for a minute?”
Right then a few minutes off the dock sounded pretty good, so I headed up to the snack bar, to discover that Nate and Rachel were there, along with Marge, who was looking a little weak and weary. Barb was there, of course, along with Susie, Annette, and Debby, and three or four local people, a couple of them kids I knew by face but not by name. “What’s up?” I asked.
“We’re having a little birthday party for Rachel,” Barb smiled. “Debby even made a nice cake, with sixteen candles and all.”
“Well, congratulations,” I told Rachel. “Knowing you, it may not be quite as big a deal for you as it was for me, since there was a driver’s license involved when I had my birthday. I’m sorry I didn’t get you a present, but I didn’t even know this was happening.”
“I’ll probably be getting my license before I go back to school,” she said. “And don’t worry about getting me a present. You gave me the best one possible from you by going with me on the trip last week. I sure wish we could do something like that again.”
“Well, maybe someday,” I said. “You never know.”
So, we did the whole birthday thing, with blowing out the candles and singing Happy Birthday. There were presents, of course, and it turned out that Susie and Annette had gone in on a couple of things for Rachel and put my name on the presents along with theirs. We cut the cake, and I had a nice piece of it, happy for my young friend.
The party didn’t last long. Marge was looking tired and not up for much, so as soon as things slowed down a little Nate took Rachel and her home, and that was pretty much that. I headed back down to the fuel dock just a little bit sad, since I was remembering Rachel’s concerns about her mother’s health, and how she might not be around very much longer. The way Marge had looked at the party, I could believe there was good reason for Rachel to be worried.
Things continued on day after day without anything special happening. I worked a lot of hours, but usually got a day off during the week on an irregular schedule. When that happened I went out on the Chinook III with Nate and Rachel, helping with the fishing parties and learning a little more about the job. The big lake was about as warm as it would get all season, and once a week or so, two or three of us would take off for a while and go down to the beach by the breakwater for swimming and hanging around. If Nate’s fishing charter had limited out and come back in for the day, Rachel often was the one who instigated these swimming parties. She hadn’t found the time to test for her driver’s license, but would ride her bike down to the Channel Stop to join us. She usually wore a one-piece swimsuit, but occasionally she’d appear in the relatively conservative bikini she’d worn on the Mary Sue. All of us would walk the rest of the way down to the beach with her. Once or twice we went down there later on in the evening and had a fire out by the lake, just hanging around and talking about nothing much in particular. These were always especially happy times.
Often enough in the evenings after the sign had been turned off, either Debby, Susie, or Annette would come to my room, although not every evening by any means. There were times, especially on the weekends, when we were all just too tired, and none of the girls appeared to be in the mood to join me. I tried to not be pushy about it, since I realized that the girls’ joining me was by their choice, not mine. I was just grateful for what I was able to get, and I gathered they were satisfied with my efforts. I knew darn well this wasn’t going to last, so I just enjoyed it while I could.
One evening while things were slow but before the sign was turned off, I happened to be sitting out on the balcony of my room. I was smoking a cigarette and thinking that I was pretty satisfied with my life as it happened to be at that moment, when Susie stuck her head out of the snack bar and called to me, “Jake! You’ve got a phone call!”
That was a first – I’d never had a phone call here, not even from Nate to work out if I could go with them the next day. There weren’t many people outside Winchester who knew I was here, after all – only Lisa, and whoever Lisa might have told. I didn’t think she’d have told very many people about it since it would have run the risk of me mentioning that she’d been here with her boyfriend or fuck buddy or whatever Brian had been. Just a little bit curious about who it could be, I went on over to the snack bar to take the call, since there weren’t any phones in the rooms.
Sure enough, it was Lisa, all right. “Jake,” she said, “how are things going up there for you?”
“Oh, all right,” I said, trying to be friendly. After all, maybe she didn’t call up here to bug me about something, most likely Brittany. “What’s happening with you and the folks?”
“The folks are fine,” she replied. “They wonder about what’s going on with you. I told them that I saw you up at that place you work, and they said they’d like you to call them sometime.”
“I probably ought to,” I conceded, “but I’m still a little hot about the way I was treated when I left. I think I want a little more time to pass.”
I couldn’t help but wonder about something. “How’s Brian doing?” I asked.
“OK, I guess,” she said with a sigh. “I haven’t seen him much this summer, he’s been busy on his job and it’s been tough to get together. Maybe this fall we can be together more.”
That pretty well proved that the trip she’d been on back in the spring had been a party-boat thing, and also pretty well said that Brian hadn’t been much more than a fuck buddy. Well, that was what I had suspected, especially since she’d been about as surprised to see me as I had been to see her. I decided to get off that line of questioning and asked, “So, have you found a job?”
“No, it’s a little hard around here, so after looking all summer I changed my plans for college,” she said. “You know I only planned to go for two years, but it makes more sense to get the full four-year degree, so I’m going up to Western in Kalamazoo in a few weeks.”
“Well, that’s a change,” I said, hopeful that this conversation would go better than the last one we’d had. However, it didn’t necessarily mean that everything was fine between us, since Western was where Brittany went, and even the name of the town still grated on my nerves a little bit. “This is kind of sudden, isn’t it?” I asked.
“No, it was an option right from the beginning,” she replied. “Brittany was saying even last year that it was a pretty cool place, so I’ve been thinking about it. It didn’t come together until the last few days, though.”
“So, you’re going to be in a dorm room with Brittany, then?” I asked, suspecting the worst.
“No. We talked about it, oh, a year ago, but now she says that she and her roommate have gotten used to each other and the other girl doesn’t want to change. As it turns out, I’m not even going to be in the same building with her.”
Hearing that was a relief in a way, but as always with Lisa, I suspected there was more going on than what had been said. If I’d had to guess, I’d have guessed that Brittany figured that the stuff she was doing, including the fact that she was messing around with another guy, would be safer with her roommate than it would have been with Lisa. “Well, it may be for the best,” I told her.
“Yeah, but I’d hoped I could work it out. It’s rather sad that I’ve seen so little of her the last couple years, when we used to be such good friends.”
“Things change, including people,” I said. Brittany and Lisa had been such good friends that it had screwed my life up completely, so maybe it was good that the two of them were drawing apart a little.
“Say Jake,” she said, clearly changing the subject to the one she’d obviously wanted to talk about all along. “Are you still going with that girl you had when I was up there on Memorial Day weekend?”
“Yeah, things are still going on about like they were,” I told her, and carefully chose my words. “Susie is really something else. I like her a lot.”
“I was wondering. Look, I talked to Brittany this afternoon. She’s been gone all summer, working at some Girl Scout camp, and she just got back. Jake, she really misses you. She says that she still doesn’t know what went wrong with the two of you.”
“She knows darn well what went wrong,” I replied, some of the hurt and the anger I’d felt back in the spring washing back over me. “It’s just that she won’t admit it to you. Lisa, this is nothing new, we’ve been over it before, and I haven’t changed my mind in the slightest. As far as I’m concerned that bridge is burned, and she lit the match, not me.”
“But Jake,” Lisa said, clearly not willing to take no for an answer. “She said she misses you, and she’d like to know what went wrong so that maybe the two of you could patch things up.”
“Was she just saying that to make you happy, or did she really mean it?” I replied sarcastically. “I can’t believe that she hasn’t moved on in her life, so she probably just leads you on a little bit to keep you from bugging her about what she’s really been up to.”
“No, she meant it. I could see it in the way she acted. Like I said, she doesn’t know what went wrong between the two of you.”
“She knows,” I replied. “Maybe she won’t admit it to you, maybe not even to herself, but it wasn’t anything I did, that’s for sure.”
“Jake, can’t you unbend about this at least a little bit?” she pleaded. “You’re really missing a bet by turning your back on her. She acts lonely, and she really acts like she wants to get back together with you.”
Once again I thought about telling Lisa what I had seen at that motel in Brittany’s college town. It was really tempting to do it, but I still didn’t want to. If I did, it would turn into a “he said” versus “she said” real quickly, and with Lisa’s still-obvious opinion that whatever Brittany did had to be right and whatever I did was wrong, it wouldn’t clear things up in the slightest. I’d still be the one to blame, at least as far as Lisa went. I had seen what I had seen, and while there may have been some legitimate reason that Brittany would have gone into the motel room with the guy, I doubted it like hell. Even if nothing had happened – which seemed unlikely as lovey-dovey as they had acted – it still would have looked suspicious. The fact that Brittany apparently hadn’t mentioned going to the motel with the guy on the weekend when she thought I was going to be in Kentucky just about proved to me that something had gone on and that Brittany didn’t want to tell Lisa about it. Circumstantial evidence, sure, but pretty solid for all that.
“Lisa, nothing has changed,” I said after a moment’s consideration of saying something even harsher. “It’s clear to me that she hasn’t come clean with you about what happened, and that has to be aired out before I’d even consider talking to her, let alone going back to her.”
“But you’re not ruling it out?” she said, grasping at a straw.
“Never say never, but it’s not very likely,” I told her, and grasped at a straw of my own. “Look, Lisa, I really resent you calling up and trying to break me up with Susie for Brittany’s sake. When you get down to it, it’s none of your damn business. I don’t know what the big deal is with you wanting me to get back together with Brittany anyway.”
“But Jake,” she pleaded. “The two of you were together for so long and you were so right for each other. I mean, all those years, and you just threw it away in an instant, and I can’t figure out why. It’s not like Brittany did anything to you.”
I was starting to get hot now. “My fault? Haven’t you heard anything I said, Lisa? Haven’t you heard that it was Brittany’s fault, and I caught her at it red handed? Haven’t you heard me tell you that I don’t want anything more to do with her? Haven’t you heard me say that I’ve moved on? It doesn’t sound to me like you’ve heard a word I’ve said, either tonight or when I talked to you a couple months ago.”
“Damn it, Jake, I’d hoped you’d be willing to listen to reason,” she said, clearly getting mad. “But it’s obvious you don’t have any intention of it. It’s just the same old thing with you.”
“As if it’s not the same thing with you. Look, Lisa, no matter what your delusions happen to be, don’t try to make yourself think that you’re going to get Brittany and me back together again, because it’s not going to happen. Put it out of your mind. Now, sometime when you have something new to say, you can call me, but don’t bother me again with that same old shit about,” I raised my voice to mimic hers and continued, “‘Brittany didn’t do anything wrong and Jake is the one who fucked up.’” I dropped my voice back to normal and continued, “That’s not what happened, Brittany knows it and I know it. It’s not going to work, Lisa, so give it a rest.”
“I don’t want to give it a rest,” she said. “Whatever happened, it had to all be a big mistake. She misses you Jake, she really does.”
“And I really doubt it,” I replied. “Hey, like I said, let it go. I have other fish to fry, and I’ll bet Brittany does, too. If she doesn’t, she should, and you can tell her I said so.”
“Jake, you’re being awful stubborn about this. She doesn’t deserve that.”
“I didn’t deserve what she did to me,” I replied. “Like I said, call me when you have something new to say. I don’t need to listen to any more of your whining.” With that, I hung up the phone, so hot under the collar that smoke was just about coming out of my ears. “Fucking woman,” I snorted as I turned away from the phone.
Susie looked up from where she’d been straightening up the merchandise on the shelves in the store corner of the room. “Lisa, right?” she smiled.
“Right, same old shit,” I told her. “The same damn song and dance we had from her at Memorial Day. Brittany didn’t do anything wrong, and I’m the one to blame.”
“I sort of figured that, especially considering that you dragged me into it a little. I take it you didn’t work anything out?”
“Oh, hell no, of course not. Until she comes to the realization that it was Brittany screwing around on me, nothing is going to change. Even if Brittany ever does admit it, I’m still probably going to be in the wrong because I should have cut her some slack or looked the other way or something. Either way, I can’t do anything right in her eyes. So, the hell with it.”
“Jake,” she replied in a sympathetic tone. “I know it’s hard, but you shouldn’t cut yourself off from your family like that.”
“Yeah, you’re probably right,” I agreed, deflating a little. “But right now I don’t want to have to deal with Lisa again, and especially not face to face. It worked back at Memorial Day for a short time, but it can’t hold up if we try to do it much longer.”
“I suppose you’re right. So what are you going to do?”
“Hell, I don’t know. I suppose once you head back to college I can say that’s why we’re not together right now. The season will be running out before too long, and then I’ll have to head on somewhere. I don’t know where that will be, but it’ll be someplace where Lisa won’t be able to find me. Maybe after a while I can poke my head out again.”
“That’ll probably work, but you should do something about your folks,” she persisted.
“Yeah, probably,” I agreed. “That’s ignoring the fact that I’m still a little pissed with them, too. I’m not too damn sure how bad I want to spend the winter up here in heavy-snow country, anyway. Maybe I’ll go someplace like Florida for the winter where it’s warm. If I stop off at home in the middle of the week Lisa will be off at college somewhere, so I won’t have to deal with her.”
“That could work, but it’s not going to fix things.”
“No, the only thing that’s going to fix things is if Brittany ever comes clean with Lisa about what happened back in April, and maybe comes clean with her about the fact that she’s been seeing that guy. So far, that doesn’t seem to have happened. Lisa will be going to Western this fall, that’s where Brittany goes. Maybe she’ll get the message a little better there.”
“Well, maybe. It might not happen though, especially if it was just a fling with the guy.”
“Then I’m no better off than I was before, either way,” I said with a shake of my head. “This summer has taught me that I’m going to have to build my own life, since I’m obviously not going to get any help rebuilding the old one unless I kiss everyone’s ass and try to get back with Brittany. And what would I have then? A proven cheater I can’t trust. It’s not worth the trouble.”
“You know, your sister probably thinks you’re cheating on Brittany by being with me. I guess it’s just as well she doesn’t know about Annette and Debby.”
“You’re probably right,” I conceded. “But it’s not cheating if I don’t have a relationship with the person I’m supposedly cheating on. I haven’t had one with Brittany since April. Hell, I think even she must realize that by now, but Lisa isn’t ready to accept it. It’s the same old thing. I mean, do you think I’m cheating on you by spending time with Annette and Debby now and then?”
“Of course not. That’s partly because we agreed that there’s nothing serious. The three of us are all just your fuck buddies, not your lovers, and for two of us it’s going to be coming to an end pretty soon. Now, it might be possible to claim that Debby is cheating on John, except that she hasn’t had a relationship with him in three years, and really has only slight hopes for one in the future. When you get right down to it, it’s a long shot for her at best.”
“Yeah, and she doesn’t realize that, either. I don’t think I want to be around when she realizes that it ain’t gonna happen.”
“Well, most likely not going to happen,” she agreed. “I suppose miracles can occur, but she’s not going to be a happy camper if it comes crashing down on her. Jake, this isn’t getting you anywhere. It’s the same shit that it was back on Memorial Day, even before that. The only thing that’s going to fix it is time, and there may be a sore spot there for years.”
“I realize that,” I said. “It’s just that Lisa really pissed me off tonight.”
“I think you need to get your mind off it. How’d you like to have a girlfriend tonight? There’s not going to be many more chances for it, you know.”
“I know, and I appreciate the offer,” I told her. “It’s just that I’m afraid that I’d want to take it out on you.”
“I’m still available,” she laughed. “I don’t always like it soft and gentle.”