Spearfish Lake Tales
Contemporary Mainstream Books and Serials Online
The fact that I was planning on heading downstate to pick up the Parabellum gave me thoughts of maybe visiting home. When I’d left home in early April I’d been about as pissed off as I could get. I had neither gotten close to home nor even talked to anyone since to find out what was happening there, except for the little bit that Lisa had passed on second hand, which really hadn’t told me much of anything. Given that it appeared she didn’t want the details of what had happened on the Memorial Day weekend trip to get home to the parents, it seemed likely that she wouldn’t say much about me either.
When you got right down to it, the fact that she’d been on a party trip with a bunch of kids her age – no chaperones, and as I recalled plenty of beer and most likely plenty of sex – was her business, not my folks’. After all, Lisa was over eighteen, a junior in college and it was her life to lead, at least in theory. No doubt she wanted a little forbidden fun and excitement. But, knowing my parents, they’d still want to keep an eye on her, and no doubt Lisa had thought it would cramp her style. If they’d known what was happening I don’t know if they’d have tried to stop her from going, but they sure could have made a stink about it.
Don’t get me wrong: I was still pissed off with Lisa, especially after the fight we’d had on the phone back in August. I hadn’t heard anything from her since then, which I considered good. But, despite our age difference, there had always been an “us versus them” attitude about our parents that we had shared in the past, when neither of us had wanted them to know what we’d been up to. In spite of the fact that I wasn’t on speaking terms with her, and wouldn’t be until she dropped her insistence that I get back together with Brittany, I still wasn’t about to rat her out. For that reason, I considered skipping a visit home.
On the other hand, what made up my mind was the fact that I hadn’t seen the folks for a while, and wouldn’t mind trying to make up with them a little. If the story that I had a girlfriend in Susie had made it back to them, I wasn’t aware of it. But, if things got a little bit crazy I had that excuse to fall back on, even though Susie had never really been my girlfriend except for a few occasional nights.
Besides, winter was coming on, and I had a few items of heavier clothing that were probably still sitting in my room downstate. They’d do me more good in Winchester than in Wychbold. I figured I could slide in there late on Wednesday evening, then take off for Saugatuck the next morning, so there wouldn’t be much time for them to quiz me.
On top of that, by going home in the middle of the week the chances were good that Lisa wouldn’t be there to make things more complicated than they needed to be. If she were there, I could see it turning into a yelling match about as quickly as it had the previous spring.
I spent much of the day Monday helping Debby with breakfast and doing some things around the Channel Stop that needed doing, none of which were real major. About midday I went over to Nate’s and told him that the deal had been made on the Parabellum, and that I was going to go down the next day to pick it up. Of course, Nate offered to go with me, but I turned him down, saying that I was going to stop at my folks’ place, and if things went all right I might stay there an extra day or two. I really doubted that would happen, but having him along would make for an extra complication, especially since I suspected that things could get tense around home when I showed up.
“I’ll give you some extra rope to take with you,” Nate said once we’d worked it out that I was going to go pick up the boat by myself. “Remember, you’re going to have all that loose stuff, and you probably ought to get as much of it in the car as you can. But, tie the rest of it down real good so it doesn’t wind up out on the highway someplace.”
I wasn’t in any real hurry to get on the road the next morning. It was about a six-hour trip home, and I wanted to arrive late, maybe even after supper, so there wouldn’t be much time there if things went bad. I helped Debby with breakfast, hung around talking with her for a bit, and finally in the middle of the morning I made myself a couple burgers, then went out, threw a change of clothes in the Pontiac, and headed south.
It had taken me a couple days to get to Winchester when I’d come there, but I’d been rambling around aimlessly, with no specific place to go and no time I had to be there. This time I just got on the Interstate and let the old girl roll. It was just after dark, along about suppertime, when I pulled into the familiar driveway down near the state line, parked the car and got out. Since I was a stranger around there anymore, I decided it would be best to knock on the door.
Mom came to the door and was surprised to see me. “Jake!” she cried. “Where have you been?”
“Oh, around,” I said, trying to be a little nonchalant about it. “I just got back from Florida.”
“What were you doing there?” Dad asked. “Come on in and sit down, you don’t have to stand in the door.”
“Delivering a boat,” I told him after I’d plopped down on the couch. “Another guy and I took it from Mackinaw City down the Mississippi to Tarpon Springs. It took us two weeks.”
“That sounds like a real adventure,” Dad said with a smile, a good sign. “Did you have a good time?”
“Pretty good, although we pushed pretty hard and didn’t get off the boat much. I still saw a lot more in two weeks than I saw in two years of riding around on ships in the Navy.”
“But, what have you been doing with yourself?” Mom asked. “Delivering boats?”
“No, I only did that one other time,” I said, glad that we didn’t start off with a fight like we’d ended up with back in April. I was sure the subject of Brittany would come up sooner or later, but at least we were at peace for the moment. I’d decided that I was going to try to avoid mentioning where I’d been living, at least for a while, to see if Lisa had told them about seeing me. If she had, it would be interesting to see just how much she’d said. “That was just a five-day trip, down to Sandusky on a sailboat. It was a real fun trip. Most of the rest of the time I’ve been working as a deckhand on a charter fishing boat and running a fuel dock for a marina. It was something to do. The money wasn’t real great, but I had a lot of fun and did some things I never would have been able to do otherwise.”
Julie, my youngest sister was there. She was the only one still living at home, as far as I knew, at least while Lisa was away at college. She was about Rachel’s age, but somehow still seemed like a kid, much less mature than my boating buddy. “Lisa said she saw you up north someplace back in the spring,” she announced. “It was on that boat trip she took with the parents of one of her friends.”
“That’s the place,” I said, thinking that Julie’s statement pretty well settled whether Lisa had told anyone at home the whole truth about that trip. My guess was that Lisa must have not wanted to let on how good a time she was planning on having on the boat. “We got to talk for a few minutes, but that was about it.”
“She said you had a new girlfriend.”
“Yeah, Susie,” I said, realizing that Lisa had brought home that much of the story, but probably not much detail. “She’s back in college now, but I ought to be seeing her again in a couple weeks,” I added, grateful that I still had the shreds of that cover story that I could use. It would be good to see Susie again, even though we didn’t really have anything going on. I hadn’t even thought about her much in the last couple months.
“We sort of wondered about that,” Mom said, maybe a bit concerned. “Lisa didn’t tell us much about her.”
“Well, we didn’t get the chance to talk very much, like I said. I barely introduced Susie to Lisa. It was a real busy day, and Susie and I were both working like crazy.”
“Is there anything serious with this girl?” Mom asked. I could see that she was getting set to ask about Brittany, and realized that my having another real girlfriend might mean that Brittany was history.
“It was pretty serious last summer,” I replied. “But she’s away at college and we haven’t made any kind of promises to each other, so anything could still happen. I’ll know more when school is out in the spring.”
“Have you talked to Brittany?” Julie asked.
“Nope, not a word,” I replied. “I haven’t had a chance, and I haven’t been anywhere near Kalamazoo since last spring. Julie, you have to understand that Brittany is part of my past. There’s nothing there anymore.”
“That’s a shame,” Mom said with a shake of her head. “You and Brittany were such good friends.”
“Yeah, but ‘were’ is the important part of it. We grew apart while I was in the Navy, and I guess it took us a while to realize it. Let’s not talk about that now. So, what’s been happening around here?”
“Pretty much the same,” Mom replied, realizing she was on a touchy issue and apparently deciding not to push it for now. “Carolyn has a new guy. We haven’t seen much of him, but apparently they’re pretty serious. We don’t see as much of her as we’d like to since she got that job in Fort Wayne. It’s too far for her to drive every day, so she got an apartment down there.”
“Yeah, that was coming down when I was home last,” I replied. We were still near the touchy area, so I tried to change the subject a little more. “I hope he’s better than that last joker she was stuck on.”
“I think so, but apparently he’s pretty religious. She seems to get along with it all right, but I have to wonder how that’s going to work out in the long run.”
“Well, it’s her decision to make,” I said. “When you get right down to it, she has to be the one to decide, not anyone else.”
“Jake,” Mom asked, “are you planning on staying for supper? For that matter, how long are you staying?”
“I can stay for supper, assuming there’s enough for me,” I told her. “I more or less figured on staying the night. I need to pick up some stuff from my room while I’m here, but that shouldn’t take me long. I’ve got to get moving in the morning since I’m actually down here to pick up a boat and take it back north.”
“It seems a little late to be out on the Great Lakes in a small boat,” she replied. “I’m surprised you did it when? A couple weeks ago?”
“About that. It was a pretty big boat, and we stayed in a harbor a couple nights when the weather was bad. That’s not going to matter this trip since the boat I’m picking up is on a trailer.”
“You seem to be staying busy,” Dad said.
“There have been times that I’ve been very busy,” I admitted. “The season is slowing down quite a bit, but it looks like I’ll have a job through the winter.”
“I think I’d better go finish supper,” Mom said, getting up from the chair where she’d parked.
“Maybe I’d better go up now and get the stuff I want to take back with me,” I said. “How long before supper?”
“Oh, ten or fifteen minutes. I wasn’t expecting you, so I’ll need to throw a couple things together to stretch the meal out. As far as I know, everything is still in your room where you left it.”
I headed upstairs to my room, and it proved that Mom had been right: nothing had been touched that I could see. The door had been left closed, and it was a little chilly. I started pawing through the closet and the dresser looking for some heavier clothes. A lot of it wasn’t worth the trouble of even looking at – some of it had been there since before I’d been in the Navy, and I’d bulked up a bit in over four years. There were a few things that had been a little loose on me the last time I tried them on, but not many; those went into a pile on the foot of the bed to be packed up and taken down to the car.
I was in the middle of that project when I realized that Dad was at the bedroom door. “Jake?” he said. “I know there were some things that were said when you left last spring that really shouldn’t have come up, and I’ll admit that I was the one that said some of them.”
“I understand,” I replied, trying to be civil. “I said a few things that I probably shouldn’t have, either. Lisa wanted to make a fight out of it, so she was the one who really stirred things up. Carolyn didn’t help matters any.”
“Lisa is still pretty damn snotty about what happened with you and Brittany, whatever it was,” Dad said. “It’s probably just as well that she’s not home tonight, because she’s still sounding off about it. At least, she was the last time she was home, but that was the middle of last month.”
“Yeah, she called me once,” I admitted. “And she was pretty snotty with me then. That’s part of the reason I came home tonight. I figured she wasn’t going to be here.”
“I wish the hell I knew what the hair up her butt about it is all about,” he said after a sigh. “I mean, other than the fact that Lisa seems to think she can run everybody else’s life.”
“That’s Lisa for you,” I replied. “She doesn’t seem to be much of one to accept reality, and according to her, things should be the way she thinks they should be, no matter what everybody else thinks.”
“That’s probably a fair description,” he said. “I’ll tell you the truth, it’s hard seeing the whole house empty out. First you, then Carolyn, now Lisa, and Julie will be going before too long. The place is going to seem pretty empty.”
“I guess that’s the way things happen,” I said. “The woman I’m working for is sort of in the same boat. Her kids are at college, and she’s a widow. Things get a little lonely for her sometimes.”
“That’d have to be worse,” he agreed. “Look, I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’m sorry all that shit happened back last spring, and I’m sorry you thought you had to run off on us.”
“Well, I was pretty sorry about it at the time myself,” I admitted. “But as luck had it, I managed to fall into a pretty good place for me, and I got busy, which was good since I didn’t give me much time to think about the negatives for a while. It’s nothing that’s going to last forever, but it’s been fun and I’ve been learning a lot. It’s probably an accident that I’m going to be staying the winter, or else I’d most likely be in Florida or someplace by now. I probably will be next winter, unless something else happens, but that’s a year off and a lot can happen between now and then.”
“Including this girl of yours?”
“It’s a possibility,” I lied. Nothing was likely to happen with Susie, but he didn’t need to know that, especially since there was a good chance that at least some of what we talked about would get back to Lisa. If she heard that Susie and I had broken up, I knew she’d be doing her best to push Brittany right back down my throat. “We can’t really settle anything until she gets out of college.”
“Look, I know you’ve been pretty sensitive about it,” he said. “But what happened with you and Brittany, anyway?”
“Same thing,” I said. “We should have realized that we couldn’t settle anything till she got out of college. Unfortunately, I found out about it the hard way. The last time I talked to Lisa, she insisted that Brittany didn’t do anything wrong. I know better, I saw it, but Lisa doesn’t believe it since apparently Brittany hasn’t come clean to her about it. Until she does, Lisa just isn’t going to believe that it’s over with, and that she’s not going to put us back together. Brittany not telling Lisa her side of the story, at least what really happened, probably seals the deal at least as far as I’m concerned.”
It was about as close to a non-answer as I could give. For some reason I still didn’t want to come out and admit that I’d seen Brittany cheating on me with that guy at the motel, mostly because I thought my family ought to be able to take me at my word. Lisa had really polluted the waters with her “pervert” comment, and while she had sort of apologized for that the stink was still there.
“I guess that happens,” Dad said, realizing that he wasn’t going to get any more out of me on that subject. “But it’s a damn shame you had to leave so abruptly and stay gone so long.”
“You’re not going to get a disagreement out of me on that,” I told him. “Although once I was gone, it was easier to stay gone, at least partly because I was so busy. I was working twelve- and fourteen-hour days, seven days a week, and after a while that seemed to take care of things.”
“Well, try not to be gone so long the next time. Although if you want to time your visits to avoid Lisa, I can’t say as I blame you.”
“I appreciate that, Dad. I really do.”
We were starting to wear the subject out – well, we’d more than worn it out – but just about then Mom called us down to supper.
Fortunately, the issue of Brittany and Lisa didn’t come up very much over the table, and when it seemed to be heading that way I managed to find a way to change the subject. For the most part I stuck to telling stories, mostly about taking the Mary Sue down to Sandusky. I said that I was crewing the boat for a girl, but didn’t quite get around to mentioning her name or how old she was, and said that I’d really enjoyed the sailing. I also talked about the trip Nate and I had just finished, although I played down how rough it had been on Lake Michigan before we’d decided to head into Saugatuck. Mostly, I talked about fishing with Nate on the Chinook III, and explained some of the things I’d been doing there.
I didn’t get around to telling them that there was a chance I would be running Nate’s boat with Rachel next summer, nor that this trip was intended to buy a sailboat I would be building over the winter. I figured that raising either topic would just lead to more questions than I really felt like answering right then.
After supper, I went up and finished sorting out clothes and stuff in my old room and used some cardboard boxes to haul out to the car what I wanted to take with me. There really wasn’t a lot I wanted to save, and much of what was left was too small for me. I told Mom that she could get rid of the rest of my old clothes, except for my Navy uniforms and stuff. I had to explain that there was still a remote chance that I might decide to go back to the Navy in the long run, although at the moment I had no plans to do it.
Much to my surprise, the topic of Brittany – and Lisa, for that matter – didn’t come up again that evening. I guess Dad pretty well told everybody out of my hearing that it was still a sensitive issue with me and to stay away from it.
Fortunately, we didn’t stay up very late. Both Mom and Dad had to be at work early, and Julie had to be in school pretty early, as well. I told them I might as well sleep in a little while I had the chance; that would keep me from having to answer any questions at the last minute. I could just stay in bed until everyone was gone, then let myself out of the house and head for Saugatuck.
It was strange to be sleeping in my old room. I hadn’t spent many nights there over the last four years, and my room in the motel at the Channel Stop now seemed more like home to me than this one. There was plenty of stuff left there from my high school years, something that seemed long ago and far away for me now. My life had moved on in different directions, ones that I hadn’t anticipated, and for the moment I was satisfied with it, though I didn’t think it would stay that way forever. I’d pretty well managed to leave behind the life I’d led in this room, and that was fine with me.
At least I knew that I could come home again and that I wasn’t hated there, though it was still pretty clear that I would have to avoid Lisa for a while. Somehow, after this evening, that seemed like less of an issue than I had thought it would be.
When I woke up in the morning the house was quiet, like I’d hoped. No one was around, and it was time to get moving. In the early morning daylight I took one last pass around my old room, grabbing an armload of books that I hoped to read again to keep my mind occupied during the winter. I took them out to the car, took one look at the house, then locked up and hit the road. I might be back again soon, though most likely not, but at least I knew I could if I had to. That was more than I’d had before.