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Spearfish Lake Tales
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Starting Late book cover

Starting Late
A Tale from Spearfish Lake
Wes Boyd
©2011, ©2013

Chapter 7

The trip back to Spearfish Lake took longer than to Decatur, mostly because they stopped more often for meals and just to stop, not wanting to get the girls dispirited because of boredom and sore fannies. Though the motor home was moderately comfortable, Mark had about all he wanted of sitting in it for a while, and as far as he could tell everybody else seemed to feel about the same way. As far as Mark could tell, the only way Bree managed to tolerate it at all was that she’d borrowed a couple books from Henry; that was enough to keep her diverted while everyone else sat around and talked, played cards, and looked at the passing scenery. As far as that went, Mark thought Bree might have had the right idea.

Fortunately, the days are long in early May, and it was still well before dark before they rattled up the rough gravel road past Mike and Kirsten’s house to Mark and Jackie’s. “Well, here we are,” Mike announced from behind the wheel as he pulled the motor home to a stop near the back door. “It’s early enough that if we can get unloaded right away, we can get this thing back to Gil this evening.”

“That’s if he’s home on a nice night like tonight,” Kirsten commented. “It’s Friday night, after all, so the odds are pretty good he’s out at West Turtle Lake.”

“You’re probably right,” Mike agreed. “But I’d still like to get this back to his place so I can have the car back.”

“What’s West Turtle Lake?” Bree asked.

“That’s a place out east of here where the guy who owns this thing has a summer cottage,” Mark explained. “He’s out there most weekends, and a lot during the week if he isn’t filling in at his son’s store.”

“It was fine when I was younger,” Kirsten said, “But this time of year it’s a little buggy out there for me anymore.”

“Yeah, this time of year the mosquitoes are as thick as flies, and the flies are pretty thick,” Mike agreed as he shut off the motor home. “But they don’t seem to bug him much.”

“Over the years I’ve come to believe that any health benefits you can get from all the sunshine and fresh air are more than offset by the military-strength bug dope you have to wear to survive without any clothes on,” Kirsten sniffed.

“No clothes?” Becca asked. “What’s that all about?”

“Oh, boy,” Jackie shook her head. Over the course of the trip home, she’d come to pretty much the same conclusion about Bree as Mark had – that she was a city girl, pretty shy, and a little intolerant of things she didn’t approve of, much like Cindy. She could still remember some of the outbursts she’d witnessed from Cindy, and more she’d heard about, over the casual acceptance of nudity and lack of body shyness around the McMahon household. In this respect, Bree seemed to be made of the same cloth. Even though it was pretty clear that Kirsten had stuck her foot in it, they might as well get this out of the way. “Do you girls know what a nudist is?” she asked as neutrally as she could.

“You mean people who go around with no clothes on?” Becca asked.

EEEEEWWWW! GROSS!” Bree screeched with a grimace.

“Pretty much,” Jackie admitted, trying to ignore Bree’s outburst. “There’s a little more to it than that, but there’s a big resort out there for people who are into it.”

“Sounds neat,” Becca smiled. “Can we go out there sometime?”

EEEEEWWWW!” Bree groaned, with even more feeling than she’d been able to get into her first response. “You’d never get me doing something like that!”

“Sounds like fun to me,” Becca replied, watching her sister squirm with disgust, and probably sticking the needle in a little.

“Well, not right away, but maybe sometime,” Jackie temporized. “I really doubt if we’ll be taking your sister with us, though.”

NO WAY! EEEEEWWWW! You’d really do something like that?”

“I think maybe we’d better talk about it some other time,” Jackie said, looking to keep things on a more even keel for a while, at least till they could get the motor home unloaded, not that it would take much time. “Bree, you have to remember that sometimes if there are people who think differently than you do it doesn’t mean they’re wrong. It takes all kinds to make a world.”

“Yeah, but . . . how can people do something like that?”

“You’re not the first person to ask something like that,” Kirsten replied, looking to pour a little oil on troubled waters. “In fact, probably most people think the way you do, but that doesn’t mean either side is right or wrong.”

“You know,” Mark shook his head, “I was thinking a soak would feel pretty good tonight, but maybe we’d better not, just on general principles.”

“You’re probably right,” Mike agreed, clearly seeing the trouble lying ahead when that issue came up, and it was bound to come up pretty soon. “Maybe we’d better concentrate on getting this thing unloaded and getting the girls settled in.”

“It’s not going to take long to get unloaded,” Jackie agreed, “But getting the girls settled in is going to take a while. Come on, everybody grab an armload, and we should be able to finish it in a couple trips.”

Fortunately, the change in subject was enough to settle Bree down to where she was able to contribute to the hauling, although it was clear that the last word on the subject had not been said, and probably wouldn’t be anytime soon. Leaving Mike and Kirsten’s single small suitcase in the motor home, they just hauled the handful of suitcases and bags of clothes from the shopping expedition into the big fieldstone house and dumped them in the living room. “Well, girls,” Mark said, “This is your new home. We try to keep it picked up, but it’s not a model home, either.”

“It’s a nice house,” Becca said. “It’s a lot bigger than our apartment.”

“We’re comfortable with it, and it’s big enough for all of us,” Mark said. “Mostly it’s just been your Aunt Jackie and me living here, although we’ve had guests from time to time. When we bought this place over thirty years ago, it was abandoned and all but falling down. It took us years to get it rebuilt enough to move into it, and we still find stuff to work on from time to time. Our bedroom has always been downstairs, and we just use the upstairs for the spare bedroom and storage. We’re going to have to put both of you into the spare bedroom for now, but once we get time to work on things you’ll each have your own bedroom.”

“Good,” Becca said. “We’ve always been crowded into one room, and it’ll be neat to have a room of my own.”

“Yes, it will,” Bree agreed. “That way you won’t keep me awake while you’re playing computer games and stuff until all hours of the night.”

“It’s going to take a few days to get everything worked out,” Jackie explained. “I’m afraid the bed in the spare bedroom isn’t very good, but we were thinking that once we can get down and get your things out of your apartment in Decatur, we can probably just use the beds you’re used to. That’s going to be a few days, and it’ll give us time to get one of the rooms we’re now using for storage cleared out for a second bedroom. Then we may want to move both of you into the new bedroom for a couple days so we can give the spare bedroom a good cleaning and maybe a little redecorating. You’re just going to have to live with it for a few days. Can you manage that?”

“Sure,” Becca smiled, “It’ll be worth it to have my own room. That way maybe I won’t have to listen to Bree griping about me playing my computer games quite as much.”

“Well, both of you will have to help with the moving and cleaning and stuff,” Mark said. “If we’d known this was coming we’d have made a little better preparations, but we’ll have to make do for now. I’m thinking that before we start moving stuff into the new bedroom we may want to do a little painting and redecorating, and that’ll take a few days since we all have other things we have to do, too. I think maybe after you’ve seen both the rooms we’ll let you work out between yourselves who gets what room.”

“Let’s go up and show you the spare bedroom,” Jackie suggested. “I think there’ll be room for your new clothes and things in it if you don’t mind being a little crowded for a while. We might as well take some of it while we go.”

They trooped up the stairs, with Mike and Kirsten tagging along behind, each carrying an armload. “This will work just fine,” Becca said when she saw the room. “It’s going to be bigger than what we had at home. There’s more to see out the window than just another wall. I think I’m going to like it”

“I guess I’ll get used to it,” Bree said with resignation. “It won’t be the same thing, but I think I’ll like it all right.”

“Like I said, we can make it a little more comfortable after we work on it for a while,” Jackie told them, “but we won’t start on it tonight. We need to show you around the place a little bit, and beyond that, we’ve all had a long day. I don’t know about you, but I’m getting pretty tired.”

“I think it will be good to go to bed,” Bree agreed. “I guess I’m pretty tired, too.”

“I wouldn’t mind staying up for a while,” Becca yawned, “But I guess it’ll feel good to go to bed, too.”

After a few minutes of poking around, they all went back downstairs. “We’d better get the motor home back to Gil and Carrie,” Mike said. “Give us a call in the morning, and we can come over and help you with moving stuff out of whichever storeroom you’re planning on clearing out.”

“Sure, we’ll do that,” Mark responded. “And thanks for all the help you’ve been. It would have been hard to do it without you.”

“Oh, you’d have managed, but that’s what friends are for,” Mike told them. “You’ve helped us out with enough in the past, so we owe you a few anyway.”

It still took Mike and Kirsten a while to get on their way, but soon Mark and Jackie were left with the two girls. It was the first time it had only been just the four of them, with no one else around. Now they were on their own, and things seemed a little uncertain, at least to the adults. “Let’s take the time to show you around the place a little more,” Jackie suggested. “There’s a little more to this house, and there are some things outside and in the shop you’ll want to see.”

The house was big and comfortable, with a big, airy kitchen and a comfortable living room. “There are a couple cats around, Perky and Snuffy, but they’re both pretty shy, and I haven’t seen them since we’ve been here,” Jackie explained. “Once they’re familiar with you they can be pretty friendly, but it’ll probably take them a while to get used to you. They really are good cats, and they’re no trouble, at least most of the time.”

“You have cats? Great!” Bree smiled. “I like cats, but we’ve never had one.”

“We never had dogs, either,” Becca said. “Some dogs I like, and others, well, I don’t like them so much.”

“We had dogs for a long time,” Mark told them. “The problem is that dogs need a lot more care than cats, so when we got out of dogsled racing we didn’t keep any. Now, one of the things about this house is that there’s only one bathroom. Jackie and I haven’t needed more than that, although there’s a room upstairs I’ve planned on turning into a bathroom sometime. For now, we’re going to have to share the one we have, so I’d appreciate it if you don’t spend half the day parked in there.”

“No problem,” Becca said. “I don’t spend a lot of time in the bathroom, but Bree can be in there for hours on end.”

“That’s because you don’t care very much how you look,” Bree sniffed. “I like to look nice, but you never seem to take a bath unless you’re leaving muddy footprints all over the place.”

“We’ll just have to work it out, and try to be considerate of each other,” Jackie said, noting Bree’s snotty swipe at her sister – not the first one she’d taken in the last few minutes, and far from the first one she’d noticed. “We can get along with four of us using one bathroom, but we’ll have to make do.”

“We’re going to have to,” Mark said, visualizing Bree parking in there for a long time in the morning while everybody else had to get ready – and he figured she would be the one to do it if anyone would. Fortunately, both his and Jackie’s schedule in the morning were pretty loose. She did most of her work out in the shop in the barn, and he had people at Marlin Computer who could handle things if he weren’t there right at opening time, although either one of them running late could be awkward. At least Becca would already be used to Bree’s habits of getting her face on in the morning.

“Maybe we’d better show you around outside while it is still light and before we get sidetracked onto something else,” Jackie said.

They headed outside, pointing out things of interest around the yard, although somehow both Mark and Jackie managed to avoid mentioning the hot tub – that was an issue neither of them wanted to get into this evening, not the way that Bree had reacted earlier. “There are dog-training trails out that way,” he explained. “Josh and Tiffany next door use them a lot, although they won’t get much use until later in the summer. You’ll get used to it easily enough, and you might find it interesting. That open field off to the west . . . ” he pointed “ . . . is the airstrip. We keep both the plane and the glider out in the hanger on the far side of the shop.”

“Can we see them?” Bree asked eagerly.

“Sure, let’s go look,” Mark replied, glad to see Bree interested in something, rather than just barely tolerating it. They walked around the building, and through a small door. Inside, the white-painted plane sat in front of them. “That’s the plane,” he explained. “Jackie and I named it ‘Rocinante’ a long time ago, before we were married. It’s a Cessna 140, and it’s an antique – it’s older than I am, in fact. We rebuilt it back in 1970 and spent eight months flying around the country with it. We’ve had to do quite a bit of work on it since, but it’s probably in better shape than it was when it was built. It only has two seats, so when Jackie or I go flying with you it’ll have to be one of you at a time.”

“Could we go flying now?” Bree asked.

“Oh, I suppose we could,” Mark smiled. “But it’s getting kind of late and we’re all tired. Let’s do it sometime in the next couple days instead.”

“All right, I guess,” Bree replied, visibly disappointed. “You said you had a glider, too. Is that here?”

“That’s it, back on the trailer in the back,” Mark pointed. The fuselage sat in the center of the trailer, with the wings standing on edge on either side. “We have to put the wings on it when we want to fly it. It’s a Schweizer 1-26, and it only has one seat, so we can’t take you flying in it. We bought it after it had been crashed years ago, and we spent a couple winters rebuilding it. We don’t fly it as much as we used to, but we usually get out with it a few times a year. We have to launch it by towing it with the pickup, since Rocinante isn’t strong enough to tow it.”

“Can we see sometime?” Bree asked.

“Oh, sooner or later,” Mark replied. “We have to wait till the conditions are right, and then only when we have the time to mess with it. It’s pretty spectacular to see it being launched.”

“Wow, I’d like to see that,” the younger girl smiled.

Mark thought it was a little interesting. The more adventurous Becca apparently wasn’t very excited with the planes, but was being polite in her disinterest; the shy Bree, who seemed the one to not like the concept of dealing with new things, was fascinated. Maybe that would be a way to build the girl’s confidence and to become a little friendlier with her. “It’s pretty spectacular to watch,” he explained. “It’s even more spectacular to ride. Maybe sometime we’ll have to find a two-seat glider so you can have a ride, but there aren’t any around close by that I know of.”

“I think I’d like that,” she smiled.

“There’s other stuff out here,” Jackie said. “My shop is over on the other side of the building, and I spend a lot of my time out there. If you’re looking for me around the house and can’t find me, that’s the first place to look. That’s where I do most of my sign making, although sometimes I have to go someplace else to finish a sign or put it up. If you’re home and I have to go away for that, I’ll let you know.”

“So you paint signs?” Bree asked.

“Sometimes, but not very often anymore,” Jackie told her. “Let’s go over there and I can explain it a little better.”

She led Mark and the girls over to her shop, which was cluttered with partial rolls of plastic, finished and unfinished signs, and a lot of things that were hard to describe. “While I do work with paint and brushes, and sometimes an airbrush,” Jackie explained, “Most signs these days are made out of plastic. Sometimes I cut the sign parts out with a knife, but more often I used a computer-driven cutter to cut them. They’re usually stuck to pieces of paper to make them easier to handle. Then they’re put onto whatever the sign backing is, stuck into place, and the paper is peeled off. You can see from some of these signs that they can get pretty complicated.”

“Wow,” Bree said, impressed. “It’s almost like you’re an artist.”

“It’s more than almost,” Jackie smiled. “There are artistic skills to it, and developing a good sign really is an art form.”

“Can I watch you working on them?” the younger girl asked.

“Any time you want,” Jackie smiled. “It’s not easy to learn, but I’ve been doing computer-generated plastic signs for many years, so I like to think I’ve learned a few of the tricks. I’ve done more kinds of signs on more things than I can believe. Don’t be surprised to see a truck or trailer sitting out in the yard for me to work on. I’ve done more than a few race cars. I really like doing them, since the artwork on them is usually pretty spectacular.”

“Wow, it’s neat to think you’re an artist,” Bree replied, a little awe showing through. “I like to draw and paint, but I never dreamed that was how signs are made.”

“If you want to learn more about it, I’ll be glad to teach you,” Jackie said. “Mark knows how to do some of it but he lacks a little, knack, I guess, to do a really good job.”

“Do you think I can help?”

“I can often use an extra set of hands anyway, and Becca, you may get called on to help out once in a while, too. I was a little behind on some orders even before we heard about you two, and losing a couple days work has just put me a little further behind, so I may have to work on signs over the weekend some. Sometimes I’m very busy with signs, and other times I’m not so busy. Let’s not get into showing you how it’s done right now. We can do that tomorrow when we’re not so tired. I don’t know if you’re ready to call it a day, but I am. Let’s go back to the house, have something to eat, and think about turning in.”

It sounded like a good idea to everyone. They went back over to the house; Jackie got a bottle of fruit juice out of the refrigerator and they sat around the kitchen table to talk. “Like we’ve been telling you, this is about as new to us as it is to you,” she told the girls. “It may take us a while to get used to each other, but I think we’ll be able to get along.”

“It’s all going to be pretty new,” Becca said. “But it looks like it’ll be all right. I still want to see about getting on some teams and making some friends here.”

“There’s probably not much we’ll be able to do about that until Monday,” Mark said. “A lot of it will have to be done through the school, and that’s the place to start. So, I think we want to work on getting you settled in this weekend, so you’ll be ready to go to school on Monday morning.”

“I’m hoping it won’t be too bad,” Bree said with evident concern. “I think I’m more worried about that than anything else.”

“I never had to change schools, but I know it has to be hard,” Jackie said. “That’s part of the reason we want you to go to school here for the rest of the year, even though there isn’t much school left. That means you won’t have to be worrying about it all summer, and you may be able to make some friends who will make the summer go a little easier for you.”

“Sure,” Becca said, “I’m looking forward to it. I want to see about that basketball practice you were talking about.”

“Maybe I can call Mrs. Wine tomorrow,” Mark suggested. “I don’t know her real well, but I know her husband through dogsled racing. He’s one of the real fanatics.”

“You know a lot of people around here, don’t you?” Becca asked.

“You get to know people when you’re around a place as long as we’ve been,” Mark shrugged. “Especially when you’re in a business that deals with a lot of the public. You’ll get to know people as you go along, too. I know it’s all pretty strange to you right now, but it won’t stay that way for long. You’re going to get to know a lot of people, and make new friends. It means you’re going to be leaving behind some things you already know, but there will be new things to discover, too.”

“I really wish we didn’t have to,” Bree sighed. “I wish things could be the way they used to be, but I guess it’s not going to be that way. You’re very nice, and this looks like it can be a good place to be. Becca and I talked about it, and we know it could be a whole lot worse. We’ve known kids who had to go to foster homes, and usually they didn’t like it very much. At least we’re lucky about that.”

“We know it’s going to be difficult for you,” Jackie told them. “We’re going to try to smooth it the best for you that we can. There will be times it won’t be easy, but we’ve been through hard times and came through them okay. There are probably times that will be hard for you, but you’ll make it. There are probably some things you’ll have to do to adapt to the way we do things, and we’ll probably have to find some ways to adapt to the way you do things. But we ought to make it work out and have some good times along the way.”

“I hope so,” Bree said somberly, “but I miss Mom, and while I think you’ll try hard, I don’t think you’ll be able to replace her all the way.”

“No, of course not,” Jackie replied, “but working together we’ll all do the best we can.”

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