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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 9

Given the long days they’d had, Jackie had intentionally not set the alarm the night before, figuring that she and Mark needed the extra sleep. It would be Saturday, after all; what was the use of having them if they couldn’t sleep in once in a while.

It didn’t work out that way, of course; their internal clocks were set too solidly, so both of them were awake within minutes of their normal time. “Well, nuts,” Mark finally conceded. “We might as well get up. We’ve got plenty to do today, after all.”

“Yeah, I suppose,” Jackie sighed. “Another hour in bed would feel good, even if we didn’t get much sleep.”

“There is that,” Mark agreed, understanding what she really meant; it sounded like a good idea to him, too. It would have been far from the first time in well over thirty years they’d gotten cuddly – and more – before they got up and moving on a Saturday. “But I don’t know what kind of schedule the kids will be on.”

“That’s going to put a little crimp in things, that’s for sure,” she smiled. “I guess it’s just something else we have to get used to. We’d better get at least a little dressed before we go out of the bedroom.”

“You’re right,” Mark sighed, throwing back the covers. “I didn’t think about that. It’s just something else to get used to. Maybe we can get them used to being a little casual about it, too, since I don’t want to have to get used to pajamas at my age. I sure hope Bree isn’t parked in the bathroom, since I need to use it, bad.”

“Don’t take too long. I need it, too.”

Mark took enough time to pull on a pair of undershorts and a T-shirt before he headed to the bathroom, right next to the downstairs bedroom. It only took a moment to relieve the pressure, and mindful of Jackie, he decided he could put shaving and some of the other morning necessities off for a few minutes. He went back to the bedroom, told Jackie it was her turn, then pulled out a clean pair of pants, socks, and a flannel shirt since it looked like it would be a cool morning.

By the time he had those on along with his shoes, he was more or less awake, although a cup of coffee would taste good. He decided to head out to the kitchen to get the coffee going, and get a drink of water to hold him till he could get back to the bathroom.

On the way to the kitchen, he had to go through the living room, and somehow wasn’t surprised to see Bree already there, curled up in an easy chair, reading a book. He was, however, very surprised to see that she had company: in her lap was an orange-brown mass of fur – Perky, the bigger and more antisocial of the two cats. Perky seemed very contented to have her lap to curl up in; Mark could hear him purring from across the room as Bree stroked him lightly while she read.

“Wow,” he said. “Bree, it looks like you’ve found a friend.”

“He found me,” she shook her head. “He hopped up in my lap and wanted attention, so I decided to try petting him. I guess he likes me.”

“Sure looks like it to me,” Mark said. “He doesn’t like most people very well and tends to hide out a lot. I figured it’d be weeks before you even saw him.”

“I’ve never been around cats very much, but he seems to like my lap,” she smiled. “Does he have a name?”

“He’s called ‘Perky,’” Mark told her. “When he was a kitten he was always on the move. It wasn’t until he grew up that he became a couch potato.”

“He’s a nice cat, and he’s cuddly,” she replied. “But he’s heavy!

“He’s spent too much time with his nose in the food dish,” Mark shook his head. “I would have thought he’d be begging me to get his breakfast by now, but he doesn’t seem to want to move. It’s strange Snuffy isn’t out here begging too, but he’s still probably a little scared of you. They don’t go outside, by the way, so don’t let them out, even if they seem to be asking. They don’t have any front claws; they’re indoor cats. So, is Becca up yet?”

“I don’t know, but probably not,” she said. “I’ve been up for a while and couldn’t get back to sleep, so I got up, used the bathroom, took a shower, got dressed, had a couple slices of toast and some juice, so I figured I’d get some reading in. I usually get up pretty early since it’s quieter then. Becca says mornings are for sleeping, like classrooms. If someone doesn’t get her up she’ll probably be sleeping till noon.”

This was going to make life interesting, Mark thought. An early riser and a sleep-till-nooner. They really are two different girls, aren’t they?

“This is about the normal time we’ve been getting up,” he replied. “We’ll probably have to get an earlier start with the two of you getting ready for school, but we’ll have to see how it works out. Do you want any more breakfast?”

“Maybe a little,” she said. “I usually just have cereal for breakfast, so the toast tasted pretty good.”

“We usually have a pretty good breakfast on Saturdays and Sundays,” Mark told her. “During the week Jackie eats cereal, but I go out to a restaurant to have breakfast and gossip with some friends for business contacts. We like to make up for it on the weekends.”

“I could stand a little more, but I don’t really want a lot.”

“Well, whatever,” he shrugged. “It’s a long time till noon, though. Do you think I’d better wake Becca up for breakfast? If we’re going to work up there today she’s going to have to get up anyway.”

“I probably should do it,” she said. “She’ll be more used to me, but we could let her sleep a little while yet, at least till you’re close to having breakfast ready. She doesn’t take much time in the bathroom in the mornings. She should take more, but she won’t.”

“OK, we’ll let her have a little more time,” he said, hearing Jackie come out of the bathroom. “I need to go finish up. See you in a bit.”

Mark went back to the bedroom. “You ought to quietly go out to the living room,” he smiled. “You won’t believe what I just saw.”

“Bree reading a book, I’ll bet.”

“Yeah, but with a very contented Perky in her lap. It sounds like he sought her out.”

“Perky? Are you sure some other cat didn’t wander in off the street?”

“Looked like him and purred like him,” Mark shook his head. “I never would have believed it out of either of them. She may not have been a cat person before but I think he’s making her into one.”

*   *   *

As Bree predicted, Becca was hard to get up and didn’t appear very awake when she stumbled down the stairs and into the bathroom before making her appearance at the kitchen table. “Did you sleep well?” Jackie inquired.

“Yeah, what there was of it,” she yawned. “You’d think I had to go to school today, or something.”

“Afraid not today, but the day after tomorrow,” Jackie told her. “Today we’ve got to clean out one of the rooms upstairs. We need to go into town for a bit, too, and we might as well take you along so you can get some idea of what the place is like, so it won’t be all work.”

“Are we going to get to go flying?” Bree asked.

“Maybe,” Mark said. “It’ll depend on how much work we get done upstairs first. The sooner it’s done, the sooner it’s done and we can do other things.”

Between them Mark and Jackie explained they were going to have to totally clean out the room across the hall from the one where the girls were staying. Everything would have to be picked over, at least a little. Some of the things in the room would have to be moved to the other two other rooms on the floor. Most would either go to a pile for the garage sale, or to another pile in the back of Mark’s pickup, which would go to the dumpster behind Marlin Computer. Since Mark and Jackie would be the ones to make up their minds about each item, the girls would mostly be hauling things. Once the room was cleaned out, it would need a general cleaning and wash down, and any decisions about redecorating could be made.

“If we get that far today, I’ll be happy,” Jackie told them. “Somewhere along in there we need to make up our minds which of the two of you is going to get it.”

Once they had breakfast over with, they all went upstairs to get to work. Nothing had been put into the room with any real organization, so it took a while to sort through everything. A lot of it seemed to be old clothes, most of which had little chance of ever being worn again, at least by this family, so they were good candidates for the upcoming city-wide garage sale, and probably the secondhand store after that. Some of the collection was old business records, going back for years; if anything was over ten years or so old, it went to the pile for the dumpster.

That still left a lot of stuff, most of which had only limited potential for further use. There were boxes of old magazines, which could be dumpster material, and boxes of books where there was no space available on the shelves downstairs. These were kept, but with the provision that Bree could sort through them for potential reading material at her leisure.

It was late in the morning before they had the room cleared out. “That’s a good place to call a halt,” Jackie said. “We still need to get into town for a bit. We’ve got a couple places to stop, and it’s a good chance to show the two of you around. Then we can have some lunch.”

“Could we go to a place like McDonald’s?” Becca asked.

“Afraid not,” Mark smiled. “We don’t have a fast food place like that here in town. In fact, the closest one I know is about fifty miles away. In the summer there’s an old drive-in that sort of fills the same purpose, and it’s a main hangout place for kids, but even it closes in the winter. We could take a swing by there, but it might be best if we just came back here.”

“Wow!” Becca shook her head. “We really are out in the middle of nowhere, aren’t we? I can’t imagine no McDonald’s, no Burger King, or anything like that.”

“Yeah,” Bree agreed. “We used to eat at them a lot.”

“Well, we’ve never had one here, so I guess we don’t miss it,” Mark said. “It does make it sort of a treat to stop at one when we have to go down to Camden for some reason.”

Now that might have potential, he thought; this town could stand a fast food place, but he’d never been near the restaurant business other than frequently eating breakfast at the Spearfish Lake Café and occasionally elsewhere. Still, he didn’t think he wanted to be in the restaurant business since it seemed like a hell of a lot of work, more than he felt like doing at his age, even if he had a manager and a staff to actually run it. Besides the overhead would be enormous and so would be the risk. It was probably a good idea for someone, but he didn’t think it would be him, at least not at this point in his life. It would be better to stay with something he knew and understood a little better.

Knowing that the nearest popular fast food place was fifty miles off didn’t mollify the girls very much; it was clear to Mark and Jackie that they thought they’d absolutely left civilization behind. They still seemed to be amazed at how far out in the middle of nowhere they were as they went out and got into Jackie’s car for the trip into town.

Although it was slightly the long way around, Jackie took them into town along the lake shore roads, rather than up the state road. If the girls wanted to ride bikes into town after they got them, this was much the safer way for them to go. The route, of course, took them down past the nice beach almost downtown along Lakeshore Drive, which they pointed out to the girls. “It’s pretty popular in the summer,” Jackie explained. “Even though the lake really never gets warm enough stay in for very long and enjoy swimming. Do you girls know how to swim?”

“I can,” Becca said. “I’ve had pool class the last two years.”

“Next year for me,” Bree said. “I really wasn’t looking forward to it, though.”

“Well, you won’t have to deal with it here. No pool at the school, so no pool class,” Jackie explained. “That’s not going to get you out of girls’ phys. ed. class, though.”

Mark could read between the lines on that one. He suspected that the locker room was going to be the issue for Bree, and not the pool or the gym, although there was a chance they might be able to do something about it before school started again in the fall.

“I’m of the opinion that kids need to know how to swim, at least a little,” Jackie continued. “Maybe later in the summer, when the lake warms up, we can give you a few basics.”

“I guess,” Bree replied, clearly not enthusiastic about the idea.

They drove around a little more and pointed out such things as the Record-Herald, where Mike and Kirsten worked, and Spearfish Lake Outfitters, where their daughter Tiffany worked. They drove past the school, which seemed quiet on this Saturday morning, although there was a ball game going on one of the fields.

A little farther along, they pulled to a stop at Marlin Computers. “I need to stop and check out a couple things,” Mark told them. “There’s no point in holding you up, so Jackie can take you shopping for what she wants to get you.” It was going to be a little hard for Jackie to explain why they needed swimsuits, but at least it was her problem, Mark thought.

He walked inside the store, which was not terribly busy for a late Saturday morning. There were two or three customers, but they seemed to be getting sufficient help from the staff. In fact, there was little reason for him to even be there, other than he and Jackie had decided it might be best for Bree if he weren’t around for the swimsuit shopping, not that he really wanted to go shopping with them anyway.

But being inside the store felt a little strange. Although Marlin.com’s offices were located in the back, and most people thought they were the same thing, they weren’t. Back when Mark set up the internet service provider it hadn’t felt like a sure thing to him, and he thought it ought to be a separate corporation just in case it went belly up. Though he also owned the computer store, the past few years he hadn’t had much to do with it.

He’d been in this business in one form or another since the early eighties, back when he was pretty much a hobbyist and becoming known as the local expert on the then simple and incomprehensible gadgets. At first, he just helped out on a friendly basis, but it got to be a little bit much and he started charging for it. For years he’d mostly operated it on a part-time basis out of the seat of his pickup truck, and it wasn’t until late 1990 that he actually got around to opening an office. He was just getting his feet wet in that when the opportunity came to set up the ISP, and for a while he’d been busier than he wanted to be. But it had been a good business – or actually, pair of businesses – but it seemed to him that times were changing and he needed to change with the times. Especially after his talk with Mike the day before, he kept feeling it was time to move on.

Kenny, his de-facto store manager, was busy with a customer but was soon free. If he decided to sell Marlin Computer – a decision he hadn’t made yet – Kenny would be the first person he approached about buying it. But, it wasn’t time to bring that up yet; Kenny didn’t know about the offer to purchase Marlin.com, although he would have to be told soon, if for no more reason than Mark valued his input. “Sorry I had to take off with no notice, but it was a family crisis,” Mark told him. “So, how’s it been going?”

“Oh, pretty much the same,” Kenny shrugged. “Been a couple viruses going around, and that’s kept us busy. One of them resulted in our selling a guy a whole new system. His old one was a piece of junk anyway.”

“Hate to have to do it that way, but it happens,” Mark shrugged. “How are we fixed for mid-range refurbs?”

“Got several,” Kenny told him. “That’s not even counting the one the guy brought in. I think that one’s headed for the used parts room.”

“Don’t need them today,” Mark replied. “But I’ll need a couple mid-range refurbs, suitable for young teenagers. They don’t have to be the hottest things on the block, just serviceable, although one of the kids is a gamer and probably would appreciate a little more speed and a fast video card. Used CRTs are fine at this point, they don’t need flat-screen monitors just yet.”

“Shouldn’t have a problem with that,” Kenny shrugged. “There must be half a dozen sitting back there, at least. They all have XP on them, and we can throw on a few useful things and maybe some games with no problem.”

“I don’t need them today and don’t need them at all if there’s any prospect for selling them for money any time soon,” Mark told him. “The first of the week would be fine.”

“Other than loading the software, you could take them with you now,” Kenny told him. “Found someone you need to give them to?”

“Yeah, I’m going to have my niece’s kids living with me, and they haven’t had boxes of their own before. Just set them aside for me. When I come in Monday I’ll set them up and load the software. My guess is I’ll want a good anti-virus program on each of them, and maybe a fairly tight nanny program.”

“We should have office copies of some of that stuff around, and you’ll be able to download anything we don’t already have. When I get a minute, I’ll pick out a couple boxes and peripherals and set them aside. Are either of these kids computer wizards?”

“Not that I know of, and I get the impression they’re more computer users with limited experience, rather than being computer nuts. But they’ve surprised me before and I don’t doubt they’ll surprise me again.”

“Is it going to seem strange to have kids around the house?”

“It already is,” Mark shook his head. “I suppose it’s going to take a while to get used to it, but so far they seem to be pretty good kids.”

About that time another customer came into the store, and Kenny went to deal with him, leaving Mark thinking that he’d lost a lot of interest in the business in the past few years, when his attention had mostly been on Marlin.com. Maybe it was time to be moving on, although to what seemed even more up in the air than it had before.

For practical purposes, Marlin Computer had already become Kenny’s business, just because he’d been more or less the manager for so long. However it settled out, Mark knew he might keep a finger in the business, and he might not. It was a decision that didn’t have to be made just yet, although it was a point that needed consideration.

One thing was clear in his own mind: if he sold Marlin.com, it was going to have to move out of the Marlin Computer store. He had no idea what the purchasers had in mind to do with it, and whether the servers would still even be local; after all, there was no need for them to be located here, and the business offices certainly would be elsewhere. To have them in the same space would complicate things for Marlin Computer too much. Oh, they could take a while to move them, but moving the servers and the rest of Marlin.com would have to be one of the points in a purchase agreement. That would leave a couple rooms free at Marlin Computer, but probably he or Kenny could think of something to do with them. They might even prove to be useful as a base of operations for a new business, whatever it might be.

The offer to purchase Marlin.com could have come at a better time, Mark realized. He would need to give the girls a lot of attention in the next few months, and having to deal with something as complex as the sale of a business at the same time was inconvenient, to say the least. Finding something else to do in the same time frame wasn’t going to be any picnic, either but, he’d learned that in life there are busy times when everything seems to happen at once, and slow times when nothing much happened.

I’m just going to have to suck it up and deal with it, he thought. If he did make up his mind to sell Marlin.com – and he was leaning that way more and more – it would be one complication out of his life, and even Marlin Computer was starting to seem a lot more irrelevant. There ought to be something else out there, he thought. I just don’t know what it is, yet.

He went into his office and leafed through some paperwork on his desk without any real interest in it; it was just something to pass the time until Jackie returned with the kids. The answer is out there, he thought. It just hasn’t come to me yet.

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