Spearfish Lake Tales
Contemporary Mainstream Books and Serials Online
They could hear that the rain was coming down heavily at four AM Tuesday morning, when Ray’s alarm clock went off. “Oh, damn,” Ginger heard him mumble about four inches away from her ear as she lay snuggled up next to him, bare chest to bare chest.
“Yeah,” she agreed. “Do I have to let you go?”
“Who said I wanted to be let go?” he replied. “Oh, hell, there’s no reason you have to get up. You might as well get some sleep.”
“No,” she sighed. “You have to go, and I want to see you off.”
“Well then, I guess,” he shook his head, throwing back the covers.
She went down the hall carrying her T-shirt to her room, got dressed enough to stand out on the porch in the rain to give Ray a goodbye hug and kiss, and wish him the best of luck. Even though it was chilly and damp outside, she watched as the caravan of two pickup trucks and trailers set out for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Once Ray’s and Ted’s tail lights disappeared up the road toward I-67, she headed back upstairs, and reluctantly decided to spend the rest of the night in her own bed, missing him already. She thought real hard about climbing back into his bed, so she could at least enjoy the aura of his having been there, but decided against it. It was still hard to get back to sleep.
When her own alarm went off some hours later, she realized that she was feeling more alone than she had any right to. On the other hand, she knew she had something important to do today, something that she’d looked forward to for days, and set out to get ready. Rather than just pull on the jeans and sweat shirt she would normally have worn on a rainy day in the track office, she went all out.
It was just as well that this was later than Mel and Arlene would normally have been there, because she took quite a bit of time in the bathroom after her shower. After drying her hair and brushing it out, she pinned it into a tight bun, and then put on makeup: eye shadow, lipstick, the whole works. Back in her room, she pulled on a sleek, shiny blouse with a big bow at the neckline, then a tweed skirt with a matching jacket and a pair of black high heels, all of which she’d only worn for the occasional job interview.
She checked herself out in the mirror – she looked good, but not quite how she wanted to yet. She put on some reading glasses she only used when she had a headache, and as a final touch poked a yellow pencil right through the bun. She looked again and smiled: perfect. This was going to be fun!
With that, she headed downstairs, thinking the house was empty. She gave a start when she heard Arlene’s voice: “Ginger! Is that you?”
“Oh, hi, Arlene,” she replied conversationally. “I thought you were working today.”
“Doctor had a meeting,” Arlene said, looking at the way Ginger was dressed. “Do you have an interview or something? I thought you were going to be at the track office.”
“I’m heading out there as soon as I get something to eat,” Ginger replied, taking off the glasses and sticking one of the bows in her mouth, with a mysterious grin on her face.
“You sure don’t look like you’re dressed for that,” Arlene shook her head. “You look, well, you look like a bookkeeper in a big accounting firm. What’s with the sexy librarian look, anyway?”
“Come on, Arlene,” Ginger giggled, unable to keep it back as she put the glasses back on. “I like to dress appropriately for the occasion, you know that. And if the occasion comes off like I hope it will, I’m dressed for it.”
Arlene shook her head. “Ginger, you’re up to something, and I know it. I’d figured on spending some time out in the office this morning, too. Am I going to get in the way of whatever you have in mind?”
“Not really,” Ginger said. “You might want to stay out of sight when I tell you to, though.”
“All right,” Arlene sighed. “You’re not going to tell me, are you?”
Ginger popped a couple toaster waffles in the toaster and smiled, “It’s not really any big thing; it’s just, well, making a point, if you know what I mean.”
“I don’t know what point you’re trying to make but I think I want to see it happen,” Arlene laughed. “You look dressed conservative, but look like you’d be a firecracker in bed. You ought to let Ray see you like that sometime.”
“He might get to when the time is appropriate.”
A couple hours later Ginger and Arlene were working on paperwork in the track office, discussing a way to streamline driver payouts, when they heard the garbage truck outside. “All right,” Ginger said. “Here we go.”
“I still don’t understand what you’re up to,” Arlene shook her head.
“Wait and see,” Ginger said as she swung around in her swivel chair to take a look out the window. Sure enough, Phipps was the tail gunner on the truck again. He had on a rain jacket that was much too big for him, and again he looked like a drowned rat. She could just feel him thinking back to how soft he’d had life as a shift manager at McDonald’s when he could boss people around, and that he still couldn’t figure out where he’d messed up.
The truck stopped with the tail right near several garbage cans in front of the concession building right across the way. Arlene noticed Ginger watching carefully and wondered what was so interesting. The tail gunner stepped off the back of the truck, reached for the first 55-gallon plastic trash can, and tried to pick it up. It barely moved. He took a bigger yank at it, and it still didn’t move much. Finally, he had to really put his back in it to tip it far enough to be able to roll it over to the back of the truck.
“That shouldn’t be that heavy,” Arlene commented.
“Sshhhhh,” Ginger silenced her, a big smile on her face.
The guy tried to yank the trash can up onto the back of the truck, but it was beyond yanking. About the best he could do was to lean the can up against the back of it the best he could and try to slide it up into the hopper with one hand while he balanced it with the other, but that wasn’t working, either. He tried lifting from the top side with both hands, but couldn’t do it. Then, he tried getting his hands under it to try and lift and push it onto the truck. Finally, with great effort he got it over the lip of the hopper, and still had to strain to get it overturned. There was quite a load in it; they could see the truck bounce a little bit when the trash hit bottom.
“Ginger . . .”
“Sshhhh . . .” she silenced Arlene again, a huge grin on her face.
Finally, with the trash can empty, Phipps pulled it from the hopper and rolled it back to where it had stood, and turned for the next can. This one proved to be no lighter. Again, he had to struggle to even get it over to the truck much like before, but this time he figured he was going to have to get under it to lift it.
It almost worked. He had the wet and slippery trash can almost ready to dump when it slipped off the lip of the hopper and crashed to the ground, spraying a huge fan of empty coffee cups, hot dog wrappers and other trash all over the ground. Even inside the building they could hear him yell, “Oh, fuck!!!”
“Now for the fun part,” Ginger grinned, reaching for her umbrella. “Stay back from the window, Arlene.”
Arlene watched as Ginger went outside and walked across the driveway to the garbage truck, her hips swaying seductively and not entirely due to the high heels, either. Wanting to hear this exchange, Arlene went over to the door, opened it just enough to hear what was going on and see out a bit, just in time to see Ginger walk up to the truck driver, who was looking at her through the open window. She heard Ginger say in an extremely seductive and innocent voice, “Oh, Mr. Driver? Sir? Your man is making an awful mess back there.”
“That pussy . . . “ he growled “ . . . er, excuse me, ma’am. I’ll take care of it!”
Ginger turned and walked back toward the office as the truck driver got out of the truck and walked back toward the rear. “Jesus Christ, Phipps!” he yelled. “What the fuck are you pissing around here for now? We ain’t fucking got all goddamn day! Get your act together, clean up that shit, we got more to do.”
“But it’s heavy!” the tail gunner protested.
“So pick the fucking thing up,” the driver yelled. “You got a strong back and a weak mind, that’s why the fuck you’re here.”
Ginger turned around and watched as the driver got done swearing, put his hands on his hips and glowered at Phipps, who was struggling to clean up the scattered and wet trash. “Oh, sir,” she called out in her sweet and seductive voice, “You missed a couple cans on the far side of this building last week. We try to keep this place neat and clean. Could you make sure you get them all this week?”
“Yeah, sure, ma’am,” he said. “Sorry about that, we got a new guy here.” He turned back to Phipps and added, “Quit fucking off and staring at the lady, we got work to do.” That didn’t keep the driver from turning and watching Ginger swivel-hip her way back to the office too.
Ginger managed to keep her cool until she had the door closed, and then was just about helpless with laughter. “Oh, God!” she finally managed to giggle, “That was just so cool!”
“Ginger,” Arlene smiled. “Have you got something against that guy in the back?”
“I sure do,” Ginger laughed, still barely able to contain herself. “He’s the one who gave me all the trouble at McDonald’s before he got fired.”
“Ginger, I don’t know about you sometimes,” Arlene laughed.
The two of them watched for several minutes as Phipps struggled with can after can, as the driver stood nearby and swore at him every inch of the way without lifting a finger to help. Finally, all the cans were empty and the mess more or less cleaned up. The driver got back in the truck and drove on to the next collection of cans as Phipps held onto the handhold in the back, obviously trying to catch his breath. He only got a moment to rest, though – the next trash can was in back of the grandstands, and although Ginger couldn’t see as well it was obviously no lighter. Ginger had to move to another window to watch him struggle with it.
It took several more minutes – and a couple more spills – before the garbage truck was out of sight. “I guess you got your payback, all right,” Arlene grinned. “But can I ask why those garbage cans were so heavy?”
“You remember last week when we had Lonnie and Bob use the big sweeper to clean the dirt and grit off the infield?” Ginger smiled. “Lonnie asked me where to dump it.”
“There’s a gully way out back we’re trying to fill in,” Arlene offered.
“I knew that,” Ginger giggled, “but I knew Phipps was working on the garbage truck, so I told Lonnie to shovel about six or eight inches of dirt into each barrel up here. I’d say he hit it about right, especially after it got wet. And I made sure Phipps got a good look at me so he’ll know I have a good job while he’s still the loser he always was.”
“You know,” Arlene said thoughtfully, “maybe I’d better warn Ray to be a little careful with you.”
“I wouldn’t worry about it. Ray is a nice guy, not an asshole like Phipps.”
Arlene smiled again, obviously still thinking. “Since you’re dressed like that,” she finally suggested, “maybe this would be a good time for you to go get a cup of coffee.”
“I’ve got one on my desk.”
“Not that one,” Arlene grinned. “I meant at the McDonald’s in Hawthorne. Take my car, too. There’s a couple things you could do for me in Hawthorne anyway.”
On the way to Hawthorne in Arlene’s big Buick, Ginger decided that she was going to put on the “sexy librarian” image in McDonald’s, as well. It was fun to play that role, although she realized that she would hate to have to dress like that every day – it would be a major pain in the butt.
Still, she had to concentrate to put on the image as she sashayed – there could be no other word for it – into the McDonald’s where she’d worked. She caught a couple interesting glances from guys, none of whom she’d want anything to do with, and walked up to the counter where Amber Fowler was working. Amber had been another one to suffer under Phipps’ hand, although nothing like as bad as Ginger’s experience. She got exactly the response she’d hoped for: “May I take your . . . my God, Ginger, is that you? What happened?”
“I got a better job,” Ginger said sweetly. “I’ll take a cup of coffee to go, black.”
“It must be a lot better job,” Amber sighed, not even thinking about the coffee. “You heard that Terry got canned, didn’t you?”
“Oh, he got canned, all right.” Ginger smiled serenely. “In fact, cans is what he’s dealing with right now, from the back of a garbage truck.”
“Is that so?” Amber laughed. “Serves him right! Geri Vorris got made shift manager, and it’s nowhere near as bad as it used to be.”
“Yes, but it’s still McDonald’s,” Ginger pointed out as she laid a bill on the counter for the coffee.
Amber got the message, and in a few seconds drew a small coffee, and snapped a lid on it, then brought it over. “What are you doing now?” she asked.
“Mostly bookkeeping, out in Bradford,” Ginger replied truthfully.
“Good deal,” Amber told her. “Well, hey, it’s good to see you again.”
“Good to see you,” Ginger smiled, “Say hi to everyone for me, would you?” She didn’t doubt that Amber would spread the word, and as rapidly as possible. Carrying the coffee, she turned and swivel-hipped toward the door again.
“Ginger!” she heard a familiar voice say. “I didn’t recognize you!”
Ginger looked up to see her mother standing there, staring wide-eyed at the “sexy librarian” image. Keep your cool, she thought as she said, “Oh, hi, Mom.”
“You look . . . you look so . . .”
“Professional?” Ginger helped her out sarcastically. While her mother hadn’t been as bad as her father, she hadn’t helped matters much, either. “I don’t have to wear anything like a McDonald’s uniform where I’m working now. What are you doing here? Shouldn’t you be at work?
“I took a sick day. I’ve been coming in here when I can, hoping to catch you,” her mother went on, completely missing the sarcasm. “I’ve been worried about you.”
“Is that why you didn’t say anything when Dad showed me the door?” Ginger replied icily.
“He shouldn’t have done that,” her mother replied, on the defensive now. “But, well, he could have been a little nicer about it.”
“No, he could have been a lot nicer about it, rather than making things worse,” Ginger replied, feeling anger starting to rise, now.
“We had, well, we had a fight about it,” her mother said. “I think he’d apologize. Hearing that an ambulance had been at the house and then finding all your stuff missing, we, well, we didn’t know what to think.”
“You can think that I took him at his word,” Ginger replied, her voice low, trying to keep from making a scene. “Which is what I did. He wanted me out of the house, so he got what he wanted.”
“But you didn’t have to leave like that.”
“What was I going to do?” Ginger almost hissed. “Stay and let him make me throw my money away? Not hardly. I don’t know what the big hair he had about my car was all about, but he had no right to say the things he said to me. So I left, and I like things better now.”
“But Ginger!” her mother pleaded. “Couldn’t you at least have said something?”
“I did. It didn’t do any good, so I left. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to get back to work.”
“But Ginger,” her mother tried again. “You just disappeared! We had no idea if you were dead or alive! Where are you living now? Where are you working?”
“Out of town,” Ginger replied flatly. “You don’t need to know more than that. I don’t need Dad calling up and trying to make trouble. This time the trouble he made worked out for me, but I don’t want to risk it happening again.”
“You know,” Arlene said over the kitchen table an hour or so later, as the two started in on lunch, “you’re going to have to make up with them at least a little sometime.”
“I know,” Ginger told her glumly. She was back in her normal jeans and sweat shirt now, and it felt more comfortable, more like her, the way she was supposed to be. “It’s just that I’m not ready to yet.”
“I can understand,” Arlene said. “When I left home under a cloud like that it was over a year before I wanted to make up with my family a little. I finally did, but I had to wait until some tempers cooled, including mine.”
“I’ve heard your story,” Ginger pointed out, “and I agree, I need to wait until my temper cools down. It hasn’t yet, and it could take that year. Arlene, there are times I feel like I’m really sponging off of you to stay here like I am, but you know I really appreciate it.”
“You’re not sponging; you’re carrying your share of the load and then some,” Arlene told her. “To be honest, we’re getting a lot of work out of you for what we pay you, and as I see it, that more than covers any expenses involved. I hate to see this drag you down, but I can understand why you feel the way you do.”
“I think I understand,” Ginger said, “but I still feel like I’ve been intruding, and it really feels out of place to have been spending the nights with Ray. I’m amazed that you haven’t said anything much about it, but I really appreciate it.”
“It’s a little awkward, I understand,” Arlene replied. “But then, it’s awkward for Ray, too. But believe it or not, you’re both grownups, and I do understand that. You know that I hope for the best between you and Ray, and I hope I haven’t been too pushy about it.”
“We’ve both felt a little pressure,” Ginger admitted, glad to have the discussion switched away from the downer that had resulted from the confrontation with her mother. This subject was almost as sensitive, but at least not one likely to escalate into open warfare like a discussion with her parents on about any topic – and it wasn’t anything that she hadn’t wondered and worried about a lot anyway. “That’s why I think it’s good that we’re going to have a few days apart. Hell, I miss him already, not that I’ve seen a whole lot of him the last couple weeks, as busy as he’s been with everything and the car on top of it. What can they be accomplishing down there in all this rain?”
“Not much, in one sense of the word, from what I understand. But there are things they can do in the rain, and once this blows through they ought to have several pretty decent days. I will tell you this, though – it’s a lot better to have him gone for three or four weeks down at Indianapolis than it was when he was working for Morgan Holliday in the Busch series and gone for months at a time. I’m a mother is what it comes down to, Ginger. I don’t like having all my kids so far away. I’m hoping to keep at least one of them around a little bit.”
“Yeah, I guess I hadn’t thought of it like that,” Ginger sighed. “Look, Arlene, I know I haven’t known Ray all that long, but well, things could work out for us the way they’re going now. But I can’t promise to be the bait in the trap that keeps him here. He’s got to reach that decision on his own. Anything else wouldn’t be fair to any of us.”
Arlene was silent for a moment. “Is that how you really see it?”
“Sometimes it looks like it,” Ginger sighed. “I know he thinks of it that way at times, too. Don’t get me wrong, Arlene. I can see how it would be a tremendous advantage to you for the both of us to stay here. I even think I can see how it could be a huge advantage to him, but, well . . .”
“Yes, well what?”
“Damn it, he’s a guy,” Ginger shook her head. “Who knows why they do things the way they do?” She reached for an allusion that might not have been the best one but seemed to cover the ground. “Look, pardon me for saying it if this rubs you the wrong way, but when you get right down to it, racing is pretty stupid, isn’t it? I mean, it’s dangerous, it’s expensive, it eats up time like no one could believe. Why do it?”
“Because people enjoy it. It’s fun, it’s exciting,” Arlene replied, at first not getting Ginger’s point, which almost sounded a little like heresy. “I’ve always enjoyed it, and I think you’re learning to enjoy it, too. But you’re right, when you look at it that way it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. But people do it. I’ve been involved with it in one way or another most of my life, so has everyone in the family, including my father and brother.”
“Right,” Ginger said. “And Ray’s right there with everybody else. I don’t think he wants to do anything much as a driver, but he likes being involved with it. It’s fun, it’s exciting, he enjoys it, and the part of it he does is something he can do and do well. So if he decides he wants to go do something else, especially in racing, there’s really not a whole lot you can say. Sure, there may be some advantages to staying here. I think he even sees that. But staying here means giving up some kind of a dream, maybe one that he doesn’t even know yet. It probably has something to do about making it on his own somehow or other.”
“You’re probably right,” Arlene nodded, realizing that the girl was looking at things in a way she hadn’t been, something outside her own viewpoint. “If it hadn’t been for that he probably wouldn’t have gone off to the Army, or gone to work for Morgan Holliday,” she replied understandingly. “And, if he should happen to impress one of the big Indy teams, he might well go to work for them. If that happened, I might get him back, and I might not.”
“No, you’re not quite right on that,” Ginger shook her head, not very happy with the thought herself but sharing her concern with Arlene. “We might get him back, or we might not.”