Spearfish Lake Tales
Contemporary Mainstream Books and Serials Online
Binky found a driveway to turn the van around and drove back toward downtown, on past the beach. “I’m going to take a minute to stop by my house and get some potatoes in the crock pot,” she said. “I hope you won’t mind.”
“No, feel free.”
“In fact, if you don’t have any plans for dinner, you’d be welcome to join us.”
“I’ll take you up on that,” Tricia replied without hesitation. “You would not believe how long it’s been since I’ve had a home-cooked meal.”
“Since before my mother died, and that was almost eight years ago,” Tricia replied a little sadly.
Binky shook her head. “She probably would have been very proud of you to see you today.”
“Mostly surprised, I think,” Tricia replied. “She never believed I’d really do it, but I wish she could have seen it.”
“How about your father?”
“No idea,” she replied, a little bitterly. “I haven’t seen him in longer than that. If he’d been even the slightest bit helpful it would have been a lot easier to make it through school, but he wasn’t, so the hell with him.”
“I’m sorry I asked,” Binky said. “I didn’t know.”
“No way you could have known,” Tricia replied.
“Any other relatives?”
“No one I know well enough to tell,” she sighed. “There are some distant ones in California, and I barely know their names, and have no idea how I’d find them.”
“So you have no one to take pride in what you’ve accomplished?”
“Not really.” There was Danny, of course, but she couldn’t mention him. “A couple friends, but no one close.”
“That’s a shame,” Binky said. “But you’re not alone. I wish my father and mother were alive to see what I’ve accomplished with my life. They would never have believed it in the days after Saigon fell. Hell, I would never have believed it, either.”
“Somebody mentioned you were Vietnamese, but I didn’t realize you were born there. You don’t have a trace of an accent.”
“I worked hard at getting rid of it for years. I don’t even speak Vietnamese very well any longer. I’ve tried to put it behind me.” Binky took a deep breath, as if she wanted to say something that was hard to say. “Things were hell before we left,” she finally managed. “I never wanted to see the place again.”
“It sounds bad,” Tricia said sympathetically.
“It was bad. Tricia, my father died in one of the Communist re-education camps. I’m pretty sure one of my brothers died there, too. I may have one brother who survived, but I don’t know. I actually doubt it, but I’ve never heard, and don’t know how I’d ever find out.”
“How did you leave?”
Binky took another deep breath, and Tricia realized she’d just asked a question she probably shouldn’t have. Danny had said Binky had a couple of stories she didn’t often talk about, and it was clear she’d stumbled onto one of them. “My mother and I had a chance to escape the country on a fishing boat in 1978,” she said, not in a happy voice. “I, well . . . we ran out of fuel, and we ran out of food and water. My mother died in my arms, Tricia. I only just barely survived. There were two dozen of us on the boat when we left, and there were only two of us left alive when we were picked up by an American destroyer.” She gave a sniff and continued, “It was the luckiest day of my life.”
“Wow,” Tricia said, not able to think of anything better to say for a moment. She may have gone through some difficulties in becoming a doctor, but having been Peppermint Patty couldn’t hold a candle to this story. “So how did you wind up in Spearfish Lake, of all places?”
“That was where the good luck really kicked in,” Binky replied, a little brighter now. “No one on the destroyer spoke a word of Vietnamese, and I didn’t speak any English. We had to get to Honolulu before they could find a translator. There was a chaplain on the destroyer, and when he found out I was an orphan, he offered to find me a sponsor. His brother was a minister in a church in Albany River, just south of here, and realistically the whole church sponsored me. The family I lived with was Finnish, and they had a Finnish accent real bad. For a long time I spoke English with both a Vietnamese and a Finnish accent, yaah, you betcha.”
“That must not have made you very easy to understand,” Tricia grinned as Binky pulled the van into the driveway of a rather modest lakefront house.
“Amazingly enough, less than you would have thought,” Binky laughed. “People around here are used to hearing that accent. Some people call it ‘Yooper’ since we’re in what’s known as the ‘U.P.,’ or sometimes even ‘Da Yoop.’ You might as well get used to it; you’ll hear it, although it’s not as common around here as it is over around Marquette. Hey, I’ve got to go in and deal with those potatoes. You can come in if you want to, or not.”
“Oh, I’ll come in,” Tricia said. “I said it’s been years since I’ve had a home cooked meal. It’s been almost as long since I’ve been in someone’s home.” Which was the truth, she thought, if you didn’t count Shirley’s and George’s apartments behind the Redlite – and somehow those didn’t really count to her.
“Sounds a little bleak,” Binky said as she got out of the van.
“Well, I’ve been busy,” Tricia shrugged as she got out and followed Binky inside. “Most people don’t realize just how intense medical school is, then internship and residency, and I suppose I was more intense than most. I really wanted to be a doctor, Binky. Not only did I really want it, I wanted to be the best I could be. Since I’m not the smartest person in the world, I had to work hard at it. I didn’t have any family and no close friends, and that allowed me to do nothing but work and study, which was what I wanted as I knew it was probably necessary for me. I actually feel like I’m going to be at a little bit of a loss without it. I guess I’m going to have to learn how to have a life again.”
“Sounds like it,” Binky smiled. “I think you’re going to have to learn how to stop and smell the roses a little.”
The house was neat and clean inside, although with a little clutter here and there that made it look lived in. It was not a large house, but apparently was a loved one. “Nice place,” Tricia said once they were inside.
“I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else,” she said. “I’ve come to like having the lake right out front, although there was a time I was scared by any body of water larger than a small bucket, and you can guess why. Steve rebuilt this place from a real dump, and he was living here when I met him. That was before I got into real estate, and while we could be living in a lot nicer place, I’ve really come to think of this house as home. It’s small enough to keep up without a lot of work, and there are now a lot of memories here, especially of raising two kids. They’re both gone now, and it seems a little empty.”
“Where are they now?”
By now Binky was at the refrigerator and was pulling out a pan of peeled potatoes and carrots. She dumped them into a crock pot on the counter, and added a little water as she replied, “Hunter, he’s our son, decided he wanted to take after his father and do a tour in the Army. He’s on his second tour over in the sandbox and I worry about him all the time, but his enlistment is about up and I don’t think he’s going to stay in. He’s been making sounds about wanting to finish college. Tabitha went to Michigan State and is working in data processing in Grand Rapids. We don’t see her enough, either. I don’t think either of them will make me a grandmother anytime soon, but you never know.”
“Sounds like a pretty normal life now, especially after what you went through.”
“Well, it mostly has been, but really, it took meeting Steve to make it that way,” Binky smiled. “You’ll meet him later; he works out at the plywood plant and is second in charge after Ryan Clark. Actually, he all but runs the place since Ryan has several other irons in the fire. Ryan and Linda Clark are about our best friends, have been since before Steve and I got married.”
“How did you wind up meeting Steve?”
“Oh, that’s a story,” Binky smiled. “A long time ago, there was a Spearfish Lake kid by the name of Henry Toivo. He was an MIA in Vietnam, and there’s a guy in this town, Gil Evachevski, who you probably haven’t met . . . ”
“Any relation to Danny? Tricia asked, then added a little belatedly, “from last night?”
“Danny’s father,” Binky nodded. “You’ll probably meet him sooner or later. Interesting guy, retired from Army Special Forces a long time ago. Anyway, Gil promised Henry’s father that he’d go to Vietnam and look for Henry if he ever got the chance. Ryan and Steve knew Henry in school and they got pulled into the deal. They waited years for permission to go to Vietnam to look for Henry’s remains. I met Steve because he came to me and asked if I could help him learn a little Vietnamese.”
“So did they find him?”
“Yeah, but not without a struggle, and that included several people twisting my arm to go with them as an interpreter.”
“I thought you didn’t want to go back to Vietnam.”
“Not only did I not want to go back to Vietnam, I was literally scared shitless to do it, even though I was an American citizen by then,” Binky sighed. “But I got talked into it, and by good luck that I still think borders on the supernatural we found Henry’s remains. Well, Steve did a lot of the finding, and a couple times he’s said he thought Henry’s ghost was leading him. That’s not the kind of thing Steve would normally say, but I had a little bit of an experience that might have been a little ghostly too. And I don’t believe in ghosts.”
“That’s quite a story.”
“I think it is, too,” she smiled. “We managed to do something that everyone thought was impossible, including us. We brought Henry back with us, and even though it was almost twenty years ago, it’s still a point of pride for those of us who were there.” She let out a sigh and continued, “It went so well that a few years later Steve and I took the kids to Vietnam. It was just a regular tourist trip, just so they’d have a little idea of what that side of their ancestry involved and how good it is to be an American. I think it made an impression on both of them. I thought it was important enough to do that I went along, but I’m still not anxious to do it again. I’d do it again if I had to, but it’s part of the reason I’ve deliberately let my knowledge of Vietnamese slide, so no one will ask me.”
“I guess I can understand,” Tricia nodded, thinking that the Redlite Ranch was something she hoped she never had to do again, but that she would if she really had to.
“Well, maybe we can talk about that little episode tonight when Steve is here,” she smiled. “He can tell his part of the story better than I can. I’m supposed to be showing you around town and finding you a place to stay, and I suppose we’d better get back at it. We’ve still got time to do it.”
A couple minutes later they were back out in Binky’s minivan. “We got to talking about something else,” Binky said, “and I never got the chance to explain. This corner of town is called Hannegan’s Cove, and I have no idea where that name came from. Somebody named Hannegan, obviously, whoever he was. It’s outside the city limits, too, part of the township, although the city council would sure like to have the taxes it represents. You know about the big foundation reception for you tomorrow night, don’t you?”
“It was one of the first things I was told about.”
“It’s going to be at Randy Clark’s house,” Binky said, pointing across the little bay. “That’s the big, modern house over there. Quite a house, I’ve been there several times, and I’ll be there tomorrow night.”
“It’ll be good to see a friendly face,” Tricia said. She was beginning to realize she may have found another friend in Spearfish Lake.
“Oh, I think you’ll find a lot of friendly faces there,” Binky said. “We’ve needed a new doctor in this town for a long time, and if you’ve worked with Dr. Luce at all you pretty well know why.”
“He’s getting on up there,” Tricia admitted. “I get the impression he’s not putting the energy into it he once did.”
“You’re being nice, I’m sure,” Binky said, which meant that she knew a lot more than what Tricia had admitted. “The problem is that Shovelhead isn’t quite as young as he used to be either, and if anything he’d rather be a little less busy than a little more busy. He’d like to get out and travel a little, even ride his Harley more than he does now, but under the circumstances he can’t be gone for long. We have a better-than-average emergency medical service here in town, but that doesn’t help with sniffles or a sore throat or things like that, along with all the other problems EMTs and paramedics can’t treat. So we’re very glad to have you here, and you represent a lot of time and money invested by a lot of people for the good of the community.”
“You’re not the first person who’s said something like that,” Tricia nodded. “Even Dr. Luce has admitted to it.”
“Oh, I’m sure of it,” Binky said. “He wanted to retire five years ago, in fact, that was part of his plan, but even he realized that we needed more than one doctor in the community, so he’s hung on longer than he really should have. He and Shovelhead have never worked all that well together, and I can understand why. Shovelhead isn’t exactly the most, uh, doctor-like doctor I’ve ever met.”
“Well, yeah,” Tricia grinned. “I liked him from the minute I met him, and it’s clear he knows what he’s doing, but he is, well, a little on the unconventional side.”
“Again, you’re being nice,” Binky laughed. “Shovelhead is damn good, don’t get me wrong, and we’d be in deep doo-doo if we didn’t have him, but it’s a lot of weight to put on one set of shoulders, too.”
“I can see that,” Tricia shook her head. Inwardly, she grinned a little ruefully. In a few weeks the town’s medical needs were going to be met by a biker and a prostitute, well, former prostitute. Although she knew she had to keep it quiet, she realized she was no less unconventional in some regards than Dr. Metarie. At least he could let his wild side show a little, where she had keep hers covered up. Really covered up. “I just hope I’ll be able to meet everyone’s expectations.”
“Well, we hope so too,” Binky agreed. “From what I know of your record, there’s no reason you shouldn’t be able to, and you’re going to have some help at least getting your feet under you. Everyone involved in this finding-a-doctor program is pulling for you, and we realize now that we’ve found one the process isn’t over with. We have to keep you, too. Making you feel a part of the community is just part of the job. Now, we’ve again gotten away from what we set out to do, which was to find you a place to live.”
“I noticed that, but really, I haven’t minded.”
“We haven’t been wasting time as I wanted to find out a little more about you, get a feeling for who you were. In the long run, I can save a lot of time that way. Just in talking, I’ve ruled out several places I don’t think you would like. I know I’m guessing, but I’ve got pretty good at guessing in the years I’ve been doing this. I’ve got a place in mind I think you would like. Quiet older residential neighborhood, on the upscale side for Spearfish Lake. Not quite walking distance to your office, unless you want to get some exercise. It’s an older place, but recently redone and in very good shape, big enough to live in but not so big you’re going to get lost. Best of all, it’s probably in your price range, for someone just starting out.”
“You have me about half sold already. Let’s see it.”
Binky drove back down Lakeshore Drive heading toward downtown. Along the way they passed the house where the foundation reception was to be held the next night, and Binky pointed it out again; it would be easy to find, and, as she said, it was quite a noticeable house, rather striking. They drove along the city beach a bit, but before they got to downtown she turned off on a side street and went a couple blocks, stopping in the middle of the block. “This is the place,” she said, pointing at a brick two-story with half-timber trim. It looked like a nice house. “It’s a duplex, but it was built with that in mind, not somebody’s half-assed conversion. One-car garage, on the small side, but big enough unless you drive a real honker. Outside maintenance is included, by which I mean things like lawn mowing and snow removal, and that’s no small issue right here. I might as well tell you that in winter storms the wind carries snow across the lake and dumps it in this neighborhood, so snow removal can be a problem. You have to pay the utilities, but it’s better insulated than most homes this age, so it’s not a real big problem. Central heat and air conditioning; we usually get a period in the summer when the air is nice to have.”
“Sounds like it might work,” she replied, looking at the house a little more. It seemed to be the kind of place a young doctor just starting out would want for a respectable residence. She’d never lived in a place quite this nice, at least on the outside, but somehow she felt like she could be comfortable living here. “Let’s look at the inside.”
“I think you’ll like it, although it’s a bit barren at the moment.”
In a couple minutes Binky had unlocked the front door. Inside it proved that Binky was right; it was indeed barren, although to Tricia’s unpracticed eye it looked to be in good shape. There was no furniture, although there was a stove and refrigerator in the kitchen, along with a washer and dryer. They didn’t appear new, but not very old, either. “I realize it looks pretty bare,” Binky said. “But it’s small enough you’re not going to need a ton of furniture to fill it up, and big enough to do a little entertaining if you keep the crowd on the small side. I’m sure Danny down at Spearfish Lake Furniture and Appliance can fill it up quite nicely for you, and at a good price. He has a good eye for decorating it and can help you with it, although he’s not exactly a city-style interior decorator.”
“He said last night he’d be glad to help with that kind of thing,” Tricia agreed. Actually, it was this morning, but what was the difference? It wasn’t something Binky needed to know, after all.
“There’s no one better in town,” Binky said. “He’s really built up that business nicely from what his father used to have, and since he’s part of the new-doctor project I’m sure he’ll be willing to cut you a deal.”
Danny had indicated something like that when she’d talked with him in the morning, but he hadn’t quite come out and said how he was involved. Thinking this was a good chance to find out, she asked, “The chamber of commerce was part of the project?”
“Part of it,” Binky said. “There were a lot of parts to it, and I even had a part in it. But Danny was one of the big pieces in the puzzle since he’s Chairman of the Board of the Jennifer Walworth Foundation.”
“He is?” Tricia replied, a little surprised. Danny had never said anything about that!
“Well, such as it is,” Binky smiled. “You get right down to it, Jennifer and Blake Walworth run it, but since it’s a tax deal they have to have someone else front for them. Danny makes a perfect front, since he’s Jennifer’s little brother. The other two members of the board are in the Boreal String Band, and one of them is Shovelhead.”
“Wow,” Tricia shook her head. “That sounds a little, well, incestuous, for lack of a better word.”
“You get right down to it, it’s how small towns work,” Binky grinned. “At that, it’s not as bad as the Donna Clark Foundation board. I probably shouldn’t get into that too much, but I’m sure you’ll find out about it later. We should be talking about this place. Anyway, half bath downstairs, full bath and one bedroom upstairs. There’s another bedroom downstairs,” she said, pointing, “But it’s probably on the small side and could be used for a personal office or something. I have no idea how much you’d need that, of course. Everything has been refinished since it was last used, not that it was torn up.”
“What are the neighbors like? I mean, the other half of the house?”
“None, right at the moment. I’m sort of waiting for the right person to come along. I don’t want just anybody in here. You want to look upstairs?”
Tricia did, and followed Binky up the staircase. There was the bedroom and bath upstairs, not real big but big enough. There was, of course, no furniture or drapes, but it seemed plenty big after the little studio apartment she had down in Milwaukee. “It looks absolutely perfect to me,” Tricia said. “Maybe a little on the big side, but since I’m actually going to be living here instead of just crashing once in a while, I’ll probably be able to grow into it. How much is it going to cost?”
“Does four hundred a month sound too steep? We could negotiate if we have to.”
“That’s fine,” Tricia said with no little surprise. “I’m paying more than that for a tiny dump in Milwaukee.”
“Well, I admit I’m cutting you a deal on this,” Binky said. “I could probably get more out of it, but this is as nice a place as I have for a single young professional to rent, and I had it fixed up a bit with you in mind.”
“You had it fixed up?” Tricia replied, the question hanging in the air.
“Of course,” Binky smiled. “I own this place. Actually, I’ve owned a lot of real estate in this town, but most of it has been kind of temporary and floating. Someone wants to sell, and no one wants to buy it just yet, so I can offer the seller a deal and wait for the right buyer to come along. I’ve got money enough to be able to do that, although I’ve backed off on doing that real hard with it looking like housing prices are going to drop. Sometimes I rent those places out if I can find someone who I think is going to take care of it, but I’ve almost always kept a few rentals in hand over the years to rent to nice, responsible people who aren’t ready to buy just yet. This is one of them. I don’t do it for everybody, but I doubt you’re the kind of person who’s going to tear the joint up and run a meth lab in the basement. We had one of those busted not quite a year ago; it was kind of a mess and a couple people died in the process. Not pretty, but I’m just damn glad it wasn’t in one of my rentals.”
“Good god, no,” Tricia shook her head. “I’ve seen the results of that shit too much as it is.”
“Actually, a couple good things came out of that deal, and I mean beyond getting rid of a couple of this town’s more notorious assholes. But that’s another story you’ll probably hear sometime, too, so we won’t go into it now. So you’re all right with this?”
“I couldn’t be happier,” Tricia smiled. “I can see there’s going to be a lot of work to do, but I think I can make this place a home.”