Spearfish Lake Tales
Contemporary Mainstream Books and Serials Online
Clear back to her first days in Spearfish Lake, Tricia had thought it was time for the Neon to be traded in, but it had taken a while to happen. First the hustle and bustle and uncertainty of the early days – along with financial issues – kept her from doing it. Then winter set in, and a number of people told her she might as well live with it till spring to save the new vehicle a winter’s exposure to road salt. One thing after another when winter was over had kept her from doing it, but the weekend after the one she and Henry spent together, he offered to go car shopping with her. It seemed strange to leave her loyal companion of many miles behind at the dealer, and go home with a brand new near-the-end-of-the-model-year Caliber with all-wheel drive and any number of fancy features the Neon hadn’t possessed.
The Caliber still didn’t have the dignity of the legendary doctor’s Buick, but she didn’t mind – it looked like it would be a good, reliable car that would allow her to get around on snowy roads still months away. It was going to take some getting used to, but that was fine with her.
Only a couple of days after she got the new car, there was a message left at her office to call Randy Clark back. She had to wait till her lunch hour to call, which was something of a relief since for a little while she wouldn’t have to put up with teasing from Molly and Heather about her romantic life.
It proved that Randy wasn’t at his office but on the road to Three Pines, but his cell phone was on. “What’s up, Randy?” she asked as soon as she could talk to him.
“Myleigh was saying you were interested on going on a surfing trip with us sometime. It’s still a little early to tell, but it looks like all the pieces are coming together for the weekend, especially my being able to get free for a couple days. Are you still interested?”
Tricia had half-forgotten about Myleigh’s offer months before, although the subject had come up since in passing. She still couldn’t believe Myleigh was a surfer – it seemed just too far out to comprehend – but it was one of those things she just had to see for herself. Besides, most of the other experiments she and Henry had made about things to do had worked out pretty well. “I’m up for it if Henry is,” she replied. “I can call him and ask.”
“Good enough,” he said. “Let me know as soon as you can. It’s still not a hundred percent deal, we’re dependent on weather, but there’s nothing we can do but wait and see. The wind direction doesn’t seem very favorable for Lake Michigan but there’s a couple places on Superior that should be fun if the wind is like it’s predicted. I’ve got a couple beginner’s boards lying around, so that’s not an issue, but you’re going to be on your own for camping gear. Oh, and the water is going to be pretty cold, so you need to find yourself a wet suit.”
“I don’t know a thing about it, but I can ask Henry to figure it out. I should know by tonight.”
“That’ll be fine. Talk to you then.”
Well that was something, she thought. Who ever thought I’d wind up going on a surfing trip out of this town? Or at all, for that matter?
It didn’t take her long to get Henry on the phone at the Record-Herald. “Sure, sounds like fun, and something different to do,” he replied. “I can’t wait to see you on a surfboard.” She was pretty sure she could hear him add mentally that it would be nice to see her on a surfboard in her tiny black bikini. She reasoned that that far from Spearfish Lake, with friends as good as Myleigh, Trey, Randy, and Nicole he might just get his wish.
They talked for a minute about the camping-gear issue. While he said he had little of his own, Candice down at Spearfish Lake Outfitters had the gear for rent, and when he could get out for a few minutes in the afternoon he’d go over and have a word with her about it. He also knew Spearfish Lake Outfitters did wet suit rentals.
“So,” Molly said when she got back out to the lunch in the front office, “I take it you and Henry are planning another exotic, romantic weekend.”
“I don’t know about romantic,” she replied, “but exotic sure applies. We’re going surfing.”
“That sounds pretty romantic,” Molly replied. “Warm water, warm sand, tiny bikini, wet bodies, I can see where that’s going to lead.”
“Unfortunately, it’s probably going to be cold water and wet suits,” Tricia replied. “That will probably take a little of the romance out of it.”
Molly got a big grin on her face. “Oh, dressed in all that tight rubber. It sounds kinky!”
Plans for the trip didn’t get settled that afternoon; it took a consultation with Randy that evening and some batting things back and forth, but pretty soon things were worked out. In the discussion, both of them suggested that this trip would make a pretty good shakedown run for the new car, and that pretty well settled that before it got started. It would be a good chance to get familiar with the vehicle, and besides, they’d used Henry’s car so much over the last winter and spring it was time to start to return the favor.
On Friday morning Randy called again. The weather was still looking good, and as far as he could see the trip was a go. The plan was to leave after work, get set up late, and have Saturday and most of Sunday for surfing.
It wasn’t until after they pulled into a little private campground on the rocky and sandy Lake Superior shore that she realized that one component of their weekend wasn’t going to go exactly like she had foreseen: she and Henry were going to have separate tents. Though they’d had their big weekend a couple weeks before and had gotten together several times since, he told her that he figured that even among friends, it probably would be a good idea to try and look a little discreet. Though she was disappointed, she figured he was probably right. “That’s very thoughtful of you, Henry,” she said and gave him a little kiss, mentally reserving a much bigger one for the next time they were alone together, which didn’t look like it was going to be this weekend.
It was dark before they had everything set up. Randy and Trey gathered driftwood from the beach and build a nice campfire, just to sit around and enjoy. It was something else new to Tricia; while she’d heard people say that just sitting around a campfire with friends was a fun thing to do, once again it was the first time she’d experienced it. It was late when they finally got to bed, unfortunately in their separate tents. It would have been nice to have Henry with her, but she realized she had appearances to keep up.
The next day was fun. Once the day got going a bit there was a strong wind bringing waves crashing into the shore. They weren’t all that big, and Randy said they made for really pretty crappy surf, but it had been a long time and they’d have to make do with what they had. Randy and Trey gave Henry and Tricia a couple of quick lessons, a couple of demonstrations, and sent them out to play in the waves a little, warning them to not try standing up on the boards just yet.
Randy had been right; the lake waters were pretty cold, but they were fun to play around in. Even the wet suits weren’t enough to stave off the cold, and after a while they had little choice but to get out of the water, take off their wet suits, dry off, and lay in the sun like cats to warm up. Again, even though they were with friends, there was no point in being too blatant, so they kept things low key.
It turned out that Myleigh really was a surfer, and from what Tricia could tell, was pretty good; she and Nicole spent a lot of time on their boards, working the little choppy waves for what they could get out of them. Even though Tricia had now seen it with her own eyes, it was hard to believe the truth.
As the day wore on, the four experienced surfers took turns getting Tricia and Henry used to the idea of surfing, to be able to stand up on the board and do simple maneuvers. Even though they fell in a lot, they got enough good rides to be able to tell that this could be fun after they had a little more practice at it.
That night they had another campfire, just sitting around and talking about a wide range of topics. It was nice to sit by the flickering light of the flames, lean back against Henry with him lightly touching her, to feel the warmth and the closeness. While it wasn’t exactly sex, there was more to life than sex, and Tricia knew it implicitly. While she anticipated many more opportunities to be in bed with him, to have that kind of fun, she knew from her Redlite experience that there was more to life and a relationship than sex, and that this kind of thing was what really brought people closer together.
The waves were a little slower to get organized the next morning, but once they got going all the experienced surfers said they were a little better shaped and would be more fun to ride. As it turned out, they were out on the waves or warming up on the shore for much of the day, and only as the sun started to get close to the distant horizon did they knock it off, pack up, and get started for home.
“Not a bad weekend,” Randy said as they were packing. “Not real good surf, but I guess we have to take what we can get. If we get the right wind sometime there’s a couple places over on Lake Michigan that can perk up pretty good. Do you two think you’d like to come with us again?”
“Sure,” they both agreed.
“Well, at least we got you broken in a little. Next thing you know you’ll want to come with us on one of our winter trips to Florida or Costa Rica. We don’t do them every year, but sometimes everything comes together so we can. We often have some of our Colorado River raft guide friends join us on those trips, and they’re a lot of fun. Those aren’t weekend trips, they’ll go a week, usually, but they’re not weather dependent. We usually have them planned at least a couple months in advance.”
“It would be fun to think about,” Tricia agreed. “Getting away for that long would involve working out a deal for Gene to cover for me, but it’s not impossible we can do it given enough time. That was part of the logic for the Medical Center, so we could cover for each other so one of us could take off for a while.”
Tricia and Henry talked about it in the car on the way back. “That was more fun than I imagined it would be,” she told him. “I wish now I’d been able to do some surfing when I was a kid out in Los Angeles, but I never had the opportunity, and I wouldn’t have had the money if I did have the time. I feel like I’m catching up in a lot of ways.”
“To tell you the truth, I do too,” Henry told her. “I mean, back when I was in high school I knew Randy did some of this stuff. Randy and the rest of those people are still a little older than we are but it doesn’t mean as much as it once did. He was still in college then, or just getting out of it, and there was still quite a bit of age difference; and besides, by then I was wrapped with all the drama with Cindy, and then looking to get out of town about as bad as she was. I’m just glad we made the connection now.”
“I am, too,” she agreed. “You know, I haven’t heard you mention hearing from her for a couple weeks.”
“That’s because I haven’t. It must be, oh, three weeks since she’s called. Maybe she’s starting to get the message. I, uh, I haven’t exactly told her anything much about us, since I don’t want her getting even more pissy than she usually is. I mean, put it off long enough and I can at least hope that maybe it will go away.”
“You know her better than I do,” she conceded, “But maybe that’s wishful thinking, at least if she’s as bad as you say she is.”
“Yeah, I know, but I can deny reality with the best of them,” he shook his head. “I just can’t help but wonder if she’s denying the reality of it, too. I’m actually a little concerned that I haven’t heard anything from her in a while. I mean, not that I want to hear anything, but no news isn’t always good news, especially where she’s concerned. Still, I’m glad to have those days behind me. I like the way things are now between you and me so much better it isn’t funny.”
“I like the way things are going between us, too, Henry. I’m glad things worked out this way for us. Before I met you, I was beginning to think I had a good chance of winding up an old maid, and I’d come to the conclusion I would if I had to, however much I didn’t want to.”
“I’m just glad Cindy and I never let things get close between us, and that I could finally break away,” he said. “I’m just a hell of a lot happier now than I ever dreamed I could be in those days. It took you to do that for me, Tricia. I’m just lucky things worked out the way they did.”
After a while the topic drifted away from Cindy; as she drove the new car they sat and talked about other things, like the possibility of more surfing trips, and maybe a trip south together with the group they’d been with this weekend. While she’d had a good time last winter with the skiing and dogsledding, winter was still undeniably winter, and a week’s break on some warm beach sounded like it had the possibility of a huge relief. They talked about the option of buying some camping gear given the potential of future such weekends, but decided to put it off, at least for this summer. It seemed likely they might only get out a couple more such times and rentals from the outfitting store would probably serve them just as well this year.
It was close to midnight when they got back to Spearfish Lake. They unloaded their things from the car and took them inside. For once, it seemed a little strange for Henry to be the one who had to haul his stuff back to his side of the wall, rather than the other way around. On the way back they’d given consideration to spending the night together, since they’d missed out on it the last two nights, but again they agreed that it wouldn’t be a good idea since they had to get up the next morning.
Once again they had a long kiss goodnight, this time inside her front door; once again there was the temptation to spend the night together, anyway. “Thanks for a great weekend, Tricia,” he told her finally. “And let’s think about that idea of heading south with Randy and the others if the chance should come up. I can’t wait to see your cute butt as you paddle out on a surfboard wearing that bikini.”
“I can’t wait for you to see it,” she giggled. “It sounds like a good idea to me, too.”
Tricia was just getting ready for her shower when the phone rang. A phone call at that hour couldn’t be good news, she thought absently as she headed for the phone.
The caller proved to be Henry. “Bad news, Tricia,” he sighed. “Really bad news. There was a message on my machine. Cindy tried to commit suicide.”
“Oh, dear,” she said, her physician instincts kicking in. “By that, I take it to mean she wasn’t successful.”
“No,” he told her. “But she’s pretty damn sick. They’ve got her in the psych unit of Decatur Metropolitan, I guess most suicide attempts wind up there for a few days’ worth of observation.”
“That’s how it usually works elsewhere,” she replied. “How did she attempt it?”
“Pills, I guess,” he replied. “The message wasn’t very clear, and the person at the desk of the unit either didn’t know or didn’t want to tell me.”
“Most likely the latter,” she told him. “They’re not supposed to give out information like that over the phone.”
“The problem,” he said, “is that as far as I know, I’m still sort of her next of kin.”
“That makes it a little different,” she replied. “But the fact remains that they’re not supposed to give out information like that. If I were you, I’d wait till morning and try to get in touch with the attending staff physician or resident. If you’re the next of kin, you may be able to get a little more information.”
“I suppose,” he sighed. “Look, I know this is a hell of a thing to ask of you, but do you think you could call down there and get a little more information?”
“You mean because I’m a physician? I suppose it might be possible if I was on staff there, or even if I had some friends on staff there, but as far as I know I don’t. If I just call them up claiming to be a physician, they’re not likely to tell me any more than they told you.”
“Yeah, I guess,” he said. “Tricia, what am I supposed to do?”
“You mean, because she tried to commit suicide?”
“Yeah,” he sighed. “Look, Tricia, I told you a long time ago, I don’t love her. I don’t even particularly care for her, but I do care about her. We spent an awful lot of time together whether I liked her or not, and I know she’s not the most stable person in the world. But in a lot of ways I’m the only person she’s got. I feel like I ought to be doing something.”
“Henry, there’s probably not a lot you can do if you go down there. She’s in professional care now. If she’s severely depressed, and as unstable as you say, there may not even be much a professional can say. Henry, are you the official next of kin, or just a close friend?”
“There’s no paperwork I can think of, except that we used to own the house together. My name is still on the paperwork, even though the quitclaim was executed and is on file with the bank.”
“The odds are that it won’t be enough to make the difference. Henry, if you were the legal next of kin, you could probably file to have her committed, although it would involve some legal hoops to jump through. Since you’re not, well, I don’t know exactly how the laws work down there but they’re probably different than here. Presumably the attending physician, or perhaps someone in the department, could arrange for it, but it would have to be their decision, not yours.”
“You think it could come to that?”
“Possibly. I’m not a psychiatrist or a clinical psychologist so I wouldn’t know for sure, especially since I’ve never met Cindy and only know her from what you’ve told me about her. That much said, from what you’ve told me about her, I would think she might well be a candidate.”
“Shit, I don’t know what to do,” he sighed. “The last damn thing I want to do is to go down there and get wrapped up in her drama again. On the other hand, I still feel a degree of responsibility to her. I hate to say it, but I do. As much as she pissed me off over the years, there’s still a history there I can’t deny.”
“Henry, I can’t tell you what to do. I can tell you this much: one of the things I really admire about you is your sense of loyalty to someone you’ve made a promise to. You and I both know the promise you made to her expired a long time ago, but you’ve still kept your word, haven’t you?”
“Well, yeah,” he sighed. “And it bothers me, since I don’t want this to screw things up between us, but I still feel I should do something. Tricia, right at the moment I’m thinking I ought to hop in the car and head down there to see what I can find out. We’re just throwing ideas around in the dark with no idea of what’s going on.”
“Henry, that might be a good idea and it might not be. There may not be a lot you can do even if you go down there. In any case, you’d be foolish to try to head down there tonight. You’ve been up all day and I know you’re tired. If you headed down there now, you’d drive all damn night if I know you. You could kill yourself that way. At least wait till morning.”
“Yeah, that’s a good idea,” he agreed. “It’s too damn late to call Dad now, anyway, unless I really had to, and I should at least let him know what’s happening. Tricia, I know this is a hell of a thing to ask you, but is there any chance you could come along? You speak the language, and I don’t.”
“I wish I could, Henry,” she said, an awful feeling coming over her. “But I don’t have the option of just dropping things and running off. I have patients scheduled for tomorrow, and I couldn’t blow them off without it being a real personal emergency. As it is, I’m not accredited to whatever hospital you said it was, so there would only be a really limited amount I could do if I did go down with you. I might be able to do a little since, as you said, I speak the language, but probably not very much since I’m not her physician of record.”
“All right,” he said. “I guess I was grasping at straws. It’s doubtful she knows about you and me, but if she did, or she figured it out, it might well make things worse.”
“That’s good thinking,” she told him. “Look, I know you feel a duty toward her, but don’t let those feelings take you too far into doing something you shouldn’t do. I really doubt there’s much you can accomplish, but I can’t deny your feeling of responsibility.”
“Thanks, Tricia. That’s one of those things I like about you. You understand that I’m between a rock and a hard place on this one, and you’re trying to help.”
“I do, Henry,” she said. “Now, I want you to put the phone down and come over here. Figure on spending the night. I’ll give you a mild sleep aid, and make sure you have at least a few hours of sleep before you start driving. That way you won’t stay awake and worry all night.”
“Tricia, I appreciate the thought, but I’m not really in the mood for playing right now.”
“I don’t think I am, either,” she said. “But I am worried about you. And this way I can know you’ve had a few hours sleep before you start driving.” And, she added mentally, you’ll have had the night in my arms to remind you of where you’re supposed to be.