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Spearfish Lake Tales
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Joe/Joan book cover

by Wes Boyd
©2015, ©2016

Chapter 7

I guess I must have been lost in thought to the world as I pondered all these possibilities. I don’t know how much time passed, but it must have been a while before Dad wandered over bringing me another beer, which, while Joanie didn’t care much for it, Joe needed badly by this time. “Problems, Joanie?” he asked as he handed it to me. “You’re feeling all right, aren’t you?”

“I’m OK,” I reassured him. “I’m just thinking about the future. There may not be many more times we’ll all be sitting here listening to the 500 as a family.”

“Yeah, you’re probably right,” he agreed solemnly. “You kids are growing up and you’re going to be gone sooner or later. Things sure won’t be the same when that happens. You’re not sorry about losing the bet, are you?”

“No, it was just a bet and it was for fun,” I shrugged. “It’ll be a while before I’ll be able to wash your car, though.”

“It’ll pass quickly, kid. It may not seem like it now, but the worst of it is over with.”

“So what would you have done if I’d won the bet?”

“That’s what I wanted to talk to you about,” he smiled. “I’m thinking it’s getting to be about time for you to have a car of your own. It was bad enough when both you and Joey were having to share the Chevy last summer, but he’s going to be working this summer once you get your casts off, and you’ll need to get around by yourself. That could make things a lot more complicated for both of you.”

I had no memory of that problem, of course; though there were a couple mentions of this in the diaries, I didn’t want to let on. “We made it work,” I offered.

“Yeah, and I remember all the squabbles the two of you had about it, too. Look, I realize it’s still going to be a while before you’re going to be able to drive by yourself, but it’ll still leave you stranded for a lot of the summer, and you’re going to need a car to go to college.”

“I don’t think they’ll let us have cars at Venable,” I protested lightly. I had read that in the catalogue. I hadn’t been happy about it, but figured I could live with it.

“Yeah, but there are ways around that. I talked to a guy who went to Venable a few years ago, and he told me that he made a deal with a gas station not far from the campus so he could park his car there. I think it was ten bucks a month, and that ten bucks was worth it. He said there are times he really needed to hop in his car so he could go get something, since it got mighty cold walking around town in the dead of winter.”

“Well, yeah, I hadn’t thought of that. When you put it that way, it might be a good idea.”

“Good. Now, do you remember a while back when we were talking about what kind of car you’d like, and you said that you thought a Volkswagen Karmann Ghia would be fun?”

“Yeah?” No, I hadn’t known it – there was no mention of it in Joanie’s diary, but that wouldn’t be the first omission of that nature I’d come across. The diaries were useful, but not perfect.

Now, the old Joanie may have thought a Karmann Ghia would be cool but Joe wasn’t as thrilled with the idea, mostly because I had owned a regular VW bug a few years later, in the other timeline, of course. It had been a clunker since the previous owner had driven it all over the place – it had California, Washington, Alaska and other state stickers on the windows. It was actually fairly reliable and easy on gas, which was nice when the gas crisis came along in the early seventies. However, it just about defined the term “gutless” and couldn’t get out of its own way. I also thought the Karmann Ghias were kind of ugly, especially in the front end. I couldn’t tell Dad any of that, for obvious reasons. “Did you find one?”

“Yeah, I did, and cheap, too. A convertible, no less, and I don’t doubt you’d like that. It’s actually in pretty good shape.”

That would be fun, I had to admit. I had always dreamed of driving around in a convertible with a pretty girl as my seat cover. It had never happened to me as Joe, but there was no way I could have dreamed of being the pretty girl driving it. “Sounds interesting,” I agreed, given the new perspective. “How does it run?”

“Well, actually, it doesn’t,” he smiled. “Cars run quite a bit better if you keep oil in them.”

“Don’t tell me. The engine is frozen up?”

“Tighter than a size-five shoe on a size-ten foot. But the price is right, only a hundred, and it won’t be any problem to find a VW engine in a junkyard. It’ll be a pretty easy engine swap. I may have to take a day or a couple evenings off, but I ought to have it running by the time you’re ready to drive it.”

To be honest, I wished that the old Joanie had told Dad that she wanted an MGB, or even better, a Corvette, but I realized that it would have been pushing her luck. A Karmann Ghia, though – well, it would at least give me some of the mobility I had been missing the last few weeks.

“Sounds pretty good,” I replied after just a moment of thinking about it. “I think I could have some fun with that.”

“All right. I’ll get it set up and start looking for a motor. It’s probably going to be a couple of weeks, though.”

“I can make it through a couple of weeks since I won’t be driving for a while anyway.”

“Don’t forget to keep your calendar clear to wash a car somewhere along that time, too. And I don’t mean yours. Actually I think it would be better if you did your mother’s car, rather than the pickup.”

So that was another discontinuity, although this one I was sure I was going to enjoy. Now that I thought about it, a Karmann Ghia convertible would be a pretty good car for a girl like me to be driving. At least this was going to be a different life from the one Joe had had.

In the long run, the only thing wrong with the Karmann Ghia was that Dad was involved. Well, not that it was a bad thing, but let’s face it: Dad was a hot rodder, and when he got his fingers on something like that he was totally unable to leave well enough alone.

It went without saying that when he brought an engine home in the bed of his old pickup he used as a work truck, the engine was going to get breathed on a little before it went under the back deck of the VW. That was just the way Dad was, and I expected it.

But still, when he came home a few days later I found that he’d overdone it, even for him. That wasn’t exactly a stock VW engine sitting in the back of the pickup. In fact, it wasn’t even a VW engine at all, since it had a couple of extra cylinders – it was a Corvair engine, right straight out of General Motors!

“It’s only the 110-horse version,” he said as if he was a little ashamed to admit it. “There’s a turbocharged one-fifty. I couldn’t find one in a wreck, but even 110 ought to make it go pretty good.”

The original VW the Karmann Ghia was based on had 36 horsepower, although in recent years the factory had gone a little crazy and hopped it all the way up to 40. Even with the extra engine weight, the Karmann Ghia, which by now was sitting next to the garage, wouldn’t be able to be classified as “gutless” with nearly three times the original horsepower.

“Dad, I almost hate to bring this up, but are the clutch and the transmission going to hold up to that much extra power?”

“They should,” he replied. “I guess they do this conversion all the time out in California, and the magazine article I read about it didn’t mention any problems. I thought about it, I really did, and thought about putting the Corvair transaxle in with it, but the one this mill came off of was a two-speed automatic, which would have been sort of defeating the purpose.”

“I take that to mean there’s an adapter for it?”

“Oh, yeah. I ordered it a few days ago. There are idiots who would make adapters for just about anything.”

“Well, all right,” I said, resigned to the inevitable. “But if I blow up the transmission, I’ll know where to go to get it fixed.”

As I said earlier, Dad was working a lot of hours just then, so nothing much happened for the next few days, at least with the car. Quite a bit was happening with me, though.

By now Mom had run out of sick time and vacation time to look after me, and it was just Joey around to help me out. There was nothing wrong with that, since we were getting along pretty well, which amazed the folks considering the fact that we had snapped at each other a lot when we were younger, or at least so everyone besides me thought. In fact, Joey and I had pretty much the same outlook on things, which wasn’t surprising considering that we were really the same person, just at considerably different ages.

I will admit to doing some consideration of the “grandfather paradox” much loved by science fiction writers that I had read back when I was Joe. You know what it is – if you went back in time and killed your own grandfather, what would happen to you? I was not curious enough, nor mad enough at Joey to find out, but it was sure one of those imponderables I found myself kicking around from time to time.

I could tell that Joey was chafing a little at being stuck at home with me – not that he was upset with me, but thanks to the tornado there was still a lot of work he could be doing. Some of it was with Dad, although other opportunities were not, but either way the money was appealing. Had I been able to work, I might even have been out there working with him, or doing some of his other summer jobs like mowing lawns. Even though I had the scholarship to Venable, some spending money of my own would have been nice. We all figured that once I had the casts off and could stand up on my own, he ought to at least be able to get out and work some of the time. That made Joey about as eager for me to have the casts off as I was.

I still had to go to the doctor’s office or the hospital regularly, although only about once a week by now, and as far as everyone could tell I was doing just fine. I was able to get the arm cast off a week earlier than the leg casts, and from that I could tell that I was going to need my strength built up. While I had been having some physical therapy, it wasn’t very much, although more was planned after I got the other casts off.

That day came not long after Dad showed up with the Corvair engine. Both Dad and Mom were working of course, so it was Joey who took me to the hospital. It did not take long to get them cut off, and I was glad to be free of their weight, although my legs looked terrible with all the dead skin and crud that had accumulated under the casts. From what I could see they were withered from disuse, and so they proved to be; I could stand up with the walker, although a couple of trial steps indicated that it was going to take a while for them to be built back up. I wound up riding back out of the hospital in the wheelchair, which, while expected, was still a disappointment.

As I said, I had physical therapy scheduled, but I had been told at the hospital that the best thing I could do was to try to walk as much as I could manage, using the walker of course. I wanted to get started with that program as soon as possible. But there was one thing of even higher priority: taking a bath!

I hadn’t had an honest to goodness bath in a couple of months. Oh, there had been bed baths in the hospital, and a little more ambitious ones with the help of Mom and a washcloth, but I wasn’t supposed to get the casts wet, so that ruled out the bathtub, or taking a shower, which I would have preferred. I had itched mightily when I’d had the casts on, and once I had them off I could see why. “Joey,” I asked about as soon as I got in the door, “would you help me take a bath?”

“Are you sure you want me to help?” he replied. “I mean, uh, don’t you want to have your clothes off?”

I saw his point immediately. “I suppose I could go put on that bikini Mom bought for me,” I suggested. “You wouldn’t actually have to see anything.”

“Yeah, we could do it that way.”

“Then let’s do it.”

He rolled me right into the bedroom, and then helped me out of the wheelchair and onto the bed. It took a bit of doing for me to change into the bikini, which was pretty hot for 1965 and would have been hopelessly conservative fifty years later – or even five years later, since swimsuit fashions were changing rapidly in those days. The bottoms covered something less than the granny panties I usually wore at that time. While I was doing that, Joey was running the bathtub full for me.

It was full when I called for him to help me back into the wheelchair – he hadn’t brought the walker into my room – and rolled me into the bathroom, where he helped me to my feet, then picked me up and set me into the bathtub.

Oh, that bath felt good! I felt clean for the first time in months. Joey didn’t go away, either; he stayed and helped me since my legs needed a good scrubbing and it was easier for him to do it than it was for me to scrub and maintain my balance. Toward the end I slipped off the bikini bottom so I could wash under it as well, although I didn’t ask for his help with that. The water was deep and murky, so it wasn’t as if he could see much of anything. I did the same with my top, although I admit I didn’t worry much about it.

Eventually the water was getting cold and grubby so I knew it was time to quit. Without thinking about it I asked him to help me get to my feet, and without thinking about it, he did – we’d gotten pretty comfortable with each other right then, so it never crossed either of our minds that I was totally nude at the time. Well, if it crossed his mind, he didn’t say anything, but I’m sure the thoughts were running wild in his head.

If this were one of those amateur-written do-over stories I’d read back in the sleeper cab of the Kenworth, about this time there would have been some hot brother-sister action. Well, it didn’t happen, and his helping me dry off was as far as we got. We weren’t embarrassed with each other or anything; after all, we’d gotten close, and he’d been helping me with some other potentially embarrassing situations for the last few weeks, so it really seemed like just more of the same.

Once I was dried off, I wrapped the towel around me in the way I had seen girls do from time to time – I’d never done it as Joe, as ever since I’d been a kid I’d been too damn fat for a towel to reach around me like that. Joey helped me back into the wheelchair, and rolled me back into the bedroom, where he left me alone to get dressed. In a few minutes, I was out in the living room with the walker learning to walk again, and looking forward to when I would be strong and stable enough on my feet to take a shower.

Joey never had to help me take a bath like that again, but without realizing it at the time it had been a special moment for both of us.

I got better getting around with the walker over the next few days, and I was now mobile enough that I could get along at home by myself if I was careful, although I was warned to stay in the wheelchair or otherwise seated if someone else wasn’t with me. It wasn’t quite that bad, since I knew I could call Patty or Diana if I really needed some help.

The next day Joey was helping Dad as a laborer on Dad’s job site. I didn’t actually pay a lot of attention to the warning to not get on my feet, and frequently took a few steps with the walker, which became progressively easier as time went by. I was still pretty weak, and I also tried to work out with weights a little to build up my arms. Unlike in the days when I had been Joe, I wanted to get myself into good shape and stay that way.

I figured that, considering the fact that I was my mother’s daughter, I would be able to stay in fairly good shape if I just watched my diet and stayed active, although I hadn’t been able to do much about that in the last couple of months. Now, I know there are people who would say that I should have done that when I had been Joe, or I would have been in much better shape back then, but it’s not easy to drive yourself to exercise when you don’t have a body that’s built for it. To top it off, Joe – and Joey – had a mild case of asthma, so heavy exercise could really be a trial that it wouldn’t have been for someone of a lighter build. In any case, I now had a body that could thrive on exercise, and I wanted to enjoy it. Right now I was a long way from running for exercise, or even a long, brisk walk, but I wanted to work in that direction as quickly as I could.

I suppose it sounds as if it would be boring to me to be left home alone in those circumstances, but I really wasn’t home alone all that often. Patty, Barb, or Diana often dropped by, and we would sit around and talk. On nice days we often would lay around out in the sun in our swimsuits, and that felt very good – like Mom, I tanned well. As Joe I had never seen the appeal to lying out like a lot of girls did, but Joanie’s body taught me otherwise.

Beyond that, I had books to read, including some of those Heinleins I sneaked out of Joey’s room. I was also trying to do some thinking and planning about going to Venable College.

I will admit to being a little concerned about it. After all, my year in college as Joe had not been a success, and it was the only experience I had to build on. I had reason to believe that I could do better than that, if for no more reason than I was a lot more mature than I had been back then, but at the same time I had doubts about how much I would enjoy sitting in classrooms.

Beyond that, I had no idea of what I wanted to study – but then, Joe hadn’t either, back in the day when he’d gone to WCC, not that it told me anything. Drawing on Joe’s memories, I realized that computers would be a heck of a good field to get into since they would do nothing but grow for at least the next fifty years, but there were a couple of problems with that. The first one of those was that I knew that a lot of math skills would be involved, especially in those days, and math hadn’t exactly been Joe’s strong point anywhere in his lifetime. That was especially true without the aid of handheld electronic calculators, which hadn’t even been invented yet. I didn’t know if the old Joanie’s skills had been any better, but that wouldn’t matter anyway. Besides, they didn’t have anything in the field at Venable, so it was a moot point for next fall. If I changed my mind on that I always had the potential to transfer to a different college, although I would lose the scholarship.

Joanie’s diaries revealed that she had been throwing several ideas around but hadn’t come to any conclusions, either, so I didn’t really feel any guidance from her. The idea that she had the strongest was to be a teacher, and it had some merit to me, although I didn’t feel any great attraction to it. In the end, I decided to not decide just then, and see what worked for me in college, and what didn’t work. Maybe that would tell me something. I knew that for my freshman year I would be required to take a bunch of basic courses that wouldn’t commit me in any real direction, so I had at least a year before I had to make any serious decisions, and then they wouldn’t be irrevocable.

I did have one major concern during this period, and it was the same one I’d had all along. That is to say, I was still trying to make people believe I was still the old Joanie, when I didn’t really have any idea what the old Joanie had been like other than what I had been able to infer from others and from her diaries.

I still could use the amnesia excuse, and openly admitted that my memories were still spotty, and when Mom asked Dr. Sloan about it, he said it might continue for years, and I might never be completely healed – so that helped. I could also say that the way I looked at things had changed since the accident, which was true although not in the way I let people think. I was just dead sure that sooner or later I was going to make a major screw-up, but if I did nobody caught it, thank goodness.

That was the big reason I wanted to go to college – so I wouldn’t have to pretend to be the old Joanie any longer. Even after a year, I could change a lot so that the old Joanie wouldn’t matter quite as much. After four years or whatever, it just wouldn’t matter – the new Joanie would be well established in everybody’s mind, and the danger of being asked questions I couldn’t or didn’t dare answer would be gone.

As the next week or so went by I built up the strength in my legs to where I was regularly getting along without the wheelchair, although I still used the walker some. It was going well enough that I didn’t think that it would be an issue in another month.

Finally, one evening after I’d had the casts off for over a week, I took a hose, bucket, sponge, soap and other car washing and waxing stuff out to the driveway and gave Mom’s car a good going over. I had the walker close at hand if I needed it, but as it turned out I didn’t, although I did sit down a few times to rest. It was a very special graduation all by itself.

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To be continued . . .

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