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Spearfish Lake Tales
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Joe/Joan book cover

by Wes Boyd
©2015, ©2016

Chapter 15

Our first time was not our last time that night. I remember doing it twice more before we fell asleep in each other’s arms, and then sometime in the middle of the night one of us woke the other up – don’t ask me which one of us – and we did it again.

It had been a long time since I’d fallen asleep next to someone, and I had been Joe at the time. This was different – I can’t say better or worse, but certainly different. I do know I was surprised to wake up and not find Andy next to me. It was just something to sleepily note until it really hit me and woke me up. I rolled over, to see him asleep in the other bed. Though it was a little disappointing in one sense of the word, since I would have been willing to go another round, I guess I was just as glad since we’d given a hitherto-unused part of my body a pretty good workout and I was a little bit sore.

I slowly pulled myself together, realizing that in spite of my shower the night before, we had both gotten rather sweaty and stinky over the night, so I pulled myself together, pulled off the unbuttoned pajama top that I still inexplicably wore, and headed in to the shower.

This time, I took my time. I cleaned myself thoroughly, and even washed my hair since there would be time for it to dry. After I was done with that and the rest of the morning odds and ends, I went back out into the room totally nude, and began to get dressed.

“You know,” I heard Andy say, “That’s probably not a bad idea.”

“What? The shower or the getting dressed?” I teased.

“Both of them,” he yawned. “Look, I hope you don’t mind, but I figured if Cat showed up without warning it would be better if she saw that both beds had been slept in.”

“Good thinking. I should have thought of that. I’m glad you did.” I stopped what I was doing, went over and sat on the bed next to him. “Andy, look,” I told him. “I had a really good time last night, better than I thought I was going to have, lots better, in fact. But there are a couple things you need to understand before Cat comes in.”


“Andy, last night was last night. It isn’t today, all right? We both had a lot of fun, but it doesn’t have to mean anything. I know you’re looking for a girlfriend, but I’m not really looking for a boyfriend, at least not now and maybe not for a long time to come.”

“I guess I knew that, but it’s hard to hear you say it.”

“Believe it, Andy,” I replied. “I know a lot of girls go to college to look for a guy to marry. I know Cat is thinking like that, at least a little. But I don’t think I want to get married anytime soon. There are a lot of reasons for that, but one of the big ones is that I have other things I want to do before that happens, if it happens at all. So don’t go counting on me to be your girlfriend to replace Linda because I’m not going to, all right?”

“I think I understand, but it’s hard to hear after the night we had.”

“I realize that. I had a pretty good night, too. Andy, what I just said doesn’t mean that we can’t have another night like that sometime if everything works out all right. It probably won’t be soon, and might not happen at all, but I’m not ruling it out. But it has to stay between you and me. I know Cat and Mark will suspect what happened, but they don’t have to know for sure.”

“I don’t plan on telling anyone, except for you, of course.”

“Then let’s keep it that way. Look, I have a wild enough reputation around campus because of what I do for the art classes. I don’t need to have it made worse by having stories going around, so Andy, keep it quiet. If I don’t hear anything about what happened last night, we may be able to do it again. If I do hear something that sounds as if it came from you, it for sure won’t happen, OK?”

“I won’t say anything, but I can’t control Cat or Mark.”

“They can speculate, that’s one thing. They don’t know that anything happened for sure, and at least Cat will know we were in two beds so she won’t have proof of anything. I doubt if Ed and Sue would say anything even if they did know.”

“All right, I can get along with that.”

“Good. As far as everyone is concerned, we’re just friends and we’ll try to keep it at that. But like I said, I can’t and won’t be your girlfriend, so maybe you’d better keep looking for someone else.”

“It’s a little disappointing to hear you say that, but I guess that’s how it has to be.”

“Yes, it does. In a way I’m sorry it has to be that way, because you’re an awful nice guy, Andy, and you’re going to make some girl a good husband some day. But I’m afraid that girl won’t be me.”

“That makes me a little sorry, Joan.”

“It makes me a little sorry too, and I might be wrong, but we can’t plan on it being any other way. Now, I think you’d better get up and get a shower while I finish getting dressed and brush out my hair.”

As it was, we were in plenty of time. We were both dressed, my hair was all but dry and things had been picked up when we heard a light tapping on the door. “Yes?” I called.

“Are you two decent?” I heard Cat reply.

“Would we be indecent?” I asked as I got up to unlock the door.

“No telling,” she said as I opened it. I could see her look around and note that both of the beds had been used. I couldn’t tell if she was disappointed or not. Beyond that, it appeared to me that she had enjoyed a very good night. “Ed says that we need to think about getting moving. He said that we can stop up the road for breakfast.”

“Fine, I’d just as soon get on the road. It’s going to be dark before we can get back to Venable as it is.”

Andy and I had already agreed that just to keep suspicions down we’d probably better not ride in the same car on the way back at least for the first leg of the trip, so a few minutes later Cat and I were in the Karmann Ghia, heading north. “So,” she said just about as soon as the door was closed, “did the two of you have a good night?”

“It could have been worse,” I yawned. In spite of everything, it had been a short night and I was still a little sleepy. Well, she was too. “I could have been fighting him off all night. As it was, he just snored a little.”

“Well, good,” she said. “That, well, it happened a little quickly and I wasn’t sure how you’d react. You’re funny about stuff like that sometimes.”

“Maybe I am, but I have what’s left of a reputation to protect. I’m a climber and I model nude, so there’s two strikes against me as it is. I don’t need to have stories going around about me. So how was it with Mark?”

“Better than I expected, worse than it could have been,” she admitted. “He’s a nice enough guy, but I don’t think I’d want to spend the rest of my life with him. I’ll tell you what, though. I don’t plan on marrying a guy until I’ve had the chance to try him out first.”

“That might not be a bad idea,” I agreed. “Fortunately I don’t plan on getting married for a while, so it won’t be an issue real soon.”

*   *   *

Andy and I didn’t get the opportunity to get together like that again for the rest of the semester. Oh, the chances came along but they would have involved the front or back seats of the Karmann Ghia, and neither appealed to us. After all, it would have been a big letdown over a nice, comfortable bed, and neither of us wanted to go to the trouble for less than the best. The best was not easily available around Venable, so we let it pass by.

Spring went quickly. There were only six weeks or so left until the semester was over with, and they were pretty full ones. Not only did we have our normal amount of studying, we were trying to prepare ourselves for our European trip, and most of our spare time went into reading about and making lists of places we wanted to see and things we wanted to do.

The climbing club got together as a club on several different occasions, mostly on Saturdays, but after the southern Appalachians the quarry and the railroad bridge seemed like small potatoes. We talked about doing another trip in the fall, but there weren’t that many good destinations within reasonable driving distance of the college and they would be one-day trips unless we cut classes. All of us were serious enough about our studies that we didn’t want to consider it, but already there was talk of heading back to the same area on our next spring break, which seemed an awful long way off.

One evening as the semester was winding down I told Cat I needed to be alone for a while, then walked down to the gas station, and got in the Karmann Ghia. I drove outside of town for a while and found a quiet spot where I could look at the sunset. I needed to think.

It was April 11, just a year since the Palm Sunday tornado that had changed my life forever, my re-birthday, if you wanted to call it that. While I still hadn’t figured out what had happened or how I managed to get here, it had been an interesting year and I was not totally convinced that I wasn’t living the hallucination I thought I was having in the hospital in Hamford. It had been quite a year, and I felt like I was well on the way to establishing myself in a new life that I could never have imagined a year before on the Interstate west of Oklahoma City.

I had no way of knowing, of course, but I had to assume that I was dead, at least in my Timeline One body. There was no proof of that, but I couldn’t imagine having my persona split into two, either. I had more than once wondered what had happened to Tom. I didn’t know what had happened/would happen to him, and there was no way of finding out without asking him fifty years in the future, if he even survived the accident himself. Was he on a different timeline now, too? There was no way of telling.

Beyond the impenetrable question of what had happened to me lay the question of why it had happened, and I had no answers there, either. If I assumed that I had been sent back in the other gender for a purpose, I had no clue of what that purpose might have been. Maybe the answer would come up somehow in the future.

I had gotten to the point where I rarely thought about such things since there were so many questions and so few good answers. Maybe some of the answers would be revealed in time, and maybe not.

I sat there rolling those things over in my mind while I watched a glorious sunset. Perhaps there was a message in that: enjoy these things while you can. After all, I had told Tom that I wanted to do different things with my life, and so far I’d made a pretty good start on it. Maybe that was a message, too.

But there were no firm answers. It was all but dark when I started the Karmann Ghia and drove back in the direction of Venable no wiser than before, but more determined than ever to live a different life than I had once lived.

Finals were a lot like they had been the previous semester, except that we were packing up our things with the intention of getting on the road as soon as possible after they were over with. We each had a lot to do in the few days we would have before we left for Europe.

Our last final was our French class. We both got an A in the class, which seemed like it was a good omen, since we planned on spending a lot of time in France. Just about as soon as it was over with I walked down to the gas station, thanked the man for the good eye he’d kept on the Karmann Ghia over the winter and told him that I planned on doing it the same way again starting next fall. With that done, I drove back over to the dorm and started hauling stuff down to the car. Fortunately, I hadn’t collected enough stuff over the course of the winter to make it impossible to get everything in the car for the trip home.

Cat and I were still filling my car when her folks showed up intent on the same thing, so I pitched in to help her haul her stuff down to the cars, too. Cat’s mother was none too crazy about the idea of letting Cat go to Europe with me. I had to admit that she had some cause to worry – not because we weren’t good girls, because mostly we were, but it was admittedly a long way from home and Cat’s mother would have preferred to keep a good eye on her. Cat’s father, though, was all for it, and I got the impression that there had been a few animated discussions about it between them since Christmas. However, Cat’s dad had given her the go-ahead before her mother got her say, so it was still on – unless, of course, her mother got her way before the trip started, which would louse it up for me, as well.

“You’re still sure you want to do this, Joan?” Cat’s mother asked as we hauled armloads of stuff down to their car.

“Sure do,” I told her. “We pretty well have to do it, or we’re going to lose the money we paid for reservations.”

“You don’t have to do it,” she protested. “You could do it another year, when you’re a little older.”

“But we couldn’t get our money back,” I pointed out.

“I suppose,” she sighed. “I suppose I can put up with her being gone for a month. It seems strange, after she’s been gone all winter.”

“You might as well get used to the fact that she’s pretty much going to be gone after this,” I told her. “Oh, there will be the odd vacation and break, but I wouldn’t be surprised if she gets married soon after she gets out of college, and her husband could find a job in California or something. If that happens, you might not see her very much at all.”

“I don’t like it, but I suppose I have to accept it. You girls at your age don’t understand how fast you grow up in our eyes. Oh, well, I’ll still get to have part of the summer with her.”

I didn’t want to let on how little of the summer she might have if our plans worked out. We hadn’t even hinted that we were most likely going to extend our trip once we got to Europe.

“Hey, try not to worry about it,” I said as we got outside and walked toward her car. “Kids do it all the time. We’re not the only ones from this place going to Europe this summer. It’s one of those things we just about have to do before we get married and start to have kids of our own. Opportunity only knocks once, you know.”

“I know, but she’s still so young.”

I decided to try a different tack. “I would feel a little differently if I had to make the trip by myself,” I told her. “I would have a lot more doubts, and I’d probably cancel if Cat doesn’t go with me. The two of us have gotten pretty good at looking out after each other, and it’ll be true while we’re in Europe.”

“I know, and I think you’ll probably do all right, but that doesn’t keep me from worrying.”

“You wouldn’t be a very good mother if you didn’t worry about your daughter.”

To tell the truth, in one way I was of two minds about the trip. In a way I agreed with Cat’s mother, although she hadn’t said what I knew she meant. We were young; we had just turned nineteen in the last couple of months, and we had planned a pretty ambitious trip for our ages. True, there were other kids from our college doing similar trips, but from what we had learned around the dining hall and elsewhere most of them were only thinking in terms of two to four weeks. When you got right down to it there weren’t that many of them, and most of them had a couple years on us.

But when I looked at it from Joe’s point of view I came up with a different answer. Joe wasn’t nineteen; he would have been over seventy now if he were still alive over on the other timeline. While much of the trip would be new to him it was something he thought he could handle. Granted, we would be on our own in strange places with strange people and not a lot of backup if something went wrong, but it was something we’d probably be able to handle. I could understand Cat’s mother’s concern because I had been through it with Anita, and mostly learned that parents had to learn to let go, which Cat’s mother apparently didn’t plan on doing. It was just something she was going to have to learn.

I don’t know if I managed to make my point, but I was pretty sure that Cat’s mother wasn’t going to wreck the trip at the last minute. At least I hoped she wouldn’t.

Once everything was loaded up, there was nothing left for either of us to do but to turn in the keys and go home. “See you in a few days,” I told Cat as we said goodbye.

“I’m looking forward to it,” she smiled. “I can hardly wait.”

“Me, either,” I agreed, and went to get in the Karmann Ghia. Things would be different when I saw Cat again.

It was a couple hours’ drive home. I took it easy with the loaded car since I was always careful with the clutch and transmission, but it was still fairly early when I pulled into the driveway. Mom and Dad weren’t home yet, but Joey’s Chevy was there.

I found Joey in his room. I had known from discussions with Mom and Dad, and occasional conversations with him, that this semester at WCC had gone even worse than the previous one. He had passed most of his classes, but only barely, not well enough for him to want to continue. Shortly after I got back from the spring break trip, I had heard that he definitely was going to join the Army, not that it surprised me any since it exactly paralleled what had happened with me when I had been Joe at his age. “Hi, Sis,” he said when he saw me. “How’s it going?”

“Pretty well,” I admitted. “I don’t think I got A’s on everything but I do know I did on some of them.”

“I wish I could say I did as well, but I didn’t,” he shook his head. “Joanie, I just couldn’t get interested in it. The last few weeks I’ve been wishing I’d set it up to go into the Army sooner.”

“When is it you go?”

“June thirteenth, and it’s still a long time to wait. There’s a part of me that doesn’t want to do it since I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I keep telling myself it’s got to be better than WCC.”

“Do you have any idea what you’re going to be doing?”

“I signed up for truck driving, so I suppose that’s it. That’s one of the good points about volunteering, you get to pick what you do, but you have to pay for it by signing up for an extra year. At least with truck driving I’m told there isn’t a lot of classroom work and what there is mostly is practical stuff, so that’s good.”

Joey wasn’t telling me anything I didn’t already know – after all, I had been down the exact same road in Timeline One over fifty years of Joe’s life before – but I couldn’t let him know that. “Hey, I’ve talked to a couple guys at Venable who have been in the Army, and they told me that basic training is pretty nasty, but it gets better after that.”

“Yeah, that’s what I’ve heard, too,” he nodded. “Are you and that friend of yours still going to Europe?”

“We’re still planning on it. We’re going to be leaving in a few days, so we’ll be long gone when you put on your uniform.”

“Part of me wishes that I was going with you, but part of me doesn’t. Your trip seems a little scary to me, but then, so does the Army. From what I’ve been told the chances of my avoiding Vietnam are pretty slim, but if I get drafted they’d be even slimmer and I’d be carrying a rifle out in some damn jungle.”

“Yeah, it might be better if you didn’t have to do that,” I agreed. “How are Mom and Dad taking the idea of having us both gone?”

“I can’t say they’re real happy about it, but they’re starting to get used to it what with you being gone most of the time since last fall. It’s sure going to be different with both of us gone.”

“I’m sure it will be. At least I’ll be here for a while this summer to make it a little easier on them.” That was a fib, of course, since Joey wasn’t aware of Cat’s and my plans to be gone most of the summer.

“It sure has changed, Sis. Nothing is like it used to be, and it’s just going to get worse. You’re doing things I never dreamed you’d do, like that climbing stuff you’ve been doing. That would scare the snot out of me.”

“A year ago I never dreamed I would be doing it myself. It was pretty scary until I could build up some confidence that I knew what I was doing. I guess I changed more than I expected, but I guess that happens when you grow up.”

“Things have changed,” he said flatly. “They’re not going to be the same again.”

“I don’t think they will be, Joey,” I shook my head. While I had no idea of what my future as Joanie would bring, as Joe I had left home more or less for good on the same schedule. He apparently suspected, and I knew, that he would be gone for years, part of it in Vietnam. When as Joe I got back, things had changed considerably, and I would never be the young Joe again. Neither would Joey, and I was sure that I, as Joanie wouldn’t be, either.

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