Grandview Lodge
By David Ralph Johnson
03/04/2018 12:34

Chapter 1 - Naked Winking Lady

"Another pot of hot."

"Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.  Another pot of hot."

These were mild words for Amile the chef this morning, meaning he was cranky and dry instead of his usual cranky and tuned.

Day before payday.  He was out of money and therefore vodka.  He hadn't metered things quite right the week past.

Normally vodka had Amile hanging sheets of expletives on the line faster than the laundry ladies on Wednesdays.

In contrast, his words today were almost a pleasantry.  They were directed at me -- the rookie Grandview Lodge dishwasher.

I'd been on the job for two weeks.  Dishwashing was a snap to master, and in the process I'd learned most of the kitchen lingo.

For example, "pot of hot".  A pot of hot required me to put three quarts of scalding water from the Bunn-o-Matic into a tall stainless steel container.  Then transmit the burning vessel to the cook line so Amile could resume his poached egg delicacies.

Pot of hot was a hazardous endeavor.

The kitchen was a high-traffic area making navigation hairy.  And a bump and a spill meant a burnt hand or wrist for me.

Jesus, Mary, and Joseph indeed.

I got the pot of hot to Amile without incident.

"Thanks Davie.  Good boy."

"Any time, Amile,” I replied.

It felt good to be appreciated by Amile.

He was rough and tumble, with a blue anchor tattoo on one forearm and a winking naked lady on the other.  Her substantial breasts undulated when he flipped pancakes.

He'd been around the world and knew what real work was.  A thank you from Amile carried weight.

I returned to the dishwashing station and manned my post.

Lodge guests were arriving in the dining room for their family breakfasts and it would be busy soon.

The guests were served by the Lodge dining room staff -- kids of college age and college caliber.  Each was smart, good looking, and well spoken. These were the traits that the Lodge owners sought when hiring.

While well-behaved  when on the clock, the college kids were quite the rowdy bunch afterward.

I felt a good summer looming in such company, one ripe with adventure.

I fired up the dishwasher and got to work on the first round of breakfast dishes.

- - -

Chapter 2 - Hired

I came up to Grandview Lodge with friends Tim and Julie.  Julie was hired as a Lodge dining room waitress and Tim as a beach boy.

Tim and Julie were the perfect teenage couple.  Either could have been models for fashion or sports.  Tim had a natural bodybuilder physique and a handsome smile.  Julie was a petite, classic Swede beauty.

Julie was the brains of the pair.  Her A’s went straight. Tim was the brawn of the pair.  His A’s were parked in Phy Ed. Both were avid athletes with Julie starring in gymnastics and Tim in downhill skiing.

I was an average Joe in looks and physical feats.  My A’s were sporadic. I was drawn to those who were outgoing, particularly to those who walked a different path.  Thus my attraction to my two friends, the boy and girl wonders of St. Anthony Village High.

Tim was job hunting for summer work and found the want ad placed by Grandview Lodge.  Seeing something outside of the local mundane job possibilities, we all applied and were hired.

Tim and Julie fit the bill for guest-facing jobs, and I fit the bill for pot-and-pan-facing jobs.

Our application process involved personal interviews with Fred Booz, Sr., at his family’s Curtis Hotel in downtown Minneapolis.

When we got there, Fred was situated in a walnut paneled office behind a grand desk, wearing a tailored three-piece suite.  His fingernails were trimmed and polished. That was a first for me. Money has a look.

He represented the Booz family, owners of  the Curtis, and two Grandview Lodges -- one in Minnesota and the other in Arizona.  These fabled hospitality institutions went back three generations in the Booz family.

The family took the business seriously for both guests and employees.  They cared about each equally, and that made for profitable ventures for all.

Money-wise, we job applicants were on the lean end of the Booz ventures.  Pay was $28 a week with room and board included, plus a bonus of $80 if you stayed the whole summer.

But this wasn’t about a money venture.  This was about a summer of adventure.

Those were Fred’s words as he clasped his perfect hands and closed the deal.

He sold us in a New York minute.  We were headed for Grandview Lodge two weeks later.

- - -

Chapter 3 - Where One Slept

When we arrived at Grandview, we were put up in old ramshackle staff cabins located on the very outskirts of the Lodge grounds.

The staff cabins were what remained of the original Lodge guest cabins, long since replaced by modern ones.  They looked somewhat abandoned but were sound enough for summertime staff shelter.

I shared a cabin with four guys, my friend Tim included.  I had the porch room. Tim and the others each had a cabin room.

A long hallway divided the cabin and ended at a communal bathroom, which was painted blood red.  Toilet, bathtub, floor, and all. It was likely the result of someone's drunken idea, married to spare red paint from the shed outside.  I guessed the redecorating had taken place last season. It looked pretty fresh.

My porch room was sparsely furnished.  A single mattress on an iron spring frame occupied the north wall.  It had a tilt that followed the slope of the porch floor. A bed stand with a wind-up alarm clock leaned accordingly.

The wind-up alarm clock was a plastic affair that ticked forty-five times to the minute.  Loud ticks. You couldn't depend on it for timing things by the second, but it did OK for minutes and hours somehow.  A Westclox mystery.

A three-drawer dresser rounded out the picture, perfect for my limited wardrobe as I was no slave to fashion in those days, nor could I afford to be.

The porch room had walls of old six-light windows that hinged open to big panels of screen  with a view of dense green forest. Lying in bed at night was one degree from tent camping.

Tim's room matched mine for accoutrements.  He frequented his when he wasn't sleeping over with Julie.  That was driven by the frequency that Julie was alone in her cabin.  In turn, that was driven by the frequency that Julie's roommate slept over with her boyfriend at his cabin.

Who slept where was tightly connected to roommate vacancies “de la nuit”.

- - -

Chapter 4 - Waitresses

Julie shared a cabin with three other waitresses named Lisa, Jan, and Maria.  She was the young one of the bunch with the others being college age.

They all satisfied Grandview personnel requirements for looks and smarts.  By unlikely coincidence, they were all the same height of five foot six inches.  Size-wise, they could have been four paper dolls cut from the same paper stock. But each had their own look and personality.

Lisa was dark and sultry, and a thinker.  Jan was tan and blonde, and boisterous. Maria was fair and willowy, and quiet, but she could rise to outgoing when the opportunity presented itself.

All were witty and enjoyed people.  They were a good fit for keeping Lodge guests on vacation.  There was rarely a lull in conversation around their cabin. They let no one, such as me, be shy for very long.  I liked them all for the natural ease I felt in their company.

Their cabin was most pleasant.  While Tim and my cabin looked and smelled seriously sparse and male inhabited, theirs was decorated nicely and had an enticing aroma, the scent of fresh laundry.  The scent was not intentional, but rather the result of a southerly breeze that wafted past the Lodge laundry and into their cabin windows most days. Such pretty girls, enveloped in the scent of fresh laundry, struck a chord in me that I named desire.  That desire would take me past their place, even when I wasn't going past their place.

I fell for Lisa right off the bat.  She was exotic, being from a distant land -- Boston.  Distant to me anyway. My relationships so far in life had been limited to a triangle of family and friends with Minnesota vertices of Hutchinson, Paynesville, and the Twin Cities.  I had never been side-by-each with anyone from so far away. Her words spoken with her Boston accent went into my head and swirled around and triggered my heart to race and other things to take rise.  Urgent flammable things.

Desire, coupled with urgent flammables, struck a chord in me that I named infatuation.

My infatuation with Lisa would take us along an interesting path soon that summer.

- - -

Chapter 5 - The Beach

Grandview Lodge had three hundred feet of beach on Gull Lake in northern Minnesota.  Perfect blond sand graced its shoreline. The Lodge beach hut was situated on the north end of the beach.  It had a traditional tiki hut design, complete with a pointed palm thatch roof. Protruding from the right side was a modern rectangular building that housed the Lodge pool and sauna.

The beach was managed by Dave C. and his assistant Turk.  The two of them ran the fishing boat rental, took Lodge guests out waterskiing, and kept all the beach activities supported.

As the Lodge beach boy, my friend Tim got his work direction from Dave C. and Turk.  Tim was low man on the tiki hut totem pole and did most of the grunt work to keep the perfect beach perfect.  Doing so required combing the beach sand to a pristine condition each morning. Occasionally he’d have to roust a guest awake that was sleeping off a drunk on the beach from the night before, and get the guest moving toward hangover time.  Once the beach was restored he would get the white beach chairs with their blue umbrellas in picture perfect order.

All three guys partnered throughout the day to dole out candy bars, pop, and chips to the kids at the snack bar, repair beach equipment when needed, and keep the pool running and the sauna steaming.

Boat motors were maintained by Turk in a boat shed nearby.  The shed was an original Lodge shelter, circa 1929. It was dank and smelled of boat motor oil and old gasoline.  Fishing rods, life vests, anchors, and such were neatly organized on the walls and floor.

Between my dishwashing shifts, I hung out there and talked shop with anybody that had time to kill.  Dave C. and Turk were twenty years old and had grown up together down in the Cities. We all had that locale and experience in common.  Here though, we talked more of local doings: Lodge girls, fishing, fast cars, boat motor mechanics, sports, and of course Lodge girls.

Dave C. and Turk augmented their Lodge wages with a sideline business selling used boat motors.  Dave C. had a fast boat. A stripped down Glastron. A shell of a boat really. Fiberglass hull with an eighty horse motor hanging off the stern.  That was about it, and it went like hell. Boat motors for their business were procured during midnight runs on the lake. Dave C. and Turk would speed to their mark -- some boat spotted previously with a nice motor facing lakeside.  Lights out, they'd cut power and paddle in, steal the motor, then tear back to the Lodge, all horses engaged. The stolen motor would hang on a motor stand in the boat shed until they ran it down to the Cities for a quick sale.

I had never rubbed shoulders with bonafide thieves before.  It was definitely exciting, in a wrong kind of way of course.  They were two mild-mannered mavericks with steel balls, lucrative midnight runs, and ill-gotten gains.  Temptation to join them lurked in my head. But I decided it was best to live their feats vicariously, given the Ten Commandments and potential jail time.  But, it was fun to think of being an outlaw with money to burn and that glint in your eye that said you were outside the norm and you knew it and liked it. Dave C. had the glint.

Turk was tall, rotund, and strong beyond appearance.  This was necessary for pulling boat motors from their mounts.  Dave C., on the other hand, was lean and average in height, but with a sinewy strength that you didn't want to mess with.  To boot, he had an endearing half-cocked smile fixed on his handsome boyish face most of the time. He was a lady killer, but flew solo that summer.  He had a girl back in the cities that he was devoted to. But he traveled a one-way street in that relationship. He was madly in love with her, but she not so with him.  Obsession was hard run, especially on empty.

- - -

Chapter 6 - GTO

The Mobile boys were the Lodge dining room bus staff that summer.  Denny, Scott, and Terry set up and cleared the tables during the the guest meals, which was two shifts a day, for breakfast and supper.

The three of them rounded out the group that I came to know so well that summer.

They came up from Mobile, Alabama, in a new convertible GTO which was the prettiest car I'd ever seen.  It was a graduation gift to Denny from his rich dad for completing high school. Denny's dad must have had deep pockets because this was a true muscle car, with high performance upgrades and flawless custom paint done professionally.  The car pinned you back hard in its red tuck and roll when Denny put the pedal to the metal.

This crew from the Deep South taught me that I spoke with an accent.  On the first night we partied together I mentioned that I liked their accent.  They laughed at that. Said, "Boy, y'all have the accent." Then they mimicked me, bantering back and forth using my precise Midwestern words.  Their rendition of my speech sounded hilarious. Yet it was true. When I put my feet in their shoes, I realized I had an accent too. Somehow my world got a little bigger that night.

Regarding partying, the Mobile boys cabin was a hot spot that summer.  It was buried in the woods, far from any Lodge activity. And Denny had a fake Alabama driver license that put him on the legal side of Minnesota alcohol procurement.

Remote location, booze readily available at a reasonable markup, young adults, or almost almost young adults, in determined pursuit of adult things -- these stars of debauchery aligned every payday Friday, or occasionally in between, and the party torch was lit.

The yellow bug light outside the Mobile boys front door actually served as the party torch.  Denny would throw it on around nine o’clock on nights they were open for partying.

My friend Tim and I were the almost young adults who frequented the Mobile boys den of iniquity.  A bottle of Boone's Farm apple wine could be had for a dollar. That included Denny's twenty five cent markup, which made for an affordable evening buzz.

If we were up for high-test ethel, we’d pool our funds for a pint of vodka from Denny’s stock.  That we’d nurse until the early hours of the next day. Fueled with eighty proof enthusiasm, we’d argue the shortcomings of our world, resting on the cabin lawn under a night sky choked with stars.

They were such lovely arguments that summer, with solutions so naive, so at hand.  With no real responsibility on our backs yet, we danced light on our intelligent toes.

- - -

Chapter 7 - Three Legs to Stand On

The Lodge dog was a mostly chocolate lab named Gertie.  She had a white diamond on her chest, origin unknown, which made her a mix of some type.

Fred Booz hired her as Lodge dog ten years ago.  She applied for the post by hanging around the Lodge beach hut persistently for days, looking half starved but very happy to be with newfound friends.  She had no collar so there was no way to trace her back to her owner.

Fred was a softy when it came to any person or animal in need.  He decided the Lodge could use just such a nice dog. His family took her in, naming her Gertie and giving her the official position of Lodge dog.

Gertie was three-legged, having lost her right front a few summers ago chasing a car out on the two-lane that ran by the Lodge.  She still chased cars, but she was reduced to half speed given her one tire was blown. Watching Gertie run was a bit mystical. She defied physics.   One front leg kept up with two powerful ones behind, moving ears, body, and tail flying along. Her lost leg appeared invisibly still at work. How could that have been?  But so it was. Most evenings Gertie hung out around the Lodge beach hut. Guests coming and going would stop for a chat and pet her. They were missing their own pets and she enjoyed filling the gap.

I liked doing the same when I happened by.  Conversing with Gertie was a mellow event that raised my spirits.

One evening though, things got exciting.

I was at the beach swapping jokes with Gertie.  She liked my jokes.

I asked her, “How do you get a one-armed man out of a tree?”

She rotated her head a quarter turn with a puzzled look, as dogs do when curiosity strikes.

I answered, “You wave at him.”

She smiled at the punchline half-heartedly, which was not her usual response of dogged appreciation.  It dawned on me that my joke might have offended her, given her missing limb situation. But she quickly returned to cool, so I prepared for my next bit of humor.

Gertie’s attention suddenly changed.  In an instant, she was up on her three paws, alert to something extraordinary.

Chunks of prime rib were falling from heaven.

It was prime rib Wednesday at the beach and the beach buffet truck was swinging by to deliver prime rib and fixings to waiting beach buffet guests.

Alonzo, chief cook’s helper, was at the wheel.  He’d forgotten to latch the side doors that kept the food in place in the rear box of the truck.

Alonzo was pushing eighty.  He had a nip of booze every afternoon to keep his arthritis in check.  Just before loading the truck that afternoon, he’d tripled his medication due to a chill.  That caused more than his normal absent mindedness, which led to the missed door latches.

With a good buzz on, food doors flapping wildly, Alonzo rounded the beach hut corner with purpose.

Inertia took hold and prime rib flew out the doors.

Gertie was near speech when she got to the flying meat spectacle.  She scored two pieces of prime before Dave C. and Turk chased her off.

Seeing the prime rib pass by in Gertie's jowls and her at full three-legged throttle, Alonzo realized a spill must have occurred.   He hit the brakes and backed up.

Being out of sight from the guests, Alonzo and Dave C. and Turk decided the spill was salvageable with some good wiping off.  I helped and everything was restored in a few minutes. Alonzo proceeded to his delivery.

The beach buffet guests mentioned no issues with the prime rib that night.

Gertie thought the same, resting, belly full, a few hundred feet down the beach.

“It was medium rare.  Just right,” Gertie said to me about the event the next time we met.  I smiled a big smile, with dogged appreciation, and proceeded with my first joke of the evening.

- - -

Chapter 8 - Lisa

I had named it infatuation, but my feelings for Lisa were more than that single word.  They were a poem that made a morning of dishwashing effortless, watching her figure come and go as she carried her orders in and out the kitchen doors.

I rode that poem for weeks, but to no avail.  Lisa was aloof when I had any chance to interact with her.  She would smile nicely when our eyes happened to meet, but that was it.  Barely a word was exchanged between us other than pleasantries.

By chance I found out why she was a bit distant.  Between my dishwashing shifts one hot afternoon, I was walking the path up to the Mobile boys cabin to see what they would have in stock for refreshments later on.  That took me directly by Lisa's.

As I neared, a rise in the path provided a view of Lisa's window, open with lace white curtains drifting lazily in and out.  There I caught a glimpse of two girls standing inside, kissing in a passionate embrace and naked from the waist up. Lisa and Maria.  I had to think about that for a minute. Two girls in a passionate embrace. My knowledge in that realm was nil. So far in my sheltered life, people and their relationships had been on the straight and narrow.  Any reference to a lifestyle outside of that norm was an abstraction.

I walked on.

Funny how life throws things at you.  You can have a thousand glimpses on any day that go unregistered, but then one comes along that locks itself to your brain and throws away the key.

I found no fault in their caress, although it pretty much smoked my chances with lovely Lisa.  That was a bummer.

I arrived soon after at the Mobile boys cabin.  The place was vacant and the GTO was gone, so I assumed the boys were making a refreshment run.

I turned west and took the long way home via the lakeshore path for some thinking time.  Then I strode back to work for the next shift.

That night, I smiled at Lisa as she swung through the kitchen doors with her first order.  She smiled back and gave me a wink. Perhaps she'd seen me too on my walk that day. That possibility I named intrigue.  The summer was certainly getting interesting.

- - -

Chapter 9 - Mission

Turk was leaning over the candy counter in the Lodge beach hut, beating an Old Gold.

He tapped its ashes carelessly on the floor with a flick of his index finger.  He didn't have much regard for cleanliness. Or rules.

He was contemplating the sun setting.  The candy counter offered the perfect view through its west facing picture window.  The big orange ball was touching the horizon. The sky was taking the hint for twilight.

I came in with the screen door slamming behind me, nearly tripping on Gertie.  I normally knew to sidestep her usual post, but I was moving fast and forgot. As I recovered to upright, Turk asked, "Hey Davie, how's the anal pore coitus these days?"  Turk usually opened a conversation with a startling statement. Not knowing exactly what those words meant in that particular order, I ventured a "not bad”. He smiled and took a drag off his cig, then said, "Good Davie, keep it up."  His words came out in syllables of Old Gold smoke.

I really didn't have time for small talk.  I was on a mission and needed to know where Dave C. was.

"Where's Dave C.?"

"Where's my five dollars?"  More Old Gold syllables.

"C'mon Turk, do you know where Dave C. is?”

"So you heard about the midnight run?"

I had.  Tim said Dave C. was going to cross the lake that night for a visit to Madden's resort.

Madden's was a sprawling affair on the opposite side of the lake with plenty of dockside access.  Full of wealthy boaters that liked to party all night. While Grandview was mostly quiet and for the family, Madden's was hell bent on fun.

"Yes.  I would like to go."

"I myself heard Dave C.'s got a full crew lined up.  Maybe next time, Davie."

A full crew meant Dave C. and four others packed into his boat's stripped down hull, bringing the water line up to the barely afloat level.  So no room for me that night.

"OK, Turk.  Gotta get back for the evening shift.  See ya."

"Keep on truckin'  Davie."

I left for the kitchen and Turk returned to his sunset.

- - -

Chapter 10 - Midnight Run

Dave C. had the Glastron at the dock right after the night shift, ready for boarding.  Its outboard motor was at a slow idle with exhaust exiting the propeller in bubbles of white smoke.  The exhaust fumes added a lethal fragrance to the still night air.

Turk and the Mobile boys arrived as scheduled.  They hopped in. Dave C. gunned the throttle and they were off.

The moon was full.  The lake was smooth as black mirror,  The Glastron cut a perfect moonlit wedge as it proceeded out.  The boat’s red and green navigation light on the bow led the way.

Dave C. had explained to me in one of our Lodge boat shed talks that the red light was on the left to indicate a boat's port side, and the green was on the right to indicate the starboard side.  When two boats were coming at each other head on in the night, you kept green to green for safe passing.

And if the boats were on a collision course, the boat that sees the red nav light of the other must yield.  Conversely, the other will see green, giving it the stand on position, meaning OK for it to stay on course.

Two simple colored lights kept it all straight.

There were no other nav lights to be seen on the vast expanse of water.  The guys had Gull Lake to themselves.

They were making time.  Dave C. had the throttle pushed forward all the way, and the motor roared the boat along at top end.  Dave C. had the only seat. The others sat on life preserver cushions on the bottom of the boat. It had a low slung hull so all could see easily.

Turk's cigarette was finished in half the time, with the wind taking the better part of it, sparks flying.

They had to take a dogleg to the right.  If they had gone straight across the lake they would have gone over a rock pile that was submerged a foot under water, right in the middle of things.  Fieldstone sized rocks were dumped there when a glacier receded from the area ten thousand years ago. The rocks were beautiful ancient things that also dotted lakeside retaining walls and cabin fireplaces.

Dave C. and crew arrived and tied off at a lone dock in Madden's marina.  They were refreshed from the blast of night air their cruise had provided.  Strands of clear bulbs illuminated the grounds in gentle swoops. A thousand yellow filaments dotted the air like fireflies lighting their way.  Madden's convention center was their destination. It was glowing with activity. Music blared from within, and the base beat could be felt as they neared.

- - -

Chapter 11 - Home of the Huskies

With the exception of Denny, everyone else was underage according to their IDs.

Dave C. and Turk were a few months from twenty-one.  Scott, and Terry were nineteen. Technically, that kept the four of them out of the bars.  However, walking through and seeing if anyone took notice didn't require an ID.

Their first stop was the Kon Tiki Torch Room.

Torches with gas flames lit the walkway to the entrance.  And torch shaped sconces angled out from the walls inside giving the room an amber glow.  The image of Thor Heyerdahl coursing the Pacific on his Kon Tiki raft occupied the wall behind the bar.  There were no loose ends in that room of torches. The only thing missing was a bouncer at the door. That got them inside, no sweat.  The place was packed so they stood and took everything in. Terry caught the eye of a young woman. Not one for wasting the moment, he sauntered over and introduced himself.

"Hello, I'm Terry."

She replied, "Hello Terry, I'm Debbie."

Debbie looked him straight in the eyes.  Eyes are meant to be looked into sincerely.  They walk you directly to the edge of the cliff.  Terry stood on the brink and looked straight into Debbie's.

Debbie asked, "And what brings you here, Mr. Terry?"

He replied, "Usually a fast boat, as one did tonight."  Mr. Smooth. "I am up here this summer from Mobile, Alabama.  I work across the lake at Grandview Lodge in the dining room."

"Well," Debbie smiled, "perhaps you've seen me.  I am staying there with my mom and dad. They are around here somewhere with their friends from Minnesota."

Terry wondered at that.  Road trip with mom and dad.  That put Debbie younger than she looked.  Seventeen maybe, although she passed for twenty one, torch lit as she was.

Debbie was a black-haired beauty with big dark eyes and points all her own sitting way up high.  Way up firm and high. Bob Seger would write those very words about her five years later.

"And where are you from Miss Debbie?" Terry asked.

"Minot, North Dakota.  Home of the Huskies," she replied.

Yup.  Seventeen.

Terry noticed Dave C. giving him a helicopter motion with his right index finger.  The boys wanted to roam on. Takeoff time.

Terry had to stay with the boys or risk being left to hitchhike twelve miles home on the dark two lane road around the lake.  Getting back that way, before first shift started the next day, was fifty-fifty.

"Well Debbie, my friends are about to go, so I must too.  I hope to see you again." He so did.

"It was nice to meet you, Mr. Terry.  I will keep my eye out for you too."

They left the edge of the cliff and parted ways.

Terry liked his new nickname, Mr. Terry, and the lovely girl that voiced it.

Debbie liked their encounter as well.

- - -

Chapter 12 - Cutty Sark

Reunited, Dave C. and Turk and the Mobile boys cut through Madden's convention center bound for the boat docks.

Terry smiled to himself at the thought of seeing Debbie at breakfast tomorrow.

They approached an empty banquet room.  Its double doorway revealed an expanse of forty round tables covered with white cloth and fancy wedding doodads.

The doodads were in various stages of disarray after a night of wedding guest fiddling.  One could judge that the room started off in spectacular fashion given all the colorful remnants lying about.

Madden's cleanup crew was in the back bussing tables, making progress to the front.

A portable bar sat unattended by the head wedding table.

Dave C.'s eye for things unattended caught the opportunity.

He ducked through the banquet doorway and grabbed a quart of unopened Cutty Sark scotch whisky.  His exit was clean.

He merged with his companions who provided cover for the whisky transport like they'd planned it all day.  They moved as one, knowing the reason, anticipating the taste, and feeling the rush.

Once outside, they were free.  A new bond had formed. Joint thievery.  Fate's doing. They shared slight smiles as they moved on.

The night air had cooled.  Under the light of the moon and swags of string lights, the boys retraced the path back to the Glastron.  It floated patiently, reined to the dock and ready.

They hopped back in, taking same spots as the trip there.  Dave C. wrapped the Cutty Sark in a beach towel and tucked it under his seat for safekeeping.  He fired up the motor as Turk undid their mooring. Away they went, slowly, then full throttle once they cleared the marina.

A few minutes out, Dave C. throttled down and idled the motor.  He brought out the whisky so the boys could have a round of sips.  He twisted the bottle top, breaking the liquor seal with a crisp snap.  Turk took the first swig. The whisky burned down his throat, but the afterglow was most pleasant.  Same for the rest of the boys. Their spirits rose, those pirates of Gull Lake. When the bottle got to Dave C. he refrained.  He had yet to drink in front of anyone at Grandview that summer, not at all really.

His use of alcohol had been tempered by his parents, both mean drunks.  He liked to be in control of himself at all times; he did not want to chance being a fool like his folks.

Plus, being responsible for his friends meant staying sober.

The bottle made a second round, then was stowed for takeoff.  Dave C. hit the throttle hard and got up to going like hell speed, just as a large cabin cruiser cut them off.

- - -

Chapter 13 - Rock Pile

The cabin cruiser came fast out of the night from the left.  According to the cabin cruiser nav lights, Dave C. had the stand on position, the right of way.  But whoever was at the cabin cruiser wheel forged straight ahead across the Glastron path, unaware of the smaller boat torpedoing toward it.  Dave C. immediately took a hard right, sending the boys smashing into each other. He then straightened out, which caused them all to smash into each other the opposite way.  The boys started to right themselves. Dave C.'s quick moves had saved their lives. But in the process he had put them on course for another disaster, realized an instant later when the edge of the rock pile took the Glastron motor off.  A good part of the boat's stern went with it. Dave C. lost all control at that point as the wheel went slack in his hands. They had been doing forty-five knots. They still had great momentum. When the stern tore loose the bow dipped, catching the rock pile and bouncing what was left of the hull airborne.

The boys flew out helter skelter.  Dave C. stayed put deep in his seat from G force.  On final impact, spray flew forty yards as the hull cracked open, then sank without pause.  The boys landed past the rock pile in eight feet of water. They hit the water hard as if they'd had a bad fall waterskiing at high speed.  Denny surfaced first, followed by Scott, then Turk. No Terry. Dave C. rode out the crash, letting the boat take the beating. Instinct kicked in, keeping him gripped white-knuckled to the boat wheel.  He lucked out as the hull settled on the lake bottom with him setting upright. He was extremely shaken but aware enough to simply float to the surface.

They all made it back to the rock pile and crawled on to it.  Still no Terry. Any attempt to stand was thwarted by slippery rock, so they sat instead in the shallow water that covered the rock pile.  The water felt warmer than the night air. That would have been pleasant in other circumstances.

"What the fuck?" said Turk.  "Where's Terry?"

They didn't know where or how to start looking.  No one was thinking clearly. Shock and fear were taking over.  The full moon had set making it too dark to see. They were engulfed in blackness.

- - -

Chapter 14 - Breakfast

A very lovely girl walked into the Lodge dining room the next morning.  My age, I thought. She gave me a nice look.

I was too preoccupied to pay much attention.  I was mastering the art of setting tables and would soon be bussing  them. I'd had ten minutes of instruction from Lisa. On the job training.  More like on the fly training.

The Mobile boys hadn't shown up for work that morning.  No one knew why. They had never missed a shift before so something was amiss.

Tim was hanging around Julie who was about to go on shift.  Fred Booz commandeered him to go up to their cabin and see what was up.

Off he went, and Fred gave me the call to bus in their place.  That included a fresh white shirt, a black clip-on bow tie, and Lisa as mentor, which I didn't mind at all.

The wait staff and I would be doing double duty that morning.

Alonzo was covering the dishwashing as best his old body could.

The guests rolled in, and we were off to the races.

My goodness, that girl was pretty.  I caught her glancing at me more than once.  That meant she caught me glancing at her equally so.  We tied in the glance department that morning. Her folks and she were casually dressed.  Nicely so. Welcoming, not stuffy like some of the rich guests. They took their time eating and chatting, perhaps about the coming day, and then left for it.  She cleaned her plate. So I found when I cleared their table. Funny the attention to detail you pay when love at first sight is lurking about.

Other than a pair of stragglers, the dining room was empty an hour later.  I caught up on bussing, then relieved Alonzo. He'd given it his best shot, but there was still a mountain of breakfast dishes to tackle.

"Hey Davie, I need to take five."

"OK, old man," I replied. "I will take it from here."

He smiled gratefully, old weathered kind man that he was, and walked his bent body out the kitchen back door for a smoke, screen door slamming behind him.

I took the handoff and wrapped things up, only a half hour beyond my normal shift.

- - -

Chapter 15 - Rescue

Terry had been alive through the night, floating south of the boys, unable to communicate.  He was riding backmost in the Glastron when its motor hit the rocks. The motor’s powerhead surged forward and broke Terry’s collarbone.  His position at the very back of the boat put him on the long end of a catapult when the boat bottomed out at forty-five knots. That flung him beyond the boys by thirty yards.  Terry cracked a rib when he slammed down on the water, seriously compounding his injury. His life cushion was in flight right behind him. It hit him square in the face. He grabbed it with his good arm and put its strap over his head and under his armpit.  That kept him afloat.

The broken collarbone and cracked rib were both on his left side.  That made pain so excruciating he could barely speak. His faint whispers for help were out of earshot of the boys on the rock pile.  However, he could hear them plain as day. Terry was touched when they repeatedly called for him, when he heard their anguish at the thought of him gone.  And later when they spoke of what a good guy he was. Their words made him evermore determined to ride out the pain and get his ass saved. But he could barely move, so he had to float where he was and play bobber for the duration.

As dawn approached, Terry and the boys finally caught sight of each other.

Denny was first to spot him.  He couldn’t believe his eyes. He exclaimed, “Terry!  God damn, Terry! There he is. There he is.”

Dave C. jumped in and swam out and towed Terry back, lifeguard style, to the rock pile.

Terry was in agony as he was pulled up on the rocks, but cracked a half smile at the boys, who were beyond jubilant to have him alive in their midst.

Dave C. said, “OK we’re good now.  Won’t be long before someone out fishing sees us and comes to the rescue.”

Turk piped in, “What a night.  What a fucking night. This was one for the books.  Good to be fucking alive.”

They all fucking agreed, as the first boat the of morning came from the north to their rescue.

- - -

Chapter 16 - Facts and Drama

Tim was looking for me after I left the kitchen that morning.  I was wandering the Lodge grounds deciding what to do until the evening shift.  Our paths crossed at the Lodge tennis court.

Two tennis newbies had been sending tennis balls over the court fence with some regularity, based on the number of balls scattered about the lawn.  Their bucket of balls was better than half gone. They were switching sides, so we stopped, said, “Hello guys,” and tossed the errant balls back one by one. They waved their racquets in appreciation.

As they resumed their game of mostly sending tennis balls over the court  fence, Tim led off with big news, “Dave, everybody on the midnight run last night is missing.  Dave C.’s boat is gone too. Fred Booz is at the beach hut right now on the phone to the sheriff’s office.”

I looked at Tim.  His expression was hard to read, but excited.  This was really serious. Five friends were likely in deep trouble, or worse, dead.

For the first time in either of our lives, we were involved in a real potential tragic situation.  We were feeling a jumble of emotions.

In any tragedy there is cold fact, and there is emotional drama.  You choose from these two in your response. Fact takes you somewhere tangible.  Drama gets you there with speed. Without both, you churn.

We had minimal facts to go on.  Drama took over.

“Jesus,” I said.  “I was almost on Dave C.’s boat last night.  Turk waved me off.”

“Turk did the same to me too,” Tim replied.  “That could have been us out there. Man, I hope they’re OK.”

“Me too.  What now?” I asked.

“Well, we stick around and wait for some word, I guess,” Tim said.

That word was not too far off, as Dave C. and the boys were crossing the lake in an overloaded fishing boat, heading for the Lodge dock.

- - -

Chapter 17 - The Landing

Fred Booz was at the beach hut and saw the boys coming in from the lake, just as his call was connected to Deputy Sheriff Thomas.

Fred said, “Hang on Sheriff.  The reason I am calling is just floating up to my dock.”

Without waiting for a response, Fred put the phone receiver down hard on the candy counter and headed out the screen door for the dock.  Deputy Sheriff Thomas heard the bangs of the receiver and the screen door and figured he was on hold. He went back to his morning toast and coffee.

Fred got to the dock as the boys arrived.  They were crowded into their rescue craft, a tiny Alumacraft fishing boat.  The man at the tiller killed the motor and glided the boat to a soft landing.

Fred tied the boat off to a dock piling.  He could see that Terry was in rough shape.

Fred took charge.  “OK, Terry out first.  Explanations later. Can you make it up on your own, Terry?”

Terry nodded yes.

“Dave C. and Turk, help him up and steady him,” Fred instructed.  “Denny, get up on the dock and help Terry when he gets there.”

They did so.  It was a high step up from the boat.  Dave C. and Turk hoisted from behind and Denny gently brought Terry to an upright position on the dock.

Fred said, “OK.  We’ll take the Caddy.  Next stop the Brainerd hospital emergency room. Who besides Terry needs to see a doctor?  Don’t worry about cost. I have it covered.”

Remarkably, everyone else was in pretty good condition.  They were cold and wet and bruised from six hours on the rock pile, but they had youth and stamina on their side, which gave their bodies and souls the means to bounce back quickly.  The morning sun was warming their bones. That helped. And their spirits were riding high from surviving near death. Which was no exaggeration.

Dave C, natural leader that he was, assessed the condition of his pirate crew and said, “We’re good, Fred.”  They all nodded in agreement. Dave C continued, ‘I’ll go with you to the ER and help out with Terry. Terry, that OK with you?”

“It is.  Thanks Dave C.  It is,” Terry whispered.

“You there,” Fred said to their rescuer, “stay put.  Denny, go up to the Lodge lobby and get a free beach buffet dinner certificate for this man and his family.”

Denny took off for the Lodge.

Dave C. supported Terry by his good arm and they walked in step to Fred’s long black Cadillac.  Terry laid down in the back seat which was ample enough for him to stretch almost completely out.  He found a position on his right side that minimized the pain on his left, moaning as he settled in for the trip.

Fred and Dave C. got in the front seat.  Fred liked any opportunity for a fast Caddy takeoff.  The hospital run presented just such a moment. He started up the Caddy and launched it up the dirt lane, bound for their Brainerd destination.  His departure left everyone in a wide-track Cadillac cloud of dust.

- - -

Chapter 18 - Tree Swing

After our tennis court conversation, Tim and I split up.  Tim headed to Julie’s cabin to fill in the girls on the missing boys.  I chose to wander the Lodge grounds some more.

As I approached the Lodge, I saw the pretty girl from breakfast that morning.  And she saw me. She was sitting in the tree swing that hung from a great elm on the front lawn of the Lodge entrance.  From her venue, two strands of rope ran parallel and disappeared up in the elm’s leafy canopy. Sunlight filtered down through surrounding high pines and landed softly on the subtle pastels she wore.  She sat ankles crossed, intent on something in her lap. Her long dark hair was draped over one shoulder. Renoir couldn’t have painted a more fetching scene.

The Lodge behind her was built in the Roaring Twenties.  It was a gargantuan structure, two stories high in the front and three in the back, made from native white pine logs that averaged two feet in diameter.

The Booz family made a fortune in bootlegging back then, and they put a big share of it into the Lodge.  When finished the Lodge was called the Jewel of the North. A jewel it was still, as it made such a romantic setting for a lovely girl on a swing with a boy approaching.

As I walked near, I saw that she was writing in a book.  One of those books with a hard cover filled entirely with blank pages.  She was using a fountain pen. Proper writing equipment. I was impressed.

Lodge staff were not to fraternize with Lodge guests.  That was a big rule.

Me fraternizing with her, in view of the entire Lodge, was risky.  But I figured a simple Minnesota hello would be safe.

“Hello,” I said.

“Hello,” she replied.

“Are you writing a poem?” I fraternized.

“No, I am writing in my journal,” she replied.

She looked me straight in the eyes.  I looked straight back. I felt that I was teetering on the edge of a cliff for some strange reason.

I couldn’t leave now.  I had to know more about this journal writing girl perched on a rope swing who cleaned her plate every morning.

I leaned casually on the tree with one hand like I had nowhere to be.  The old twisted elm put a respectful fifteen feet between us.

“Well this is certainly a good place for writing,” I said.  “I write too.” At that point I so easily crossed from fraternizing into tall-tale telling.  Pursuit of love is such a slippery slope.

“That is good.  I don’t know too many people that write where I come from.  Boys are jocks, mostly,” she said. “And my girl friends aren’t into it.  My real passion though is painting. Watercolors.”

“My writing is just bits and pieces.  Feels good to see it on paper,” I said.  Well that much was true. I did like to do that.

“Well, nice talking to you.  I’m sorry I have to go,” she said.  “I’m already late to the beach for a swim with my family.  What is your name, writer man?”

I fell off the precipice.

“Dave.  And you, painter lady?”

“Debbie.  See you again perhaps?”

She had fallen too.

“Yes, Debbie. I will look for you here same time tomorrow.”

“Please do,” she replied.

And so we parted ways, for twenty four hours.

- - -

Chapter 19 - Rescue Recount

Terry would be two days in the Brainerd hospital recovering from the boat crash.  All the other pirates went back to working their normal shifts after the morning rescue.

Lodge staff were abuzz all day with the story of their tragedy on the water.  After work that night we crowded into the Mobile boys cabin for the recount.

Caught up in the moment, Denny passed out beers to everyone, on the house.  The beer was cold, making the bottles sweat with condensation from the humid night air.  In party cabin ritual, a bottle opener was passed from one to another, and spent bottle caps were tossed neatly into the bottle cap box in the corner. After the last cap was stowed the tribal gathering began.

Scott, the quiet member of the Mobile crew, led things off.  He was the most animated I’d ever seen him.

Scott’s enthusiasm was a new thing.  He was normally a very slow talker, the result of being struck by lightning as a child.

When he was ten years old, a lightning bolt hit the home chimney and sent a fireball into the kitchen below.  The fireball floated slowly across the room, then fried the family’s Frigidaire in a blue blinding flash. Scott wasn’t hit directly, but was sitting near enough to the fridge for the charge to blow his shoes off.

He was silent for six months after that.  Doctors didn’t know if his silence was a physical or emotional ailment.  He started talking eventually on his own, but from then on only with a the slow cadence we knew him by.

That night after the crash however, he was talking a mile-a-minute.  Perhaps some brain wiring got reconnected as a result of this second near-death event in his life.  

There’d be no more slow southern drawl out of that boy’s mouth.

With newfound speed, he explained, “We’d just missed the cabin cruiser thanks to Dave C.’s maneuver.  About ten seconds later we hit the rock pile which tore the boat motor off Dave C.’s boat and sent us flying into the lake.  We made it back to the rock pile, but Terry didn’t show up until sunrise. Dave C. rescued him.”

Turk piped in, “My ass hit the water at breakneck speed.  Took all morning for it to drain.”

Turk’s mixed metaphor raised a few eyebrows.  It sounded far fetched but you could get water up your butt when you hit a lake surface hard.  That happened to me once when I fell bottom first trying to waterski barefoot at high speed. Enima city.

I moved the conversation on, “What about Dave C.’s boat and motor?”

Turk answered, “Dave C. is a smart man.  He had insurance on the boat. He’ll have to pay for the salvage to get it off the lake, but he’ll get enough insurance money to get another boat.”

We of the tribe sipped our beers in unison, contemplating Dave C.’s business savvy.  He impressed us yet again.

Dave C. was not at the get together that night.  He was out walking the two lane. He needed to be by himself to sort things out.  It was one hell of an event, the crash and all. It really shook him. He was an amatuer boxer for a while in his teens.  He learned then what it meant to get pounded into the ground and recover. Sometimes it took baby steps for a comeback. But with his tenacity it wasn’t long for those tiny steps to turn into the rapid dance of a boxer renewed.  Tomorrow he would start recovery. Next week he would have a new boat.

Given all the excitement of the day, no one felt like making it an extended stay.  With some wrap up conversation we called it a night, finished our beers, and headed to bed in various cabins, paired by love, or flying solo by fate.  Interesting dreams would follow of launching bodies, draining Turks, fast-talking Scotts, and a floor of spent bottle caps that shouldn’t have been there.

- - -

Chapter 20 - In The Dark

After the rescue recount, I headed back to my cabin to knock off for the night.  The path I walked was lined with tall pine trees that shrouded the surroundings in darkness.  A river of night stars flowed at the tree tops, mimicking the walking path’s course.

I could see silhouettes of my fellow workers ahead. Their shapes were defined by faint light coming from the Lodge in the distance.

As I went along I pondered my upcoming encounter with Debbie.  We were to meet mid-morning tomorrow, at the rope swing.

What would I talk about with her?  Being outgoing didn’t come naturally to me.  A bit of shyness qualm arose, but then I remembered something my dad told me.  He said, “With a new person, be interested, not interesting. That makes the conversation easy.”

Since I knew little about Debbie, being interested would be easy.  The qualm subsided.

The starry clear sky above suggested that it would be a sunny morning.  The outdoors would be good to share with Debbie. Confidence about our get together took flight.

My pondering had put me well behind my silhouetted friends.  As I moseyed forth, I sensed someone on my left.

“Davie.”  It was Lisa.  Because of the  darkness, all I had to go on was her voice, and a fragrance she wore.  I knew the voice but not the fragrance.

She touched my left hand.  “I’m scared of this path in the dark.”

She clasp a few of my fingers and held tight.

“Well Lisa,” I said, “we can walk it together if that would help.”

“I would like that, thank you,” she replied politely in her Boston accent.

We continued side-by-each at my lazy pace.

After a moment of quiet she adjusted her hold so our two hands were fully intertwined.  Her hand was dry and cool. In some subtle way, her hand felt in charge of mine.

I was a bit speechless having this ex-girl of my dreams next to me.  She walked close causing the back of my hand to nudge her hip with every step.

Lisa’s hip movements brought Horhay and the boys to attention.  Horhay and the boys were my penis and testicles. I named them that in Junior High just after I had the astounding experience of mastering their use.  It must have been the day in Spanish I, when Senorita Anderson explained that “Horhay” was the phonetic pronunciation of “George”. That night, the Senorita’s figure and and her words of Horhay become one with my unit and the name stuck.

Since then, it never took much to get Horhay and the boys aroused -- like repeatedly glancing off a girl’s hip for example, or eating cornflakes at breakfast.

Being preoccupied with Horhay, plus Lisa’s fragrance and her physical closeness, made it difficult for me to tee up a coherent thought.  I was hoping Lisa would fill the gap.

She provided the conversation rescue.  “Quite an adventure the boys had. They were so lucky.  I would have been so sad if anything had happened to them.”

I came out of my hip coma to agree, and threw in the fact that I had almost gone along.

She said, “That would have made me doubly sad, Davie.  I think you are a special guy. Everyone likes you. Fred Booz even said you’re the hardest worker in the place.”

That got my attention.  Praise from Fred Booz. Those words leaving her lips heightened all my senses.

“Where’d Fred say that?” I asked.

“After you’d finished bussing the dining room by yourself yesterday.  He mentioned it to me,” Lisa replied.

“That was very nice of Fred.  And of you to say so. Thank you Lisa.”

We’d come to the turn to her place.

“Well, it’s true.  You’re a good guy, Davie.  And thank you for your discretion about Marie and me.  I know you saw us together.”

“What are friends for?” I said.

“Exactly my friend,” she agreed.  “See you in the morning.”

She gave my hand a squeeze and parted for her cabin door.

The space she no longer occupied next to me made a lonely void.  I missed her immediately. Man, what a rollercoaster of emotions I rode with that girl from Boston.

“Good night, Lisa,” I said as she turned to silhouette.

And to myself I thought, “Sleep tight, my friend that is a girl.”

- - -

Chapter 21 - To Be

Romance was in the air.

The band began a slow dance, their first soft rock song of the night. Spotlights above the stage cast a hazy blue light over the band members and out onto the dance floor.

Terry put his hands on Debbie’s waist.  He smiled, thinking of their chance encounter at Madden’s a few days ago, and their meeting this evening at Grandview.

In response to Terry’s advance, Debbie put her arms tenderly around his shoulders.  His athletic build was apparent . His muscles were hard, even at rest.

Debbie had a firm physique as well, but feminine in all regards.  Regards that Terry found very appealing.

A few notes into the dance, she pressed her body into his and followed his lead.  He moved one hand to the small of her back and swayed the two of them slowly.

The dance floor was crowded so they held together, not venturing beyond a few feet.  They savored the intimacy of their limited space.

Terry looked deep into Debbie’s eyes, and once again walked to the edge of the cliff.  He felt ready to fall into thin air. Her newness was exciting. The urge to be wrapped in a prolonged embrace with her added a dimension of sensuality to their movement.

Debbie rested her head on Terry’s shoulder.  She held him closer. The heat was on. Terry closed his eyes and inhaled the scent of Debbie’s hair.  

“Terry. Wake up son.”

Terry opened his eyes groggily.  Debbie’s caress evaporated. Instead, he was confronted with Dr. Strikemee’s paunchy face, the face of the Brainerd hospital doctor that had tended to him since the boat crash.  Ah yes, the boat crash.

Terry took in his surroundings and confirmed he was still horizontal in bed, versus dancing romantically upright with Debbie.  Pain meds had kept his injuries in check, and had apparently influenced his dreaming too, in a most pleasant way. He longed to slip back to the dance, but Dr. Strikemee kept on.

“So, Terry, tests show no internal damage from the crash.  Your collarbone and ribs will heal up fine, however it will take a few weeks,” the doctor said.  “Time for you to go home. You’ll heal better there among your family.”

Terry replied, “Well that would be my family at Grandview Lodge.  I am a summer worker there.”

“You must know the Booz family then.  Good folks. They’ll take care of you,” said Dr. Strikemee as he finished up the paperwork on the clipboard tethered to the bedrail at the end of Terry’s bed.  “The nurse will see that you get a ride back there.”

That was good news.  Terry was anxious to go.  Two days in a hospital was a boring affair.  Plus he wanted dearly to find Debbie and make their dance real.

“Sounds good.  Thanks doc.”

The doctor nodded with a smile and took his leave.

Terry got up and dressed on his own.  He had trouble getting the sling onto his bad arm because his collarbone was still inflamed.  But he worked through the pain and figured it out. He knew he had to do so on his own, so then was the time to start.

The nurse came in shortly after with a wheelchair.  She had the remainder of Terry’s pain medication in a pharmacy bag.  With that he was good to go. He chose to walk on his own to the hospital lobby for the ride back to Grandview.  It felt pretty good to be upright although he was feeling weak from inactivity.

The nurse had summoned Fred Booz.  That meant a smooth Cadillac ride home.

Fred showed up thirty minutes later and off they went.  The Caddy launch was subdued. Fred knew to respect the hospital quiet zone and did so.  When they hit the two lane though, he put the pedal to the metal, like old times, and flew.

Terry enjoyed the freedom the fast ride after being cooped up in the hospital.  They took the curve around Hole-in-the-Day lake at seventy miles per hour. That speed put them at the Mobile boys cabin in twenty minutes.

Seeing the cabin, Terry felt happy to be back.  He said. “Thanks Fred. You’ve been very generous in helping me get on my feet.  I really appreciate it.”

Fred said, “No problem son.  The Booz family sticks together eh?”, implying Terry was a member.  “Take the day off, and as many as you need to get back in working order.  Don’t rush it. Consider those days paid leave.”

“Wow.  Will do Fred.  Thank you again.”

Fred left Terry in a cloud of Caddy dust as he turned toward Mobile boys front door.

Home at last.  It was still early morning and Terry had the whole day off ahead of him.  Denny and Scott were at work, so he had the cabin to himself, perfect for the rest and relaxation he needed.

- - -

Chapter 22 - Quiche

After my late night walk with Liza, I went straight to my cabin and directly to bed.  I wanted dawn to arrive as soon as possible so I could get on with seeing Debbie. I slept great until the Westclox alarm rang me to my feet.  I showered myself awake, then dressed and went with purpose to the staff dining hall for breakfast before the morning dishwashing shift.

Staff breakfast was always delicious food prepared right from the Lodge kitchen. The Booz family knew that well-fed employees were happy ones.  Breakfast included a hot entrĂ©e choice like the quiche that morning, with other fare you prepared yourself.

I went for quiche, peanut butter toast, cantaloupe slices, and OJ.  I then parked myself next to Tim’s girlfriend Julie. She was a quiche fan too, I noted.

Julie smiled and said, “Hey Dave, you look happy this morning.”

“Well, I have a potential date today with a real girl,” I replied.  I liked to kid Julie.

Julie’s eyebrows arched up.  “A real girl, eh?” she asked, emphasizing the word real.

“Yes, a real girl.  I am tired of imaginary ones.”

“Well, I know girls around here that would qualify as real.  Anyone I know?”

“She’s a guest.  Her name is Debbie.  She sits with her family at table nine in the dining room.

“Oh, yes.  She seems very nice.  So does her family. How did you two meet?”

“She was out front on the tree swing writing in her journal yesterday as I came by.  We talked a bit before she left for the beach to meet her folks. We agreed to meet this morning, same place to talk again.”

Julie’s composure went serious.  “We aren’t supposed to date guests, Dave.  That could get you fired.”

“I know.  But where does a conversation with a guest fall within that rule?  Grounds for dismissal?” I liked talking like lawyer Perry Mason.

“Well I can see you’ve thought this through.  Would what I say make a difference?” Julie’s skepticism was lighthearted.

“I take your words very seriously, Julie.  But the potential for true love rules. The conversation is on for just after my shift.”

“OK sir.  We’ll see where fate takes you.  Let Tim and me know when you get fired so we can help you get a ride back to the Twin Cities.”

We both laughed at the possibility.  The shared humor, with the undercurrent of risk, created a momentary bond that reflected in our smiles and eyes.  Little dots in time such as that one were the molecules of our friendship.

We had been talking between bites of quiche and still had a bit of food to go.

With the start of our shifts approaching, I exclaimed, “Chow time,” and polished off the rest of my food.  Julie followed suite, and we left for our workstations, full of good food and thoughts to ponder during our waiting on the guests and washing of their dishes.

- - -

Chapter 23 - Fly By

Terry popped two pain pills just before exiting the Mobile boys cabin.  As an afterthought, he popped a third one for fun. He felt he had the stamina for a walk and seeing the grounds would do him good.  Being high while doing so would make for a nice day off too. The breakfast shift was almost over so he would likely run into his buddies.  In the meantime he’d walk down to the Lodge beach hut to catch up with Dave C. and Turk about the boat crash aftermath.

Terry cut by the tennis court which was empty.  That was unusual for such a sunny windless morning.  The court was silent without the pop, pause, pop of a tennis ball being volleyed back and forth.

The calmness of the court, combined with the pain pills kicking in, made the scene feel intensely peaceful.  Ah yes, the pain pills. Terry suddenly felt quite right standing there.

Everything looked vivid, sharp in detail--the green of the court; the brilliant white boundary lines; and the tall silver fencing reaching for the clean blue sky.

A second vivid thing caught his attention.  He saw Debbie off in the distance on the rope swing in front of the Lodge.  She was talking and laughing with the dishwasher, Davie. They were trading some kind of funny story in a very natural, at ease way.

Terry chose to hang back for a bit to see if the conversation was a casual encounter, or if it was going somewhere.

Debbie was as beautiful as he had dreamed early that morning.  Fair skin. Long dark hair. A killer body that she thoughtfully dressed.  She was the whole package when it came to being attractive.

The talk between Debbie and Davie was not tapering off.  Terry began to get jealous.

“Wait a minute,” he said to himself. “I met her first and we definitely connected.  Davie can't really be any serious competition. He’s a kid. I just need to pick the right opportunity to sweep her off her feet.  Like right now.”

Terry’s high reasoning overlaid his jealousy with self confidence. He decided to stroll by and make his move when the opportunity presented itself.  He started on his way for the sweep.

- - -

Chapter 24 - Meeting Two

I got off work after my morning dishwashing shift and snuck into the Lodge Men’s locker room to clean up before seeking Debbie.  The locker room was off limits to Lodge staff, but it saved me a trip back to my cabin so I took a chance to slip in and out. Plus it had fresh towels, manly soap, toothpaste, and toothbrushes.  When done, I rolled out of the locker room unnoticed, looking good and smelling of English Leather cologne.

Earlier that morning, Julie gave me the heads up that Debbie was with her family for breakfast.  With Debbie in the vicinity and me pulling off the locker room cleanup, the stars had aligned for our rendezvous.  I was riding high on adrenaline.

I went through the Lodge Great Room headed for the front door.  As I exited the Lodge, Debbie was there on the rope swing waiting.  I let the big wooden screen door slam and sauntered down the Lodge porch steps hoping to catch her eye.  I did and she smiled, looking happy to see me.

“Hello Dave,” she said.  “How are you this morning?”

“Very good Debbie, and you?”

“I am fine too.  I had a good breakfast with my mom and dad.  They took off to golf at Madden’s with their Minnesota friends, so I am on my own for the day.  What are you doing today?” she asked.

This was getting good.

“Well, I am free until four o’clock when the evening shift starts.  Then I am back to washing the dinner dishes until eight or so. I consider it an honor to clean yours, by the way.”

Debbie laughed.  “And how do you recognize my particular plate?”

She almost got me on that one.  “Well, it’s the cleanest one.”

We both laughed.

“Groovy Dave.  My younger brother’s a dishwasher too.  At the nursing home in town. He got time off job and is along on our vacation too.  We all love it here,” she said.

“Where are you from?” I asked.  I realized we hadn’t covered that topic in our brief interlude yesterday.

“We live in Minot, North Dakota.  I will be a senior in high school this fall.  You?”

“I live two hours south of here, as the crow flies.  In St. Anthony Village, a suburb in the Twin Cities of Minnesoota.”  I put a Swedish spin on it.

Debbie smiled at the accent.  “The Twin Cities?”

“That would be Minneapolis and St. Paul.   They began as settlements a few miles apart on the MIssissippi when Minnesota was born in the 1800’s.  They grew together into one large urban area over the decades. They’re still two distinct cities though.  Minneapolis is Chicago-like. St. Paul is more small town.”

“You sound like a teacher.  I’m impressed.”

This was getting more good.

Debbie continued, “This resort is the farthest I’ve been from my hometown.  I need to see the Twin Cities. See a big city for once in my life.”

“You’d like it, I can tell.”

“Really?  How can you tell?”  Debbie smiled right at me.  It felt like we were both delving into the start of something.

I was about to answer when I noticed busboy Terry walking toward us.  He had a sling around his neck that was supporting his left arm. Oddly, he walked straight through the the flower bed on his way to us, tromping the plants down and not seeming to notice.

There was a looseness in his look, like he was quite stoned.  Too early in the day for that I thought, but with Terry you never knew.  He liked getting high. The hospital stay was a probable contributor to his current state of mind.

“Terry, you’re back,” I said.  “What’s up? How are you doing?”

Geez it was sure a surprise to see him.

Debbie turned the swing to see who had joined us.  She was surprised too, beyond just seeing someone new for the first time.  She looked as if she knew Terry.

Terry greeted us both with a nice smile, “Hi Debbie.  Hi Davie.”

- - -

Chapter 25 - The Duel

I didn’t know what to say.  Terry was back from the dead and judging from Debbie’s reaction she apparently knew him.

“Hi Terry,” said Debbie with a bit of a puzzled look.

“You two know each other?” I asked.

“Yes,” Terry said.  “We met at Madden’s in the Kon Tiki bar the other night.  Not long after that, I was in the boat crash.”

“Boat crash?  What happened, Terry?”  Debbie asked. She was sincerely concerned.

Terry proceeded to fill in the details of the crash, his injuries, the night floating in the darkness, the rescue, and the hospital stay.  He left out the romantic dream dance with Debbie.

“My goodness, Terry,” Debbie said.  “That is an amazing story. You had a close call with the hereafter.”

“Yeah,” I said to myself.  “And I bet I know what he’s here after now...the lovely lady in our midst.”

Terry topped me in looks and age.  And he had the sympathy card going with his injuries.  If Debbie and I were going to be, I would have to win her over in the wit and winning smile department.  I felt I had a head start there. Plus, I had heard my remarkable blue eyes were hard to beat. I had a few worthy characteristics in my interpersonal tool bag.  So, “Onward ho!” to romancing Debbie.

But before I could even get started on the “onward” part of “ho”, Denny pulled up next to us in the Lodge circle driveway.  He was in his GTO with the convertible top down. The roofless car looked sleek with its highly polished black paint and skinny chrome strip running its length.  His hair wasn’t windblown so he hadn’t had the GTO up to speed yet.

Denny had to talk loudly over the idle of the powerful motor under the hood , “Terry, Fred Booz told the morning shift you were back.  As soon as I got off, I hopped in my car to track you down. How are you doing, buddy?”

Terry shouted back, “Better by the minute.”

Realizing he was disturbing the Lodge peace, Denny shut the GTO power plant down.  That made conversing much easier.

Terry continued, “Denny, this is Debbie.  We met at Madden’s the other night if you recall.  You know Davie of course.

“I remember seeing you Miss Debbie.  But I didn’t have a chance to say hello.   Nice to see you again,” said Denny. The Mobile boys politely put “miss” on every girl’s name when in public.

“Nice to meet you Mr. Denny,” Debbie replied.  The Mobile boys smiled at that since “Mr.” wasn’t usually part of the protocol.  It sounded sweet. I smiled too.

Debbie said, “Dave and I were just about to take a walk.  He was going to show me the grounds. Would you like to walk along?”

Wow, nice save Debbie.  That made me happy.

Terry looked at me with a bit of a blank stare, but recovered quickly.  I could tell he was not happy about the situation.

Denny piped in, “I am making a run to Bar Harbor, so no walk for me.  Terry you should ride alone and fill me in, if you’d like to that is. Davie and Debbie, you can come too.  It’s a nice drive.”

Bar Harbor meant “liquor run.”  I didn’t think that was appropriate for our guest, so I took control saying, “Thanks Denny but another time.  After our walk we were thinking of taking a pedal boat out. We’ll see the sights from there. Perfect day for it.”

Terry said, “OK kids, have fun.  Denny, I’ll ride along with you. Haven’t seen Bar Harbor in a while.  That’ll be good.”

Denny fired up the GTO as Terry got in.  They rounded the circle in a reined-in roar and headed out.  Hearing the rumble of the GTO fade away toward Bar Harbor was music to my ears.

Debbie turned toward me with a coy look and said, “pedal boat, eh?”

I replied, “Yes, as we agreed before our visitors arrived, if you recall.”

We shared glances, enjoying our moment of spontaneous conspiracy.  It was exciting to be so in tune with each other right from the get-go,

Debbie got off the swing and put her hand in mine.  “I am ready for that walk now kind sir. And on the way you can tell me why you’re called ‘Davie’ around here, Mr. Dave.”

- - -

Chapter 26 - First Walk

The Lodge property was bisected in the east by the two lane road that surrounded Gull Lake.  On one side of the road were the Lodge grounds with the Lodge, tennis court, guest cabins, and lake facilities.  On the other side was the sprawling Lodge golf course with its long fairways pocketed by brown sandtraps, and its eighteen putting greens with skinny white pins sporting red flags to identify golf ball destinations.  The ubiquitous half-century-old white pines provided guests with cool shade and pine-scented air for all their summertime pursuits. The Booz family conceived this marvelous getaway destination decades ago, and nature filled in the blanks as each decade took its turn.

Debbie and I had plenty of territory to roam, in any direction.  We chose west and set out for the beach. The Lodge white pines were our chaperons.  They felt the positive vibes we were emitting and swayed in approval. Pines are sensitive beings.

I told Debbie, “This coming school year, I will also be a senior at my school, St. Anthony Village high.  Home of the Huskies.”

Debbie stopped dead in her tracks.  “No way. My school is Home of the Huskies too!”

I chuckled.  “Well we’re the same age, appreciate good writing, and share the same school mascot.  We’ve been living parallel lives.”

“And now you and I have proven that parallel lives can intersect,” she said brightly.  

“So our meeting bent the rules of geometry.  I will have to tell Mr. Pruist that when I get home.  He was my geometry teacher in ninth grade. He’ll get it.  He is a true hippie. Very not square. He wears paisley ties and has hair down to his shoulders.  He drives a Volkswagen van too with peace signs front and back.”

Debbie smiled.  “He sounds like my English teacher, Miss Plotnik.  I can talk with her about anything. She always sees the possibilities, not the rules.  She encouraged me to write.”

We continued on.  As we approached the the Lodge beach hut, Gertie got up from her post on the corner and did her three-legged jaunt to meet us.

I did introductions.  “Hello Miss Gertie. This is guest Debbie.”

Debbie stuck out her hand so Gertie could register her scent.  I noticed Debbie’s fingers were mindfully tucked in. She knew how to greet a strange dog and not get a finger nipped, not that Gertie would ever contemplate such a thing.

Gertie nuzzled Debbie’s hand and Debbie followed with a vigorous pet saying, “Hi Gertie.  Very nice to meet you.”

Gertie looked over at me and smiled approvingly.  She said, “Debbie’s a keeper, Davie.”

I thought back, “Indeed, Gertie.  Indeed.” Gertie’s judgment was right on as usual.

“Gertie is the Lodge dog,” I explained.  “She’s the fastest dog around on three legs.”

“How did she lose her front one?” Debbie asked.

“Chasing a car on the two lane out front.  Her leg caught the rear tire of the car and had to be amputated.  Very sad, but she made a great comeback,” I replied. “She’s still surprisingly fast.”

“Impressive, Miss Gertie,” she replied.  “Let’s all sit for a minute, eh, Dave? Take in the grand view.”

Gertie and I shared a chuckle at Debbie’s play on words.  What a witty girl she was.

“OK with me,” I replied.

We chose a wooden blue bench shaded by the Lodge beach hut awning.  It was a double wide, perfect for the two of us to sit comfortably close.  Debbie and I took roost on the bench’s smooth blue paint as Gertie assumed alpha dog position on the turf in front of us.  We three had a wide view of the beach. At its center was the dock that ran out to the Lodge ski boat, all sleek and angled forward ready for action.  The swimming area was defined by a large semicircle of white and blue buoys. A sign just beyond the buoys warned “No Swimming | Water Ski Area”. In the middle of the swim area, kids were climbing a tall water slide and careening down its curves to a screaming big splash finale.

Debbie nudged me, “Good job, Mr. Tour Guide.  A view with a water show included. Nice planning.”

I put my arm around her shoulder and replied, “And let’s not forget the upcoming pedal boat excursion.”

We sat for awhile and talked about our lives.  Since our states bordered each other, there wasn’t much radically different in our lifestyles.  We were raised by hard working parents--dads that worked long hours to keep roofs over our heads; and moms that specialized in midwestern comfort food of meat, potatoes, something green, and Jello.  We had wardrobes determined by the same four seasons. I joked, “Yah sure, up here in da Nort dars nine months of winter and tree months of bad sleddin’.” Gertie rolled her eyes, having heard that one from me more than once, but Debbie laughed.  Besides our common lifestyles, she and I shared the same dry midwestern sense of humor.

The arm I placed on Debbie’s shoulder had fallen dead asleep while we chatted.  I did not want to move an inch from her body so I toughed it out as long as I could.  As gangrene was about to set in, Debbie suggested we check out the pedal boats. Thank God.  Hand saved. Off we went, leaving Gertie snoozing in the midday sun.

- - -

Chapter 27 - Pedal Boats

Turk was tending to the Lodge boat rental when Debbie and I entered.  He looked up from his Guns and Ammo magazine and greeted us with, “Hello Davie.  Hello Debbie.”

Debbie looked flat out surprised.  I am sure I did too. Leave it to Turk to create an immediate mystery.  How could he know her?

Inquiring for us both, I asked, “Turk, how do you know Debbie?”

“Two of the Mobile boys were down here half hour ago in their hot rod GTO talking to Dave C. and said you had a new girlfriend named Debbie.  That kind of news travels fast in our Mecca of decadence.” With a wink in his eye, he added, “I assume this lovely lady goes by that name.”

Debbie caught on and joined the game.  “Yes, that would be me.” She took over the small room with her cool poise.  “Thank you for the compliment, Turk. But I must say that Dave and I have just met.  Too soon to call me girlfriend.”

Debbie seemed so mature in dealing with Turk.  That was a bit intimidating. She was at his level or above, while I always felt like a kid around him.  In watching their interactions, I realized it was time for me to focus on being older, time to rise to the occasion of Debbie.  I laced on my boots of maturity, looked Turk straight in the chin, and said, “Turk, we’re looking for a pedal boat. Any available?”

“Nope,” he replied, “They’re in use for the afternoon.  That big family from Duluth has all three out. Their goal was out to the rockpile and back.  Good luck with that.” Turk shuddered at the thought of visiting the crash site again.

To the rockpile on a pedal boat was definitely an all day endeavor.  The craft was an unwieldy affair that had a bench seat mounted high on a pair of pontoons, with two sets of pedals for propulsion.  It was slow going and a bitch in the wind. It was better suited for a short jaunt out to deep water for a dip, and then back. Good luck to the Duluthians indeed.

Turk continued, “The Old Town is all we have left for a crew of two.  Otherwise you’re talking a fishing boat and motor and some cash. The water’s calm.  The Old Town will get you around fine if you don’t mind paddling.”

“The Old Town is the Lodge canoe,” I explained.  “Vintage 1940.”

“That sounds like fun, Dave,” said Debbie.  “I have never been in a canoe before. Let’s do it.”

“OK, Turk.  One Old Town to go please.” I said.

Turk grinned and said, “OK Captain Johnson, have her back by sundown.”

“Will do, Turk.  And the canoe too,” I replied.  “Debbie, your yacht is waiting. Follow me please.”

We turned and headed for our maiden voyage.  Turk went back to his Guns and Ammo.

- - -

Chapter 28 - Old Town

Debbie and I got the Old Town down to the lake by each grabbing an end and carrying it across the sandy beach.  It was light and easygoing. We kept our footgear on to keep the sunbaked sand from burning our souls. At water’s edge I popped my tennis shoes off and threw them in the canoe.  Debbie did likewise with her sandals. By chance, we were both in shorts and t-shirts, perfect for comfortable paddling.

We waded the canoe into shallow water to avoid bottoming out when we got in.    The sandy lake bottom felt nice and cool between our toes.

“OK, Debbie,” I said.  “To start, you’ll sit and I will paddle you around so you get to know the craft.  It can be tippy until you get a feel for it. Put your life cushion against the rear seat thwart.”  I pointed aft to indicate where. “Then get in and sit on the bottom with the cushion as a backrest.”

Debbie said, “OK, but I want to paddle you around too, once I see how it goes.”

“Absolutely.  That was my plan as well,” I said.  “I’m not doing all the work my dear.”

We both tee-heed.

I stood in the water, holding the canoe gunnels in a cross-armed brace so Debbie had a stable platform to step into.  She positioned her life cushion as I had advised, got in gracefully, and sat down on the canoe bottom facing me.

“Very comfortable, Captain Dave,” Debbie remarked.  She arched her back on the cushion and crossed her legs modestly, creating a visual double entendre that said get in the canoe now Dave.

And so I did with a partial boner.

With all systems go for launch, on more than one front, Debbie looked puzzled.  “Aren’t we kind of in the wrong spots?” she asked. “Shouldn’t we be sitting in opposite seats?”

Relieved her puzzlement was not boner related, I explained that when you paddled solo, you sat like I did, reversed on the forward seat.  That put you more toward the center of canoe for better balance and control. And it kept the canoe level.

“Makes wonderful sense,” Debbie remarked.  “I will remember that when I do the paddling for your sightseeing pleasure.”

I winked in approval, grabbed my paddle’s shaft, and took us out beyond the boat dock into open water.  The Old Town glided us easily there.

- - -

Chapter 29 - Sea Ray

While Debbie and I were getting our Old Town canoe underway earlier that afternoon, Dave C. and Tim were across Gull lake at Madden’s checking out a ‘65 Sea Ray speedboat that one of Madden’s guest had for sale.  Dave C. got wind of it from Deputy Sheriff Thomas when the Deputy interviewed him the day before about his Glastron crash. The Deputy knew about the Sea Ray from his son who fueled guest boats at Madden’s marina.

The story was that it's owner Bill was heading home to Wisconsin in two days and wanted to trailer back a wad of cash instead his old boat so he could buy a bigger Sea Ray from his wife’s cousin’s neighbor in Eau Claire.

Dave C. hadn’t anticipated getting a replacement for his Glastron so quickly, but the Sea Ray situation sounded too good pass up.  It was a reputable boat with an owner anxious to sell and time running out. He smelled a sweet deal wafting from the west.

Dave C. lined up a viewing with owner Bill for the next day, courtesy of the Deputy’s pump jockey son.  He had enough cash on hand with funds from his used boat motor business, and he could verify the new boat for soundness and speed by himself, but he needed someone to pull around the lake on skis to see how capable the boat was for water skiing.  That morning he rounded up the best water skier in sight, Tim, and the two of them got to Madden’s marina as scheduled, thanks to Alonzo who always left the keys to the Lodge beach buffet truck in the ignition.

At the dock, Dave C. sized up Bill and his Sea Ray.  Things looked good. Bill had dollar signs in his eyes.  He wanted the boat sold. The Sea Ray was a well-cared-for beauty, comparable to the old Glastron in power, but beyond it in looks and appointments.  Dave C. knew on the spot that he was buying the boat, although his poker face said no such thing.

After brief introductions and some background information from Bill, Dave C. said, “Well, I’m interested, but I need to drive it to know.  OK if Tim and I take it out and see what it can do?”

Bill’s eyelids closed and opened with a faint cha-ching.  He followed with, “No problem, boys. Try skiing if you like. The equipments all onboard.”

“That would be great Bill,” Dave C. replied.  “Tim, you up for skiing?”

“Absolutely.  Let’s proceed,” Tim replied.  Tim lived to ski. The lake had some chop but it was even and would present no problem for Tim.  He was ready for it.

They boarded the craft, verified the ski gear, then took their spots, with Dave C. driving and Tim riding shotgun.  Bill stayed on the dock to let the boys determine things on their own. They looked trustworthy enough he thought, plus it might expedite the sale.  He cast them off as Dave C. fired up the Sea Ray. Once past the marina, Dave C. opened up the throttle. The boat responded immediately with its hundred horses.  The bow rose up as the propellor bit water, then the craft planed out fast to top speed. Quiet power emanated from the Sea Ray’s inboard engine compartment -- a big improvement over the Glastron’s deafening outboard, currently at rest on the sandy bottom of Gull Lake

Dave C. smiled at Tim.  “Good ride,” he yelled. Tim smiled back.  It was indeed. They had lucked into a very good boat.

At the middle of the lake, Dave C. powered down the Sea Ray to prepare for waterskiing.  Tim donned a ski vest and jumped in the lake. He slipped on the pretty good slalom ski they found in the boat and righted himself in the water.  Dave C. went aft to throw him the ski rope. He twirled it over his head and let go. The handle hit near Tim, making it an easy grab. With boat, rope, ski, and Tim aligned, Dave hit it.  The Sea Ray was up to the task. Its power popped Tim up and out of the water in just a few seconds.

“Yes...nothing better than raw uninterrupted power for a deepwater start,” Tim thought, then cut hard left and escaped the boat’s wake.

- - -

Chapter 30 - Waves

Debbie and I were chatting away as little waves lapped the sides of the Old Town.  I had stopped paddling after fifteen minutes or so, putting us a few hundred yards offshore.  A balmy southern breeze took over then, drifting us lazily along. We had the lake to ourselves for a private conversation, if we were so inclined.

Inclined was my plan.  I joined Debbie on the bottom of the canoe, opposite her, by propping my life cushion against my seat thwart, sitting back against it, and dovetailing my feet with hers -- not touching yet though, out of politeness.  The canoe bottom felt cool and the gunnels provided comfortable armrests as we spoke.

We traded stories about our brothers and sisters.  She had the younger brother who was along on the trip and an older sister that stayed home to work her summer job and take care of the family dog.  I told her of my two younger brothers and two older sisters.

“So that makes us both middle children.  We’re the family peacemakers, as they say,” said Debbie.

“I didn’t know that,” I replied.

“Yes, it’s called birth order.  First child -- born leader. Middle child -- peacemaker.  Last child -- risk taker. Those in between are a blend of traits on one side or the other,” Debbie explained.

“How do you know so much?” I asked.

“I am very smart.  And modest.” Debbie laughed at herself.  She touched one of my toes with hers. My heart beat a skip.

I joined her laughter.  She was so appealing, I could’ve burst.

She continued, “The middle child can also be the ‘lost child’.  The one that gets no attention and becomes self-sufficient to survive.  Has no problem striking out on his or her own. Seeks it actually. Is that you Mr. Johnson?”

Come to think of it, that was pretty close.  I’d worked since I was thirteen to have my own money.  I enjoyed being away from home more than being there. Past summers were spent on daily bike treks that took me miles away, getting back just in time for supper.  I did love my family, but loved my growing independence with a passion.

“I would say yes to being independent.  And you Ms. … hmm?” Holy cow, I realized I was in a canoe falling in love with a girl and didn’t know her last name.  That was a bit embarrassing.

Debbie laughed at my mental pause and filled in the blank.  “Luedke, Mr. Johnson”

“Ah, thank you Ms. Luedke.  And how did you know my last name?”

“If I recall correctly, Turk referred to you as ‘Captain Johnson’ back at the rental shack.”

“Good ear.  You make me smile, Ms., ahh...Luedke was it?”

“Indeed, Captain.”

We laughed at our wittiness.  The waves lapped and laughed too, as waves do when wit takes the time to drift along properly.  To often wit goes by on breakneck speedboats too fast to be fathomed. Our wit was just the right speed, surrounding us with happy waves.

Unfortunately, our happy waves were about to change.  Off to the west I noticed a speedboat towing a skier. Whoever was skiing knew the sport.  The skier was cutting back and forth, leaving a wall of spray eight feet high on the outside of each turn.  Boat and skier were heading at us and I hoped to high heaven the driver was paying attention to where he was going.

- - -

Chapter 31 - Wetness

The speedboat veered away from our canoe at a close but relatively safe distance, and headed north.  I could see Dave C. at the wheel with Tim in hot pursuit on skis behind. I had no clue how that could be, given Dave C. sunk his boat only two days ago.  What an odd coincident.

Tim followed he arc made by the speedboat as it made its turn away from us.  He was on the outside of the wake putting up a righteous wall of water. He straightened out thirty yards away and we traded surprised looks as he shot by.  He smiled a crazy smile and gave Dave C. the hand signal to circle around again.

“Well I’ll be.  That was my friend Tim being pulled by Dave C., the guy Terry told you about this morning who was at the wheel of the boat crash.  What they are doing out here at this time of day is beyond me. And it appears they are circling back to say hello.”

Rolling waves from their wake reached our canoe, rocking us gently side-to-side.

“Well, you guys are never short on dull moments it seems,” Debbie replied.  She looked uneasy.

I totally understood.  The combination of Dave C. driving a fast boat and a crazed Tim requesting another loop meant one thing -- a wall of water soon would be drenching us.

“OK, this is not looking good,” I confessed to Debbie.  “Tim loves to spray people when he’s on a ski. We’re sitting ducks at the moment and we’re going to get wet.”

Debbie was rightly anxious.  “I don’t mind the water, but I am not happy about this.  It is dangerous, Dave.”

“I know, but hang in there.  Dave C. will keep things under control.”

Debbie gave me a big dubious look with a half-cocked smile, and replied, “Dave C.?”

That lightened the moment up.  I half-cock smiled her back and said, “Well, this’ll fill one of your journal pages for sure.”

Our canoe settled back down but the waves around us did not return to happy.  Crazed skiers always caused them angst. Tim was likely to send them to treatment.

We both looked west.  Sure enough, pass two was in progress.  Dave C. had circled a little closer than before and Tim was carving a curve in Gull lake that was sure to soak us.

As Tim passed by, we could see his titled body squarely through the wall of water he was putting up.  His shape took on fluid distortions as if we were viewing him through a pane of ripply old glass. The million beads of water that were in flight toward us held a marvelous rainbow of parsed sunlight.

In my mind, this brief spectacular scene was worth the pending wetness.  I hoped Debbie was feeling the same.

To our surprise, the anticipated rain of terror arrived instead as a gentle sprinkle.  Tim had miscalculated his cut, putting us on the fringe of his intent. Instead a torrent, tiny cool drops of comfort marked our bodies and canoe bottom with even distribution.

Thankfully, Dave C. and Tim did not attempt another hello.  They roared out of sight as mysteriously as they had come.

Debbie and I relaxed back in our cushions.  We looked at each other, touched toes, and laughed, savoring that rare sweet moment in life when adrenaline and relief commingle creating a lasting memory, a best time.  We had unknowingly experienced our first such memory together.

We lingered for a while longer enjoying the return to calm, then Debbie said, “Captain Dave, take me back to port please.  I desire dry clothes and Lodge food.”

“As you wish, Ms. Luedke,” I replied and paddled us forthright to civilization’s shore.

Upon our landing, I offered to put the Old Town and gear away so Debbie could be on her way to join her family for the night.  She agreed and took off for their cabin, but not without saying “Goodbye, see you tomorrow at the swing”. I promised I’d be there with bells on.

Riding high on thoughts of tomorrow afternoon with Debbie, I got everything stowed vividly back in place, then went to my cabin to prepare for a vivid evening shift.  That night the dirty dishes were the most vivid ever. Lisa too, flying in and out of the kitchen, was simply vivid. And my dreams later on, oh my goodness, how vivid.

- - -

Chapter 32 - Thumbing It

The next morning arrived none too soon.  The breakfast shift went by as usual, although I hardly remembered it because of my preoccupation with Debbie and what the afternoon might hold.  I cleaned myself up again using the Men’s Locker Room and left without a trace except for an ample scent of English Leather cologne trailing me.

Once out the Lodge front door, the wind immediately left my sails.  Debbie was nowhere to be seen. I walked up to the rope swing. There was a piece of paper curled up and stuck through one of the rope loops.

I pulled out the paper and unrolled it.  The paper contained a neatly written note that said:

Dear Dave,
I have to go with my parents this afternoon to Nisswa, a town not far from here, for lunch and souvenir shopping.  I am so sorry that we can’t see each other. I hope we can meet here tomorrow. Let’s try.

Debbie had intelligent handwriting, neat as a pin and easy to understand.  And she had drawn a little heart after her name. That touched my real heart.  While I felt sad that Debbie was gone, I was happy that she wrote me to say so, and that she wanted to meet tomorrow.

I folded up Debbie’s heart and put it in my wallet.  I wondered, “Now what.”

Well…I could go to Nisswa myself for a chance encounter with Debbie.  It was two miles away as the crow flies, and a little less than four miles as the cow walks.  Flying was out since I couldn’t fly. Walking would have to do. Quicker yet, I could hitch hike.

I headed to the two lane next.  Traffic looked light when I got there so I had to decide between walking backwards all the way to Nisswa with my thumb out, or skipping the hitchhiking and walking forward there instead.  I opted to thumb it for awhile since there was no rush. Afterall, I did not want to interrupt Debbie’s family outing too early. Plus it felt good to be out strolling the open road away from the Lodge for a bit.

I proceeded with the hitchhiking.  It wasn’t five minutes before a an old panel wagon truck pulled over.  I ran up to it. I always ran to the ride when hitchhiking so not to hold up driver.

The passenger door handle was missing so the driver leaned across the bench seat and opened it from the inside for me.  He was a guy about my age.

“Where you headed?” he asked.

“Going up to Nisswa,” I said.

“I’m headed to Pequot Lakes, so that’ll get you there.  Hop in friend,” he said.

I jumped into the cab, slammed the door, and settled into the seat amid a strong scent of marijuana smoke.  Hmm…now this was going to be an interesting ride I thought. I had yet to smoke pot. It was prevalent on college campuses and in hippy communities, but not in my neck of the woods.  Pot was on Lodge property too, although under the radar. No one ever mentioned its use openly, but pot’s distinctive aroma hung in the night air on occasion outside certain staff cabins.

“Hi, I’m Russ.  I live just the other way in a cabin on Gull.  How about you?”

“I’m Dave.  I work at Grandview.  I’m from the Cities though.  Go to school in St. Anthony Village.”

“Cool,” Russ said as he got the truck rolling.  “Actually, I’m from the Cities too, Robbinsdale.  I live there when it’s not summer. Hey, I’ve got half a joint left here.  Mind if I smoke it? You’re welcome to some too.”

“Sure, smoke it.  But not me thanks.”  I had heard that pot could make you go crazy if it was laced with heroin.  Russ was acting pretty normal so the pot was likely just pot, but I didn’t want to chance going psycho in front of Debbie’s folks, just in case the heroin hadn’t kicked in yet.  So I refrained.

Russ lit up the joint and got the truck in third gear for highway speed.  We had the green light at Schaefer’s corner so he double clutched down to second gear and rounded it smoothly.  Then back up to third gear for points north The cab filled with pot smoke as he switched back and forth between working the joint and shifting the gears.  He was skilled at both. After the final toke, he stowed the roach in the ashtray for future use.

Now, I can’t say for sure if I got stoned in the process, not knowing what stoned felt like, but man I wanted some french fries when we arrived at Nisswa.

As I got out of his rig I said, “Thank you Russ.  Nice riding with you.

“You too, man.  Take care.” He gave me a smile and a wave and took off for Pequot.

- - -

Chapter 33 - Mug and Cone

Nisswa was the poster child of Minnesota tourist stops.  Its main drag ran four blocks north and south, and was appropriately named Main Street.  The town businesses provided vacationers with authentic souvenirs imported from Japan, live bait and tackle, local specialty foods such as deep fried green beans, and rootbeer floats in frosty mugs.  Picture postcards bought at Totem Pole Gifts could be mailed directly from the post office at the north end of town.

Opposite the post office was the town dance hall.  Friday and Saturday nights featured the house polka band and setups for adults that brought their own hard liquor.  Wednesday nights had local rock bands from Brainerd for young adults. Soft drinks only though, no BYOB.

Russ had dropped me at the south end of Main Street which was a short walk to the Mug and Cone rootbeer stand.  It was a nice spot with a triangle of grass and a few picnic tables shaded by two big oaks. I decided to plant myself there until I had to head back to Grandview for the evening shift. I'd need an hour for the walk back which gave me half the afternoon for some food and people watching and maybe the encounter with Debbie.

I felt unusually ravenous so I splurged for a tall rootbeer and large fries.

The lady at the rootbeer stand window gave me a smile as I walked up.  Her name tag said Delphine, in fancy cursive writing. “Hello,” said Delphine.  “Are you ready to order?”

“Yes, I will have a tall root beer and a large order of fries.  For here please.”

“That’ll be right up.  Thirty five cents please.”

I dug into my jeans pocket, then handed Delphine exact change.  I stood aside to wait for the food and glanced down Main Street.  It was pretty busy with midday foot traffic, but no sign of Debbie.

After a few minutes, I heard the cook in the back shout, “Order’s up.”  Delphine organized a tray with a squeeze bottle of ketchup and napkins, and slid the whole affair out the window at me.

The fries smelled absolutely great.  I took the tray and said, “Thanks Delphine.”

“Your welcome.  Enjoy sonny,” she said, then disappeared behind a screen she slid across the order window to keep flies out.  There weren’t any flies in sight, but it was still a good precaution against that one lone bugger that lurks unseen, waiting to fly in and make a person who is normally profane averse say, “Fuck, where’s that fly swatter.”

I set my tray on the picnic table offering the best view of Main Street.  That put me in direct view of anyone approaching the Mug and Cone. Hopefully that would be Debbie sometime soon.

The root beer mug was heavily frosted, almost too cold to hold.  And the fries were right out of the deep fat fryer, too hot to eat.  The latter could be cooled with ketchup. However I did not want to take the easy path.  I wanted my fries hot and naked. I started the countdown to junk food ecstasy, that point where hot fries won’t blister the roof of your mouth.

Point reached, I ate my first fry.  It was a miracle of salty crispness.  I followed it with a swig of cold root beer.  All my taste buds had tiny concurrent orgasms.  The rest was a blur. Head down, I ate, drank, ate, nonstop until the last fry.  That I swiped over the wax paper lining the basket and got the last of the ketchup for the perfect finish.  I sat back fully satisfied thinking, “Now there’s three dimes and a nickel well spent.”

“Dave.”  I felt a touch on my shoulder.

It was Debbie.  I was so absorbed with eating I hadn’t noticed her approach.  She materialized in one of those rare moments when you’ve set off for the unlikely and the unlikely actually does occur.  I could’ve flipped.

“Well hello, Debbie.”

“What are you doing here, Dave?”

“I hitch hiked here for a root beer and fries, and to find you.”

“Find me so I could tell you that you have ketchup on your chin?”

“Yes.  Do I?”


I wiped my chin with a Delphine napkin.

“Better?” I said.

“Much,” Debbie said.

“Well then, mission complete.  Time to head back.”

“What?  Not so soon, please.”  Debbie sat down, pressed close, and clasp my hand.

Our impromptu play had no fourth wall.  It was real, heartfelt. Written in the language of love.

“I saw you from down the street.  So cool, you appearing from nowhere.”

“I found you note.  Thank you. It was great.  I took a chance and came here.  I hope you don’t mind.”

“Not at all.  It was sweet of you to try.  Would you mind meeting my family?”

“I’d like that.  Let’s go say hi.”

I stowed my trash and put the tray back at the rootbeer stand window.  Delphine gave me a knowing glance from the side window, as Debbie and I rounded the rootbeer stand corner..  She knew by our clasped hands what was up. She saw it a hundred times every summer, lovers new to each other heading up Main Street anxious for their first kiss.  “Good luck you two,,” she said. “What, Delphine?” said the cook from the back. “Nothing Henry. Hey, you want to come over tonight?”

- - -

Chapter 34 - Family

Debbie and I found her mom and dad at Totem Pole Gifts perusing postcards in the wire frame postcard rack.  Her dad was eyeballing a postcard with a fisherwoman on a dock exhibiting her record size yabos and a pretty large walleye pike too.  Yellow letters spelled out, “What a Keeper. Summer 1970. Gull Lake Minnesota.”

“Hi mom. Hi dad,” Debbie said.

Her dad quickly filed the postcard back under Humorous, turned, and smiled at his lovely daughter. Then he gave me a once-over and said,  “Where’ve you been and who is this gentleman?”

“This is Dave, who gave me the canoe ride yesterday.”

“Hello Mr. and Mrs. Luedke,” I said.

Debbie’s mom said, “Oh how nice to meet you Dave. Please call me Linda and this is Gerry.”

Gerry held out his hand and I did too. We shook hands firmly, amicably.  Gerry and Linda probably had eighteen years on me, likely mid-thirties. I could see where Debbie got her beauty.  Both her parents looked youthful. You could tell they enjoyed life.

“So you know canoes, Dave. Thank you for teaching Debbie. She had quite a bit to say about how it’s done.”

I hoped she left out the part about crazy Tim cutting by on the slalom ski.  It appeared so since they seemed at ease with me.

“We had a nice time, sir.”

Debbie cut in. “Dad, can we give Dave a ride back to the Lodge?  He’s on foot and needs to be back by four for his evening shift.”

“Sure,” said Gerry. “I think we’ve seen enough of Nisswa.  Round up your brother and let’s hit the road.”

We found Debbie’s brother leaning on the magazine rack thumbing through the latest Hot Rod issue.  The cover page had an image of a GTO that could’ve been the Mobile boys. That was the car of the day for those into laying rubber in third gear on the straight away.

Debbie did the introduction.  “Dave this is my brother, Sam.”

Sam looked like a cute hippy work in progress, kind of a walking oxymoron of clean cut counterculture.   His lean fifteen year old body sported borderline long hair, the somber face of Jim Morrison of the Doors staring from his black tee shirt, shaggy ragstock blue jean cutoffs, and sandals made from tire retreads.

“Hello Sam,” I said.  “Good to meet you.”

Sam parked the GTO back in the rack.  “Hey, nice to meet you too. You the canoe guy?”

I looked at Debbie.  She winked back at me.  “I guess so,” I said. I was getting a lot of traction with the family from that outing.

“Cool, man.  Deb, I’m bored.  When we gonna get out of here?”

“Now Sam.  We’re giving Dave a ride back to Grandview.”  We turned and exited Totem Pole Gifts with Sam in tow.  Debbie’s folks were on the street sitting in a next year model Buick Riviera.  The Riv was a graceful long sled of a car with two doors, and from there a radical wedgeback that tapered to a rounded point at the rear bumper, beautifully aerodynamic and hardly a family vehicle.  I was impressed with Gerry’s priorities in road travel. The man was show and go for sure.

“Pile in kids,” said Gerry.  Linda slid over next to him so we could flip her seatback forward and perform the pile in.  Debbie and I dawdled so Sam would get in first, ensuring we ended up next to each other. We did and interestingly Linda stayed put next to Gerry creating a odd family double date configuration, with hippy Sam as chaperon.  Debbie’s physical closeness reeled in my head and that of Horhay’s too.

Gerry got the Riv back on Highway 371 south and to Schaefer’s corner in a respectable three minutes.  The light was green at Schaefer’s and he took the hard right damn fast, pushing Linda into him and me into Debbie.  Inertia and centrifugal force and Debbie’s hip against mine made Horay come to attention. Judging from Gerry’s speed, I had two minutes to get Horhay to stand down before we graced Grandview’s front entrance.  I forced thought of things completely not Debbie related -- boat motors, why airplanes stay aloft, my grandma -- nothing worked. Horhay insisted on staying erect.

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~ David Ralph Johnson



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