Busted Axle Road
Chapter 104

Copyright© 1993, 2001, 2010

With only a couple of days to go before Christmas, Spearfish Lake was really getting into the holiday spirit. It was snowing merrily, if not heavily, and all hopes for a white Christmas seemed to have been answered. The town was dressed for the season, and spirits were high with anticipation. The children had been out of school for a week on their Christmas vacation, and perhaps their anticipation was running the highest of all, with hopes of a big haul from Santa Claus.

Certainly Tiffany Langenderfer-McMahon had high hopes, but Kirsten informed Jackie one day that the little girl wasn't going to get what she wanted.

"What's that?" Jackie had asked.

"She wants another couple dogs and a dog sled of her own," Kirsten said. "No dolls, no toys, no video games. Just a dog team."

"Well, when I was a kid, I wanted a horse," Jackie said. "Living in town, I couldn't have one, of course, but it didn't keep me from wanting one."

"Tiffany is going to have to get along with her father's dog team for a few years," Kirsten said. "I mean, I thought the men were just going through a mid-life crisis, but they created a monster in the process."

"She sure seems to like them," Jackie agreed. "Well, I hope the men like what they get in their Christmas stockings."

"Oh, they'll be thrilled," Kirsten said. She had Jackie had spent a day making dog booties to put in their husband's stockings. "They won't be able to wait to try them out."

"Are you getting Mike anything special for Christmas?" Jackie asked.

"I thought about getting him a train set," Kirsten said. "As much as he talked about putting a model railroad in the basement, I thought maybe that would keep him home once in a while. But then, I realized that I'd see about as much of him that way as I do now. He'd just be down in the basement all the time."

"Running the dogs may be better for him, anyway," Jackie commented. "At least he gets some exercise that way."

"That's what I keep telling myself," Kirsten said.

At the same time that Jackie and Kirsten were discussing dog booties, dog teams were also a topic of discussion at the pizza place next to the bowling alley. "I tell you, it's really a trip," Josh Archer was telling Danny Evachevski. "Mark and Jackie flew down to see their friends at Arvada Center last weekend, so he let me harness up his team and go for a run in the woods with Mike McMahon. It was really neat."

"Sounds like you've been having fun with it," Danny said, not really interested.

"You ride on the back of the sled, and it's like riding on a quiet snowmobile with a turbo boost," Josh said. "A day like last Saturday was just so beautiful to be out, it was wonderful. It makes me wish I had my own dog team. The only time I can get out is when either Mark or Mike want to go someplace, and the other one wants to take a run."

"Whatever turns you on," Danny commented.

Josh let the comment slide off. "You know," he said, "When I was out last Saturday, I couldn't help but think how much fun it would have been to have been able to take Amy for a ride. I think she'd like it."

"It'd be nice to see Amy and Marsha," Danny commented. "But they're gone for the holidays, down to some nudist resort in Florida."

Unbidden, the vision came over Josh of a naked Amy playing volleyball in the sun, her long hair flying in the breeze. "Sure would be nice to see her," he said. "We haven't seen the girls since they came up for the haunted house."

"Yeah, and then we didn't get to see much of them," Danny said. "Oh, well, there's always next summer."

"Yeah, that's the one reason to look forward to summer," Josh agreed.

"I'm a little worried about it," Danny said. "I mean, summer fun is summer fun, but now it looks like I'm going to go to Athens next fall. Marsha will be there, and who knows where that'll end up?"

"I thought you liked her."

"Oh, I like her a lot," Danny nodded, "But running around in the summer is one thing. With the two of us at Athens, and our parents not around, things could get out of hand, and I'm not sure I want them to. It could turn into a Brandy and Phil thing, real easy."

"You could do worse," Josh commented.

"I could," Danny said. He didn't want to push the thought any farther. "You been getting any calls from Bud?"

"I've had a couple, just for runs up to Warsaw," Josh said. "The railroad is really though the busy season now, and there won't be much going on till spring. They're not doing much of anything, right now, what with the plant in Warsaw shut down for the holidays."

"That makes a nice holiday," Danny commented. "Kind of like having a couple weeks off from school."

Josh still had his mind on Amy. "Do you think you could find out where the girls are at?" he asked. "We could call them up, and wish them a Merry Christmas, anyway."

"I could ask Mom," Danny replied. "I think their grandfather has a cottage down there, where they're staying. Maybe she would know."

"Let's finish these, and go ask," Josh suggested.

"Boy, you're just full of Christmas spirit, aren't you?"

"Everybody is," Josh smiled.

Josh was wrong. Not everybody in Spearfish Lake was filled with the Christmas spirit, and one notable exception was Heather Sanford.

The last month had been sheer hell for Heather. She'd made three trips to the Fish and Wildlife Service in Minneapolis, not so much to lobby the Service to stand firm on the Critical Interest Area as they had been to get out of Spearfish Lake.

Heather had never been much of one to make friends easily, but over the months she had spent in Spearfish Lake in the fall, she'd made a few acquaintances that made the days go easier -- most notably, John Pacobel. But, with the ad in the Record-Herald and then the events of the second November council meeting, and then filing the lawsuit asking that the Fish and Wildlife Service be barred from raising the Critical Interest Area, she'd become just about the next thing to persona non grata in Spearfish Lake. Hardly anyone would speak to her; she had trouble getting service in stores and restaurants, and she'd taken to doing her shopping in Albany River. She hadn't seen Pacobel in weeks, and that made life even more lonely.

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