A new aquaintance
The boat was coming around the rocky point now. Andrea's eyes grew wide with astonishment. It was a house boat but what a strange house boat! Not one of the typical white and blue boxes that you could rent eighty kilometres up the lake at Joey's Marina, this one was obviously home made. It was a platform on oil barrels, a unique log cabin with cedar shingles on the roof and a pasture fence as a railing.
Wow! Who did that floating log home belong to? Andrea had never seen it before, but then, she didn't know everybody or every corner of the Eagle Creek Valley yet.
Sounds of music wafted from the log cabin boat in her direction. It sounded South American. Too bad she couldn't see anybody on the boat. Andrea would have liked to meet the owner or owners. Whoever had built that boat must be an interesting person.
When she heard a noise on the boat and somebody appeared on deck a moment later, Andrea's heart jumped with delight.
Craig Henderson! The craze of every girl in Eagle Creek! So this unique house boat was his.
Excitedly, she watched the boat coming closer. Would Craig notice her and stop by at the dock?
Craig was Tracy's older brother. The Henderson siblings had been some of the first kids that Andrea had met here in Eagle Creek. Their father, Jim Henderson, was the owner of the General Store. There, you could buy everything for your daily needs, from bread, meat and veggies to laundry detergent, rubber boots and tools. You could even rent movies and get a popular newspaper from Vancouver. By the time it got to Eagle Creek, it was already a few days old but nobody seemed to mind.
"Junk store", Michael had once called this happy jumble of groceries and other goods. Andrea liked the store with it's charming mix of old and new. For instance, the new computer till looked great atop the old wooden counter that dated back to pioneer times. The gas pumps in front of the Eagle Creek General Store were over seventy years old, too. The gasoline had to be pumped up into a glass cylinder before you could fill your tank. Tracy had said that these old gas pumps could become a tourist attraction one day - if the remote, sleepy town of Eagle Creek ever got discovered by tourists.
Since their parents had split up a few years ago, Craig was living with his mother in Nelson where we went to college. Tracy had decided to stay in Eagle Creek with her Dad. After school, she would help him at the store.
Andrea had a crush on blonde, always good-natured Craig from the first time she saw him. He wasn't only good-looking, he was an awfully nice guy, too. So far, Andrea had talked to him only a few times. Then, he'd gone to Mexico on vacation with his friends and she hadn't seen him since. This was more than four weeks ago, but she had thought about him many times, and she also had to admit that she was a little bit in love with him.
So, he was back now. Was he alone on the boat? Or was Kyla, the pretty native girl, with him? Several times, Andrea had seen the two of them together but didn't know if they were going steady. She wished she knew, but she didn't want to ask Tracy about it directly.
Andrea got up from the dock and shook out her wet hair. With this movement, she caught Craig's attention. He waved at her and turned his boat in her direction, bringing it up alongside the dock.
""Hi!", he called, after he had turned off the engine. "Pretty hot again today, isn't it?" He bent down to the portable stereo that was sitting on the planks and turned down the volume.
Andrea hated herself for feeling so embarassed all of a sudden. She absolutely couldn't think of any way to respond. All her English seemed to have vanished. "Yes, terribly hot", she finally managed, feeling even more awkward. What was the matter with her? Normally, she was never short of words and was known for having a rather quick tongue.
Craig didn't seem to notice her embarrassment. "Is it permitted for me to park here a little while?", he playfully asked with an easy smile.
"Of course", Andrea motioned invitingly.
She watched him throw out a thick yellow rope and tie it to the post at the dock. Gently, the houseboat bobbed up and down on the waves.
"You're Andrea, right?" Craig leaned against the railing, looking at her with interest.
She nodded. "So, you remember me." she replied, realizing she didn't sound very bright. Well, at least she remembered the English language again.
He laughed. "Of course! Who could forget a pretty girl like you?"
Andrea felt even hotter than she did before, hoping that Craig would blame the hot weather for her red face! Did he really think she was pretty, or was he just saying that? She wanted to thank him for the compliment, if it was meant to be one, but she couldn't put it into good enough English yet, so she only smiled and stole a glance at him.
Craig was about half a foot taller than her and as darkly tanned as she was. All he was wearing was a pair of frayed-out jean shorts, and a red bandanna around his head to tame his wavy hair. He looked quite a bit like Tracy.
Andrea's embarrassment subsided. She opened her water bottle and offered it to Craig.
"Would you like a sip?"
As if he'd been waiting for it, he reached for the bottle and took a few big gulps. "Thanks, that hit the spot." He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand and gave the bottle back to Andrea. Then she took a sip herself and made a disgusted face. In the heat, the water had gone warm and stale and she'd offered thatto Craig! She should have put in a few ice cubes or poured the water into a thermos to keep it cold.
"Your house boat is great, Craig", she said a moment later. "Did you build it yourself?"
"Yup. There's a lot of work in it. Dad helped me lots and Tracy sewed the curtains and the cushions. Do you want to see the inside?"
"Sure!" Andrea grabbed the hand he extended to help her up on the boat.
A bit clumsily, she jumped onto the planks. The houseboat bobbed and rocked, and for a moment she had the feeling as if the ground was yanked away from underneath her feet.
All of a sudden, something furry was around her legs. A moist nose was nudging her, and two paws attempted to climb up on her. Startled, Andrea let out a little scream.
"Muffin, get down!", Craig commanded, and the furry something obeyed, although reluctantly.
"Oh, is he cute!" Andrea had recovered from her shock and kneeled down to pat the little dog. "Muffin is your name? That's funny. How did your master ever come up with a name like that?"
Craig grinned. Craig grinned. "Actually, it was Tracy who gave him that name. We had him for over a week and he still didn't have a real name. My Mom called him Doggy and my Dad called him Puppy but, after all, those weren't proper names for a dog. Then one day, when a new shipment had just arrived at the store, he stole a package of chocolate muffins and tore it open. Tracy saw it and in her excitement, she screamed: 'Hey, leave those muffins alone - Muffin, leave those ...hey you, muffins ...' Boy, we cracked up! Dad said, now we've finally got a name for our doggy - Muffin. And that was it."
"I think that's a nice story, but what if he'd gotten into something else?", Andrea asked, laughing.
"Then, we would have named him differently. Cookie or Pepsi or marshmallow, or whatever."
There was a short silence. While Andrea patted Muffin, she pictured the scene when he got into the chocolate muffins. Or into some marshmallows. Or into a dozen Hot Dogs. Would the Henderson's have named their dog Hot Dog then? She almost burst into laughter but managed to stop herself just in time. She didn't want Craig to think she was a silly goose.
"Did you know that most natives got their names that way?", he kept on talking.
A little confused, Andrea looked at him. Since she wasn't quite sure that she'd understood him right, she asked him to repeat his question. Sometimes, she still had trouble following conversations, especially when people were talking too fast. Back in Germany, she'd been best in English class but that didn't help her now.
Craig took the effort to speak more slowly and clearly. "When the natives were naming their babies, they were often inspired by what they saw or experienced the moment the child was born. Like the parents of Thunder Cloud, for instance, our old Indian Chief. When he was born, so the story goes, there was a dark cloud in the sky and it was thundering. That's why his Mom named him Thunder Cloud."
"Really? That sounds interesting. Does he live here in the area? I haven't heard of this Indian Chief yet."
"What?", Craig called in surprise. "But he's your neighbour!"
"Our neighbour?", Andrea repeated, just as surprised.
"Yeah. Crossley Moyama, that's Thunder Cloud."
"Old Crossley?" Andrea was perplexed. "Actually, he does look like an old weathered Indian but I didn't know he's really a Chief. By the way, in Germany you wouldn't call anyone that lives more than a kilometer away from you a neighbour."
Craig shrugged his shoulders. "His property borders on yours, so you're neighbours", he reasoned. "Just like Old Bill on the other side. His house is quite a bit away from yours but he's still your next door neighbour."
"Oh, Old Bill …" Andrea had to smile at the thought of the funny old man with his bulbous nose and the mischievious grin on his weathered face. "He was one of the first people we met here. When he heard that Germans had bought the MacLeod's farm, he came over with a bottle of his home brewed Schnaps and introduced himself. You know, he's also from Germany, from the Black Forest."
"How do you say Black Forest in German?", Craig wanted to know.
"Schwarzwald", Andrea explained.
He repeated the word, which sounded quite comical, awkwardly coming out of his mouth.
"Schwarzwald", Andrea repeated again slowly.
"Schworz-waald", Craig finally managed. Andrea doubled over with laughter and Craig laughed along with her.
She practiced with him until her tongue went numb and he could pronounce the name almost perfectly. Then the subject returned to Old Bill. He was currently in Germany visiting some of his relatives.
"Old Bill and Thunder Cloud are good friends even though they bicker with each other like old crows", Craig was saying.
"I noticed that. Those old guys are really cute. Just like Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau in the movie 'Grumpy Old Men'. Only a bit grumpier."
They were still standing at the rails of the house boat. Muffin had stretched out on the planks and was panting heavily. Obviously, he was very hot in his thick fur coat.
"Have you met Kyla yet?", Craig asked. "She is a true Kutenai Indian. The Kootenays, the region were we live, were named after her tribe. But besides her official name, Kyla also has a Kutenai Indian one."
Andrea felt a little stab when Craig mentioned Kyla's name. She didn't want to talk about another girl, but maybe she could find out if Craig was going out with her or not.
"Yes, I saw her at a party once", she said. Kyla was older than her, maybe seventeen. She was very attractive and dressed in fancy clothes. Andrea didn't like her. Kyla had been very arrogant toward her, as though she hated nothing more than these interfering white people who had blown in from another continent.
"And what is her native name?", Andrea asked, even though it didn't really interest her.
"Silver Moon Spirit Owl", was Craigs answer. "Supposedly, when she was born, the silvery moonlight was shining into the room and a mysterious owl sat on the window sill."
"What if it would have been an ugly old crow instead of an owl?" Andrea had to laugh when she pictured it.
Craig grinned also. "Then her name would be Ugly Old Crow. In that case, she wouldn't insist on her newest kick which is to be called by her native name."
Andrea tried to think of a round-about way to find out whether Craig was going out with Kyla when he changed the subject.
"Would you like to see the inside of my villa?", he asked, pointing to the entrance of the log cabin.
"Sure", she agreed. "I'm really curious."
Andrea followed him into the interior of the houseboat. There was only one room but it was furnished very cozily. A lot cozier than their motorhome, she thought. The table and benches were made from raw wood, so were the shelves. Greg explained that the couch in the corner could easily be turned into a double bed and Andrea admired everything accordingly. She was very impressed that Craig had built everything himself and she told him so. She also praised the curtains and cushions Tracy had sewn. She could never have done that herself.
"You speak English very well", he commented with an admiring smile.
"Oh - thanks!" Nobody, as yet, had told her that she spoke good English. At least not since they were here in Canada. Andrea thought that her English sounded more like that of a little kid, but if Craig thought it was good, she was only too happy to believe it.
"Would you like to go for a ride, Andrea?", he asked. She thought it was cool how he pronounced her name. ANN-drea, with the emphasis on the first syllable.
She hesitated. To go boating on the lake with Craig was terribly tempting, but she was also thinking of the work she'd left behind. She'd only gone down to the beach for a little break. By now, Michael and Holger were probably wondering what happened to her.
"Okay", she said after a short battle with herself. She just couldn't resist.