Chapter 3
An exciting boat ride

 

    Slowly, they took off and moved on. Craig was steering the house boat out onto the lake.
    "Thank god it's a bit cooler on the water", he remarked.
    In fact, a fresh breeze was drifting through the open windows of the house boat. Andrea found it very pleasant how it gently brushed over her hot skin. But the sun was still burning down on them with all it's might.
    Leisurely, they put-putted down the Arrow Lake, past the houses of Eagle Creek and the park on the lakeshore where the campground and the boat launch and the public beach were. To the left, a little bit further out in the lake, there was a small rocky island with a few trees on it that was called Rock Island. There was a fire pit and benches made from boards and logs. Not too many people came to that island because the cliffs were very steep and you needed to be a good climber. Landing there with a boat was difficult, too.
    Meanwhile, the music had stopped. "You can put on another CD if you like", Craig said.
    "Okay." Andrea went outside where the ghettoblaster was. In the box next to it were CDs and cassettes. She looked through the selection of music. Alternative, rock, soundtracks. A few oldies like her parents would listen to were also among them: CCR, Dr. Hook, Elton John, and The Best of Country Heat.
    Andrea had a hard time choosing. What taste in music did Craig have? What kind did he prefer?
    Finally, she put in a CD of a band she'd never heard of before. The cover was rather garish and chaotic.
    It was Heavy Metal. Something with Zombies. But she must have met his taste since he started rocking with the rhythm.
    At the beach and in the water, a bunch of kids were romping around. Some of them were waving to her, and Andrea waved back.
    Would they have something to gossip about now because she was going for a ride on Craigs boat?, she wondered. She wished Kyla would see her. But the native girl was not among the people at the beach.
    "Do you like the music?", Craig asked when she returned.
    "I'm not quite sure yet", she answered carefully. Actually, she wasn't a fan of loud headbanging music. She was more for soft rock.
    For a while, she stood next to him at the steering wheel. "Wanna try it?", he asked, leaving the wheel to her without warning.
    At first, Andrea was too afraid and wanted to refuse but then, she put her hands firmly on the steering wheel. It wasn't hard at all, as she found out quickly. She only had to steer, and the Arrow Lake wasn't as crowded as German lakes. As far as they could see, there was no other boat on the water besides them.
    "I just hope you won't have to regret this", she couldn't help remarking, but Craig only laughed unconcernedly.
    Andrea found it a lot of fun steering the houseboat. "How was it in Mexico?", she wanted to know after a while. "Tell me about your trip. I'm dying to hear about it. Did you travel there all by yourself?"
    "No, with some friends from college. We had an old camping van that we fixed up. It was great. In Cancun, we met a group from England that was on an exploring tour through Yucatan and we travelled with them for a while. We also went to Chichen Itza." Craig gave her a detailed report about the Mayan ruins and excavation sites they'd been visiting, about the nice local people they'd met, the great food they enjoyed, and the idyllic bays on the ocean where they went camping and swimming. "Next year, I want to go there again," he said. "But one day, I'd like to see the Northwest Territories, too."
    "From the heat into the cold, brrr!" Andrea rubbed her upper arms as if she was freezing.
    "It's not that cold there", Craig said. "Even at the Arctic Circle they have about twentytwo degrees Celsius in summer."
    "Really?" Andrea couldn't quite imagine it. To her, the Arctic Circle was the equivalent of eternal snow and ice. "Have you ever been there?"
    "Not me, but Thunder Cloud comes from that area. He's told us the greatest adventure stories from the era of the fur trade. I doubt that all of them were true, but they were sure exciting to listen to."
    The houseboat was gently bobbing along, accompanied by thin vapours of smoke from the forest fires. When the water bomber showed up again, Craig took over the steering wheel and moved the boat quickly towards the shore to get out of the way. After that, he let Andrea take the wheel again.
    Andrea found it very exciting to maneuvre such a houseboat across the Arrow Lake. Firmly, she pushed her bad conscious about her long break from work into a far away corner of her mind. Her brothers, who probably not only wondered but worried about her by now, vanished into the distance. She even forgot about the threatening fires for a while. She only saw the beautiful blue-green lake, embedded in the rolling foothills of the Selkirk and the Monashee mountains, and the loud head-banger music sounded like a tender love song in her ears. With Craig, she could have gone to the end of the world like this.
    He lit himself a cigarette. "Do you smoke?", he asked.
    "Only a puff once in a while."
    He offered her the lit cigarette. Andrea wasn't in the mood for it right then but she took a puff anyway.
    Craig turned off the headbanger music and put on something more quiet that made Andrea fall into a dreamlike mood.
    "What made you ride your houseboat out on the lake in such heat?", she asked after a while.
    "It wasn't running properly anymore so I took the engine apart", Craig explained. "This here is actually a test drive. Otherwise, I'd lay on the beach and be lazy or I'd be fire fighting. I was thinking about applying, but if the situation with the forest fires doesn't change they'll call up everybody anyways who is over eighteen and under eighty."
    Andrea sent a worried glance over at the clouds of smoke on the mountainside that were still staying within reasonable bounds. No, she didn't want to be reminded of the threatening danger again! Not now, not when she was on this romantic boat trip with Craig.
    "What do you think of the situation, Craig?" she asked nevertheless. "Do you think the Eagle Creek Valley will get evacuated?"
    He shrugged his shoulders. "That could happen, but it doesn't have to. It all depends on the wind. If it stays calm, the fire is only smouldering and could be brought under control relatively quick. But if the wind picks up, the fire could spread with enormous speed. Another danger is the thunderstorms. If we're getting more of them without any rain, just lightning, then it could get damn critical for us."
    New fear arose in Andrea. What could they do to prevent thunderstorms? Nothing. They could only wait and see, and pray.
    As if Craig had sensed her fear, he briefly put his arm around her shoulders. "Sorry, babe, I didn't mean to frighten you. But that's what the situation is."
    "It's alright." Andrea wished he had left his arm where it was. Instead, he took over the wheel again. Something was wrong with the motor. The engine stuttered and sputtered and stalled a few times.
    Andrea began to feel a little uneasy. What if the engine gave up and they were stuck in the middle of the lake, in this murdereous heat, with nobody in sight for miles and no help? Eagle Creek was already quite some distance behind them. It could be an eternity until somebody came by!
    "Don't worry. When I'm not back in time, my Dad will send out a rescue team", Craig said as if he had guessed her thoughts. "After all, he knew that something was wrong with the engine."
    Andrea was reassured. Too bad, actually, she thought afterwards. Could have been quite exciting, alone with Craig on the lake ... but those were silly daydreams. Craig certainly had no great interest in her and she should have more important things on her mind.
    Craig puttered around with the engine again, hammered here and there, tapped, tightened screws and greased. Eventually, the sputtering and stuttering turned into a smooth chugging.
    "There you go!", Craig said satisfied, wiping his greasy fingers on a rag.
    They resumed their ride down the lake, past idyllic bays, rugged cliffs, and a waterfall. Andrea hadn't been to that part of the lake yet. There was no more road along the shore. Eagle Creek was the end of the civilized world. That's why not too many people wound up there.
    "It's gorgeous here", she said, impressed by the rugged beauty of the scenery. "Too bad I don't have my camera. That waterfall over there ..."
    "Right now, there's hardly any water in it", Craig noted. "You should see the Caribou Falls during spring run-off when masses of water tumble down into the lake. Have you ever been there?"
    Andrea shook her head. "No. But I've heard about it."
    "You can only get there by boat, or by a hiking trail from the Caribou Creek Road," Craig explaned. "A bit further down is the Hippy Hole."
    "Hippy Hole?", Andrea echoed, laughing.
    "It's been called that because the Hippies who came to the Eagle Creek Valley in the Seventies liked to bath there in the nude. Entire Hippy families were roaming the place, naked. Must have been hilarious. But you can still see people swimming there in the nude. The older ones, but sometimes also the young Hippies like Willow and Juniper."
    Andrea hadn't met those two girls yet but had heard of them. "And what exactly is this Hippy Hole?", she asked.
    "A not very big but really deep pool down by the Caribou Falls, with big rock cliffs around where the kids still jump into the water."
    "Really?" Andrea tried to catch a glimpse of the pool but it was hidden behind some trees. Below the waterfall, there was dense forest. Only the mouth of Caribou Creek could be seen where it flowed into the Arrow Lake.
    "If you like, we could go to the Hippy Hole together some day", Craig suggested.
    "Yeah - great!" Andrea was looking forward to it very much. Did Craig mean to continue their acquaintance? "How long are you staying here in Eagle Creek?", she asked.
    "All summer", he replied, and Andrea was even more delighted. In her mind, she already fancied what they could do together. Surely, Craig could show her lots of things. All the secluded places, the remote lakes and waterfalls ... maybe they could even go camping!
    They kept chugging along the rugged shore. "Tell me a little about you and your family, Andrea", Craig interrupted her reverie. "How long have you been in the Eagle Creek Valley?"
    Andrea had trouble coming back from her flight of fancy. What had Craig just asked? Oh, how long they've been here …
    "Almost two months", she answered. "We've lived in the farm house for four weeks now. Before that, we lived in our motorhome."
    "Yeah, I saw it parked at the rest area", Craig remarked. "How many of you are there? Tracy said you have brothers and sisters."
    "Two brothers and one sister. Michael is the oldest. He just turned eighteen. Holger - he's my twin brother - is fifteen. He has to be in a wheel chair. Three years ago, when we were on vacation in Yugoslavia, we had a terrible accident. Since then, he's a paraplegic."
    "Sorry," Craig said sympathetically.
     Andrea cast him a little smile. "Thanks. Holger manages his handicap quite well. Only, once in a while, he gets totally frustrated. Then, he has these fits of rage and wants to smash something. Of course, we try to help him as good as we can but he doesn't always want to be helped."
    "I can understand that. Must be terrible, at that age. When you can't do all those things you used to, never play and fool around with your friends anymore, no sports, no girls ... if something like that hit someone older, they might deal with it better, I guess."
    "I think it would be terrible at any age when you can't walk anymore ", Andrea said pensively. All of a sudden, she felt terribly sad. She didn't want to think about the horrible accident anymore, when that truck ... at night… on the winding road along the coast …
    "Let's not talk about it anymore", she said, trying to repress the awful memories.
    Craig understood how she felt and didn't ask any further questions about it. "Okay, so much for your brothers", he said. "What about your sister?"
    "Nicole? She's ten and the baby in our familiy. Sometimes, she's a real pest."
    "I know what you're talking about", Craig grimaced. "I know exactly how little sisters can get on your nerves. Tracy did the same at that age."
    Andrea had to laugh as she pictured it in her mind. Craig was four years older than his sister who turned fifteen in fall. Sometimes, Tracy could still be terribly silly and childish.
    "And your parents?", Craig continued to ask. "What are their names, what do they do?"
    "My Dad's name is Richard and he's a geologist", Andrea explained with pride. "He does consulting for mining companies, road construction and so on. This year, he won't apply anywhere because we are still busy renovating the farm. Next year he'll see if he can work for some mining companies in the area."
    "Not bad", Craig said appreciatively. "I'm sure he'll get a job. In many ghost towns around here they started mining again because they believe the mines aren't exhausted yet, not by a long shot. Especially in the tailings there's supposed be a lot of gold and silver left."
    "Yeah, that's what my Dad was saying. Back then, they didn't have all the technical equipment they have now so they closed a lot of mines."
    "And your Mom?", Craig kept asking questions.
    "Her name is Renate and she's a nurse. When her English gets better, she would like to work for the Red Cross Outpost Hospital."
    "As a registered nurse?"
    "No. For that, she'd have to go to college again and that would be too much for her. She doesn't want to do it as a full-time job. Taking care of the farm is her first priority. You know, from now on we'd like to do everything ourselves as much as we can. To be self-sufficient, so to speak. On the side, my mom wants to take a course and become one of those first aid people, whatever you call them."
    "Oh, First Aid Attentant." Craig nodded. "That's great! The Eagle Creek Community desperately needs more First Aid Attentants, or they'll take the ambulance service away from us."
    Andrea looked at him questioningly. "What do you mean?"
    "Well, Eagle Creek is one of the few communities in British Columbia where there's still a Red Cross Outpost Hospital", Craig explained. "A very small one, as you might have noticed, with only two beds and one nurse, but it's a very important institution. Even though there aren't many people living in this valley, accidents do happen every so often. While logging, while horseback riding, or an idiot like dumb old Raleigh would shoot himself in the shoulder while cleaning his gun. There are quite a few old people living here too, pioneers from way back when, like Old Bill, who's in his eighties already and has all kinds of medical problems. If we don't have enough First Aid Attentants, they'll take away the ambulance service and we'd have to wait for help from the city. That could take hours and cost lives."
    "Oh, I see." Her Mom had explained it in a similar way. "Maybe that's what I'll do later on too but first I have to finish school."
    "What grade are you in?"
    "In Germany, Holger and I were in grade nine. Now, we're going into grade nine again in the fall. The principal of the Nakusp High School has tested us already. It turned out that we already learned most of the suff last year in our German school. So we can concentrate more on the language now."
    "I'm sure you'll manage", Craig said, smiling. "I think it's great how you're handling all this, your immigration and so on, the total change ... don't you get homesick once in a while?"
    "No, not really." Andrea shrugged her shoulders. "We've only been here for two months and everything is still new and exciting for us. Like an extended vacation. Only my little sister bawls sometimes because she misses her girlfriends and Grandma and Grandpa."
    "Won't your Grandparents come and visit you some day?"
    "Yes, of course! Maybe even next year. When we're done with most of the renovations, they plan on coming for a few weeks. We're looking forward to it very much."
    Andrea was talking a little bit about their former home in Schwabach and their life there, when Craig suggested they turn around and head back. Andrea was disappointed that the trip was coming to an end but when she cast a glance at Craig's watch, it was a little shock for her. They'd been on the lake for over two hours! Now her main interest was quickly getting home and back to work!
    When they were back at the dock, Craig suggested that she show up in town at one of the beaches. There was always something going on in the summer.
    He was talking about the beach close to the General Store or Kilarney Beach or Paradise Bay, favourite hang-outs of the kids from Eagle Creek.
    "All right, we'll see", Andrea said. "Thanks for the trip, Craig." She bent down and patted Muffin but he was obviously too lazy to pay attention. Then he struggled to his feet and shuffled over to his water bowl. That was all he was interested in right now.
    Craig extended his hand to help Andrea from the boat. When she was back on the dock, he waved briefly, turned around and left.
    With her eyes, she followed his houseboat until it disappeared behind a rocky point. The ride with Craig seemed almost like a dream to her now. Did it really happen, or was she only dreaming?
    Lost in thought, Andrea donned her t-shirt. Just as absentmindedly, she picked up her towel and waterbottle that were still laying on the dock. Then she walked - no, floated - along the trail back to the house.
    She had met HIM again! She would see HIM again.
    HIM, with capital letters!

 

 

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