Monday, September 29, 2014

Captain's Log, Day 131: A Little Lake Lounging

          “What is he doing with the radio?” Dale demanded.
          I shrugged, not even bothering to look up. Well, down—I was gazing at the sky. “I dunno. Looking for music?”
          “He stole it!” Dale pointed out.
          I could have pointed out that Dale was in Skipper’s customary spot, but opted to stay out of this one. “Hey, it gets better reception down here,” Skipper pointed out, as he found an oldies song--"Hard Day's Night," to be specific.
          “Keep it riiight there,” Dale told him as he fumbled for his phone. “I gotta get a video of this.”
          I laughed—I knew exactly what he was talking about. I leaned back again to enjoy the eighty-degree day, wishing the water was a little warmer than the 32.5 degrees Fahrenheit it was currently at.
          “See, this is why we like taking you out on the lake,” Dale told me as he finished his panoramic sweep of the boat.
          I was feeling too lazy to even attempt to make the obvious joke about me buying gas. (I’d beaten Dale to the register earlier.) “Why’s that?”
          “Because you get it,” Dale expounded.
          “Just reliving the old days,” Skipper chimed in.
          I did get it. We were on a 1956 Crestliner, powered by a ’63 Evinrude, listening to sixties swing on the transistor radio Noah probably had on his ark. The only really modern thing that was currently with us was Dale’s phone, and I figured we wouldn’t have that for much longer—if he kept gesturing with it, it was going to end up in the drink.
          I stretched a little and took in the view. It was, admittedly, gorgeous. The leaves were just beginning to change, as benefited the norm for late September; the day was warm, which was decidedly not the norm, but I wasn’t going to complain. Also, we pretty much had the lake to ourselves.
          We sat in mostly silence, punctuated by brief, half-hearted disputes about which station to listen to next and whether the AM stations needed the antenna or not. (They did.) After about a half an hour, Dale stretched.
          “We should probably get in one last round of waterskiing,” he suggested. “This might be the last good day for it.”
          I looked at the water. “You first,” I offered. Dale and I had each done a round before Skipper had joined us, and, while waterskiing was fun as always, the preliminary dunking of my kiester in cold water had elicited a shriek from me at an octave I didn’t know my vocal cords had been capable of making.
          “Sure thing,” Dale agreed, making a weird hissing sound as he wrapped the still-freezing life jacket around his torso.
          “Skipper, you should probably drive,” I added.
          “You got it,” Skipper nodded, finally popping up off of the back bench seat. “Why, you don’t want to?”
          “It would probably be easier for Dale to ski if I wasn’t driving,” I explained. “Last time, I forgot to check which direction the motor was pointing before throttling up. ‘Bout spun us in a circle.”
          Skipper laughed as he took the wheel. “Yeah, I’ve done that a few times myself.”
          “Remember, take off quick,” Dale ordered as he prepared to lower himself in.
          “Basically, don’t let you sit around freezing?” I joked.
          Dale glared at me. “Exactly. YAAH—that’s cold!”
          I couldn’t help laughing as Dale hung half in and half out of the boat. “Want me to push you in?”
          “Don’t you DARE,” Dale threatened me as he dropped the rest of the way. He took the cold water with more grace that I anticipated that I would. “Skipper, start it up!”
          Skipper moved the boat forward; Dale had his ski on in record time and was waiting impatiently even before Skipper got the line tightened. “You ready?” Skipper yelled.
          “SKI OR FLEE!” Dale yelled back.
          I’d never seen him get out of the water that fast once the boat started moving. I think he defied physics.
          Skipper took the boat on a long looping course around the edge of the lake, where the water was calmest. Dale did pretty well until the rope somehow snagged on the engine. The ensuing jerk of it coming free took the rope out of Dale's hands. He handled that gracefully, sliding to a halt in the water while Skipper brought the boat back around to pick him up.
          Surprisingly, Dale opted for the path of greatest frigidity and requested the rope back. After a few mishaps with miscommunication (Dale missed the rope the first time around), the skier was back up, the captain was dragging him around the lake, and the spotter in the copilot's chair was completely forgetting that he was supposed to be watching for mishaps out the back and was enjoying the lake scenery.
          Fortunately, I wasn't so enamored with the view that I missed the big splash when Dale finally decided he was done.
          "I think it was warmer where I wiped out!" Dale complained as I got the ladder set for him to climb back aboard. "You wanna go again?"
          "Sure, but maybe we should go back to where it was warmer?" I suggested hopefully as I accepted the life jacket from him. A moment later, I squeaked a little. "Geez, didn't you warm this up at all?"
          "There's probably not that much difference between there and here," Skipper pointed out. "Dale probably just got warmed up."
          I shrugged and checked the skis, handing them to Dale. "Whichever, I suppose. I'm gonna freeze my kiester off again anyway. What the--dude, don't throw them in!"
          Dale had automatically chucked the skis overboard for me. The slight wind set them on a leisurely drift towards the stern. He grinned. "Oops, guess you're gonna have to swim for it. Better get in quick."
          "Ahh, shut it," I muttered, lowering my legs into the liquid ice and hissing at the cold. "You may have to push me in."
          "Really?" Dale asked with entirely too much eagerness.
          "No," I snorted. "You can just stay over there."
          Dale reached out, probably to pat me on the head. I have a bit of a thing about people messing with my head, so I hurled myself backwards off the boat. "Get your flea-picking paws away from meeEEEEE!!!"
          That last word scaled up to an octave I had no idea that I could produce, and definitely outside the range the human ear was designed to pick up. This was probably a good thing, because I dropped several expletives that I was really hoping the twins wouldn't pick up.
          "Cold?" Dale asked, grinning.
          I yanked the skis on my feet so fast I thought I gave myself a friction burn. "I GOT THE ROPE GET A MOVE ON HOLY *BLEEP* IS THIS COLD!!!!"
          Skipper tightened the rope up. "Are you rea--"
          "SKI OR FLEE ALREADY!!!!" I shrieked.
          There was a helpful tip that Dale always told me: stay in the ball in the water until the boat was up to speed. Well, screw that. I popped up almost instantly, trusting the boat's motor to keep going. Fortunately, it did. Whew. I started doing a little victory jig and almost fell over.
          I started zig-zagging back and forth across the wake again, pulling goofy stunts (like "Tebowing," the splits, and crouching so low I was almost sitting down) until Skipper put the boat into a turn. I tried to stay in its wake, before remembering something. Skipper was driving, and he liked turning hard. I flew out to the side. Whoops.
          Fortunately, it wasn't too hard to recover, and I made it without wiping out. I managed to snag a leaf on the way to the next turn, holding it up for boat inspection and dropping it as Skipper made a hard left. I cut hard, trying to get behind and inside the boat, so when it turned hard, I'd
          ...okay, he took this one slower.
          Not good.
          The rope got so slack, it hit the water. I slowed down; leaning back, I tried to keep the tips of my skis above the water. (I'd learned the hard way what would happen if I got them caught underwater. Think really fast faceplant.) Skipper throttled up, but fortunately not hard enough to yank the rope out of my hands...and a few seconds later, I was back up!
          However, now I was tired, so I rode the wake back over to where Dale had wiped out earlier and bailed. What do you know--the water did seem warmer over here.
          "Nice recovery," Skipper greeted me as he pulled the boat up.
          "Yeah, did you see the rope hit the water?" I asked, kicking my skis off and passing them up to Dale.
          "That's why I didn't take off too fast. I figured that'd help," Skipper explained.
          "You wanna turn?" I suggested mischievously as I began boarding.
          "I don't think he's gonna," Dale laughed.
          "No swim trunks," Skipper explained with the cheerful air of one who would be keeping his kiester in a relatively unfrozen state.
          "I could lend you mine," I joked.
          Dale laughed. "Well, we should probably get back for dinner."
          "Mind if we go cruising for a bit first?" Skipper asked.
          "Hey, fine by me," I shrugged, grabbing a towel and trying to dry off.
          Once Dale had the gear stowed, Skipper started the motor and we cruised out onto the middle of the lake. I couldn't help grinning. "I gotta get me a boat. Whaddaya think, Dale?"
          "THIS IS THE LIFE!!!" Dale whooped.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Captain's Log, Day 130: Secret Agent Man

          The year was 2006. The place? Deep in enemy Russia.
          I kept a tight grip on my gun as I crawled up the hill, undergrowth poking me in the stomach. It took all of fifteen feet for me to get thoroughly sick of that, so I stood up and charged up the hill in an awkward crouch that was undignified in the extreme but kept me effectively invisible.
          I reached the top, only to discover that--oh crap--the guardhouse was populated by watchmen!
          WHAM. I belly-flopped. Then I sprang back up, stifling a yelp, and hurled myself onto a less thorny patch of earth. From this new concealment, I pulled the thorns out of my frontside and tried to figure out how to bypass the guards.
          "See anything?"
          I almost shot my fellow agent, who had snuck up on me. "SHHHH! Yeah, they got guards over there."
          Agent Zam Corsello cocked an eyebrow at me. "Is that why you dove into the briar patch?"
          "Shaddup," I muttered, pulling out the last of the thorns. "We can duck back into the forest and take the creek route to their headquarters, or we could try the ridgeline here. That would be riskier, though--"
          "I vote ridgeline," Corsello voted, scratching himself. "Fewer insects."
          "Wuss," I snickered, shoving him. He shoved me back unexpectedly.
          I climbed back up the hill and we crept along the ridgeline. After a few yards, I tucked my gun back into my pants so my hands-and-knees crawl would work better.
          "Hey, what is our plan?" Corsello asked from behind me.
          I stopped abruptly. He ran into my backside. "Don't you ever listen at mission briefings?" I demanded.
          "I was working on my samples," he responded in a huff. "They weren't reacting."
          I rolled my eyes. "We're trying to break in here for food because our supplies ran out," I hissed. "Also, we need to plant a new bug so we can listen in. They found our last one."
          "Oh." Corsello shrugged. "I didn't miss much."
          I groaned softly. "Please tell me you brought the bug."
          Corsello reached into his pockets and pulled out a bug. As in, a six-legged one. He shrieked and dropped it. I almost kicked him. "Keep your voice down!"
          Corsello sheepishly and gingerly dove back into his pocket and came up with a penny-sized object. "Here it is."
          "I'm gonna die with a moron," I complained to the heavens. "Come on, let's go!"
          We made it to a good observation point a few minutes later. "So how should we do this?" Corsello asked.
          "Pay attention during the mission briefing!" I ordered him. "We gotta brush off and infiltrate through the back door there. I have the key hacker."
          "So I went camo for nothing?" Corsello demanded.
          I turned to look at him. He was literally covered in leaves and sticks. I sighed. "There's a bug on your head."
          Corsello shed his disguise faster than I could publicly disown him. We crept towards the back door, when suddenly--
          "Get down!!" I hissed, diving for the side of the house. We barely made it around the corner before it opened fully. We both flatted out and held our collective breath.
          A jingle. Door slam. More jingling. And then a dog was licking Corsello's face. I snickered. "Apparently they let out the guard dogs."
          "How do we get rid of it?" Corsello asked, shoving it towards me.
          I scooped up a rock. "It's probably a pretty stupid dog. Let's try this."
          The dog tore after the rock I'd just hurled into the woods, probably thinking I wanted to play fetch. I figured he'd find the dead raccoon in the creek and be occupied for the next few hours. "Coast is clear! Let's go!"
          "Got it." Corsello drew his gun as we scurried over to the door.
          "Are your feet clean?" I questioned him over my shoulder as I pulled out the key hacker and held it up to the lock.
          "Yeah, yeah, I know--if we track mud through the house, we'll get shot," Corsello muttered. "I'm not an idiot."
          "Could have fooled me," I shot back, turning the handle and slipping inside before he could come up with a suitable retort.
          We dove into enemy territory, guns drawn and communicating with hand signals. Corsello was all for slipping the bug into someone's unattended boot. I replied with a rude gesture communicating his ignorance and pointed towards the meeting hall, which looked a bit like a dining room. We crossed silently over to it and slipped the bug underneath it.
          I gestured towards the kitchen, indicating that I would go check it out. Corsello tried to beat me to it, but I ordered him to stay by smacking him in the chest. Fortunately, the kitchen was unattended, because the impact might have been a bit louder than I intended.
          I opened the pantry and surveyed it with the eager eye of the desperately hungry. I shoved a chocolate bar in my pocket before pilfering some of the more substantial items and--
          --oh crap, footsteps!
          Knowing that a new unit of time would be needed to measure my life expectancy should I be caught (milliseconds was years too long), I chose the path of least resistance and dove into the pantry, pulling the doors shut after me and hiding under the bottom shelf. The footsteps marched around for a while. I heard water being poured. Then the person walked back out.
          I shot out of the pantry like I'd found a hornet's nest under there, snagged Corsello, and hightailed it out the backdoor to the relative safety of the woods. We caught our breath in a thick clump of shrubbery, where I shared the crackers and chocolate with him and we patted ourselves on the back for a job well done.
          Corsello wiped crumbs off his face. "Now what?"
          "Now we go spy on the guardhouse--" I was cut off by a yell. from the general direction of enemy HQ. "What was that?"
          "Sounded like something about lunch," Corsello mused as we shot back up to see what was going on.
          Across the way, we saw the guardhouse open as our sisters spilled out of it, chatting animatedly as they ran for the house. We heard the call again. "Boys come in, it's time to eat!"
          "Good thing we left the crackers back there," my brother laughed as we ran to answer the call.
          "Yeah," I mused. "By the way, Nemesis, you suck as a lookout. Why didn't you warn me Mom was coming in the kitchen?"
          "I didn't know what our signal was!" Nemesis protested.
          I groaned. "Nemesis, pay attention during the mission briefings!!!!"

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Captain's Log, Day 129: New (Watery) Frontiers!

          I was totally freaking out and cheering as the Starcraft throttled up and skimmed out onto the surface to the lake--even though I maintained a death grip on the boat, confident that the next turn would capsize us like a turtle in an earthquake. Give me a break. It was my first time out on a speedboat.
          I was freaking out for an entirely different reason a few minutes later.
          " you're going to want to remain in the ball until the boat comes up on plane. You'll feel it," Dale reassured me as I tried to figure out a graceful way to decline what I saw as a session of inevitably-get-dragged-around-on-my-face-behind-the-boat-for-a-while. Besides, the water looked cold. And the life jacket was a little too big. I gestured at it. "Um, I don't think this is gonna work for me. Got any others?"
          Dale came over and yanked on a strap, which grudgingly tightened to fit. Crap. "There you go. Are you ready?"
          I tried to give an enthusiastic "Heck yeah!" before walking over towards the side of the boat. The boat rolled alarmingly. I retreated back towards the middle. "Oh, I hope I don't flip this, though."
          "You can't," Dale's brother and twin, Skipper, announced from the captain's chair. "See?" They both began rocking the boat until I swear we were perpendicular to the water and balancing on edge. Needless to say, I reestablished my death grip on the nearest object. Well, the second nearest--the nearest happened to be Dale's leg, and I figured I was having enough of a hard time maintaining my calm-in-the-face-of-certain-drowning image without clinging to THAT. How do I get myself into these things?
          This whole adventure started back in early spring, actually, when I saw Dale's homescreen on his computer and casually mentioned, "Hey, that's a neat-looking boat." It turned out that the Starcraft was a boat that the twins had bought and restored for the purpose of waterskiing, of which they were both avid enthusiasts. After talking up the finer points of waterskiing and boating with me for a while, they casually asked if I ever wanted to try. I admitted that it certainly sounded fun while privately deciding that the odds of me faceplanting my way to a watery grave were probably high enough for me to want to avoid that sport like the plague. I did, however, definitely want to go out on the boat and said as much. They promptly extended an invitation, which I promptly accepted and then forgot about...until closing time at lab that afternoon a few weeks later, when Dale had casually asked, "Hey, what are you up to tonight?"
          "Nothing that I can think of," I grumbled, privately wishing that I'd had the courage to ask that cute girl I'd seen at church yesterday out on a date.
          My thoughts otherwise occupied, Dale's next comment surprised me. "Well, it's finally warm enough, I think. Let's go out on the lake, maybe get some waterskiing in!"
          I thought about it for a second. It was maybe 70 degrees out, so the odds of actually waterskiing were pretty low (in my estimation); however, I never actually thought that the twins would trust a klutz like me out in their boat, so my ability to gauge odds was obviously flawed. Still, I didn't want to spend the night playing Halo again (87 nights and counting), so I agreed.
          However, as I lowered myself over the side of the boat, I was now deeply regretting my decision. I tried hard to keep from screaming like a little girl, opting to gasp out instead, "Did this melt yesterday??"
          Dale tossed one of the skis over the side, either ignoring or not listening (given the superfluousness of my comment, unsurprising). "I got them set for you. Just slide the skis under your butt and kinda sit on them while you get them on."
          Having worn a life jacket maybe twice during my entire life (one of which times, I managed to ditch it as soon as the Hawaiian reef tour guide had his back turned), I was not expecting it to actually keep my skinny kiester afloat. Needless to say, trying to tread water while trying to jam a ski onto my foot led to my inevitable capzation.
          "Just let the life jacket hold you up," Dale suggested when I'd righted myself and he'd stopped laughing.
          Violent wobbling aside, I got the skis on like a pro and managed to grab the rope he threw me with a minimum of juggling. Skipper cranked up the throttle and tightened up the line before throttling down. "Are you ready?" he yelled back.
          I sighed. Might as well die trying. I took a deep breath and courageously shouted back their own catch phrase. "SKI OR FLEE!!!"
          The boat took off like a tiger with its tail on fire. I curled up into a ball and maintained a death grip on the rope, trying to figure out when I could stand up. Come on, Radar, this is basic physics! Suddenly (and I'm not entirely sure how), I was standing up!
          "Hmm, not bad," I muttered to myself, trying to balance in the rocky wake of the boat. Skipper suddenly waved an arm over his head in a circle. I wanted to wave back, but before I could get up enough courage, the boat suddenly spun. Apparently, the arm-waving had been a signal and not a friendly greeting to the courageous soul being towed at ungodly speeds towards an epic faceplant.
          "COME ON!!!" I yelled. "You said nothing about TURNING!!!" I quickly ran though available options and tried to figure out the physics here, finally deciding on leaning out, away from the boat, and angling my skis out. I shot out to the side,considerably faster than I thought I was going to, and hung on for about three-quarters of the turn (the twins informed me later) before freaking out and bailing.
          By all accounts, the wipeout was impressive--and yes, I faceplanted in a rather epic fashion. I'd forgotten about the life jacket again, which cheerfully and speedily brought me back to the surface almost before I realized I wasn't, in fact, destined for Davy Jones' locker.  I could hear the twins cheering and laughing as they brought the boat around to pick me up. Dale was standing up and waving both arms over his head, yelling something like "That's how you do it!" Skipper, by contrast, was simultaneously congratulating me for my first attempt and apologizing for turning so hard.
          I managed to collect the skis before they reached me. "So how exactly do you turn?" I demanded, laughing as I snorted lake water through my nose as I tried to get the skis back on.
          "Like you did," Skipper assured me. "You just stay with it!"
          "And don't get freaked out," Dale added before dissolving into laughter again.
          I laughed as well as they pulled the boat back out, grabbing the rope handle again and yelling "SKI OR FLEE!!!" as loudly as I could. The boat took off and I popped right out of the water again, this time pushing out of the boat's wake into the calm water off to the side.
          It was, of course, considerably easier to stay upright now. I felt confident enough in my balance to let go with one hand and wave to the twins. Dale made a swooping motion back, which I correctly interpreted as "cut across the wake to the other side." I glanced at the wake, decided oh what the heck, and carefully navigated the treacherous waters to the other side. I angled as hard as I could once I got to the calm waters, ending up next to the boat.
          ....okay, this was getting fun.
          I started swooping back and forth from side to side, managing to navigate Skipper's next turn without bailing out (thanks to much shouted direction from Dale). I was starting to get a little tired, though, so I straightened out and tried to signal Dale to tell Skipper to stop...only to discover that I didn't know what the proper hand signal for stop was. Palm out looked like a wave, and I couldn't make a classical "time out" sign without dropping the rope. I settled for a chopping motion across my throat. Dale looked confused for a moment before holding both fists out straight in front of him and opened his hands, miming let go of the rope.
          It was my turn to be confused. Dale repeated the signal a few times before finally hollering, "Let go!" I looked from him to the handle, shrugged, and let go. Jesus, take the wheeeEEEEELLLLL.......
          God apparently was my copilot. I coasted gently to a stop, gradually sinking until I was back in the water. Didn't even get my head wet...ter than it already was. I started laughing.
          "How'd you like that?" Skipper yelled as he brought the boat back around.
          I punched both fists in the air. "THAT. WAS. PHENOMENAL!!!!!" I yelled at the top of my lungs.
          "Someone got bit by the ski bug," Dale remarked parenthetically. "We're going to have to do this again."
          "Darn straight," I agreed, laughing. "Who's up next?"