Ghost Creek excerpt from CHAPTER 3 – NICKEL CENTER, ONTARIO, OCTOBER 22, 1985 – pages 39-40

A Blossoming Romance: Garret and Michelle get to know one another by the fire.

Garret and Michelle continued on with their own conversation shortly after Tracy left to find Nick. Garret had fished two more beers from the cooler before sitting down again next to Michelle, then commented that her response to his hometown jab was indeed a good one. This comforted Michelle who, unlike Tracy, always felt insecure around boys she didn’t know very well. After Garret extended his compliment, a relaxed Michelle remarked how nice it was that they had enough wood to keep the fire blazing late into the evening. She shivered; her teeth chattered. Her front was toasty from the heat of the flame; her back as cold as the night air.

“Yeah, Nick usually thinks of everything. Did you see the woods around here? There isn’t a scrap of wood to be found. It looks like frickin’ Haiti.”

“Do you have any brothers or sisters?” she said.

The question again almost caught Garret in a compromising position. Yes, he said, remorsefully with some hesitation. He told her he had a sister, though he didn’t offer a name. He then remarked that his parents had been killed in an automobile accident when he was young and that he has lived with an aunt ever since, whose job kept her on the road most of the time. The lie came so naturally and was so effective that Garret could see Michelle’s luminous expression fall by the light from the fire’s flickering glow. Like Nick earlier, Michelle didn’t want to press the issue, so she said nothing in return.

“Enough about me; how about you? How did a pretty girl like you ever get to a school like Huron College?”

Michelle blushed at the compliment. “I was wondering when you were going to get to that. That’s usually the first question someone asks.” She laughed lightly. “Well, Ohio State was too big, North Carolina too far, and Cincinnati and Indiana are too close. So where else would I go?”

“How about Miami University? I understand it’s a good school. Too close, I guess?”

“Too many yuppies. They’re all too squeaky-clean; not my style. The graduate students are pretty cool, though. They stick out like a sore thumb.

You know, shitty clothes and no money. I’m surprised you’ve heard of Miami. Not many people have outside of the area. They usually think of the other Miami down in Florida.”

“I guess being a guy and knowing a thing or two about sports I would have heard of Miami. Ron Harper, college hoops, you know.”

“Wow, yeah. He’s the greatest. I remember hearing about him when I was in high school. Everyone still talks about him back home. I have to admit, though, I don’t follow basketball.”

Even mentioning Miami University still gave Garret heart palpitations. He was amazed that he could even talk about the school with civility. It was a surefire bet. A generous point-spread in his favor, home court advantage, two teams that matched up well with each other. Who would have thought that Miami would blow the spread? Because of that one ill-advised bet in which he overstepped his means, Garret came ever so close to losing his prized Pontiac. At least he didn’t begin to black out again. For this, Garret was deeply grateful.

“What about you?” Michelle said. So what brought you to Huron?”

Garret dismissed the unsavory thoughts of his betting woes to answer her question. “Most of the schools I looked at were in Michigan. The geographical universities—you know—Eastern, Central, Western. Then there is U of M of course. I also looked at Ferris State, Hillsdale, and Michigan Tech. Tech, you could say, is like Cincinnati area schools to you—too close for my liking. Yep, Huron gave me the best offer, and it’s far enough away from home. That the weather is relatively balmy in Traverse City is a plus.”

“Balmy? Are you kidding? It’s cold as hell in Traverse City.”

“It may be cold to a girl from Pig’s Knuckle, Ohio, but when you live practically in the arctic, like I do, Traverse City feels like Rio.”

“All right, enough with the Ohio cracks,” Michelle said in a voice that was only half joking. “Do you know what you want to do when you get out of here?”

Garret shrugged. “I really don’t know. Maybe field camp will help me figure out what I want to do.”

Michelle’s eyes sparkled. “Super. I’m planning to go to the field sta- tion, too. You’re going to Huron’s camp, right?”

“Of course. I wouldn’t miss Alpine Lodge if my life depended on it,” Garret enthusiastically replied.

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