The Lake Demon
John Richards was hard at work finishing up a short story that he was working on when his telephone rang. It was his sister Meg from Kelowna, British Columbia calling.
“John, I’ve got some terrible news for you. Dad’s cancer has spread to his liver and his oncologist has only given him a month or two to live,” said Meg.
“That is terrible news,” John responded. “Is there anything I can do to help?”said John.
“Yeah, there is. I could use your company and support right now. My boyfriend Hank moved out two weeks ago so I got a lot on my plate right now.”
“ I bet. Well, the timing is very good. My two kids Ryan and Stephanie just arrived two days ago. Susan’s leaving them with me for the summer. I haven’t seen my kids for months now and I’m sure that they’d love to go on a road trip. I just wish that it was under better circumstances. You don’t mind if I bring my kids along do you, Meg?”
“No, of course not. I’ve got plenty of room for all of you at my place. I’d love to see Ryan and Stephanie again. And like I said, I don’t want to be alone during the short time Dad has to live.”
“You won’t have to worry about that. The kids will keep us both very active. They will be sad about their Grandpa being so ill, but at least they will be able to say good bye to him,” said John.
“That’s right. Stephanie and Ryan really love their grandfather, said Meg.
“They will have lots to keep them distracted though. My kids both love Lake Okanogan and they love going for boat rides on the lake,” said John.
“ I also need to take a short break from my writing. I might even be able to come up with some ideas for a new story while I’m at your place. We’ll make it a summer vacation for the kids and I.”
“ When will you be leaving?” asked Meg while pouring herself a coffee.
“Tomorrow morning. The kids and I will need this evening to get packed. They are both out right now but I’ll tell them as soon as they get home.”
“Aren’t you even going to ask them if they want to go on a trip?” asked Meg.
“My kids are always ready for an adventure. And I know they’ll want to see their Grandpa one last time,” John answered.
“Well, when should I expect you guys?”
“In about two days. We’ll be driving out to your place.”
“Are you sure your old Taurus is up for the trip?” Meg joked.
“Don’t worry I have a Premier membership with CAA,” said John.
After his conversation with his sister John Richards had a lot to think about. First, he had to think about his soon to be deceased father.
Robert Richards was the kind of man that made the idea of his passing seem very unreal to John. Yes, he knew that people die every day from cancer or with heart conditions, but his father was somewhat exceptional. He was what is known as a man’s man. Robert Richards worked hard all his life as a heavy equipment operator. He was only sixty-seven years old and always seemed to be in robust health. It was a very rare occasion for John’s father to ever miss a day of work because of illness. Whenever Robert caught a cold or some type of virus he usually went to work anyway and pushed through his discomfort. He liked to think of himself as being tough and in actuality, he was.
Although he was always a hard worker and a good provider, Robert Richards also believed in enjoying life. He loved his cigarettes, his beer and his whiskey. John’s dad also liked to indulge in a high carbohydrate diet that inevitably resulted in Robert developing a weight problem as he grew older. Robert rarely got any regular exercise outside of his job. He used to belong to a ten pin bowling team but had to give this pastime up when he developed a painful arthritic condition in his knees. A year and a half ago Robert had a total left knee replacement.
It became obvious to John that his father’s health was beginning to decline as he entered his sixth decade of life. Many of his life style choices were now catching up with him. Still, it was hard to believe that his father was dying of cancer and only had a short time to live. John Richards has a tendency to live in denial and believing in his father’s invincibility was a prime example.
John was not looking forward to having to say goodbye to his father. Although John was certain of his father’s love for him he couldn’t remember ever hearing his father tell him that he loved him. On the other hand, it probably wasn’t very often that John had told his father that he loved him even though he truly did. Robert Richards did not believe in wearing his heart on his sleeve and this was something that he had passed on to his son.
John realized that both Ryan and Stephanie would arrive home in a couple of hours and that he would have to break the bad news about their grandfather to them.
Part of John Richard was looking forward to the trip to British Columbia to keep his sister company. The other reason was that he needed to break out of a slump. He had a hard time finishing up his last short story. He was suffering from what is known as writer’s block. His creativity seemed to be drying up. Ideas for his stories weren’t coming to him as quickly or as easily. John was finding that he was no longer looking forward to his usual early morning writing sessions. John’s usual routine was to start writing at about 6:00 AM. He would listen to an audio book and drink his coffee at around 5:30 AM. John usually found it easy to write in the mornings but not during the last few weeks.
John would wake up feeling like he hadn’t slept at all. The truth was that he normally slept for nine or ten hours each night but it sure didn’t feel like it. John recognized what was happening to him. He had suffered from episodic bouts of depression since he was a teenager. His episodes followed a very familiar pattern. John would feel extremely tired and would be completely exhausted by a half hour’s walk with his dogs. Then other symptoms of depression would kick in such as lethargy and an inability to get any pleasure from his normal activities. It wasn’t long into his depressive episode before he started to lose confidence in himself as a writer.
Sometimes a change of scenery or even in a situation requiring immediate action such as a crisis situation would break John out of a severe depressive episode. He was hoping that the phone call that he had with his sister would be his catalyst for change. John could already feel some of his energy returning. Although his father’s illness saddened him he knew he had to be the strong one for his sister and his kids. John now had a strong motivation to make changes in his life. He was hoping that he would have both the physical and mental health to give Stephanie and Ryan a fun and exciting summer vacation.
John Richards had another reason for looking forward to the trip to Kelowna. Since he was a young boy John had a strong interest in cryptozology, the study of unknown species. Stories about Bigfoot and The Loch Ness Monster had always enthralled John. This all started when he was eight years old when his grandmother showed him a ceramic ashtray with a carving of a large serpent on it. John’s Grandma told him that the creature’s name was Ogopogo and that it lived in Lake Okanagan in British Columbia. She also told John a story about a childhood friend of hers that had a close encounter with Ogopogo. Her friend had reportedly watched Ogopogo come out of the lake and start eating chickens that her parents raised on their farm.
It was early July and it was summer vacation for Stephanie and Ryan. Both of John’s kids worked odd jobs during the summer months so that they would have some spending money. Stephanie and Ryan both had paper routes and also did chores for some of the people in their neighborhood.
Stephanie was the first to arrive home. She had been doing some dog walking for a couple that lived on their street.
Stephanie had medium length natural blond hair streaked with bright. red hair coloring. She had a gold nose ring and a piercing in one eyebrow. Stephanie wore a black and gold Nirvana tee shirt that had a few holes in it. She wore stone washed blue jeans with a tear in one knee. Stephanie was part nineties Seattle grunge and part punk rocker. Her favorite band was Nirvana. Her other favorites, in no particular order, were Alice in Chains, Soundgarden, Hole, The Plasmatics and Motorhead. Stephanie also liked The Ramones and The Sex Pistols. She owned a large collection of CDs.
Like her brother, Ryan, Stephanie lived with her mother during the majority of the year. She had a strained relationship with her mother. Stephanie’s mother did not approve of her daughter’s style of dress, her friends or her lifestyle. Stephanie’s mom, Susan, was very concerned that daughter might be using street drugs. Her brother Ryan got along much better with his mother and often smoothed things over when Stephanie and Susan got into shouting matches. Both kids were very upset by their parents’ break up but had their own ways of dealing with it.
About ten minutes after Stephanie arrived home Ryan came through the front door. John Richards rented a small house that was probably better suited to two occupants than three. It seemed that John, Stephanie and Ryan were always within close proximity of each other. John was accustomed to having the house to himself for most of the year. Whenever his two kids came to stay with him John found that he had quite an adjustment to make.
Ryan had just returned from doing some yard work for an elderly couple in the neighborhood. He arrived home dirty and sweaty. It was a hot day and Ryan’s first stop was the kitchen sink where he poured himself a large glass of water. Ryan was seventeen years old and was very good looking. He wore his long light brown hair in a pony tail. Ryan had a strong muscular athletic build. The girls at his high school found him to be very attractive. The only times that Ryan did not have a girlfriend was by his own choice.
After a few minutes passed Ryan noticed that his dad was pacing around the small living room. “What’s up?, Dad. You look like you’ve got something on your mind.”
“Have a seat on the couch, guys. I have some good news and some bad news to tell you,” said John still nervously pacing the floor. “Which do you want first?”
‘Hit us with the bad news first, Dad,” said Stephanie with a worried look on her face.
“Okay. The bad news is about your Grandpa. I just got a call from your Aunt Meg earlier today. She told me that Grandpa’s cancer has gotten worse and that he may only have one or two months to live,” John answered.
“That’s terrible news,” said Ryan with a pained expression on his face.
“We have to visit him before he dies,” said Stephanie.
“I’ve got that part covered,” said John. “That’s the good news. We’re starting on a drive to Aunt Meg’s place tomorrow morning. She wants our company until your Grandpa passes away. We’ll be staying at her place for most of the summer.”
“Did you say we’re leaving tomorrow? Dad” asked Ryan.
“Yep, I want to get an early start. I want to be on the road by eight A.M. tomorrow morning,” answered John.
“Wow, this is short notice. We’ll have to start packing this evening,” said Stephanie.
“That’s the plan,” John replied. “We’ll start packing right after supper. I’m going to phone Pizza Hut and order us some pizza. What kind of pizza would you guys like?”
“Ham and pineapple for me,” answered Stephanie.
“Pepperoni for me,” said Ryan.
When their pizza delivery arrived John, Stephanie and Ryan got into a lively discussion.
“Are we going to have enough money for the trip? Dad, “asked Ryan.
“Yeah, do you guys remember my cousin, Ronnie?”
“Yeah, I remember him coming to visit you a couple of times,” said Stephanie.
“As I recall he was pretty well off, wasn’t he? He drove a really cool Porshe,” said Ryan.
“Yes, cousin Ronnie did very well for himself. He owned his own life insurance agency,” answered John. “ I forgot to tell you guys Ronnie had a fatal heart attack in January. He didn’t have many family members left, so he left me a substantial inheritance in his will.”
At seven AM Stephanie was already up and was busy cooking the family a breakfast of bacon, eggs and sausages. The only times when John Richards ever got a home cooked meal was when one of his friends invited him over for supper. Most of the time John made himself a bowl of Frosted Flakes for breakfast, two peanut butter and honey sandwiches for lunch and in the evening would drive over to the A&W restaurant in the mall for supper. The one advantage to this is that John never gained any weight when his kids weren’t staying with him.
“When’s the last time you got your car serviced, Dad?” asked Ryan.
“Just two weeks ago. Got an oil change and had the technicians at Firestone check out the car for potential problems. They gave it a clean bill of health,” answered his dad.
“But it’s a Ford Taurus, Dad. I was just reading Phil Edmunston’s book, Lemon Aid and he ranked the Taurus as one of the worst cars on the road today,” said Ryan.
“I know,” I read Lemon Aid too.” said John. It’s great for Phil Edmunston that he thinks that Hondas and Toyotas are such great cars. He can probably afford them. Ever since my last full time teaching job I’ve never been able to afford an import vehicle. They are way out of my price range.”
“What if your car breaks down on the trip? After all it’s seventeen years old,”said Stephanie as she passed a plate of sausages over to her dad.
“I’m not worried about it,” her father responded. “ I’ve always had my car serviced on a regular basis and I’ve kept up with the repairs over the years. The only thing you need to worry about on the Taurus is the transmission. I had a re-built transmission put in it last year. We’ll be in good shape.”
After the family finished breakfast Ryan and Stephanie washed and dried the dishes and John went outside to start loading suitcases and bags in the back of his white Ford Taurus station wagon. John’s two dogs ran out to the car with John and quickly jumped in.
It was fortunate that John had purchased the station wagon model of the Ford Taurus as it was able to accommodate all of the family’s luggage. As they started down the road Stephanie said, “It’s sure good to be with you again Dad. I really miss you when I’m living with Mom.”
“Yeah, me, too, Dad. We think you’re awesome,” added Ryan.
John felt a tear trickle down his face when he said,”I love you guys, too, and I miss you terribly when you’re not with me.”
Professor Lionel Phelge was sitting in a chair just outside the dean’s office at The University of British Columbia. He wrung his hands nervously as he knew this was not going to be a pleasant meeting. Lionel got a heads up from one of his colleagues in the Biology Department that some of his students had been complaining about him.
This had been a hard term for Dr. Phelge, His beloved wife, Edith had just passed away seven months ago. He and his deceased wife had enjoyed a wonderful life together. Edith had been a professor in the English Department at The University of Oregon. The couple had met when they were both first year lecturers. As they were both rookies in the world of university academics and teaching they quickly bonded. Although he considered himself as a scientist first, Lionel also loved books and literature. His tastes were somewhat different from that of his wife. Lionel was a child of the sixties and had read the writings of Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg and Ken Kesey. Edith was a specialist in the area of The English novel.
The couple would spend many delightful evening’s at home reading different books and later discussing what they had read. Then they would each spend an hour or two grading papers or preparing lectures for tomorrow’s classes.
Edith and Lionel loved to travel. They had driven to many U.S. states and Canadian provinces. They had planned a long trip to Europe before Edith got her diagnosis of leukemia. Edith’s chemotherapy and radiation treatments had been very hard on her and had exhausted what little energy she had left. She had to go on long term disability and greatly missed her work at The University of British Columbia.
Edith passed away four months after her diagnosis. Lionel was devastated by his loss and fell into a deep depression. His doctor ordered Lionel to take at least six months off work. Lionel’s doctor prescribed the antidepressant, Cymbalta as part of his treatment. He didn’t tell his doctor that he had been turning more and more to Jack Daniels during his time of grief.
When Lionel returned to work after seven months he was still not psychologically ready to assume his regular duties. He received an email from Dean Sanderson asking him to meet him in the dean’s office immediately.
After about a ten minute wait, Dean Sanderson’s secretary, Marjorie Wilkes told Lionel that the dean was ready to see him in his office.
Lionel had been in the dean’s office several times during his time at the university. He always liked the powerful smell of leather that abounded in the dean’s office. This time was different though. He had fond memories of his former visits with Dean Edward Sanderson.. Lionel and Dean Sanderson were both in their mid fifties. Both men had put on weight over the years and would now be described as stout in appearance. During his visits with the dean in the past they would often reminisce about the times that they both were lecturers in the Biology Department at the university. Dean Sanderson had always been the more ambitious of the two friends. He became Department Head in his third year and had quickly climbed the academic ladder to administrative positions within the university.The dean had often congratulated Lionel on the many positive reviews of his teaching performance that he was getting from his students.
Today, however, the mood in the dean’s office was sombre. Dean Sanderson asked Lionel to take a seat in his office.
“How are you feeling, Lionel?” asked Dean Sanderson.
“A bit nervous to tell you the the truth, Edward. The email you sent me stated that this meeting was urgent,” said Lionel.
“I’m afraid that this will not be an easy meeting for either of us. Frankly, Lionel, I’ve heard some disturbing reports from your students since your return to the university. I’ve also made some observations myself that have me worried about you, “ said Dean Sanderson with compassion in his voice.
“What are you referring to, specifically? What have my students been saying about me?” asked Lionel.
“ A few of them have been telling me that you don’t seem to be yourself after your recent return to work. They say that you have been coming to class looking disheveled and tired. One of them said that you are now lecturing in a monotone voice and that you appeared to be in your own world. Another one said that you often show up to class ten minutes late and that you often lose your train of thought during your lectures. The most disturbing report I heard was that students have said that they’ve frequently smelled alcohol on your breath.”
“Did they say anything else?” asked Lionel.
“Yes, they did. Many of your students have told me that it takes forever for you to get their term papers and lab reports marked.”
“They’ve painted a very bleak picture of my job performance,” said Lionel shifting uneasily in his chair. He felt his face starting to redden.
“Yes, indeed they have. But there’s one important fact to keep in mind, Lionel. All these negative reports have occurred after your loss of Edith. I have also noticed a big change in you. You now appear to be slouching and you walk very slowly with your head down. You now rarely have coffee with the other faculty in the lounge.”
“Well, now that you’ve told me all this Edward, I’ll try to pull my socks up and do a better job,” said Lionel.
“Oh, I know that you will, but not until at least one year from now. Lionel, I’m granting you a sabbatical leave starting today. Don’t worry about money. The university will continue to send you pay cheques over the next year. You’ve been paying into the deferred salary leave plan for several years now and you certainly deserve a break from teaching. I have full confidence that in one year you will return to your duties as a new man. This university owes you, Lionel. In the past you have been one of the best teachers this university has ever had.”
Although Lionel had been very disheartened from hearing the negative reports from his students he knew that they were true. However, he had to admit that he felt relieved like a great burden had been lifted off his shoulders. Lionel knew that he was not in any shape to continue teaching at this season in his life.
“Thank you, Edward. You have been very kind to me. I must admit that I am far from over the death of my wife. She meant the world to me and we had such a wonderful life together. Lionel began to sob and then checked himself. Don’t worry about my performace. When I return to work next year I will not only be as good a teacher as I used to be. I will be better.”
“ I know you will, Lionel. Oh, by the way, we’ll need to think of a research project that you will be working on during your sabbatical. That’s the administrations rule but don’t worry about it. It’s just a formality. When you think of a project you might be interested in give me a call.”
“I will definitely do that and I”ll get back to you with my answer sometime next week.” After he left the dean’s office Lionel said good bye to the dean’s secretary, Marjorie. He decided that he would head over to the university’s pub to think about a research project.
Kyle, Brendon, Jasmine, Ian and Keisha were sitting at their usual table at the University of British Columbia’s pub. Brendon was reading a copy of the university’s paper.
“Man, these stories are lame. I’m bored out of my mind reading this rag,” said Brendon reaching for his glass of Bud Light.
“Yeah, it’s a waste of paper and a waste of our student union fees,” said Jasmine.
The problem is their reporters. They can’t seem to come up with any interesting articles for the paper,” added Keisha.
“Yeah, they could use a really sizzling story for their next issue,” said Ian.
“ They allow students to submit stories to the paper, don’t they?” asked Jasmine moving her chair closer to the table.
“Why don’t we submit a story?” asked Kyle leaning back on his chair.
“On what topic?” asked Brendon.
“ It would have to be a high interest story,” said Keisha brushing a strand of her auburn hair out of her eyes.
“Well, what is British Columbia the most famous for? “asked Kyle.
“Probably the Vancouver Canucks,” said Ian.
“No, probably the Rockies,” said Jasmine.
“You’re both wrong,” said Kyle. “It’s the lake monster in Lake Okanagon.”
“You mean Ogopogo?” asked Brendon.
“What else?” Kyle answered.
“You guys don’t really believe Ogopogo exists, do you?” asked Keisha taking a sip from her grasshopper cocktail.
“Well, lots of people claim to have seen it,” said Ian.
“Kyle’s got a great idea,” said Brendon. “All we’d need to do is go on the internet and do some research. There’s got to be plenty written about Ogopogo and maybe a photo or a video.”
“I believe there’s at least two documentaries on the lake monster of Lake Okanagon,” said Keisha.
“Yeah, we could go to the library and look up sites like Wikipedia, Discovery Channel, the History Channel and maybe Animal Planet,” said Ian.
“That’s not what I have in mind,” said Kyle. “What I’m thinking about is an actual monster hunt, a real expedition. Then we do our own documentary about our hunt for Ogopogo. That way we’ll not only get a fantastic article for the university paper, we’ll also make a documentary video that just might help pay down our student loans. Anyone interested?”
“Where would we get the money for an expedition? The equipment alone would probably cost thousands of dollars,” asked Brendon.
“We have plenty of options. For example, the university itself could help fund the project. And we could always look for money from private benefactors,” answered Kyle.
“Man, we will need a lot of funding,” said Ian. We’ll want professional divers, photographers, boats. We’d need to make a list of all the equipment and specialized personnel we’d need to pull this off,” said Ian excitedly.
“I think I’m hearing some interest here, guys,” said Kyle as a smile crossed his countenance.
“Let’s think about the university first,” said Keisha. Which department and which faculty would be interested in a project like this?”
“That’s a no brainer. Professor Phelge from the Biology Department,” answered Jasmine. He’s the faculty member the media contact every time there’s a reported sighting of Sasquatch or Ogopogo.”
“That’s right,” Ian said, nodding his head in agreement. “ Dr. Phelge is always telling his students how the subject of cryptozology interests him.”
“Yeah, but have you seen Professor Phelge lately. He’s in pretty rough shape, “said Brendon.
“He’s still pretty messed up about his wife’s death,” added Jasmine.
“A project like this might be just the thing to get the professor’s mind off his personal troubles,” said Kyle getting up to head for the men’s washroom.
On his way to the washroom Kyle spotted Dr. Phelge sitting at the bar drinking a Jack Daniels and Coke. As soon as Kyle had finished with the washroom he found a vacant bar stool next to Professor Phelge. The professor seemed preoccupied. He looked like a man deeply engrossed in some heavy contemplation.
“Hello, sir. I’m Kyle Jackson. I’m taking one of your biology classes this term.”
Dr. Phelge slowly turned around in his seat and broke out of his reverie.