“See,” she said, settling into the chair opposite Logan and raising palms still damp from washing. “Perfectly respectable. No one would know I . . .” she narrowed her eyes and smirked, “caught the biggest trout of the day.” She laughed at his groan and then glanced around the umbrella-studded deck and at the other patrons, glad she’d been able to freshen her makeup and pick the pine needles out of her hair.
The marina restaurant, a favorite with both locals and tourists, was casually upscale with men and women sporting trendy resort wear and sunglasses no doubt worth half a nurse’s biweekly paycheck. A jazz combo, bass thrumming deep, played at the edge of the deck its music blending with the patrons’ soft laughter, tinkling glassware and the crisp flutter of sails in the marina below. In the distance the majestic Sierra Mountains, many peaks still white with snow, seemed to rise from the glassy blue surface of the lake itself. Claire closed her eyes for a moment and let the sun warm her face. This was not her typical day, for sure. She opened her eyes as Logan spoke.
“So what would you be doing right now if you weren’t here, humbling me with your fishing prowess?”
Claire laughed. “Huge, important things. Like buying Smokey a catnip toy. The one that looks like Jiminy Cricket. That might get him to purr.” She frowned. “The poor cat had a raccoon scare.”Though I spent many summers at Lake Tahoe and ate at this particular restaurant countless times, it had been a dozen years since I'd last been there and I was eager to see if I'd captured the imagery on paper correctly. Overall I was pleased, except that I'd missed two key details: first, the tangy scent of the oil-based preservative on the wood decking of the lake's piers. That one struck me the moment I walked out onto Sunnside's marina-view deck, and (as scents often do) brought back a host of memories--swims in the icy water, lying on those fragrant, sun-warmed piers and slathering on Sea & Ski lotion. And the other (how could I have forgotten?) was the taste of Sunnyside's famous battered and crispy-fried zucchini sticks drenched in ranch dressing. Which, of course (for my readers) I had to try again--zucchini sticks, not the icy swim! My dedication doesn't go as far as hypothermia.
But, for me, that's what research is all about--getting the details right so I can put my readers into the scene, make them see it, touch it, smell it, hear it . . . even taste it. So that someone in, say, Indianapolis or Chicago--who may have never seen the Sierra Mountains--will be suddenly looking out at the blue of Tahoe, smelling pines (and the wood decking), feeling the brisk alpine breeze across sun-pink shoulders, and . . . tasting a fried zucchini stick.
Pass that ranch dressing, wouldya?