Joy Helen Sykafoos Goes to a Wedding
By Fred Owens
Nearly Normal Jimmy and Hitch were walking into town to buy some beer at the Frog Hospital and this was turning into a very long journey. The time is July, 1982.
Jimmy and Hitch made off from talking with Robert Sund under the Rainbow Bridge. They went around the corner, past the boat launch, past Tom and Esther Clark’s house, going down Sherman Street past the warehouse, walking in the street under the shade of moss-covered maples that grew on the steep north slope of Pioneer Park. There was no traffic except Joy Helen Sykafoos when she pulled up in her VW van. She must have come back from a long trip, being glad to see Jimmy and Hitch and saying hi.
She was coming back to her float shack on the Sand Spit landing and she was glad to be home again and rid of the road dirt.
Joy admitted that she was from Oklahoma, from the town of Ardmore. “It wasn’t much, growing up there,” she said, “nothing but red dirt. I hope I never go back.”
“Well,” Hitch smiled, “you can take the Okie out of the mistletoe but you can’t dress … I forget how that goes.”
“I’m part Indian,” Joy said.
“Which part?” Hitch asked “Everybody in Oklahoma is part something. The red dirt got on the tires of your car – look you can see it.”
The VW van had red dirt stains, and big blue letters running down the side saying “Mexico Me Encanta.”
“Why do you have Spanish?” Jimmy asked.
“I was going to Mexico. I wanted to look the part,” Joy said. “But I didn’t go. I ended up back in Ardmore again – that’s a long story.”
Jimmy was looking at his feet. He was bashful. Joy was good-looking in a way – pretty, but she could have been softer. She had black hair with loose curls, fine skin but not pale, a figure not petite or too big either, it only depended on how she felt that day. And she had a red tattoo of a heart on her forearm. “I got the tattoo when I was back in Ardmore. The heart is for love,” she said. “Someday my prince will come -- only I don’t really believe that. I married Ralph eight years ago and he drained all the love energy out of me, but I guess I’ve been driving all day and no one to talk to. What are you fellas up to?”
“Not much,” one of them said.
“I got back just in time for the wedding. Are you going?” she said in a happy way. “They’re getting married in Pioneer Park in the pavilion. Alan and Karen are getting hitched. Paul Hansen is saying the vows. You can come.”
Jimmy and Hitch worked that one over. Free food and beer were definitely a plus. Alan and Karen lived tucked back in the willows just off Sullivan Slough. You couldn’t find their place unless you knew where it was. Jimmy sometimes paddled over there in his canoe to visit. He knew about the wedding. He knew the wide open nature of the invitation, but he hung back – maybe it was happiness of a wedding.
Hitch felt the same way, he said, ”I’ll just go home,” nodding his head toward the Swinomish reservation across the channel.
But Joy said to get in and they drove around to the park entrance and came into the picnic shelter for the festivities with balloons and children running around.
Karen was the prettiest, tallest red-headed woman in the Skagit Valley, she had red-golden curls and Irish skin. Alan was a redhead too. Marriage was a blessing. Paul Hansen came to officiate. He had a poet’s voice, loud and ranging, he could go from a deep baritone to a high-pitched whine. He wore cordovan shoes and a wool herringbone suit jacket, the only river rat who ever wore a tie, so he said the vows. Hansen was half Tao and half I Ching and he had penetrating eyes. Someone brought deviled eggs, plus entire picnic tables covered with pies, and a huge salmon barbecue, and a jug band playing banjo. Alan and Karen wore white flowing clothes and they danced round and round.
Joy felt wonderful. She began tapping her feet. Jimmy and Hitch could have drunk and ate all day but they hung back like they didn’t belong. Joy looked at Jimmy like he’ll never come and dance with me in a hundred years. But I’ll go over and kick his ass, she thought, “Why are you ashamed, Jimmy? You got shoes, don’t you? You got feet, you can move. Do you hear the music? What’s wrong with you, Jimmy Dee Fish Face?”
“She’s right, you gotta face like a fish, maybe a dog salmon with a hook nose,” Hitch said.
Jimmy mumbled and shrank down. He was a bum and his artist spirit inside was like a beaten boy. He made careful drawings of snow geese and herons, but no one ever saw them. He wanted to make mosaics or carve stone into the forms of heroic Greek women. He studied the shapes and colors of Swinomish totem art -- the strong shapes and primary colors of the bear and the eagle carved in cedar, but he was a bum who lived near a trash pile, and Joy was making him feel small for trying to make him feel big.
She put her arms on her hips and saw right through him. Okay, she said to herself, I don’t do saucy, but I’m going to do saucy right now. She made a smile and gave a toss of her hair and a slide to the side of her hips. Now Jimmy was really scared, but Hitch was not.
“Joy Jolly Go Lightly, do you love me?” Hitch said with a big grin. Jimmy punched him. Joy was disappointed, she put the sauce back in the pot and gave the two of them a long, sad, tender glance and walked to her VW van and drove back out to the Sand Spit.
“I guess we ought to go,” Jimmy said.
“She likes you,” Hitch said.
“No she doesn’t,” Jimmy said. “Let’s go.”
They headed down the hill and got to Fourth Street and saw Charlie Berg working on a car in his front yard.
Meanwhile Joy Helen Sykafoos pulled her VW van up alongside Harriet’s cabin and wanted to have a talk with her.
(to be continued)
Photo. The remains of Harriet’s cabin. The remains of Harriet's cabin on the Sand Spit. I never knew what her name was actually. This little cabin was perched on pilings on the edge of the breakwater, across from the entrance to Shelter Bay. There was an old woman who lived there -- she was friendly, but she never seemed to talk with anybody. And she always had her underwear neatly pinned on the clothes line outside.
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