Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Chapter 17, Lost in the Fishtown Woods

Jimmy Kuipers walked alongside his pal Hitch from the Swinomish village. Joy Helen trailed behind in a dawn dream. “I wish to be known as a Float Shack Floozie. No, that’s trashy, not good enough . Queen of the Sand Spit….No, I am not a queen, not a princess, not the fairy godmother, nor handmaiden of the Lord. I may become a mermaid some day – that would suit me, tending the barnacles, wearing diaphanous gowns. My fair skin would become light green. My breasts would suckle sea otter pups. I would weave the kelp gardens. And my moon would raise the tide. Yes, the moon!”

Sunrise 5:30 a.m., July 21, 1982 The stars are gone, Joy observed. The sun is coming up. The New Moon is hidden up there somewhere. It keeps going around. It floats pale blue in the sky, and the Old Man in the Moon is taking a snooze now. Will the moon ever come down? Will it stop going around? That’s what Jimmy is wondering about. One of his dumb questions. Does he ever think about me? Yes, because I am the moon and the river, and he always thinks about me. The morning becomes electric…..I have funny feet. I look down at my toes and I see they point in different ways, curling up and down, growing longer on Thursdays, growing smaller on Fridays. I will stab the cattails with my pointiest toe. I’m trying to remember which foot is left and which foot is right. It doesn’t seem to matter. We are still here in the field. This is Dodge Valley. I see Jimmy and Hitch walking ahead. We are walking beside the ditch in Staffanson’s field. All the water in the ditch comes from clouds way up in the mountains. The water comes down like rain and goes into streams of icy cold water, flowing to the ocean. The waters pass through Dodge Valley, and then old man Staffanson straightened things out with a tractor and made this straight-long ditch full of frogs, and then he plowed right to the edge of the field, and we’re walking across the bare ground, soft with clods of moist soil, and our toes stab the earth each step, on our way to the Fishtown Woods. But we should be going the other way, this is not good. The Fishtown Woods -- something is a-foot. I have this intuition -- Jimmy and Hitch are clods -- they barge ahead blindly, they do not feel the earth, it is a bad day going through the woods.

“We should be going around,” Joy cried out to them, like she had a vote. “We don’t need to go through the woods.”

They gave no response -- Jimmy was stalwart in purpose and Hitch was indifferent.

Men have big dicks and no brains, Joy thought. I will bury them and weep over their graves someday…. But if we had children, Jimmy and I, if we could have babies, then we could live on a boat. People do that in Asia. They cook rice over charcoal fires, squatting on tightly woven grass mats on sampans floating in tropical seas and the children run around naked. Jimmy and I could go to Asia with our babies. Then he wouldn’t die. I think he’s going to die -- we need to stay out of the woods. The owls roost in there, wise wonderful owls, but some days, when you hear them fluttering across the field just at sunrise, when they come home to a perch after the night’s hunt – some days they can hurt you or even kill a man, though I don’t know why they would do that, but I still feel this danger – we should go the other way. Ghosts of old trees in these woods, cedar stumps six-feet across, trees two-thousand-years-old chopped down and murdered! They logged off these forest gods and a hundred-year curse came down on us children of pioneers. But the ferns make it lovely. Tall maples hold branches with moss and dripping dew falls on mushrooms. Mice scamper in the leaf mold on the ground. I like these woods, but not today. The rain doesn’t fall in the Fishtown Woods – it floats in diamonds. Squishy slugs are barefoot blessings, and spiders spin veils for my lovely sisters. But we are not safe.

“I think we’re not safe here,” Joy said, but Jimmy and Hitch did not turn aside.

It got warmer and the troop tired from a long night’s journey. They might rest under a cedar tree where the ground was dry and the needles were soft. “Oh poppies, poppies,” Joy sang. Jimmy and Hitch didn’t get the joke. “Well, men, looks like we can circle the wagons here,” Joy said. They didn’t get that joke either.

“I’m tired,” Jimmy said. “Let’s rest for a while.” Hitch lay down on his back and tipped his hat over his eyes. Jimmy had longer legs and a sinuous spine. You couldn’t exactly tell if he was standing, sitting or sleeping -- it all flowed together. “We might sleep a little,” he said and he laid down.

Joy flounced her skirt and looked over her shoulder, down to the skirt’s hem at mid-calf. This skirt is too long and it’s too short, she thought. And it’s blue and I don’t look good in blue and I shouldn’t be concerned about how I look because of some fucking man who might pay attention to me. I could have been …. I don’t know what I could have been, instead of lying under a cedar tree next to two drunken useless men. They’re sleeping now and they smell bad.

Joy watched them sleeping and quietly left the sheltering cedar. The path through the Fishtown Woods led in a valley between two small hills. She looked up the one hill, but there was no path, only tangled vine maples. She picked her way over and under small branches and reached the top quickly. She saw broken clam shells peaking through the damp earth. Somebody carried those clam shells up here, she thought, and somebody broke the shells and ate the clams and it was either people or crows. Either way, someone has been here before I got here -- another one of my brilliant observations about nature. Mountains rise from the earth and crumble slowly back into the sea. Fish swim up the river and die. Everybody knows that. So what do I know? I mean anything special.

She fingered her turquoise necklace, Indian joo-joo by way of the Navajos and how they said the first people came from a cave on the side of a hill that was on the back of giant turtle. It didn’t make sense, but it was better than the Bible when God breathed Adam and Eve alive from red clay in the garden of Eden. Or something like that.

I read the story of Ruth when I was a teenager. They didn’t make me read it. I just found it one day. I never believed the Bible, but I liked that story about Ruth, how she gathered her wild grains and tender roots in a basket but then she went away to be with the man she loved. Across the Jordan. Always a river to cross. Her man beckoned and Ruth followed -- she just went with him.

But I ain’t going with Jimmy and he hasn’t even asked. To hell with him. I could go with Zappa. No. They’re all losers. But Jimmy isn’t so bad. He means well. The thing I like about him best is he isn’t whining. I can’t stand a sorry dog. Jimmy doesn’t drain me, doesn’t come by crying. When it’s bad it’s bad and so fucking what. Then it gets better. And maybe you can figure it out and maybe you can’t. That’s the way Jimmy is and that’s why I like him.

She peaked out from the summit of the small hill, and there was Fishtown and the river at her feet.

She could see Keith Brown’s cabin below – Atclew was there tying up his barge.

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