Sunburnt Toes in the Wind

Sanders has a beautiful wife, skin of light coffee and the kind of fragile bones that diamonds shine brightly on, her eyes dark like a banshee. Even the wives and consorts sitting on the back of the yacht agree.  Of course, Sanders’ wife is a young thing.  To say anything catty about her would only reflect badly on them. Sanders’ teenage son is equally fair and delicate; the only sign of real blackness, tight curly hair.  He smiles as the aging sailors strum songs from their youth, sun gleaming on his metal braces. A sweet and beautiful boy, devoted to Sanders and loving towards his mom.

But Sanders’ young daughter is a wild thing, earthy and dark, the instigator of mischievous deeds.  And so when she meets Regan, the heart-faced girl from the yacht moored next door, Regan’s mother must be warned. “Mattie’s got to be in charge,” Sanders’ beautiful wife explains. “She’s got to be the boss!”

Regan’s mother smiles. “Then we’ve got a problem because so does Regan.”  The girls take two seconds to decide that they will be in love forever and run off down the dock together.

We are smothered in water-repellant sun block, trying to rip into piles of fresh steaming crabs with our slippery fingers, talking to people with names like Annabelle, people we’ll probably never see again because they’ve got money and we don’t. We learn the rules of a dock party. If you leave your seat for 60 seconds, it belongs to someone else.  Throw the shells into the bay because that’s where the poor creatures came from anyway. And most important, leave a path down the middle of the dock for other sailors who might not be a part of the wedding party.

From out of nowhere a scuba diver in full regalia appears.  Who needs a new propeller?  Two of the men step forth and take long stares at each other.  The diver has brought only one propeller however two of the yachts in the wedding party were damaged on their rough passage to the island. Annabelle’s husband has the biggest yacht and he called first.  Besides, everyone knows that Annabelle has to return to the mainland immediately after the wedding to care for her ailing son and so the group decides that the other man will have to wait for a new propeller to arrive or limp back to Bellingham with a broken propeller.  He begins to whine.  The buoy was in the wrong place; yes it was.  And it was the wrong color – shouldn’t it have been red?  I’m going to sell the goddamned boat, that’s what I’m going to do.  They all ignore him – that’s just the way he is. A real bastard sometimes, but he is the Best Man.  

There’s another problem. The diver wants to be paid in cash. No, he didn’t bring a credit card machine.  No, he doesn’t take checks.  That’s the way things are on Lopez Island – take it or leave it.  The men gather in search of paper money as the diver inspects his gear.  Finally enough paper is found, the diver is satisfied, and down he goes. We watch, beers in hand, as the man disappears beneath a layer of floating crab shells.  

Sanders stands on the back of the groom’s yacht talking to your sister.  He leaves when he sees you coming as though caught in a conspiracy.  Is there something wrong, you ask. Your sister shrugs the whole thing off and leaves to attend her guests.

Your mother appears from below deck where she’s been eavesdropping.

“Sanders was warning your sister about Sam’s kids,” Mother says. (Sam is the groom; your sister is the bride.) “They don’t want her to get any of his money.” 

“Charming,” you reply.

“But did you see the watch he gave her?”  

Earlier that day there’d been a jewelry review on the back of the boat.  The bride’s new ring – a multi-carat round empress cut surrounded by other minor sparklers – dwarfs her finger.  She is fragile – thinner than when you last saw her.  She’s also displaying a much larger set of sun-bronzed boobs, which the groom is not shy to point out. The watch reminds you of a gold and diamond encrusted handcuff, more suitable for the wrist of a wrestler than a petite woman.  If she fell overboard she’d drown beneath the crab shells.

That night there’s a party at the resort.  A local band plays surprisingly well and everyone dances and drinks and drinks and dances. Finally the Matron of Honor arrives.  She’s a married lady who’s come stag, ready to boogie the night away.  The groom, exhausted by the rough passage over, fades away early.  Your sister scarcely notices.

 It’s impossible to get to sleep that night.  Behind the resort is a campground full of pot smokers who get the munchies at two a.m. and, after discovering the restaurant is closed,  stagger from door to door begging food from the guests.   Maybe you should join them, you venture to your husband.  The thought intrigues him, briefly. Maybe thirty years ago.

The next morning there’s more partying on the yachts – crab quesadillas and whatever else can be scrounged from galleys and bars.  The Matron of Honor is missing.  She was supposed to bunk with good friends of the groom but she never showed up.  Your sister is worried; she can’t remember much of the night before.  They shut down the bar and then talked, wandering back towards the marina at  – what was it – three or four?  After several panicky minutes the mystery is solved when the missing woman is spotted on the deck of a yacht across the marina looking confused.  Hahaha!  Everyone laughs.  She’d crashed on a stranger’s yacht.    

The ceremony isn’t scheduled until sundown which gives you plenty of time for a walk.  It’s the first weekend in July.  California, where you live, is parched and thirsty  but the island is still in bloom and green.  The ground is so saturated that it’s spongy under foot.   Perhaps some sisterly advice is in order, you wonder, such as, don’t marry a man who has children your age who are out to get you.  A man who treats you like a Nubian princess he picked up on one of his crusades and bedecked with jewels in return for her commitment to stay forever young and sexy.  Your path leads through a grove of sycamores, tended proudly, you read, by the congregation of the church nearby. By the end of the walk you decide to hold your tongue.

Once back at the resort you realize you have failed in your sisterly duties and set out to find your sister. You find her busy and distracted in the green-tiled bathroom at the resort with the Matron of Honor.  You take pictures as the Matron throws worried looks your way.  Their all-night partying has gotten your sister in trouble with the groom. 

You give your sister the headdress you bought in Ashland.  It’s a ring of antique roses with long silver streamers, a little too “hippie” for the groom’s Republican friends, but it looks great with her light pink frock so she wears it anyway.  It’s from my sister, the artist, she’ll tell her new friends later.

After the ceremony, the wedding guests sit bloated and sun-stroked on the grounds of the resort.  The groom (your new brother-in-law) spies you and chastises you for sitting alone and not networking. 

“I’ll treat her better than her other husbands,” he crows, “I even made sure her name is on the yacht!”  You just smile, hidden behind your sunglasses until he goes away.  In the corner, in a dark circle, sit the grooms’ children and grandchildren.  There are no introductions.  After eating, they leave.  You overhear Annabelle telling Mattie’s mother the groom had to pay them to attend the wedding.  

You give Sanders’ daughter Regan and her new best bosom buddy Mattie the disposable cameras your sister brought for the guests and tell them to go take pictures of people.  You laugh as the little girls run up to the wedding guests, shoving cameras in their faces and ordering them to smile before somersaulting across the lawn taking pictures of the wind and their own sunburned toes.

“I have to pay for that?”  Your sister snarls, watching the wild girls.

“They’ll be the best pictures,” you tell her but she doesn’t believe you until her new husband, the man with the money, tells her the very same thing.

Copyright JT Twissel 2014

From Writing for the Absent Reader available on Amazon. 

Writing for the Absent Reader

2 thoughts on “Sunburnt Toes in the Wind

  1. Hi Jan,

    This seems much tighter than before. Reading it is like watching a beautiful ice sculpture melt or maybe a cake fall apart on a picnic quilt. Why do people do things they should not and why is everyone else so aware of the mistakes? Maybe we are better at critiquing others than ourselves. Yes, that must be it. Do as I say, not as I do might be the best thing ever to describe the human condition. But I suppose there are mistakes and then there are mistakes. Whatever happened to these people? Did any of them make it off the island? I guess in the end we all pay, it’s just a question of how much we care to feel the past. Thanks. Duke

    Liked by 1 person

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