It is two days after Thanksgiving. Old Tacoma, my Tacoma, is draped loosely in a low-hanging mist. My boyfriend, Kevin, and I – determined to work off at least a few calories of unfettered holiday indulgence – have embarked on a semi-brisk walk toward Ruston Way.
Initially believing his coat unnecessary, Kevin realized it would get colder the closer we ventured to the water and wisely donned his fleece, sending I Told You So home to veg.
We Washingtonians may defiantly sport our capris in October and a few even march sockless into November, but by the time Thanksgiving rolls around, we are forced to wave our waterproof white flags. “Cheated again!” we huff indignantly and, with a heave our trusty sweaters and boots, are rotated back into our lives.
Although Washington summers don’t tend to vary much, we seem to collectively believe that California’s summer will somehow get lost this year and wander north, knocking on the foothills of the Cascades.
“Come in,” we’ll murmur soothingly, welcoming this poor little lamb with open arms; a legion of Calypsos enchanting Odysseus from across the loom.
Alas, the sultry California summer rain checked again, and our teeth chatter as we head down North 11th Street. Kevin, a Rentonite, oohs and aahs over the richly historic houses we encounter while I smile proudly, feeling as if I lovingly built them myself. I’m convinced that these houses are magical, sprouted from a fairy tale; how else can you explain when they slightly change hue, grow a new turret or switch places entirely?
As the hill begins to gently slope downward, my extended front yard comes into view, or as some may call it, the Puget Sound. Right at The Spar, past Old Town Bicycle, over the tracks: destination reached!
Kevin, a fisherman since he could clench his little hands into fists, spots the dock next to the Silver Cloud Inn and strides out to see what “they’re” catching. As part of the Fisherman’s Code, perfect strangers can talk to each other like best friends. It’s weird, but there’s something about it I kind of envy.
The pair we encounter on the dock seems fishier than usual, however.
“Tryin’ for crab,” the man tells Kevin, a yellow rope at his feet uncurling into the depths. As we round the end of the dock an unexpected sight awaits. Two violet and orange suns of the sea are splayed across the cold cement, their many legs fanned helplessly around them.
“Did you catch these?” Kevin asks dubiously, pointing to the starfish. The man and woman shrug silently at their poor luck, turning their attention back to their pots.
“They won’t leave them,” I say uncertainly as we navigate away from this suspicious pair.
“They better not,” Kevin replies.
As we continue our mini odyssey along the waterfront, I point out Fireboat No. 1, a staple of Tacoma’s waterfront since 1929, and we dutifully walk the length of the big dock at the halfway point. The fate of the stranded sea gods lingers, however, and soon we find ourselves back at the Silver Cloud.
The dock is vacant, fishy-men gone, and I try to convince myself that no one would just leave the displaced marine beings to die. Except that someone would, because there they are – 40 spiny legs but no way to travel two feet on their own.
Kneeling, we search for signs of life, and although one is leaking blood surely too red and too bright for a sea creature, we discover they are both still moving.
“Save them!” pulses through us and we simultaneously spring into action. I pull the lid off of the closest empty garbage can, and Kevin swiftly yanks out the bag. Using it as a glove, he carefully coaxes the uninjured star off the rough pavement and gently lowers her into the sea.
Her twin sister slides off with less resistance, and as she floats out of sight, I silently cheer them on. Live to fight another day, beautiful sunstars, earthly daughters of Helios, keepers of my extended front yard.
No wonder our summers are so fleeting. A message to the fishy-men: Respect our suns.Melissa Frink is one of five reader columnists whose work appears on these pages. She lives in North Tacoma with her feline daughter, Moxie Moo Frink. She has no human children at this time. Email her at email@example.com.