The Ferry to Friday Harbor

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Joel sat there, rocking back and forth. His right eye twitched a little. He whimpered. He inserted a finger into his nose. His short, black hair was a disaster, as if he hadn’t showered in a few days. Whenever he accidentally tapped his left foot, he tapped his right shortly after, on the same surface, to make things even. He had black NIKE shoes, grey sweatpants, and a plain white shirt, that was covered in debris.

Joel sat at a table for four, by himself. The bar was empty, it was late at night. Joel laughed at himself for a second, because he thought he had lost Alex. He looked left to right at all the bar stools, but surely enough, Alex was standing there next to another girl, in his tuxedo and moccasins. If you saw Joel and Alex together, you could easily tell that they weren’t the most fashionable people. Alex had both elbows leaned against the bar, and was faced in Joel’s direction. He had a cigarette in his left hand, a beer in the other.

“Twenty minutes until the ferry comes.” Joel said aloud in his inside voice. He giggled, smiled, and told himself the information again, looking at the clock. “Twenty minutes ‘til the ferry.” Joel stomped his feet, laughing.

Alex pointed at the guy alone at the table. “See that guy? That’s my right-hand man. That’s my best buddy, Joel. I met him when he was lying on a sidewalk in Everett, just a couple hours south from here.”
The girl’s mouth was open with shock. “He was just laying there?”

“Yeah, in the rain. He was crying, or so it seemed. He was shirtless. His shirt was lying there right next to him. At first, I didn’t see him. There was a crowd around him, and nobody did a thing. I pushed my way through that crowd, took off my jacket, and put it on him. I yelled at the crowd for not doing anything.”

The girl grabbed Alex’s leg. “You’re such a good person for doing that.”

“Yeah. So that night, three years ago today, I took him into a restaurant and bought him some food. He told me he had lost his Mommy. I told him I would help him find her, but he didn’t know the way to where he lived. So, we’ve been together ever since. To celebrate the three years of us being best friends, I decided to take him up here to Anacortes, because he’s never been on a boat before.” Alex told her.
The girl, with her short black dress, said, “I can’t believe you did that…” She pulled her dress down a bit to cover herself, because it was riding up. “You’re an amazing man. But, what exactly is wrong with him?”

Alex in his fancy tux, said, “There’s nothing wrong with Joel in my book. But a doctor would probably tell you that the easiest way to put it is that he is just slow. There’s probably some big word for it.”

“The ferry comes at…” Joel stopped to think. “Uh... Alex, when’s the ferry coming?” Alex yelled back, “9:00 buddy!” Joel sat there and thought. “Okay, okay… It’s 8:45 now… ALEX, WE HAVE FIFTEEN MINUTES!” He got out of his seat and jumped up and down.

Alex smiled at Joel and spun back around to the girl. “I didn’t catch your name, babe.” Alex put his hand on the girl’s bare leg, squeezed, and rubbed up and down. The girl closed her eyes, and then said, “It’s not important.” She grabbed Alex’s hand, stood up, and led him to the men’s bathroom.

“Alex, where are you going?! We only have… fourteen minutes!” Joel said in a worried tone. Alex yelled across the bar, “Buddy, I’ll be back in ten minutes. Just stay there!”

“But… fourteen minutes!”
“Joel, the walk only takes two minutes! Just stay there!”
“Alex...”

Joel whimpered and whined again. He sat there, rocking back and forth, biting his bottom lip. He thought to himself, “The ferry is here in 11 minutes, Alex. We have to go, we gotta go...”

While Alex was doing god-knows-what in the bathroom with that sk*nk, Joel was left there, alone and helpless. Every single day, the person that needs the most attention isn’t given any. Some people commit suicide. Some people make imaginary friends. Joel didn’t have the mental ability to do either.

“Seven minutes until the ferry, Alex. Now, six minutes. Come on, Alex. Come on, come on, come on…” Alex wasn’t even close to finished with the girl in the bathroom stall. They didn’t even bother taking off any clothes. Alex sat back and let the girl do all the work. Meanwhile, Joel was tapping with his left foot. Shortly after, he taps his right foot on the same surface, to make things even.

Joel could hear the ferry’s horn go off, and a waiter came up to Joel. “Uh… Sir? You’ve sitting there for a while. Would you like a drink or something? A soda?” Joel pushed his way past the waiter, and in the doorway, yelled, “Alex, I’m leaving! See you on the boat, okay?” He didn’t wait for Alex’s answer, and walked out the door.

Joel made his way out of the building, out of the parking lot, and onto the sidewalk. The boat began boarding. Everybody stared at the way Joel walked. He threw his arms way out in front of him, taking big steps with his right foot, and smaller steps with his left foot.

Joel entered the building for the ferry. He reached into his pocket, and grabbed a ten dollar bill. He gave it to the man before the counter, grabbed his ticket, and left without getting his other five dollars back. He walked up into the ferry, where a man took his ticket. He stood on the balcony of the ferry, and looked out into the dark, cold night for Alex.

Alex came out of the bathroom with the girl. “Okay Joel, let’s go…” Alex looked out of the window and saw the ferry. He screamed, “S***!” and ran out of the bar, without getting the girl’s number. She was left behind, angry. Alex sprinted all the way down the steep hill. Each step hurt more and more, as the slope made him stomp as he was running.

As Alex was about thirty seconds away from the bottom of the hill, the intercom said, “This is the last chance to get onto the ferry to Friday Harbor. The boat will arrive back here in a little over an hour. Thank you for your time and business.”

Joel still stood there, waiting. He was like a dog that had been left behind all day, in pure silence. He was like that dog because he stood there, alert, as if the dog could hear the garage door opening, with his master coming inside. He knew Alex was close, but he stayed where he was.

Alex was running into the building when the ferry’s horn went off, meaning it was leaving. Alex bought his ticket running in place, trying to get going. He ran up the platform to go onto the ferry, and a man was waiting there to take his ticket. But as soon as Alex was about to run onto the ferry, it and Joel had already been about twenty yards away from him, riding away.

“Alex, ALEX!” Joel was screaming, but the horn was going off, and overtook his voice. He was crying. Alex tried screaming back, “STAY ON THE BOAT!” But Joel couldn’t hear him.

*****************
When the ferry came back, Joel was nowhere to be found. Alex ran up and down the ferry, he even had the staff go onto the intercom to tell Joel to come down to the front. Alex panicked. He rode the ferry to Friday Harbor, sitting with his hands on the back of his head, and in his head in between his legs.

As always, the pedestrians got off of the ferry first, then the cars. Friday Harbor was so lit up that Alex looked into the distance to find his Joel. No luck. Thunder struck, and it began to rain. It didn’t stop him; Alex would not sleep until he found his one and only friend.

Alex was soaked when he was still looking at around at midnight. He went around the outskirts of Friday Harbor, and in the distance, a man was shirtless, lying on the ground. He wore grey sweatpants, NIKE shoes, and the shirt next to him was covered in debris, washed away by the rain.

Alex ran to Joel, taking off his coat. He covered up his body, and hugged him as tight as possible. Joel hugged back. They sat there in the rain, reunited.

“You remembered, Joel.”
“Duh, Alex, I’m smarter than you think.”
Alex laughed at this.
“Tomorrow, we search harder for your Mom. I don’t know how much longer I can handle you.”
Joel laughed at this.
They both stood up, and made their way to their hotel for the night.





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