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A Quarterly Journal
Jeffrey Woodward, Founder & General Editor
Volume 10, Number 1, March 2016

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Lucas Stensland
Tampa, Florida, USA


A Letter to My Aunt Concerning Jupiter

If I had to guess I would say you gave me Joey Pumpkin, my stuffed lion, in 1979 or ‘80. You got him from the St. Cloud State University bookstore. I was about four years old, I think. I named it Joey Pumpkin, in part, because I had just learned what a baby kangaroo was, and I loved Halloween. I pulled out his mane one night when I was unable to sleep. He would get holes in him, and I would use my mom's sewing scraps to stitch him up. I just always had him around. When I was little I would pretend to make movies, draw posters and act out the entire plot. I always made Joey the hero. He once did a terrific Sean Connery in a stuffed-animal production of The Untouchables. When I was scared I would put stuffed animals outside my door to guard me, a few under the bed, and then Joey would stay with me; he was the chief of security.

When I moved to California after college in 1999 my mom mailed him to me after a few years. I think they were getting the St. Cloud house ready for sale. She put a little tiny hole in the box because she was worried he wouldn't be able to breathe. Ever since retrieving him I always put him on top of my made bed. Kind of as a joke, but also because he's the only thing I really have from my childhood. I'm not typically very sentimental about things like that. Sometimes in the mornings when I leave, and Wendy is still in bed, I will put Joey next to her and jokingly say, "OK, I'm leaving. Joey, you're in charge," to let my wife know she ranks lower than a stuffed lion. Last week Wendy got annoyed with me over car insurance and tossed Joey across the room. I gasped! And then we laughed because of my absolute shock and terror.

domestic dispute
the cat interrupts us
to ask for a treat

Anyway, Wendy and I went to Jupiter, Florida, a few weekends back (Burt Reynolds lives there), and I brought Joey along as a humorous mea culpa of sorts, for Wendy’s throwing him. In Jupiter we visited some of Wendy’s friends and went to a music festival called Hope From Harrison. After we checked out of the hotel the next morning, we put our bags in the car—in the hotel's parking garage—and walked half a mile to this restaurant to meet some of Wendy's friends and their parents for lunch. Right before I ordered, Wendy turned to me and asked, "You packed Joey, didn't you?" I couldn't remember and said we could check afterward. But then I became panicked and told Wendy to order for me, and I ran the half mile back to the hotel.

It was hot and humid. I went to the parking garage, behind the hotel, and went through our bags in the trunk. Joey wasn't there. I went into the hotel, covered in Florida sweat, approached the concierge and said, "Um, my son thinks he left his stuffed toy in room 314. Can somebody check?" I'm thinking it's a good thing I left a tip for the maid. The lady at the front desk asked this large muscular man if he could check. He said he would and left. Standing in the hotel lobby, I kept thinking, "It's just a piece of fabric. It's not a real person. This is ridiculous." And then I thought, “Is this really where my story ends with Joey?” He survived so many moves, breakups, a divorce, etc. I became curious if I would actually be upset. And then I saw the large security guy walking toward me, holding Joey. He looked so outrageous being carried by this hulking man, who was walking toward me with a dead expression. I thought about standing in the kitchen when I was four, and you walking across the linoleum toward me, holding forth Joey. What a trajectory of sorts. Obviously it wasn't my son's, and the man could tell just by looking at it. It's 36 years old, worn down to almost nothing. He handed me Joey. I felt like hugging both of them. I thanked the man and turned away. I didn't have time to go back to the parking garage so I ran back to the restaurant, clutching my lion. I figured if I ran fast enough people couldn't see him clearly and would assume it was a child's toy. Anyway, Joey came to lunch in Jupiter.

winter rain
a child finds
its lost toy

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