Some lost daughters, like Joy Kil, age as if on a whiplash ride of a stopless carousel, at breakneck speed, empty of ponder, like miners with gold fever. Joy grew up and old, often salting old and new wounds, while retrieving the better parts of what she thought it meant to be alive in a time and place where it was no better bargain to be an orphan than a woman of ill-repute. Bolstered by free prairie air and lawless whimsy, Joy found those things that caused pain and bliss, suffering and rapture. Things of child-like and children, of gusty machismo and gritty bravado, and a shallow emptiness in the guise of laughter. She was, after all, only human. But more so than most.
Joy and men made for a corruptible combination, one that set tongues wagging and music echoing from saloon and shambles, alike, down muddy streets. Her sisterhood both encouraged and discouraged her tempestuous behavior, of which she would never define a no-crossing line or establish boundaries. Confronted by the trio of anger, drunkenness and lecherousness, fear and God would balance, precariously, upon Joy’s shoulders, for a time, and a time more. And then Joy would decide for herself. Afterwards, always, her last words, she would breathe toward the heavens, “Just give me an easy life and a peaceful death.”
Joy faded, early on, from year to year, like all memories in the dusty town of Kil, where everyone knew her or knew of her, until, finally, she lost herself and that vision of herself: moundful, curvaceous, milky-skinned, honey-brown eyes and a stream of dark locks that flashed beneath an autumn moon, like a shiny cape in the cold wind, just as time seemed to run into itself, just at a time when someone would, seemingly and suddenly, push rewind, and the ‘same’ would ‘same’ all over again, for which she grew to loathe. Again, looking disparagingly toward the creator, she shouted, “Just give me an easy life and a peaceful death!”
The day came when life, unexpectedly, offered the last of Joy a dream of ‘easy’, as she attached herself to a pious, faux-wealthy easterner heading west. He gathered her to his faded vest, near to his empty pockets, charming his way into her thoughts with tales of reward and redemption. The town had seen many such hucksters over the years, but none so convincing to a woman whose last thread curled and dangled above the abyss.
Sanctuary and deliverance. Words that served Joy well as mere words, as much so as if they had hidden behind them trueness and reality. Her soul now ignited, ‘belief’ and ‘faith’ became the new names of the left and right crutches recently known as ‘desperation’ and ‘surrender’.
From ‘the pits’ of the speck of earth where she was born and raised, she longed for the embrace of kin, as she departed with hopes of change and change only. For change’s sake rather than for the sake of her name and its contrariness.
“It’s a far piece,” the easterner informed her. “Are you in it for the long haul?”
“Yes, I am,” she answered, not thinking about tomorrow, just thinking about ‘gone’.