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by Jed Fisher

Jill, a retired school psychologist, turned off the TV and said, “Jack, take me to some pretty place this Sunday.”

Jack was a retired veterinarian. He didn’t bother to ask about where they’d go. After twenty-eight years of marriage, he knew this conversation was one-way.

“Okay. We’ll take the Mustang. I need to drive it every so often so it don’t seize up.”

Jill said, “There’s a wedding we can go to. It will be so nice. That’s a good idea, don’t you think?”

He understood the key words. She was saying don’t think . They’d already married off their three daughters and two sons, but Jill loved weddings, so it was time to start going to other people’s weddings.

Jack said, “Great idea.”

She wrongly anticipated that he was about to ask for more details. “The wedding for Addison Madison and Birgit Scott. It’s over in Leon.”

Jack said, “After church?”

She turned the TV back on and spoke as she went to the kitchen. “We’ll go right after church. We’ll dress nice for the wedding.”

Jack went to his computer, looked up wedding announcements for Leon, Oklahoma, and got the address. Leon was about two hours from Lawton. It would be a nice drive. Not bad. And a chance to give the old Mustang a workout.

Jill’s voice came from the kitchen. “Wear your dark blue suit.”

Jack and Jill arrived at the Leon Baptist Church in time for the ceremony, but they had to park a street away. The car with the Just Married sign was a new Jaguar. It looked out of place in this decomposing town.

In front of the Jaguar was an ancient, dusty yellow Ford F-100. A flustered-looking lady backed out of the truck’s passenger door gripping a box of Kleenex. She turned as a pair of elderly ladies approached and was soundly hugged.

One of the old ladies said, “So you’re marrying off the last of your boys, eh, Carol Jane?”

The flustered lady waved the pink box. “Almost forgot my Kleenex.”

Huh, thought Jack. So the decrepit old Ford belongs to the groom’s parents.

The pews were full so Jack and Jill stood along the back wall. The groom stood up front, looking back. It was a Scots-Irish crowd, looking more Irish on the right and more Scottish on the left.

The groom looked familiar to Jack. He had to think for a minute before he remembered why. The month before, Jill wanted to visit the restaurant where Jack took her on their first date. The place, in Wichita Falls, Texas, had long since been converted into a bar, and then it had become a gay bar. Jack stopped ten feet from the entrance and held Jill’s hand firmly to prevent her from barging in.

A well-dressed young man approached Jack and asked if he were an officer. Jack replied that no, he was never an officer. Then the young man went into the bar. That young man was today’s groom.

Jack shrugged it off. It wasn’t his family. None of his business, really.

The organist began to play the wedding march and the bride emerged from the Sunday School room. She brushed past Jack on her way to the aisle, where she looped her arm through her father’s. She was magnificent. A second after she went by, Jack got his first whiff of fertile female pheromones in eight months.

He had been deprived of this stimulus since Jill went through menopause. Jack refused to allow reason to become slave to appetite, but the monkey part of his brain was thinking like a juvenile. Jack watched the bride as she and her father made their way down the aisle.

With the bride and groom in place, the preacher began to speak.

Jill gripped Jack’s arm. “Jack, do you still love me?”

The preacher droned on. Jack thought it would be rude to carry on a conversation with Jill during the ceremony.

Jill said, “Jack?”

The preacher was at the part where he said, “ . . . let them speak now or forever hold their peace.”

Jill wanted an answer. “Jack. Say something.”

Jack thought she meant he should say something about the unsuitability of the marriage. He took a step forward.

“He can’t marry her. He’s a homosexual.

The groom turned and faced the back of the church, arms akimbo, balled fists pushed into his waist, face thrust forward. He stamped his foot, stood hipshot, and scanned the pews.

Who said that?

Jack wanted allies in the crowd. He knew there had to be some doting mothers wishing their sons were getting married.

“Why the hell does he get to marry her? There are better men in this church today.”

The guests stood and turned to face the back of the church. Jack stood straight, stomach in, chest out, hands on his hips. This bought some time, but the crowd was getting hostile. The bride was still as a statue, embarrassed, waiting for this interruption to end.

Jack felt bad for her but he couldn’t back down now. Showing weakness meant defeat. Time to divide and conquer.

Jill slipped quietly out of the church.

Jack considered his options. Offend the Irish and they’ll beat you up but then drink with you and become your life-long friends. Offend the Scots and they’ll let you run just long enough so they can brag about how far away you were when they shot you. The Scots were on the Bride’s side of the church. Jack decided to make an appeal to the Scottish sense of thrift and moral decency.

“That groom. He must be in hock up to his eyeballs. His bride will be swinging from a stripper pole for the next five years to pay for his big, fancy car.”

Shocked, the preacher stepped backward into the candelabra. Flames shot up his sleeve and he tried to put out the fire with his Bible. The best man pushed the preacher to the floor and smothered the flames by lying on top of him.

The flames were already out when someone yelled, “Fire! Fire!

The guests moved from the pews to the aisle, Irish shoving Scots, fighting one another, yelling, challenging others who blocked their escape. The main doors of the church were flanked by ushers who were glaring at Jack and would surely stop him from leaving.

Jack ducked into the Sunday School room and locked the door behind him. Then he opened the window, pushed away the screen, and climbed out head-first. Jill had the Mustang waiting out front with the passenger door open. Jack scrambled in. Jill stomped the gas, and the tires squealed as she and Jack sped away.

They rode in silence for half an hour when Jill said, “Let’s stop for dinner.”

Jack, who’d been holding his breath metaphorically ever since they’d squealed away from the church, turned to look at her.

“How about the Beef and Brew?” he asked hopefully.

Jill considered this. “No,” she said. “Not on a Sunday. They’ll be too crowded with football fans watching the big screens. Let’s go to the Cracker Barrel in Duncan.”

“Okay.” Jack sat back in his seat, sighed happily, and enjoyed the passing scenery.


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