The unlit treads barely accommodated the length of a foot, but mercifully they were at another creaking door that put them in a backyard. Aloysius was relieved to return to the chill out-of-doors, but his ecstatic companion had already maneuvered around leaf-strewn patio furniture to unlatch a gate. “Hurry!” she exclaimed.
A stretch limousine was parked at the curb—with its motor running. He was hustled into the back of it, and the driver, without prompting, peeled away.
With the pandemonium behind them, the bumbling groom pulled a few grains of rice from the cuff of his rental pants and endeavored to grasp their significance; his bride was preoccupied with her itinerary.
A silk-gloved knuckle rose to rap on the window. “Stop here!” she called to the driver. “Stop here! I’m hungry!
The limousine pulled into the parking lot of a convenience store, and the woman fell out to waddle to the door; Aloysius followed with something like awe. Once inside, she plucked a rose from a display case and thumped the nose of the pimply-faced store clerk. “And are you circumcised, my pet?” she purred.
The young man turned redder.
The bride snagged deer jerky from the counter and dropped it into the groom’s tuxedo coat pocket. “This is a little piece of Bambi’s Mother to munch on, Mr. Picasso, while you’re painting.” Two boxes of powdered donuts were grabbed off a shelf and handed to him; a copy of Playboy was tossed on top with another wry remark. “I hear the articles are good.”
By the time Aloysius produced his wallet at the register, his high-spirited companion had seized the magazine and returned to the limo. He rejoined the fellow party defector and found the Playboy’s centerfold spread audaciously over her lap.
She perused the glossy nude, disinterestedly. “Do you whack-off to pictures like this?”
He was gentler. “I only connect the moles and freckles.”
The photographer gasped, “This woman has no marks on her body whatsoever! They’ve all been removed with an airbrush!”
“Do you have a pen?”
The doubter poked around in a sleek, oblong purse to produce an uncapped pen.
Aloysius took it and, hunching over, scratched ‘Eat More Deer’ on the centerfold’s leg . “You see,” he explained, “those airbrush artists don’t remove the freckles. They move them around to create subliminal messages, just to boost meat sales among testosterone-charged males.”
Rolling up the magazine, she swatted him like a pesky fly she was letting off with a warning.
The limo resumed its odyssey without either much noticing. When the vehicle turned down a rural road, the groom squinted out the tinted window at a spiraling column of smoke. College revelers emerged along the gravel shoulders of the same byway. Each greeted the approaching headlights with rude gestures and beer cans. All, however, staggered in the wrong direction.
The woman was doleful. “Oh, no! We’ve missed it!”
They were directly to a cutaway, where a slope, at variance to the terrain, rose at the far end of a grassy expanse. Hewed in an eerie glow, the summit was imagined to have struggled under a skyscraping latticework of felled trees in the hour before, and then to be consumed in monumental fire. It was hard to gauge its distance, whether the mound sat on the horizon or, allowing for the curvature of the Earth, originated below it. The sky was insufficient to contain it, or even allow it to be properly understood.
The girl was slower out of the car this time, clutching Aloysius with a measure of regret. “There’s no one left!”
Scaling the versant, the pair found the remains of an effigy still crackling in the embers. The stargazer sought relief in Orion’s nebula overhead, which moved coolly against the heavens. Her eyes, also stinging from the dissipating smoke, followed his, and she observed, “They say pagans used to light bonfires during the short days of winter, hoping to tempt the Sun back to the sky. They say that’s where Christmas trees came from.”
The dark-haired oracle turned to limp back down the slope in her mismatched shoes.
He called after her. “I hope you’re not too disappointed?”
Without looking back, she almost sang. “Never!”
He caught up with her at the bottom of the hill, but instead of heading straight to the car, the bride took the groom’s hand in a bashful way and pulled him off the path. Approaching taller grass, she released his fingers and removed her glasses to her purse. “I have to pee,” she declared, handing him the bag. “Will you watch out for me?”
He thought to give her privacy, but her piercing blue-green eyes paralyzed him.
She walked backwards a few paces before reaching under her fluff of tulle to tug at a pair of champagne-colored panties. With pleated satin bundled in her arms, she conducted her business with straightforwardness and a Cheshire cat grin; the man was transfixed in the unblinking middle of it. On finishing, she was reluctant to break her spell over him. “I have some Kleenex in my purse, love.”
Aloysius was still angling for a breath, yet managed to scare up a tissue.
After pulling up the briefs under her garters, she took his hand with a gentle squeeze. Her lips grazed his beet-red ear. “One night I will bring you out here when there are a million stars to see.”
Aloysius struggled with converging but dissimilar strands of intoxication. His shadow—barely recognizable to him now—was irrevocably connected to the hem of her gleaming dress. She trembled close to the edge of something on the haunted landscape: something both melancholy and precious.
The stretch limousine was off again, heading toward town. The reposed man remained quiet until he was obligated to give directions to his house.
The bride beamed. “You live near me.”
The long car pulled up to the curb and the resident got out. He glanced back over his shoulder at the unopened boxes of donuts still in the floorboard, though the comedy of it had drained away. She was at his heels, though more like blood surging up through the veins in his calves. He rapidly approached the part of the evening for which he had no script. Exposition was his strong suit—his only suit. He fiddled for the keys in his pants, warbling. “The electricity is out, I’m afraid.”
A stiff rustle pushed past his murmur through the crack in the door, where the dark foyer beckoned; pulsing light caught on the stair rail.
The television was on.
Aloysius turned back to find no one behind him.
The limo had already driven away.
Chapter Seven/ Back/ Contents Page
Copyright © 2007 Michael Teague. All rights reserved.