Having been married for twenty years and knowing it’s not a daily cakewalk, I’m leery about attending weddings, particularly when those getting married have been married before, but I went because I felt like I should and I wanted to be supportive and positive. The drive was only about half an hour, but the first question my wife asked was: “Do you think we should have brought a gift?”
“Do you get gifts every time you get married?”
“I don’t know,” she said.
“Hell, as many times as he’s been married, he ought to have a warehouse full. I mean this is his fifth. Her third.” She shook her head while I laughed at my own sarcasm. I added, “Hey, maybe we should get them a gift certificate to e-harmony or to a divorce attorney.” She smirked. I figured given their track record, it seemed reasonable to assume they’d have yet another go at it.
When we pulled in, there were pastel signs planted in the ground, leading us to the old plantation house on Gator Pond, a pond covering over a thousand acres, chock-full of lily pads, turtles, moccasins, and alligators. Occasionally, one would get word of a high school senior taking a dare and swimming in there among the gators, but people had disappeared through the years, boats found empty and floating willy-nilly through the swamp being propelled by wind and currents. Fishermen usually avoided the banks because of stories of gators charging up banks to take unsuspecting prey, drag them in, roll them and store them in their underwater burrows.
Once parked, we walked through the grass, my wife’s heels sinking into the moist ground, and found our way to the groom’s side of folding chairs, where hand-held fans, same pastel colors, aided in gnat control. The metal arbor with plastic flowers was the alter, and once the minister and groom had arrived, they stood off-center, askew. The bride, astoundingly, wore a long white dress, and I wondered if it was a new one or one from the two previous weddings. For whatever reason, I thought white was reserved for the first wedding and that long dresses were reserved for evening ceremonies. He, on the other hand, looked like a pimp in a white linen suit, white pointed patent leather shoes, a straw fedora.
The minister droned on about the holiness of matrimony, and I wondered if he knew about the six marriages between them. He talked about marriage being for life, and I wondered if the logic was that each marriage was considered a different life. He talked about them becoming one and I wondered if that meant their checking accounts and assets, since my friend’s fourth seemed to have drained him better than the embalmer at the funeral home would. At least, it wasn’t permanent and he recovered.
When they read their vows, I rolled my eyes at the silliness and saw a gator at the edge of the pond, sunning. I imagined the gator racing toward them, snatching one of them, and dragging him or her to the pond, clawing dirt, being pulled under, rolled, and stored for a later supper in the burrow deep below the surface. I imagined people screaming for help, all the sounds echoing across the pond, and falling on deaf ears. By the time I whacked myself in the face with the fan, they were kissing, and a relative yelled, “Yeehaw, go for it cousin!” As they walked up the isle together, a loner stood up and broke into song, a tenor squeaking out a redneck love song, and I changed my mind. I wanted the gator to take him under.
The reception was nice, lots of hors d’ oeuvres, good cake, and plenty to drink, and I wished the couple well by toasting them and wondered how many of their relatives prayed this wedding took and would be the last. I left full and felt I’d done my part, and on the drive home, my wife asked, “What’d you think?”
“Waste of money. They should’ve gone to the courthouse.”
“I thought it was nice.”
“I just hope this lasts.”
Niles Reddick’s collection Road Kill Art and Other Oddities was a finalist for an Eppie award, his novel Lead Me Home was a national finalist for a ForeWord Award, a finalist in the Georgia Author of the Year award in the fiction category, and a nominee for an IPPY award. His work has appeared in anthologies Southern Voices in Every Direction and Unusual Circumstances and has been featured in many journals including “The Arkansas Review, a Journal of Delta Studies”, “Southern Reader”, “Like the Dew”, “The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature”, “The Pomanok Review”, “Corner Club Press”, “Slice of Life”, “Deep South Review”, “The Red Dirt Review”, “Faircloth Review”, “New Southerner”, and many others. He works for the University of Memphis at Lambuth in Jackson, Tennessee, where he lives with his wife Michelle, two children, Audrey and Nicholas. His new novel, Drifting too far from the Shore, is forthcoming in 2015.