“I can’t do this day,” said the burly man to himself, breathing heavily and laboring to tighten his bow tie.
Josh reached in his pocket and pulled out the locket, and turned it in his calloused hands.
“I remember your smile.”
He stood in the parking lot of St Andrews Chapel 1895, shuffling his feet. Louise had been hidden from him all morning. Carmen Hoople warned “you know it’s bad luck to see the bride before the wedding,” and put her hand on his cheek. The bride’s mother, Melissa, didn’t have much to do here. Not with Carmen at the helm. Carmen took her matron-of-honor duties seriously, fully involved in the planning. She got the Chamber of Commerce to put out the word to as many people as possible, using as many local businesses as she could. Mrs. Sullivan’s heir-loom roses adorned the church and tables at the reception, in every color and size imaginable. For the wedding party old Jack the tailor furnished the attire. Old Jack became a prominent town elder after almost shutting down during the onslaught of the big box stores, and was now the go-to for any special occasion. And did find his Helga. They hired Pesto’s Kitchen for the food. Since Flora and Betsy bought a stake in Pesto’s, Pesto and Conchetta became local culinary sensations. And Flora got to be the Mrs. Dalloway she always knew she was, while Betsy’s sadness waned. Carmen also got her brother Ezra for the music, who convinced his shy friend Jacob to read his popular performance art poetry.
What a show.
See, since the case of the lesbian pass, Fairview’d been a regular feature on the national scene. The media had taken to using the town it seemed as an example of everything gone wrong with the American dream. They were here today with their vans and cameras and microphones and gawkers, including those gadflies from Homeless News. Homeless News now ran an ongoing gag on their morning show, a take on all the recent goings-on in Fairview, the former idyllic hamlet that had been touched so much by the changing, outside world. The show was just picked up in syndication and broadcasts on over 600 radio stations nationwide, during morning drive time. A recent poll put Homeless News at number one as “most trusted news source”.
It was the biggest day in Fairview since the illumination of the fountain.
St Andrews Chapel 1895 and its cemetery were recently named to the National Register of Historic Places, a collaboration between the University and town folk, namely Melissa and Carla Bronte from the university, Mr & Mrs Branson, James and Carmen Hoople, Ken and Betsy. Even Bitsy. They worked tirelessly together to see this through. But the fact the former farmland and forest surrounding St Andrews were now cookie-cutter houses and convenience stores, and traffic snarl ups had forever changed this formerly sparsely-traveled country road, made this setting, for many, bittersweet.
The guests parked in the gravel lot and began streaming up the steps into the church. Rosie and Grandpa stood with Josh, surrounded by a crowd four deep. They greeted and nodded and engaged in chit chat with the arrivals, who were dressed in their Sunday best. Some carried umbrellas in case a summer thunderstorm rained down on the way to the reception, in the bandshell at Gyspy Hill Park.
I stood off to the side alone. I wanted to be an impassioned observer, unassuming, apart from the rest of the gawkers. I hadn’t seen Josh since the accident, nor Rosie nor Grandpa. Josh was just a kid then sure, but it’d done nothing but eat me alive. Hey, I was pretty much a kid myself way back then.
I hope he found one who’ll stick.
John Taylor and his Mrs yukked it up with Josh and this lightened him considerably. John Taylor poked him in the ribs and went on about spraying Silly String all over the wedding guests and Josh warned him not to, but couldn’t stop laughing. Well he told him to at least wait til the reception. Josh had taken lately to calling him “jailbird”, and the media had a strange fascination with him, but John Taylor was the only best man Josh could ever have. And besides, that Charlie Mason did pull through, right? John Taylor served his time. He took his place beside Josh, and shooed his wife up the steps.
“Can you hold the locket John Taylor?” Josh asked.
Hilda and Harold made it, she back from Miami the reigning National Sudoku Champion, with all its trappings, smiling at the media, hoping for an interview. Harold seemed to accept it all with ease. Hey, if her going all high class with the clothes and make-up and cooking him that fancy food was his biggest problem, he was doing just fine.
Rosie’s brother Herbert made it. Since Gladys had gone away, he hadn’t been out of the house much. He clutched Rosie’s arm and she giggled in his ear. He looked on his nephew with confusion.
Rich and Catherine made it and were still in the parking lot, talking to that roamer that’d been hanging around. Rich was fascinated by him but Catherine was not impressed and burst out, “You should’ve stayed out in that Slab City! How long do you plan on going about it?”
“How long do you plan on telling me not to?”
Eddie and Laura made it. Since Eddie pulled through his complicated surgery, Laura hadn’t left his side. Homeless News reports nuptials may be in the future for these two, God or no God.
Marty and Eric, along with his mother and sisters and spouses and children, stood in the St Andrews cemetery in front of the gravestone. Marty sank on his knees in the dirt. “I’ll forgive you. I have to,” he cried, and then cried some more. His family stood around him and Eric crouched behind him, his hand resting casually on the small of his back.
Elliot made it. The thing he looked forward to the most today was finally getting to try Pesto’s cooking. His sister Flora’d done nothing but brag about it. He had a couple of hours and was determined to hold out. Besides, old Jack suited him up recently with new duds, altered to his specifications. He hadn’t completely given up the volume eating, but he hadn’t wanted to grow out of these new clothes either. When the festivities ended he could be found huddled late into the night with Flora and Pesto, at a table in front of empty plates that not five minutes before held Tira Mi Su, in the kitchen in the bandshell at Gypsy Hill Park.
The guests turned to a car skidding into the gravel driveway, music blaring. It was our own Rabbi Schoenfeld! He shut off the radio and jumped out of his car like on fire, straightening hisyarmulke, unaware of his own heebie-jeebies. See, he was playing over in his head and momentarily consumed by the interfaith service he was expected to perform. He didn’t want to inadvertently offend anyone.
Once the wedding party and guests were inside, the big green doors were pulled shut. The media dispersed. They’d gotten all they need for now- enough to run Fairview on their respective stations and in their publications ad nauseum, as they’d been doing so much lately.
My executive producer made it and spotted me, walking over to join me behind the tree where I’d been rooted. He handed me the contract, “I didn’t think you’d pull it off. You really created an everywhere here, am I right? And a nowhere. Where are we anyway? I still think you shoulda written in a fire or something. A scandal at least. Did you write one in? Nothing happens in Fairview.”
The limousine pulled up and Louise stepped out, aglow and triumphant. She looked long at St Andrews. All was quiet as we watched, still tucked behind the tree. She pulled her veil over her face and walked toward the steps and the big green doors, remembering how when she was little she could see mountain line from here, how it used to smell so fresh, and how the view was now broken by all the new buildings and new people with their new cars on these new roads in this new town.
To her Fairview would always be small, though the people she knew didn’t really know what to make of it.