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My research explores multimodal creativity through print and digital stories. Please feel free to comment or contact me!

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Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Origins of a White Trash Bash (Short Story)

The words “cheap” and “wedding” don’t often stutter-step down the aisle together. The average wedding nowadays goes for somewhere in the ballpark of a down payment on a house – not a shack, not a one-bedroom tin-can, but a respectable two-story with a garage and plenty of schools close by.

“The budget of that wedding today was more in the ballpark of the down payment on a Ford Probe. I was so overdressed in my sundress and fancy wide-brimmed wedding hat, I felt like the Duchess of York at J-Lo’s backyard barbecue,” Leslie lamented, flopping on the bed in her dress that Sarah Ferguson would only have worn in her pre-royalty days, slumming it. Maybe.

“Your ‘wedding hat’?” Roy repeated, stripping off his dress shirt and tossing it blindly across the room. “I didn’t think there was any such thing.”

“Of course there’s not any such thing as a wedding hat.” She twirled the object in question on her finger, admiring its sleek grace, and feeling rather stuck up about how stylish it had made her look. “But that’s how I think of it. I mean, every movie wedding has the beautiful blonde women in their white straw hats, the brim just dipping in front of their perfectly made-up faces. And when they cry, it’s just these posh little tears that never run their mascara or turn their plastic noses red.”

Roy relieved himself of his pants and sent them floating into the opposite corner from where his shirt had landed. Roy was an equal opportunity laundry-spreader.

“Sweetheart, I hate to be the one to break it to you, but your nose turns red if you breathe. It turns red if the sun comes up. When you cry, it goes all kinds of mottled, splotchy and runny. It’s like a fire hydrant with the paint bubbling off.”

Leslie frisbeed her royal wedding hat at him, disappointed yet not surprised when it fell woefully short of smacking him on the nose. He smirked as it dropped pathetically to the ground a good five feet from any of his vulnerable body parts. In retaliation, he hit her square between the eyes with one of his dirty balled up socks.

Leslie gagged and scrambled away from the sock, peering sadly at her bare feet. Unless she went commando, she had no ammunition left.

Roy ducked into the bathroom. Great, now he controls the water, Leslie thought.

“Well,” he called out, “I liked her dress.”

“It was a nice dress, I’ll give you that. Though she could have gone without the lace, the beadwork, and the ten-foot train, and provided better food than barbecued wieners. She also would have been more appropriate for her own wedding, considering she was standing in a plastic gazebo next to a pond that had so much green dye it looked like my grandma’s St. Patty’s Day egg nog.”

“I like your grandma’s egg nog. She gets the good rum. Not like your mom.” He emerged from the bathroom, leaning against the doorframe. He was brushing his teeth, toothpaste sudsing up at the corners of his mouth, his thumb hooked in the waistband of his boxer shorts. He looked like a naked cowboy with rabies.

“Stand back, ladies – he’s all mine,” Leslie remarked, trying not to be turned on by such an image of unruly arrogance.

“’ord P’obe budget o’ no, I ta is nice,” Roy commented, paying no heed to the dental device hindering his speech, or the froth that sprayed from his mouth.

Much as dog owners come to understand the nuances of their less intelligent loved ones’ language, so had Leslie developed the ability to interpret Roy’s occasional lapses into cavespeak. “Sure, it was nice. Especially considering a nineteen-year-old put it together. Seriously, who gets married when they’re nineteen? Do you really think you were grown up enough and mature enough and enough of a whole person at nineteen to cuff yourself to another person for all of eternity? Would you base the rest of your life on a decision made by a hormone-overloaded teenager?”

Roy deigned to remove the toothbrush from his mouth. “I’m thirty, and I still base most of my daily decisions on how my hormones are feeling that day.”

“Believe me, I know.”

Roy returned to the sink to spit and rinse. He swiped a hand across his minty mouth and asked, “Come on. If they’re happy, who cares? Nobody’s tied to anybody for eternity anymore. If it doesn’t work out, they get a divorce.”

“Oh, nice. Lovely attitude.”

“I’m not saying I would do that.” Roy puffed his chest indignantly. “There’s a good reason I haven’t gotten married. I’m just saying it’s okay if that’s what happens.”

Leslie sat up, determined to undress and wash her face before she ran out of energy for such mundane tasks of life. “It’d better be okay. I give them a year at the outside.”

“That’s comforting.” Roy kindly helped her out of her dress, copping as many feels as he could. “I didn’t realize I was living with such a pessimist.”

“Yes, you did. My half-empty glass is always having to catch the fall-out from your obnoxious glass of optimism.”

Roy made a show of peeking down his shorts. “Yes, it is quite a package at that, isn’t it?”

“There you go with the optimism again.” Leslie patted him on the crotch, making wee little wooing noises on her way to the bathroom.

“It’s not a kitten,” Roy stated.

“Good thing, too. Imagine if it had claws.”

Leslie blinked at her end-of-the day image in the mirror (Note to self: Buy lower wattage bulbs for this bathroom.) She wondered at what point during this terminally long day her mascara had fallen off her lashes to coat the pebbly skin beneath her eyes, at what point her eye-shadow had migrated to a single crease in her eyelid, and at what point her hair had burst free of its bindings to fly like heroin-hyped monkeys around her skull. She washed off the damaging camouflage and poked her toothbrush around her mouth as quickly as she could. She wished she were Jane Jetson, so she could have one of those conveyor belts that did all these boring, routine daily maintenance chores for her. Shower, shave the pits, airbrush the face, polish the toofers, all while she snoozed or read a book. She couldn’t care less how much of her life was wasted sleeping, but she could never forgive the endless seconds lost in mandatory personal hygiene.

Finally, the torturous cleansing drudgery was over. She wriggled into a nightgown and collapsed onto the bed next to Roy.

Roy leaned in close to her ear, nosed it for a moment and whispered, “Sex.” Ah, sweet nothings.

She grinned. Who needed poetry? That pretense, those extended verses of cleverly concocted euphemisms employed solely to elicit a nice, satisfying belly-slapper. “How about in the morning? I’m kinda sleepy.”

“Nope. You’re never sleepy before two in the morning, and hey, look, it’s only half past ten.” He enthusiastically rubbed himself on her leg.

“Sit, Ubu, sit.” She pushed him back to his own territory. “I am tired. You know how ceremonies wear me out. All that talk about gods and faith and having to see pastors and crosses and Bibles and things.”

“Oh, of course. Forgive me. The mere mental resistance to any representation of doctrine just sucks the marrow from your bones.”

“That’s right. Don’t forget it. Now go to sleep.” She kissed him, letting it last just long enough for him to lift his head from the pillow and leave his tongue probing in midair when she plopped back down on her side of the bed.

Roy exhaled a sad puppy sigh. “Yas’m.”

Leslie curled onto her side, pushing her bottom out to warm it on Roy’s super-heater male body. Roy settled for what he could get and wrapped himself around her. He allowed her to pretend she was asleep. He feigned the grunts of early sleep, but never felt her body let go into unconsciousness.

His glass of optimism and thirty-year-old hormones urging him on, Roy lifted himself up to drop kisses on Leslie’s shoulder. Surely she couldn’t expect expose a shoulder and not want him to lather it with smooches.

And yet, she insisted on pretending to sleep. Roy rested his forehead on her shoulder, not caring a bit about transferring his own saliva from her skin to his face. He blinked moonfaced into the darkness of the bedroom and ventured, “Let’s get married.”

“Pardon?” Nothing sleepy about that tone of voice.

“You know, rings and blood tests and in-laws.” His voice warmed with excitement.

“That sounds appetizing. Where do I sign?” Her voice cooled with the opposite of excitement.

Roy sat up, clapping his hands to bring up the lights. “You know what I mean. I’m serious. Let’s get married.”

Leslie rolled onto her back to determine if, as she suspected, an almighty force had stolen into her bedroom and replaced her boyfriend with a clever, matrimonial substitute. “Um, why?” she asked.

Roy leaned back against the headboard, her reluctance prickling him. “That wasn’t exactly the response I was looking for.”

“Come on, Roy. You don’t want to get married. You just want the bachelor party.”

Roy shrugged in a half-hearted attempt to deny a desire for a male rite of passage. “Did you ever think maybe I wanted to get married? See you walk up the aisle, say ‘I do,’ go on a honeymoon?”

“No. You’re a guy. No guy wants to get married. That’s the girl’s job.”

“Well, we’ve already determined that I’m the woman in the relationship,” Roy said.

“You’re not going to start with the ‘Les, you don’t talk about your feelings enough’ crap again, are you?” Leslie put a lid on her instinct to roll her eyes. That would be hurtful – not to mention it would start him off on the whole “You never appreciate my needs” rant. “Here are my feelings on the matter of marriage: I am not religious, I am not pregnant, and we are not a lesbian couple in need of validation. I see no point in spending a large fortune to wear an ugly dress and feed 150 of my least favorite relatives in return for some truly heinous crockery.”

Roy left the bed to pace the room. His newfound passion for an antiquated institution fired his movements like pistons in a souped-up Pinto, and sent his peter flapping around like a confused sparrow. “It doesn’t have to be like that, like the overblown white trash bash we went to today. We can go to Vegas, throw a giant party. Babe, we could get married at the drive-thru.”

Leslie grinned. Now that was a wedding of a different color. “Now that’s my idea of a white trash bash. Could I wear a sexy red Jessica Rabbit dress?”

“With fishnet hose if you wanted, and those stripper shoes you’re always bugging me about.”

“Could we make our fathers dress as Elvis?”

“And our mothers like Heidi Fleiss.”

Leslie paused, the imaginary image of their overweight mothers in feather boas and sequined G-strings firing through the synapses of her brain. She mentally scheduled herself a second therapy session for that week.

“Maybe not,” Roy retracted.

Leslie tucked her legs under her, willing her body to remain calm and open to the discussion when all she wanted to do was throw a lamp at him and be done with it.

“May I please ask where all this is coming from?” she asked. “You’ve known since day one that I don’t care about getting married.”

“That’s right – ‘Why ruin a good thing?’” Roy had no problem rolling his eyes. “I really wish you had some role models who weren’t all shacked up with each other.”

“Hey, my dad and his second wife made it official and all that. And technically, I guess my mom and her boyfriend are common law married at this point. It’s not like I was raised in a whorehouse.” She did her best to resemble an indignant black woman. “Wait a minute, are you talkin’ ‘bout my mama?”

Roy showed no hint of amusement at her flailing joke. “I just think maybe you should try it before you condemn it.”

“I don’t have to jump off a cliff into a pit of boiling lava to know that it’s bad for my skin, Roy.”

“A pit of boiling lava? Is that what I am to you?”

Leslie’s reactions to this question streamed across her face like clowns cascading from a circus car: disbelief, frustration, exasperation, and finally obstinacy. She mulishly backed up against the headboard.

“No,” she replied, her voice carrying over the grinding of her teeth, “that is not what you are to me. I love you, you are my partner. I just don’t see what marriage has to do with it.”

“It has to do with it because I want it.” Roy crossed his arms and widened his stance, a superhero defying evil, standing up for all that is good and just and moral, his naked penis standing in as his sidekick in the search for truth and justice.

Leslie dragged her eyes upward to his face. “So you see Mark and Lucy get married today, and you think about how great that must be, coffee and toast in the morning, ‘Have a wonderful day, dear,’ ‘How was your day, dear,’ dinner, and coffee, and shower together, and make love and go to sleep. Ah, the married life. I never should have taken you to that wedding.”

“What’s wrong with all that?”

Leslie tamped her acerbic laughter down to a brief smile. “I hate to break it to you, but if that’s your definition of married, then, baby, we’ve been married quite some time.”

“It’s more than that.”

“Sure, it’s more. It’s joint bank accounts and tax breaks and whose parents do we spend holidays with.” Leslie allowed her eyes to roll upward, since he had already established the precedent. “What’s the big difference between that and what we already do?”

“You’re not getting it.”

“So tell me, Roy. Tell me what a twenty thousand dollar party is going to change about our relationship.” She waited expectantly for him to lay it all out, his deposition on love.

Roy let his arms drop. “It’s not the wedding, or the honeymoon, or the frigging tax break.” He paused – drumroll, please. “It’s the commitment.”

Of course. The C-word. What else? When all else fails, drag out that pony.

“Commitment,” Leslie repeated. “That’s just great. You’re absolutely right, honey. Why, you must live each day in fear that I’m not going to be here when you get home. How ever do you survive with the constant thought in the back of your mind that I can walk out at any moment?”

That made the arms cross again, this time less in defiance and more in defense. “Don’t get smart.”

“I really have to beg your forgiveness here, Roy. I just didn’t realize how much peace of mind a little piece of paper on file with the local Justice of the Peace would give you. Because that’s all it would be. A piece of paper. I have no religion – I think God and Heaven were made up by a bunch of folks too into themselves to think they’re not in some way immortal. So I’m not going to walk the straight and narrow from the hope for a gold-studded afterlife. And I’m not after the $327 in your bank account.”

Leslie let the final clown of emotion out of her face: Petulance.

Roy smiled with a touch of evil. “If it’s just a piece of paper, why not just do it?”

Leslie maintained her petulant frown clown. “It’s a lot of headache for a piece of paper.”

“I’m willing.”

“It’s boring.”

Was there perhaps one clown left, smeared on the vinyl seat in the back of the car?

Roy leapt onto the bed, pouncing on all fours. “I know what that is. You’re scared. You’re about to wet your britches, aren’t you?”

“No,” Leslie insisted.

“Oh, yes, you are. In fact, oops, what’s that?” He sniffed the air experimentally, then peeked down at her nightgown. “I detect the lovely aroma of urine. In fact, I do believe your nightie looks a tad damp.”

Leslie shoves him off. “Stop lying to yourself. I ain’t ascared of you.”

Roy lay back on the bed, a lazy father lion waiting for his bitch to bear fruit. “You are too scared of me. But not the Ghost of Roy Present. You’re scared of the Ghost of Roy Future.”

“This combination of Freud and Dickens is not endearing.”

“You think I’m going to strap you to the stove and knock you up – which is scary in itself because you’re absolutely convinced that any child you have will be exactly like you –” he shuddered in the horror of a Leslie Mini-Me “– and then I’m going to drive around town in a convertible and pick up hot fifteen-year-olds.”

That last clown, the poor little scared clown, peeled himself off the seat and poked his head out of the car. Leslie tried to cover him up. “Do you sit around and think up these scenarios? Is this what you do at work all day?”

“Well, jeez, you don’t think I actually sell real estate, do you? Come on.”

Roy scrambled around to kneel in front of her, his sidekick trembling with anticipation.

“Marry me, Leslie. I promise not to fertilize your eggs, or anyone else’s. I promise to continue to call you by your maiden name – yes, even in bed. I promise to never allow you to pick my clothes, and I swear I’ll never voluntarily eat anything you cook. Furthermore, I promise to throw the biggest, raunchiest, most un-weddinglike shindig the City of Sin has ever seen, and I will require everyone to dress like they take a paycheck from the Moulin Rouge. Somewhere in the middle of it, all you have to do is say, ‘Okay, Roy, I’ll love you till you have to go on Viagra, and I have no problem with collecting your Social Security checks after you kick the bucket.’”

Leslie snorted. “Did you just write my vows for me?”

“You can use that if you want.”

Leslie shook her head, hoping that the joking meant the scary part was all over. “Go to sleep, Romeo. Marriage is for squares.” She plunked her face down in the pillow.

Roy slithered over her, pressing his lips to her ear, and whispered, “We can have the reception at the ESPN Zone.”

Leslie grunted and shifted to her back, flipping Roy off of her. “Why didn’t you say that in the first place?”

“When negotiating a deal, you must always hold something back. Leverage.” He waggled his eyebrows.

Leslie scrunched her face. “Okay, why not. I mean, we can always get divorced.”

“That’s my girl.”

As he kissed her, she mentally made a note to up her therapy to three sessions a week.

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