They accepted each other and looked out for each other and cared for each other. The two of them were, first and foremost, mutual buddies; they were partying buddies, out to dinner buddies, go to the movies buddies, drinking buddies, and although there was affection and love between them, it was not a personal kind of love- it was not a physical kind of love- yet, they did, on occasion, have sex.
No, theirs was a greater love- a transcending love. The love that they shared was a mutual love of things- and cash- and, thus, in the midst of the “Great Recession,” they decided that the most brilliant way to keep “the flow” of new things- and money- going was to “get married.” Not in the traditional sense; well, yes, traditional in appearances; things like, the announcements, the registry, the shower, the wedding, the reception- but with all of it carefully calculated so as to rake in as many gifts and as much money as they could.
How did this come about? Well, it happened one evening as they were sitting in her newly bought house (it was her’s- and only her’s- because she wanted to make sure that she would keep it if anything went wrong with her relationship with anyone) at the kitchen table. They had place settings, glasses and utensils, but they were all of the mix-and-match variety. There were several blue-colored plates, three red-colored plates and a lone, chipped, lime-colored plate; a beer glass from this bar, some hand-me-down glasses from one of the parents; silverware that had seen better days- and forget about cloth napkins, they were strictly into individual sheets from the rolls of paper towels they bought at Costco’s. It was the girl that brought it up first.
“Aren’t you tired of the way we live?” she asked after having sucked off the blue cheese dressing from her tenth chicken wing.
He looked at her over the rim of his can of Labatt’s Blue Light and then brought the can down onto the table where he positioned it carefully on the paper towel so that it and the table was squared away with the position in which he was sitting.
“What do you mean?” he asked in a somewhat perplexed tone. “We’ve hardly been in the house for a year? I mean, what are you saying? Do you want to sell and move out?”
She laughed heartily at the absurdity of the thought of giving up her house.
“No, no,” she said as she stood up and went to the sink. There, she washed the hot sauce off of her fingers and dried them.
Next, she made her way across the ten feet of kitchen floor from the sink to the refrigerator where she paused just long enough to take out another can of beer, open it and return to the table.
“What I’m talking about,” she continued, “is we need to upgrade- get some new things. You know, plates, silverware, glasses, designer bath towels, a nice microwave- a sixty inch plasma television”-
“Whoa, whoa!” he exclaimed, cutting her off. “We don’t have money for that kind of stuff.”
She grinned and assuredly said, “I know,” before she sat down across from him with a knowing sort of smile that now crept across her face.
He scrutinized her body posture and considered the confidence with which she had answered him.
“So, then, you’re just talking crazy,” he tried to conclude.
“No,” she said shaking her head and her long blonde hair with extra- maybe even exaggerated- emphasis, “not crazy talk.”
He sighed, peered down into his beer can and finally asked, “How?”
She batted her eyes, widened her smile and announced, “We’re going to get married.”
“Get married?” he managed to utter, almost painfully. “We can’t afford that either.”
“We don’t have to afford it,” she informed him, “I have it all planned out. You want to hear?”
He glanced up and past her to the kitchen counter where she had been depositing her empty cans.
“Five,” he said to himself, “she’s probably not even close to being drunk.”
Now, with that assessment having been made, he looked back across the table at her and simply said, “Sure, run it by me.”
She took a quick sip of her beer, shook the can slightly- so as to judge whether there was enough in the can to get her through what she was going to say- and then began.
“You see, you’re right, we don’t have the money, but if we maximize who we are, what we do and the people that we know- we don’t have to spend a dime.”
She stopped there, took another sip and thought about what she just said, before adding, “well, just to be safe, let’s say that we can keep it to under a couple of hundred dollars- just in case.”
“Okay,” he said carefully, finished his beer and stood up. “You want another?” he asked.
“Why not?” she replied, finished her beer in one gulp and then handed the empty can up to him as he passed her on the way to the refrigerator where he took out two beers apiece, opened them and returned to the table.
“Here you go,” he said and handed her the beers, “now, tell me about it.”
She waited until he was, again, seated across from her, and settled.
“All right,” she said, “I’ve put a lot of thought into this whole thing.”
He nodded his head in recognition of her efforts. “No doubt,” he managed and then proceeded to chug half of his beer.
“Well, I’ve broken down our theoretical costs- and how to sidestep those costs- into just a couple of categories.”
She paused both to have some beer and to gauge his reaction. Sensing that he had none led her to ask, “Well?”
He shook his head in a deliberate and an undeniably uncertain way. “Well, what? You haven’t said anything yet.”
“Right, right,” she admitted, reluctantly, then took a long guzzle of beer in order to steel herself for her descent into her master plan.
“So, our first cost would be the location- the place to have it- for the shower.”
“That makes sense,” he said cautiously, “what are you thinking?’
“Your parents’ backyard in the suburbs- it’s nice, it’s big, it has plenty of shade.”
“My parents’ backyard?” he asked with raised eyebrows. “You think that they’d go along with that?”
“Of course they would.”
“Why?” he half-snickered.
“Why?” she repeated his question. “Because you’re their son- that’s why. And,” she added, “I’ll bet you that they’d be so happy for you- for us- that they’d foot the bill for the food and the alcohol.”
Knowing his own parents, he was inclined to agree.
“Probably so- go on,” he encouraged her.
“You know, people will want to get us- and bring- shower gifts,” she said, almost as an afterthought.
“Of course,” he concurred, admittedly, “then what?”
“We need to set up a registry, for the gifts- you know- like Ashley and Tom had, so that we can begin to get the kinds of gifts that we need- and want- but I’ll take care of that.”
He took a long sip of beer and then asked, “Next? What’s after that?”
“Well,” she said as she finished off her beer, set it aside and reached for the other, “then there’s the hall.”
“Yes,” he said with a nod, “a major cost- a big one. How do you-”
“I have it all figured out,” she interrupted, sensing the direction of his question. “You see, my mother’s cousin, Roberta, she’s the manager of that quaint little reception hall over in Bergenfield- you know which one I mean, right?”
“Yeah, sure, “ he said, “the one that looks kind of Victorian?’
She nodded. “That’s the one. Anyway, Roberta’s daughter- Catherine- just graduated from high school, and, well, she wants to go to college, but her grades were really bad for three out of her four years. She did okay her last year, but her overall average is pretty pathetic.”
He shook his head. “You lost me- what’s the connection?”
A broad smile swept over her face. “Well, you remember my friend, Barbara?” she asked.
“Sure,” he said, “the cute little brunette with the big hair.”
“Uh-huh,” she said confirming his recall, “well, her office is just down the hall from mine and it just so happens that she’s in charge of freshman admissions. And-”she trailed off, sat back and watched him.
It took him a few moments to realize that she was waiting, and that, in some ways, she had set him up, to conclude the thought process. Once he understood what was happening, he shifted back and forth in his seat, downed a substantial amount of beer and then leaned forward, in, toward her.
“Barbara’s going to admit her?” he asked with complete incredulity.
“Extenuating circumstances which places her in a ‘special needs’”-she signed with quotation marks- two fingers above her head- “’category-’” and for doing that for Catherine, we’ll get the hall for nothing. Which, pretty much, takes care of one of our biggest expenses.”
She watched him processing what she had just said and saw the opportunity to make a quick trip to the refrigerator.
“Want anything?” she called back to him. “Another beer, some chips with salsa?”
He shook his head and then waited for her to return to the table and sit down before he spoke.
“What about the food and the alcohol at the reception?” he asked once he saw that she was situated.
“That’s good, that’s good- now you’re beginning to see where I’m headed,” she said through a knowingly emphatic and exaggerated nodding of the head, “that’s why we’re going to get married three years from now.”
He grimaced in a backward jolting kind of way, so much so that it was almost as if he had received an electrical shock.
“Three years?” he finally asked once his face had returned to normal. “That’s a long time.”
“No,” she corrected him, “not a long time so much as it’s a necessary period of time in order to do this the right way.”
“The right way?” he echoed, looking off and shaking his head.
“So we don’t have to spend any money- or at least as little as possible- these things do take time- you know that, don’t you?”
He shrugged nonchalantly. “Yeah, sure- I know that,” he replied in an ‘of course I know’ tone that bordered on flippancy.
She waited for a few moments, almost as if to allow their original conversation time to ‘reset’ itself. Finally, she returned to the point that they were beginning to talk about.
“You see,” she said, “we need the three years because every time that we have a get-together or a party- and people ask ‘what should I bring?’- we’ll have each person bring either a bottle of wine or a bottle of liquor- depending on what we tell them. And, toward the end of the three years, we’ll start ‘mixing in’ the beer, so that by the time of the wedding, our alcohol costs will be nonexistent.”
Again, she fell silent so as to give him time to formulate- and then voice- the logical next question.
“What about the food?” he finally asked.
“We do it buffet-style,” she told him.
He took another long swig of beer- so much so as to drain the can- brought the can down from his mouth, examined it in an almost final kind of way and then crushed it.
“Yeah,” he agreed as he set the crushed can aside and picked up another full one, “but who’s going to cook it and what are they going to cook?”
“Got that figured out, too,” she said with an air of complete self-confidence. “We’re going to do the same thing with the ingredients that we need for the buffet just like the way we did it with the alcohol.”
He shook his head in almost disbelief. “What? Ask people to bring ‘buffet ingredients’ to our parties?”
“No, no,” she answered while simultaneously waiving his question off with her hands, “of course not. What I mean is that at some point prior to the wedding- maybe six months to a year, depending on what we need- once a week, we’ll buy one of the ingredients so that our food bill will hardly be any different.”
“Okay,” he agreed, “those are the dry-stuffs- what about the meat- or maybe I should say, the meats?”
“Good question,” she complemented him, “I’ve thought about that, too.”
His laugh managed to find its way out through his nose rather than his mouth. “I’m sure you have,” he said with a tone of unfaltering certainty.
She finished off the beer that she was drinking, picked up another one after which she took a chicken wing- one of the drumstick kind- rolled it around in the blue cheese dressing and ate it.
It was after she had licked her fingers clean, wiped her hands and returned to her beer, that she continued.
“Remember all the times that we’ve talked about how helpful it would be to have an extra little freezer that we could put in the basement?” she asked.
“Uh-huh, I do,” was the reply that she knew he would give.
“The other day- on my break- I went to the Home Depot and saw that they are selling them for under two-hundred dollars! So, I figured that if we go out to eat once every other week instead of once a week, in five or six weeks- ten at the very most- we could buy that little freezer for the meats!”
He nodded in sincere appreciation of the mental efforts she had put into her plan.
“Yeah, that’s pretty good- really doable- except for”-
“Except for,” she broke into his train of thought, knowing what last subject he was going to address, “except for who is going to prepare the buffet? Right?”
“Ye-ah,” he said, slowly.
“Robby,” she informed him, clearly and succinctly.
“Robby?” he asked. “Come, again?”
“Sure, Robby,” she continued, “you know, Robby, the guy that’s in your band? Didn’t you tell me that he went to some sort of culinary school before you hooked up with him?”
“He did, he did,” he replied, “but what makes you think that he’ll want to do it?”
She laughed a slight and knowing- and even telling- laugh. “Didn’t you also tell me that he had a ‘thing’ for your sister?” she asked.
“You’re not thinking”-
“I am,” she interjected.
“And, who’s supposed to”-
“You,” she countered.
“So, I’m supposed to convince Theresa that she should go out with him?”
“As well as,” she added, “tell Robby that the only way that you’re going to do it is if he cooks up the buffet for us.”
With that last variable spoken to and for, she leaned back in her chair, picked up her beer can and proceeded to drink.
He sat there sipping- and savoring- his beer and thinking about what she had said especially the arranging of Theresa and Robby going out, together.
“Robby’s kind of harmless,” he said to himself, “though it might take a little bit of effort to convince Theresa- but, yeah, sure, I’m sure that she’d do it for me- I mean it’s not like I’m asking her to sleep with him. Yeah, okay, why not?” he finally voiced his conclusion.
He brought the can down from his lips and nodded in complete agreement with her plan.
She smiled appreciatively, put down her can and leaned forward toward him.
“So,” she asked softly, “do you want to get married?”
He leaned in toward her to the same extent.
“I do,” he answered.
“Then let’s do it!”
Copyright © 2014 John Richmond
John Richmond has “wandered” parts of North America for a good portion of his life. These “wanderings” have taken him from a city on the Great Lakes to a small fishing village (population 400) and then on to a bigger city on the Great Lakes- Chicago- then, eventually, New York City.
Since then, John Richmond has made his way to a small upstate New York town and has sequestered himself in his office where he divides his time between writing and discussing the state of the world with his coonhound buddy- Roma.
Recently, he has appeared in the Stone Path Review, Meat for Tea: The Valley Review, Rogue Particles Magazine, From the Depths, Flash Frontier (N. Z.), The Birmingham Arts Journal, Riverbabble (2), The Writing Disorder, Lalitamba, Poetic Diversity, Marco Polo Arts Magazine, Embodied Effigies, ken*again, Black & White, SNReview, The Round, The Potomac, Syndic Literary Journal, Ygdrasil (Canada), Slow Trains, and Forge Journal.