by Channie Greenberg
Sue regarded her empty mug, recalling, aloud, Leslie’s barefoot wedding. The women chortled. Their hee-hawing was so remarkable that their waitress returned to their table to see if there was a problem. There was none, just the collective, rowdy remembering of sore feet on a sunlit California beach.
Leslie had looked forward to building a shared lifetime with Noah. After three years of stop and go courtship, the ever-elusive man had presented her with a pearl-encrusted ring, which she quickly learned to slip off when washing dishes, scrubbing floors or performing other “hazardous” duties, and with the promise that he would safeguard her and their future babies. Swayed as usual by his gray-blue eyes, stubbly chin and somewhat innocent smile, Leslie had consented.
Her head filled with sugarplums, with taffeta and with her private knowledge of the monokini she meant to wear when she and Noah would be ensconced in the fenced garden of a Tiki hut. Having at last landed that man, Leslie had chosen to ignore that Roger was still enamored with Glenda.
So, the greater portion of the Nu Alpha Beta Lambda “N-A-B” gang gathered with the bride to sojourn at an expensive resort in Hawaii. Leslie had intended for her nuptials to be first-rate, to be the highlight of their sorority’s alumni newsletter and for pictures of her to shine in her parents’ hometown paper, both in the print and in the electronic versions. She had given little forethought to the possibility that beach shell-incurred foot lacerations, jellyfish stings, or sunburn severe enough to warrant hospital time, would plague the bottom-most portions of her happy crowd.
At Honolulu International Airport, Sue, Leslie, Stacey, Missy, Glenda, Priscilla, Anne, Wilma and Joan sneered at the jeans and t-shirts, sloppy hair and overhanging bellies of other American tourists while they inched closer to a group of trim, chain-smoking, blond-haired men, who were allegedly from Luxembourg. Missy had declared those fellows’ origin as being Esch-sur-Alzette given a travel sticker on one of the men’s suitcases.
Stacey, the coterie’s brainiac, protested that assumption, pointing out that transit decals refer to destinations. She was hushed when instructed by Priscilla to find a porter capable of loading their travel gear into their awaiting bus. Everyone listened to Priscilla, who, more than any other alumna of Nu Alpha Beta, was rich with connections. Priscilla’s stepfather’s former wife’s cousin had been a grip on the set of the movie Audacious Hedgehogs. No other young lady could claim similar fame.
In no time, a nicely tanned local was carelessly throwing the girls’ packages into the compartment under their chartered vehicle. He heaved day bags owned by Priscilla, trunks belonging to the ambitious Glenda, and the many shaped vessels possessed by Anne, Wilma, and Joan. He nearly accurately tossed the valises that belonged to Stacey, to Leslie, and to Sue, too. Stacey gave the attendant a small tip and a large, sleepy smile. She slipped him her cell phone number, as a bonus.
A short time later, at the beachside inn, Leslie mumbled gratitudes that Wilma had coaxed her into packing ballet flats. The three inch high, open-toed booties, which Leslie had worn on the plane, had already given her blisters and blisters were forbidden on her big day. That gal pal remained innocent to the fact that her sorority sisters’ prank would make any choice of footwear moot.
Regardless, Leslie’s arrival hours evaporated quickly. Interspersed with sucking down slices of passion fruit, guava, and mango and with slurping up far too many Piña Coladas, she hummed over and over the single Gabby Pahinui song she knew. The bride repeated that melody so often that the employee, who was tasked with delivering all of Leslie’s room service requests, took to wearing ear plugs.
A few floors beneath, the girls schemed with the house manager. For a measly six hundred dollars and the promise that he would be given turns to dance, at the reception, with each of the Northeast lovelies, he agreed to spread live charcoals beneath the ceremony’s carpeted runway. Later, those bits of combustible, sedimentary rock could be returned to the wedding feast’s barbecue pit. Also, that yob indicated that decent powder could be purchased behind the pool house.
That lout smiled as the girls left the reception desk; dopey tourists paid premium for sex, drugs and rock & roll in order to support claims that they had experienced “authentic” Hawaii. Few visitors, though, actually cared to learn the de facto ways of his people. No visitor wanted to really accept that Hawaiians battled high levels of poverty, significant attrition, especially among youth, to the mainland, and bankrupt government agencies. Locals rarely dined on wild boar or imported fruit. They did not live in seaside mansions; locals ate lots of salted fish and rice and lived in urban projects.
Elsewhere, on the premises, Noah was second-guessing his decision. He counted his cash again and again and surmised that he might have enough money for a single seat back to New York. It wasn’t that Leslie lacked beauty, charm, intelligence, or girlfriends with limited moral scruples. It was moreso that marriage was looking much more expensive than he had initially calculated, and he was feeling increasingly loath to forgo his weekly poker games or his daily horse racing investments.
Their future love nest, alone, had cost Noah a $100,000 deposit. Because the new couple would be moving to Pittsburgh, he had been able to purchase a large fixer-upper. Had they stayed in Gotham, however, he would have assumed no mortgage and would have been able to sublet whenever he fancied; his Internet-based job allowed him geographic flexibility, but not mind-boggling remuneration. In the end, Noah knew he would have to choose between laying a ring on Leslie’s finger or laying dollars on the ponies.
Noah exhaled loudly once more. Their new residence was too small for a wife more familiar with Bergdorf’s than with her dentist’s office and for a husband requiring at least two hours, per fortnight, in his sensory deprivation chamber. What’s more, that home would be entirely stifling once the spawn arrived. Noah wondered if he could bribe Leslie not to marry him if he offered to deposit large sums in her credit card accounts.
Roger clinked the ice in his glass to get Noah’s attention. So far, being his bud’s attendant necessitated him calling up the lodge’s restaurant to send up booze. He wondered if he’d be stuck with the cost of the room after Noah moved into the newlywed hut. Even Glenda was not worth that kind of money.
He shook his head. He had tried to pay attention to Leslie, especially after those calls from Glenda had bookmarked his indiscretion, but in the end, he broke off from their coupling. His former paramour’s unwitting trailing of toilet paper through all three rooms of his scrubbed apartment had decided him.
After espying the spilled flour and oil, the drips of melted chocolate, and the overflowing garbage, all of which had not gotten the notice of his cat and dog, Roger had determined that no amount of birthday cookies could compensate. Seeing the bathroom tissue in his living room had sealed his decision.
It was better that Leslie was marrying Noah. Roger could rekindle intimacy with that spunky chick after the frenzy of her wedding had passed and after he could find a suitable bed and breakfast; she was no longer welcomed in his domain. After all, Leslie was one of the few, among his ladies, who never insisted that he don prophylactics.
On the other side of the resort’s campus, the girls spied a playground. Its promise of frivolity tempted them more than did the greasy-haired, gangly, post pubescent who wanted to sell them powder and bottles of sake. Not pushing or shoving each other too much, Glenda and Priscilla became captains of the jungle gym. Wilma took charge of the slide. Joan and Anne commandeered the seesaw. Missy appointed herself queen of the swings. Sue spread herself out, on the basketball court, to catch a few asphalt-enhanced Pacific Ocean rays.
As for Stacey, she draped herself over the lone bench meant for parents and promptly fell asleep. It was her bright red sunburn, not the camaraderie of her sorority sisters, which woke her hours after the wedding processional was already underway.
Back at the hotel, Roger was plying Noah with sufficient Mai Tais for Noah to reveal that Leslie was “in a delicate situation” and that Noah, who had always insisted on using flexible sheathes, couldn’t understand how his bride had gotten that way. Roger was not flummoxed for long; Glenda and Priscilla, having tired on pipes and beams, knocked on their door seeking other sorts of antics.
Despite the magnificent oceanic sun set that was supposed to have been the backdrop for special photos, after an hour absent of her groom’s presence, Leslie, altered by both hormones and alcohol, pouting, sat down, on the middle of the processional carpet to cry. Immediately, she stood up screaming. Her alternating tears and yelps could not keep her guests from noticing that she again and again grabbed, through the miles of her gown’s fabric, her bottom.
Suddenly, Wilma, Anne, Joan and Missy “needed” to race each other to the water’s edge. Flinging their sandals without heed for the guests their shoes hit, the young women ran down the beach. Within minutes, Joan and Wilma had sliced open their feet on oyster shells, and Anne had been stung by the lone jellyfish floating near the shore.
Meanwhile, Sue helped Leslie to the lifeguard station for first aid. She brought the discarded footwear to the fire pit. Thereafter, she tapped Roger’s number into her cell phone. She had wanted to give Priscilla a little time; Priscilla had been responsible for Sue having been able to pass calculus.
By the time that the ambulances departed with Joan, Wilma and Anne on board, Roger and Noah joined the remnant of guests and the fuming justice of the peace. Glenda and Priscilla never made it to the ceremony, having taken a shuttle to the local casino, instead.
Noah’s eyes bugged when he saw his lady love. Her behind was so swathed in bandages and her face so constricted from crying that she resembled a dowager’s umbrella more than a princess. Later, in their bridal hut, she refused to have any part of “consummating the union.”
Years passed. For reasons neither of them could understand, Leslie and Noah stayed married and raised a family of six adorable children. Although Noah signed on with Gamblers Anonymous and Leslie had cut up most of her credit cards at Debtors No More, it was also true that Noah still siphoned ten per cent of each of his pay checks for his ponies and all of their offspring failed to resemble Noah.
As for Roger, he joined the minimum wage work force at an amusement park, where he specialized in cleaning fallen objects out of a duck pond located beneath the last dip of that entertainment venue’s gigacoaster. The items he found and pocketed included: a notepad computer full of equations, four tabs of hearts, some women’s lingerie, all size large, and an artificial ear.
Per the Nu Alpha Beta girls, Stacey refused to accept any jobs not involving an air-conditioned work environment, Sue became a mercenary for Albania, Joan, Wilma and Ann formed a taxidermy company specializing in deep-sea creatures, Missy took one bungee jump too many, and Glenda and Priscilla, respectively, married an assistant bank manager and a pharmacist.
In fact, it had been Glenda and Priscilla, who lived in the same Ohio town, who had organized the reunion. Their laughter transformed into flung tableware, though, when Leslie, having tired of passing around photos from her wedding, passed around pictures of her children.
Copyright © 2013 by Channie Greenberg