Now How Best

Another asshole wants to be one of the in-laws. Maybe I should get stuck on a layover and miss that.

The flight attendants nudge passengers to turn off electronic devices. This doesn’t alarm me. I winged my way to the farm, but I’ve come back a few times. My heart doubles as my phone so I budge not, eying exed-out cigarettes as if this vessel’s not donned in the ‘and-tens.

Summer back my littlest sister vowed up, ate the white cake. This time the middle child, a sunflower, Trish, plays bride. The dudes on their one-knees share a surname, a Mom and Dad, season tix for the Cardinals. I’ve heard them riff Boondock Saints quotes uninterrupted during a commercial break. Waited, the two of them, in line overnight for iPhones Sixes.

My inflight worry: My only buddy still in St. Louis wrote me last month. He saw the groom-to-be and another guy acting fishy at a Starbucks. Touching thighs. Wiping each other’s cheek smudges. Strong vibe Chad plays for the other team. Whittles wood. Gap chinos. Gay saunas. I read this and weighed it against previously possessed knowledge, firsthand info that Chad has a high school rap sheet of iron fist homophobia. They say that’s a sure sign. They say.

I leave the airport and hail a taxi. The cabbie, a butch man tatted upside the head, does as he’s told. Drives me to the hotel. The city is green. Tornado-like.

Now’s a good time to say: Oh, yeah, haven’t really talked to the fam since the last wedding. The one where I went, “Hey everyone, I am full on commie these days. Live on a plot of mud with fifteen just like me. Bluegrass and no wifi. Orgies, all that shit. Peyote galore. Fermenting grain-water in antique bathtubs.” Cut off. Couple crew-cut cousins booted me, and I don’t keep in touch.

Now’s also a good time to say: high school was driving me crazy and black eyes and the dawn of Facebook. High school was: “Where’s Mom and Dad? Oh, in Tahoe on business.” Me, hauling loads of laundry. Breakfast for the girls. Grocery cart full of Tampax Pearl and grape juice. Now ask me why, after I raised my pack, the both of them collapse into the arms of Chad and Reggie every night. Chad who unleashed an angry wrath. Chad who peed on my gym clothes.

My hotel is charming in-that it’s florally wallpapered. I sleep and brew coffee from the paper packet early the next morning. I toss the grounds into a small trashcan.

The wedding party consists solely of mean idiots. The groomsmen are over there getting their pictures taken, unlit Cubans clenched between fingers. They are all white for the record. I live now with Dominicans, three women from Pakistan, a Christ-worshiping Chin family refuging, two black dudes. I don’t care brown, peach, or neon green. Society is weird.

At the reception, I’m drunk right away. No lie. Dad’s pulled me into the john, talking crazy about how Mom’s a mani/pedi away from getting a pillow sandwich in her sleep. Divorce knock-knock-knocking. I guess the loom is real. Like how we in my crew can feel storms impending from the soybean field. Like how, in life, people love and people hate one another deeply. Me, I’m seeing one of the Pakistanis from the farm, and I stopped shaving my chest hair since she mentioned it off-hand. I get it, Dad.

Trish is a beautiful bride. I blow her a kiss across the room, and she sticks it in her pretend pocket. I cheers myself, and one of the in-laws sees. Eye roll.

I linger left of the dance floor. Hear some peeps about the groom. Retrospect. A guy at a table rumbles that he, Chad, and a female exchange student crashed spooned ass-to-crotch on a pull-out once in college; the tiny audience loses it. Today Chad went blue on the tux, and I catch myself wondering if I’m reading too much into every little thing.

First dance: Bublé. I’m yakking with the caterer. “I’m one of you,” I’m saying. “I want to kill all the guests with a crossbow,” the caterer says. I’m like, “Exactly!”

I catch Mom near the cash bar. One-armed hug. Ouch.

Her to me: “Come home.”

Me to her: “I am where I am. At least it’s not married to Chad.”

Mom’s head shakes.

When I was fourteen she chaperoned the trip to Meramec Cavern. The way there, me and Mom shared a seat on the bus, playing Golf, the card game. After check-in, we, males and females, split up for lights-out. I woke up with three letters Sharpied on my face cheek: F-A-G.

“We fuck without protection at the commune,” I say to my mother, who’s swirling a vodka-tonic in a cup with a coffee straw. Pride isn’t the feeling I feel, but close.

Trish joins us. Trish is happy. Says so. She’s handed two drinks from the body behind the bar and gifts me one. I see Chad addressing a family huddle in my peripheral. His gestures are loud and outrageous. My brain says, “He has a certain femininity,” but I don’t know what that means exactly, and I’m trying to put my finger on it when Trish asks toward the crops.

“Harvest season’s oncoming.” I go, “I’m seeing a Pakastani with a sexual weakness for pectoral fuzz.”

Trish swigs and tells me she loves me. Her feelings are sheep I feed.

Chad approaches, champagne flute pinched uncomfortably. “Christian music isn’t just for Christians,” he says, one palm gesturing up toward the tunes. I pick up the number from the speakers: an old chart-topper from the car radio days.

“This isn’t cross-over,” I say.

“Doesn’t say so in the liners, but in interviews, it’s there.” His limb is around his bride’s waist, my sister whose heart he possesses.

“Not usually on the wedding playlist.”

He says, “We paid top dollar for a DJ worth a damn. Songs she plays hit the nail on the head.”

“That was our thinking,” says Trish.

Chad is sorry I’m not giving a speech tonight. Ha-ha-ha and a hearty back slap. Trish pats him like to warn. Nearby, a child is beat-boxing. Stepping across my body, leaning, Mom touches cheeks with her son-in-law and makes the smooch sound. Banter ensues.

I’m back, for a moment, in the pasture. O, my sweated brow. The spoils of my labor. My group’s shared sacrifice.

Snapping fingers in my face. “Well? What crazy way do y’all cook corn on the cob on the hippie ranch?” is Chad’s question to me, “On a skewer over fire-pit or boiled in a hooch bath?”

My sister looks at me. Mom, too. They’re laughing. I deputy tongue, raise my tumbler goodbye. We prepare food family-style, roast bushels in a mighty oven, but I don’t share this.

Folks at my reject table lack gifts of both gab and grace. Tomato sauce on ties types. Half of them haven’t even touched their napkins, small folded triangles. I’ve a long, oily stalk of asparagus pronged by fork, and I’m biting it, biting it, biting it.

I’m imagining all the possibilities in the world: taking a key to the just-married-mobile, making love to that caterer, my parents splitting up, Chad cradling Trish over the threshold. I chomp the green from my tines.

After dinner, the best man toasts to posterity. I don’t know what the Maid of Honor said, but she’s heading back to her seat, and I’m snagging the mic from her. The crowd, one huge unhinged jaw. I picture the groomsmen circled in the parking lot slicing tips off cigars. I am thinking I hate Chad. Wondering: Now how best to disperse this party? Peacefully or no? Either way. I will re-clamber the equine upon which I appeared.

Trish, when she was in middle school, wanted to do gymnastics. I remember I held her legs while she did handstands in the yard.

Some nights, on the farm, we all get together and sing. Others, we hit the hay early. I bathe, each morning, in the creek—naked just as I was born.  

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