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With his second cup of morning black cooling in his hand, Doyle studied his wife. He didn't simply look at her, he studied her with an intensity that would have startled her had she noticed. Busy at the sink filled with the remains of their quiet breakfast, she had almost forgotten he was there. After twenty three years of marriage both husband and wife were quite comfortable with their seperate routines.
Doyle knew that Vivian was considering divorce. She had even consulted a lawyer six months ago, although nothing ever came of it. He hadn't really worried himself with it up until now. People grew apart, it was a fact of life. Marriage, as he saw it, was a failing institution these days. Nothing was permanent, except maybe death and taxes.
It had been the quiet that got him to thinking. Their only child, Cassandra had only recently left home for college, and the almost total lack of meaningful sound in the house was beginning to get to him. And then he heard a tinkling drift through the open window over the sink, much like a supper bell used on an Amish farm. Its sound wafted over the running water, and suddenly, fierce determination swept through him. No. Doyle knew he couldn't mope through another soundless, soulless day. Quickly, he set down his mug with a sharp bang. Vivian! he exclaimed.
She jumped and glared over her shoulder. What?
Doyle crossed the kitchen as she shut off the water and grabbed her hand. It was wet, and slithered in his grasp. Let's go.
Go where? Caught unaware, Vivian barely had time to protest before Doyle led her out the back door. Doylemy hands, my shirt's wet!
That's okay. I think it's an informal affair, he answered, plastering a grin onto his face that began to feel more natural as they rounded the back corner of the house and jogged up the driveway. The bells were more insistent outside, and on the sidewalks of Tulip Lane, children and adults alike were moving, all headed toward a common destination.
What is going on? Vivian asked, as they reached the edge of the driveway and stepped into sun-dappled shade. The sharp toot of a small horn sounded, and they stepped back in time to avoid being run over by Billy Hudson and his banana seat bike. He grinned toothily as he sped by. Vivian exhaled, wiped her damp hands on her jeans, and said, Doyle, answer me!
A young couple walked by, flanking a little girl with blonde ringlets. She was carrying a plastic-wrapped birdseed bell. The child reminded Doyle of Cassandra, and although the memory brought a pang of lonely hurt, he found a broad smile. Nice day for a wedding, isn't it? he asked the father.
It sure is, the young man returned, taking a peek through the leaves at the blue spring sky above.
Who's getting married? Vivian asked, bewildered.
There've been flyers up for weeks, Viv, Doyle answered, and looked into her faded green eyes. Didn't you see them?
She stuck her tongue between two of her molarsan old habit. I've been distracted.
He nodded, and dared to take her hand again. Well, they've been up for awhile. So
would you care to accompany me?
She rolled her eyes, but allowed him to lead her onto the sidewalk, where they joined the end of the loose throng making its way to #24 Tulip Lane. The first-floor windows and front door of the old blue Colonial were roped with intertwined daisies, baby's breath and green raffia, but it was a short yellow dandelion that Doyle plucked from the lawn and gave to Vivian, who eyed it mistrustfully before twirling it in her fingers.
A flower for milady? she asked, as they followed the crowd down the drive.
Sure, Doyle shrugged.
What's wrong with you today, Doyle? Vivian whispered.
I don't know. The smell of spring in the air, I guess, he said, but he was beginning to feel unsure. Maybe dragging her from the house had been a bad idea, for she still wasn't warming up to him, but then they were in the backyard, and the clanging brass bell overwhelmed all his thoughts.
The Whittaker property was a sprawling acre-and-a-half. It was bracketed by a tall white picket fence, but it hadn't been built so prying eyes would be thwarted. To the contrary, Jasper and Matilda, the elderly owners, were very friendly and much adored, and they welcomed anyone in for a cup of tea, a tour of their vegetable patch, or to play with their chickens. As Doyle and Vivian entered the backyard, studded with rows of folding chairs and fronted by a short apple-green platform, Vivian stopped short, gaping at the canvas sign erected above the dais.
Oh, my Lord, she breathed. Teri and Yaki.
Yep, Doyle answered, and led her over to the back row of chairs. Thankfully, Mr. Whittaker stopped clanging the bell and disappeared into the house as the crowd settled in. It seemed as if the entire neighborhood had come to the festivities, as all one hundred chairs were filled. A long table was erected in front of the vegetable patch, and many bags and containers of seed were stacked upon it.
Billy Hudson parked himself next to Doyle, and began combing down his windswept hair with his fingers.
First wedding? Doyle muttered.
No, Billy answered. I was ringbearer at my cousin's wedding. He scowled. I accidentally swallowed it.
How'd you do that?
Billy gave him a bothered glance. I was sucking on it.
The conversation was interrupted as the crowd broke into applause. As Jasper and Matilda carried the bride and groom out of the house toward the platform, the noise swelled to include cheerful hoots and hollers. Following the elderly couple was the minister from the local church.
Vivian was clapping slowly, her palms barely meeting, but Doyle applauded vigorously, determined to enjoy himself. He laughed when Matilda and Jasper stepped onto the dais and turned around, presenting the betrothed couple to the crowd. Teri had a miniature veil tied around her head, and Yaki wore a bow tie and jaunty, tiny top hat.
Friends, thank you for coming, Jasper said, when all sounds had died away. He gave his wife a nervous smile, which she returned with silent encouragement, and went on: Welcome to the nuptials of Teri and Yaki.
More applause, and Doyle saw the little blonde girl sitting on her father's lap. Unaware he was doing so, he smiled. Matilda said, her voice raspy but carrying nonetheless: We did want to say that it may seem strange, having such a big to-do for Teri and Yaki, but it's gratifying to know that ya'll don't care; that ya'll understand how much these two mean to us. She paused, stroking Teri's back. Teri shifted in her arms and clucked once, contented despite her unaccustomed clothing. Jasper and I have discovered that friends become more important as you get older. It's probably funny to a lot of outsiders that a rooster and a hen could be our best friends, but if you saw the way they run to us whenever we come outside, or the way they trot around like little doggies, or nuzzle our legs
well, you'd know that we couldn't ask for better companions. Through thick and thin, they love us, no matter what. So
Tears crept into her voice, and she looked at her husband of forty-five years.
Well said. Jasper turned to the crowd. Well, after five years, I think it's time to make Teri and Yaki an honest hen and rooster. What do you think?
After a resounding, Yes! from the crowd, and more laughter, the ceremony began.
As the minister read from her book of poetry, Doyle turned to see Vivian staring at him, her eyes wide and wondering. He raised his eyebrows, silently questioning her, and she shook her head and turned her gaze toward her lap. She was still twirling the dandelion. Doyle returned his attention to the ceremony, and thought about her confused look; a look that suggested she was seeing him for the first time, although they'd shared the same bed for twenty-three years.
The ceremony was short, sweet with poems and reminiscences, and when it was over, everyone stood and clapped for the newlyweds. A reception line formed by the gifts table, and after a few minutes, it was Doyle and Vivian's turn. Matilda beamed at them.
I'm so glad you two came! she exclaimed, and leaned over to buss Vivian's cheek.
It was a beautiful ceremony, Vivian said, politely.
Doyle reached out and stroked Yaki's soft black feathers. The rooster's head bobbed rapidly, and Doyle smiled.
Congratulations, he said, and Jasper laughed.
He says, 'thanks'.
There's people food in the kitchen and living room, Matilda said, before turning to a couple in matching madras shorts. Doyle was going to grab something to eat, but he saw Vivian drifting away, and he sighed and followed her.
Silently they walked, the chattering sounds of the party muting, but she abruptly stopped at the end of the drive and turned to him. I know why you did this, she told him, and he took in the new silver in her hair, the fine crinkles around her eyes. Finally, he shrugged.
I guess it didn't work.
Vivian chewed her lip for a moment, but her gaze still held his. It doesn't happen overnight. Not after all this time. Especially not since I've been
She didn't have to say divorce for him to get her meaning, but instead of thinking of futility, he wondered if he'd been wrong before: that marriage was a failing institution. Maybe it was just one that needed constant work, care, and revision.
I had a good time, Doyle, she said, her forehead crinkling, and a wondrous smile spread over her face. It's been so long
I don't know how to handle it.
Calliope music drifted into their ears, and they both turned to see an ice cream truck trundling toward them. Inspiration struck, and Doyle grabbed Vivian's hand and earnestly said, Six months.
Vivian blinked, and he elaborated, Six months of a new life: just me and you. Making good times again. If it doesn't work, then we'll have to face that. But if it does
the rest of our lives could be great. Fun.
She studied him, and allowed another, albeit grudging, smile to resurface. Don't say we should get chickens.
No. But maybe we could get some ice cream, he suggested. And then
we can go to the park
Vivian grinned, and for a second, she was the Vivian of old. Okay, she finally said.
"S is for SUSAN who perished of fits
T is for TITUS who flew into bits..."--The Gashlycrumb Tinies, by Edward Gorey