My Psychic Southern Wedding
To begin with, I think it would be quite hard for anyone who never drank with Phil or the rest of my family, including yours truly, to understand.
About six months before my adventure, I had gone to see a psychic who told me that in a former life I had been a soldier in the Confederate army and was wounded in that conflict but did not die from it. He also mentioned that he saw me traveling down south as he said he saw the signs; Pennsylvania , Virginia , and North & South Carolina, going by over my head.
He may as well have said I would be going to the moon soon, as I had never been down south in my entire life, and had no plans on going.
My mom, Jill, had been married to my step dad, Phil, for about twenty years and during that time; I had grown to know his daughter and son, Lindy and Paul, mostly through pictures and conversations over the phone. I would joke with Phil about his daughter Lindy as she was quite pretty, but much too young for me to really consider having a relationship, but it was all in fun, and Phil was a good sport. The years went by and finally I got to meet his son Paul, as he helped his dad and my mom move out of New York City , and closer to the hills of upstate New York for their retirement, and closer to me and my two sisters.
It was a few years later, and many a wild-party night after that, when Phil's daughter Lindy had grown up and decided to get married. We had all been pretty heavy drinkers, but it was starting to affect Mom and Phil's health; they had been trying to quit drinking for about six months and Phil hadn't had a drink in two months. Mom decided not to attend the wedding, also, because of a run in with Lindy's mom (Phil's ex) a few years earlier and apparently wanted to avoid any type of confrontation and the possibility of ruining Lindy's special day.
I assume Mom was more than a little bit worried about Phil heading down south to a Wedding and the ensuing RECEPTION, as she began to coax me to go with Phil, as she said, to help him with the driving, etcetera. And by etcetera I mean, to help keep Phil from falling off the wagon, keep him on the straight and narrow and what a better (or should I say irresistible) function to jump off the wagon but a wedding!
Mom threw in a few extras and I finally agreed to take on the task. But as soon as I said yes, I was filled with a kind of trepidation (or should I say fear) that I might have bitten off more than I could chew.
Also, part of the reasoning of Mother concerned the new van, which Phil had a problem maneuvering. And as it turned out, more importantly, the van didn't have air conditioning.
Nothing I can say begins to describe that ride with accuracy. Heat, miles of red dust, glaring sun, empty ice cooler. Finally we arrived, but first, Phil wanted to go visit his brother in the next town, a little over five miles from Paul's place. But in that van, one mile seemed like a hundred, and moreover, the hours were in an oven, with yesterday quite fresh in both our minds. By about the third mile I looked over at Phil, sweat making rivers run down his face. “I don't know about you, Phil, but I could use a cold beer.”
We stopped at a gas station to use their facilities, and find out about the beer, but the red headed kid behind the counter said unfortunately this was a dry town. Next thing I knew Phil and the van were gone.
Phil returned with a small bag. I said, “Where'd you go?” and he pulled a pint size bottle of scotch from the paper bag.
We felt like men once more, after a quiet visit with Phil's mother, and it was later in the afternoon and the six pack had somehow magically disappeared. We were ready to head back to Paul and Trudy's, but I said, “Phil you know we're going to want a couple more beers later.”
The next morning was another early wake-up, by way of the hungry-baby screaming; the alarm clock of the kitchen. I sipped at orange juice and toast, and Phil said, “No thanks, just a glass of milk for me.” At first I assumed it was to coat, or comfort his stomach from the previous day, but when he excused himself for a moment I realized there was quite a different motive for the glass of milk. Yep! Milk and scotch.
Then, the wedding rehearsal. We kept driving around and I repeatedly asked Phil if we were on the right road and he assured me we were. Eventually we came to the American Legion, with ribbons and fancy balloons, all decorated, but no drinks. Phil thought of it, the garbage cans. So I opened the lid of the first one I came to and sure enough, Phil wasn't such an old fool. He was on to something because inside were bottles, mostly gallons and half gallons of several kinds of wine, imported beers, and lots of ice. Plenty and plenty of ice which I had learned to come to cherish after experiencing the ‘dry town' and the ‘oven on wheels.' I shouted, “We've struck gold.” Phil came dancing over and said, “Go out in the kitchen and get two glasses.”
Now remember, I had never met Phil's daughter Lindy in person before, but from the pictures of her, and speaking on the phone, I had a picture in my mind of her, a small petite pretty little girl, with brunette hair, and a soft southern drawl. But this enormous woman walked over and almost lifted me off my feet, buried my face in her bosoms and said, “Derek, I've finally gotten to meet you.” This was Lindy, the bride to be. The little girl I expected to meet was actually a big strapping, farm girl! She was still very pretty though, so her Amazonian features were softened. Sort of like being hugged by Anna Nicole.
All went fairly well except for a few of the “Yankee” and “Damn Yankee” name calling for me and Phil. You see, he grew up there, but moved to New York and lived and worked there so he was just a “Yankee,” but I was born in New York , so I was a “Damn Yankee.”
Phil and I were invited over to Lindy's mom's house for cookies and coffee and I sat on the sofa with her. She knew that I had always had a crush for her daughter Lindy. She started bringing out photo albums of when Lindy was younger, from a little baby, all the way up to the big girl she had turned into now. It was lots of fun until she had to bring the professional pictures of Lindy in lingerie.
I tried being polite with my little story about the physic I'd seen a few months ago. Her face lit up so fast I wished I thought of it sooner. I leaned close and breathed in her neck. “He told me that in a previous life I was in the Confederate Army and that I was wounded in that conflict, but did not die from the injury.”
“Wow,” she said, “wow!!!!”
After that anyone that called me a “Yankee,” or, “Damn Yankee,” if they were within earshot of Miss Annie, watch-out! She would tell them that I was one of the South's great hero's and she'd hear no more of the name calling, and that was that!
The next day, the day of Lindy's wedding, started with Trudy's baby crying in the kitchen, but we were their house guests and it was cheaper than a hotel. Trudy and Paul, Phil's son and daughter in law got dressed and left fairly early as they were both to be in the wedding party.
Phil and I were another story. We were still sitting at the kitchen table nursing a hangover at one o'clock , and Lindy's wedding was to be at two in the afternoon. We finally got enough of the hair of the dog that bit us under our belt, and started to get ready. I had to keep yelling at Phil to get moving because we were going to be late if we didn't hurry. It seemed as if my words were falling on deaf ears but we could still make it as it was about twenty of two and the church was only ten minutes away. And we were both ready except for Phil's shoes.
Phil had not attended a formal engagement for years and Mom packed his old dress shoes, without giving his foot problem a second thought. The problem was that Phil's feet swell up after sitting up for a few hours, and I mean swell up, like huge and purple. So Phil, shoe horn in hand, was trying to push his swollen foot into his old dress shoes, like the fairy godmother fitting his foot into Cinderella's slipper.
I started biting my nails, looking at my watch, and I asked Phil if he could try a pair of his son's shoes or something?
We made it. The organist started playing here comes the bride and Phil and Lindy went walking by. I smiled, of course, but my eyes were on Phil's feet.
Phil gave the bride (who stood at least six inches taller than all of them) away, and we made our way back to our pew. I kept asking him how his feet were, but he said they were okay and to stop worrying, what he needed was a drink.
So that's what we did, we just waited there ‘till everyone was gone. I said to myself, “Phew,” we made it. I was quite proud of myself for pulling it all off and we wouldn't even have to tell my mom that we had been drinking.
But when we opened the front door of the church, my eyes spotted something that made me horrified. Phil, poor guy, stumbled on the top step and went roaring down the staircase.
We arrived back at Phil's son Paul's house quite late and we were all pooped so we didn't say too much, but just went to crash! The next morning was not all that new, (crying baby etc.) except, there seemed to be quite a bit more commotion than usual and I noticed that Phil was already up, which seemed unusual, so I got up also. As I walked into the kitchen, everyone there got kind of quiet and I started to get that creepy feeling, so I asked Phil, “What's up, pal?”
Then he hit me with it. The groom's mother had a heart attack, and she had passed away during the night. I don't know if the party was too much, or she kicked the bucket because her son married into that family. Either way, she was dead as a stone. Lindy and her new husband had stayed in a local hotel the night before, and were planning on leaving the next day to board a plane that would take them to a cruise ship.
Naturally, all their plans went out the window, as now they would have to stay and make funeral arrangements and say goodbye. I think they ended up with about a ten percent refund, but they lost most of their honeymoon money and bliss. Phil remarked that they should just say goodbye, and then keep on their schedule, which I almost agreed with, but how could you have fun? I think he was kind of a mommy's boy anyway.
Phil and I had a schedule to keep and we were starting back that morning. It wouldn't have done any good staying, as neither of us really knew her, and had only met her once, the night before. So we loaded up our hell on wheels, and said our goodbyes, hugged them, even the baby, and we were on our way.
The other reason we had to leave was that Phil's brother Jay and his wife were expecting us to stop in and see them in Georgia before heading home. So we drove, I mean, I drove, Phil just drank, to his brother Jay's house, and it took us a few hours before we arrived. Phil was pretty much in the bag by the time we got there, and Jay's wife Vera seemed a little perturbed.
I knew I had to say something for a reason Phil had leapt off the wagon, so I just started telling them about the wedding, and some of our ridiculous encounters, and I had them laughing. We soon turned in, as Jay and Vera were ‘early to bed types,' and Phil and I arrived there a little late. I should mention that Jay's house had fourteen bedrooms and was like a movie stars home, since Jay owned a large department store. As I recall, I took a dip in the pool before going to bed. The next morning when we awoke, Phil asked if I wanted some breakfast, and I said, “Better just grab something on the way because we have a long way to go.” Vera said to hang on, she would pack us a little breakfast to go, some sausage & biscuits etc. It sounded great so we said okay, sure, thank you so much.
Being around Vera was kind of a strange experience, but I couldn't quite put my finger on why. The huge house, with just the two of them, seemed odd, also. You'll see why I mention this shortly. Anyway, we got the bag of food and off we went, to finally head home, or so I hoped. We got on the highway and I said to Phil, “Man, I can smell those sausage biscuits, let's break them out.”
We ate some sausages and biscuits and drank some of the orange juice but afterward I had an upset stomach and asked Phil to get me a ginger ale out of the cooler. All of a sudden Phil said, “Stop the van I'm gonna' puke.” So I stopped the van, and just the sound of him heaving made me jump out my door, and barely made it before I heaved.
Sometime after that we were starting to feel a little bit better, all of a sudden Phil hit his forehead with the palm of his hand ‘smack,' and exclaimed, “I just thought of something.”
“What is it?” I said, thinking he might have a new idea for the betterment of the light bulb.
“Vera was in trouble for this before”.
Phil explained how his brother had to spend a lot of money to keep her out of jail, as she had tried to poison some older woman she use to watch, but they never could really prove that she had been the only one who could have poisoned her. I couldn't believe, or more like, didn't want to believe, what he was saying to me. I said, “Phil, are you joking?” He said, I wouldn't joke about a thing like that, and I knew he wasn't and now come to think of it, Vera was kind of weird.
We dumped the sausages and biscuits and tossed the thermos of OJ, at the next rest area and didn't mention it again ‘because it was his brother's wife and we weren't dying. But I told Phil, if anything happens to either of us we have to check up on it, and we agreed.
Our stomachs started to feel better and better but the van was starting to heat up also. I said, “Phil, it's getting hotter,” as if he didn't notice as he pulled the wing window more towards him and said we'd just have to drive faster.
I drove and drove for what seemed like an eternity and I asked him “Phil, where in the heck are we now?” He said, “Somewhere past the Virginia border but I'm not sure.” I said, “Well I don't know about you, but I'm getting pretty hot and tired.” He looked at me with that sweat-dripping face and said, “Just pull in somewhere and we'll have to make it in two days.”
We pulled into the first motel and Phil said, “Pull over here in front but don't park yet.” I thought he was running in to see how much they charged for a room for the night but instead, he came out quickly, jumped into the van, and said, “We can't stay here tonight.”
“Why” I exclaimed, indignantly. I was the driver, and I was tired.
“Don't worry; just drive across the street, there's another motel over there.”
I pulled in front as before, but he came out quickly this time and opened the side door, grabbed his overnight bag, and said, “Park it kiddo!”
I parked the van, grabbed my small bag and went in. Phil handed me my key to the room as the desk person was handing him his card back. We went up to the room together and the coolness of the air conditioning was already bringing us both back to life, but when we opened the door to the room we were hit with a blast of hot air.
Phil said, “Don't worry about it, we'll have it cool soon enough,” as he walked over and cranked the air conditioner full blast. Now just out of curiosity I said, “Hey Phil, how come that other motel was no good, too expensive?”
“Too expensive!” Phil laughed like a hyena. “They didn't have a bar, ha-ha...” He asked me if I wanted to use the shower first. I said no, go ahead, so Phil asked me what kind of drink I would like sent up.
I was really hot and tired. I said, “Get me a Manhattan Comfort,” thinking I must be getting back at some of those damn rebels.
Phil made a phone call and ran to the shower to cool off. He was still in the shower and there was a knock at the door, I opened it to a kid had a large tray with about twenty drinks.
I said, “Sorry, you must have the wrong room.” The boy checked his order card and said, “Nope 306 right?” I looked at the door and said, “Yeah I guess so, but we only ordered two drinks.”
Phil came out of the bathroom in his boxers and pushed me aside and signed the slip for the kid and brought the tray over to the table and two chairs that most motels have I said, “Geez, Phil! How many drinks did you order?”
Phil said, “Twenty, ten for me and ten for you.”
So I jumped in the shower and came out fast in my boxers before the ice melted. Phil had already started on his second, so I had a little catching up to do. We started to cool down real fast, and the room started moving faster after a few of those Manhattans. On the way, we had stopped for a short while at South of the Border to buy some souvenirs. I bought a real fancy leather bull whip for a good price and I was taking some of my souvenirs out to see what I got, then started to play with the bull whip. Being a Yankee, I never had a bull whip so it was fascinating to me, and Phil was trying to give me a few hints on how you're suppose to hold it and snap it.
By now we were pretty lit up, sort of like Christmas trees on the big day. We were almost all out of drinks by now, and Phil called down and ordered some more. I wasn't sure how many until they came. I kept drinking and playing with the bull whip and I was really getting the hang of it, drawing it back and snapping my wrist with a forward action, and that bull whip would snap like a firecracker, or gun going off. So I didn't think about our situation, and even if I could I probably wouldn't have made any sense of it. But we were yahooing and then crack! And Phil would comment, now that's it, your getting the hang of it. Yeah great, crack!
Just then the knock came on the door. I went over and expected it to be the guy that came up earlier, but this time it was a pretty woman. She said, “Where would you like these?” and as I took them from her I noticed she was glancing around the room. I told her to wait a sec and Phil handed me a five to give her as a tip. It was another round of twenty drinks, ten apiece and I grabbed one and then a thought hit me like a brick in the face. I said “Phil, “Do you realize what this looks like?” Here we are both in our underwear, me cracking the bull whip and it was sitting right on the bed and that girl saw it. Can you imagine what she was thinking?” So we both got a roar out of that because it was all so ridiculous, and yet so bizarrely incriminating at the same time.
Needless to say we both slept soundly that night, and awoke with a hangover the size of all the fun we had the night before, but somehow managed to get our things and piled into the “oven on wheels” once more. I had pretty much had enough of Phil and that damn hot van, so I really stepped on it to make time. Phil asked me a few times to stop at a store so he could take a whiz, but I just knew that he needed a beer, and I wasn't about to take him home to my mom all lit up. I said, “Here's a jar, if ya gotta pee go in that.” He pouted for quite a while but, before I knew it, we were pulling in my mom's driveway and she came walking out to greet us.
We both acted like everything went off without a hitch, which was about the furthest thing from the truth, and I acted like mission accomplished, but I just wanted out of there. And considering the fact that Phil's foot didn't explode in his shoe or he didn't break his neck when he fell down the church steps, I think I did pretty well. We admitted to having one or two drinks because I knew she might hear it from Phil's son or daughter in law, and mom was so pleased she gave me a big hug, because after all a couple of drinks was O.K.
I put my luggage in my car, and said goodbye, (and good riddance) to Phil and my mom and was glad it was all over. I think they were going to ask me to go down south with Phil another time, but I said I was busy and I think they got my drift. I don't want to experience another psychic southern wedding again, ever!
© 2007 Derek Arnold
Derek Arnold used to have a rock band, Viva. He was once a page for the Honorable Assemblyman Sam Coleman (NY) and also a Congressional liason for FEMA in Albany.