Smoke Rings on Her Wedding Day

The wedding guests waited, welded together like Milk Duds in a box would after sitting for hours on the hot vinyl seat of a Buick. As usual, Julia Johns, the bride was late.  To relieve his growing claustrophobia, the groom, Bobby Melton paced the sidewalk in front of the building, puffing on his cigarette and churning smoke rings up toward the sky.

Earlier that afternoon, Julia and Belva, Julia’s mother, carefully arranged the rented beige folding chairs as if they were church pews, parting down the middle to create the wedding aisle with each row neatly matching the row in front of it.  Walls were decorated with twisted white crepe paper strands and several of those cheap looking honeycomb paper bells hung from the ceiling.  Julia meticulously placed baby breaths at the place where the ceiling meets the wall in order to hide the masking tape.

The studio apartment was typical, a small garden apartment in the basement of a four story brick rowhouse. Standing in front of her living room window you could see the feet and knees of people walking by.  In her combination living/dining room there normally sat a long couch covered in an orange and yellow plaid fabric.  Next to the couch there was an end table with a huge oversized Mediterranean style cobalt blue lamp with a huge lampshade adorned with long red tassles sat like an overweight donkey sitting under a shady tree. Above the hideous couch, hung Julia’s favorite black velvet painting that depicted a matador stabbing a bull.  Imaginary painted blood dripped down the bull’s shoulder and it was accented with red glitter.  The rest of the décor in the apartment was similar; tacky, inexpensive, but thrown together with ironic charm.

“My God, Julia….it’s nearly two o’clock. You better call the cab and go get your makeup done.”  Belva said as she tweeked the final decorations.

“Thanks for helping mama.  I love you.”

*  *  *

Out of the distance came a speeding yellow cab and Bobby jumped from the sound of the screeching brakes. Julia threw the cabby a twenty, stepped out and said, “I’m here honey. Sorry I’m late…had to get my nails done.”

“We have a little problem.  There are too many guests.”

“Oh, everything will be fine honey.  You’ll see.”

Bobby responded by blowing a series of smoke rings and throwing Julia a half confident, you-must-be-out-of-your-mind smile.

She pushed her way into her apartment needing to make room for her off-the-rack JC Penney wedding dress.  The rush of the heat and the smell of human sweat smacked her in the face and nearly knocked her off her feet.  “Damn,” Julia mumbled to herself while smiling to her guests as she made her way toward her bedroom.

“Get up Addie.”  Mrs Stolton said, using her small purse as a fan trying to get fresh airs into her nostrils of her girlfriend of sixty years who had fainted on to the floor. “Wake up.”

“Hmmm.”  Mrs. Glemson mumbled as wobbled trying to pull her blue satin dress down, trying to stop it from creeping up into her crotch. “My, my Tessie.  The heat must have gotten to me.  Why on earth would Julia invite all these people into such a small apartment?”

“Hello Julia.”  Mrs. Stolton shouted trying to forewarn her gossipy friend. “Don’t you look like a dream.”

“Thank you Tess.”

“Julia, Julia!” Little six year old Tommy Melton screamed as he ran fighting his way through the crowd.  “Reverend Johnson is here.  He wants to see you and Uncle Bobby.”

“OK.” Julia said through the crack of the bedroom door, “Tell him I’ll be right there.”

“Is my slip hangin Tess?” addie Glemson said turning around trying to look at her backside.  She stumbled as she turn realizing that during the fainting spell she had lost a shoe. “Please help me find my shoe.”

Meanwhile Bobby stood fidgeting in front of the living room window which was supposed to be like an altar as he made small talk with his younger brother, Jack.

“Boy, Julia looks great doesn’t she?” Jack chimed.

“Yeah. Real nice.”

“So, Bobby you excited about going on your trip to Jamaica.”

“Oh yeah. She showed me some neat pictures from a brochure there.” He answered glimpsing at the calf of a woman’s leg who was walking by.

“I’m so proud of you buddy.” Jack beamed.

Bobby smiled and grimaced a little as he scanned the room looking at the uncomfortable expressions on the heated faces of the wedding guests.  The expressions on their faces looked like they were saying: I hope this thing hurries up cause I want to get the hell out of these clothes!

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