I promised Paul I wouldn’t share this story until he was a grandfather. This might be the only time I have kept a secret so long in an instance where I could have gotten a laugh at someone else’s expense.
Paul, at the age of 26, was one of the first in my circle of friends to get married. I considered it my duty to talk him out of it. It wasn‘t that I didn’t like his fiance, quite the contrary — Cathy was great; Paul was the mess.
My friend was lazy, irresponsible and fun. Despite, or perhaps because of that, everyone loved Paul. He was big-boned Irish, redheaded, freckled and more confident than sensible. He was liked by even those to whom he owed money. His soon to be wife, Cathy, was his high school sweetheart and the prettiest girl in a neighboring town. Her father was a Boston police sergeant and could not stand the sight of his soon to be son-in-law.
Few who knew Pauly felt he possessed the wherewithal to keep a marriage together. Paul reasoned after flunking out of two colleges and getting fired from his past three jobs, his luck was bound to change.
Cathy was smart, beautiful and patient. She told me she loved Paul at first sight. She was convinced that once they were married for a few years, her father would hate Paul less; few of us believed the union would last that long.
THE NIGHT BEFORE THE WEDDING
The story in question begins the night before Paul’s wedding.
With her usual long suffering patience, Cathy said she didn’t care how much Paul partied the night before the ceremony, as long as he showed up to the church on time. The plan was for Paul, me and a few friends to go to Provincetown and tie one on to celebrate Paul’s final night of bachelorhood. We enlisted our buddy Dickey as designated driver and headed out.
Paul was the last one we picked up; he walked out of his trailer wearing his rented wedding tuxedo. When questioned, he told us that by wearing his tux all night he’d eliminate one pre-nuptial step, thus assuring his on-time arrival. We were all impressed by his foresight.
The night was filled with laughter, beer, whiskey and near misses. To Paul’s credit, he kept his tuxedo in relatively good shape. We ended the night at 3 a.m. in an all-night Chinese restaurant, where Paul ate an entire poo-poo platter for four all by himself. He slept on my couch that night.
I overslept and walked into the den to find Pauly on the sofa, still wearing his tux looking, like a redheaded penguin.
I glanced at my watch and started screaming, “Paul, for God’s sake get up,” I said, “It’s almost eleven you’re getting married in an hour.”
I wrestled him off the couch, spooned him into my old Ford Galaxy 500 and sped toward the church. Perhaps the magnitude of what he was about to do began to sink in, or maybe it was the poo-poo platter from the night before, but Paul didn’t look so good. His face was pale and sweaty and I could hear his stomach gurgle over the radio. He told me to stop at the nearest bathroom.
We drove another half mile when he said, “Pull over, quick!” He got out of the car and began sprinting towards the roadside woods. The recent rain had left a several inches of mud on the ground; Paul was ankle deep in it. He got half way to the woods and froze; I assumed to save his tux. I yelled for him to roll up his pants and continue. I told him we could clean his shoes when he got to the church. “It’s too late” he said.
Paul was frozen in place, afraid to move, and not only because of the mud.
With time getting short and no dry place to change, we decided best course of action was to cut off his soiled boxers.
The only sharp object in my car was a hacksaw that I kept in my trunk. I threw it to my buddy and walked backed to the car to give him some privacy.
When the state police car pulled up behind me, I was laughing too hard to be scared. He put on his flashers, got out and asked, “What’s the problem?” I pointed at Paul and said, “He’s getting married in twenty minutes.”
I followed the policeman’s eyes as he looked towards woods to see my friend wearing a tuxedo standing in ankle deep mud, trying to cut off his underwear with a hacksaw.
“We need a police escort.” I said. The cop, through his tears, said “OK.”
After a rough start Paul and Cathy have enjoyed a happy life together, and they now have a beautiful grandchild. When he is of a proper age, I will tell him this story — provided I can still remember it.
Jeffrey Bergeron, under the alias of Biff America, can be seen on TV-8-Summit and read in several newspapers and magazines. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.