Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Wow! (03/11/10)
TITLE: The Fourth Thing
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no, four things I don’t understand:
the way of an eagle in the sky,
the way of a snake on a rock,
the way of a ship on the high seas,
the way of a man with a maiden.
Proverbs 30: 18-19 (NIV)
Lily, my bride-to-be, finds comfort in the image of the earth spinning on its axis as it moves along a preset groove in the solar system. Gravity does its job—keeps the planets aligned, keeps the feet of a groom-to-be grounded.
Grounded for her means I accept a government position. Decent salary, great benefits. So what if I’ll languish in a bureaucratic sinkhole as a paper-pusher.
I want to take the job in the Reenactment Department in Jamestown, Virginia. Small stipend, no benefits. But I’d get to alternate between museum docent and Revolutionary War soldier. Occasionally, I’d get to carry a rifle.
What would my dad advise? For twenty years of mornings, he quietly acquiesced to the program created by women to domesticate their men. Then one Saturday over bacon and eggs, he said, “I want to quit my job and make cheese.”
My mother’s eyelids fluttered in a seizure-like manner. “But sweetheart,” she said, “we don’t know one thing about making cheese.” She had used that tone with me when I was five and wanted to wear flip-flops in the snow.
“We could learn, Jules,” my dad said.
“We don’t have cows or space for cows.” She came up behind him, wrapped her arms around his neck.
“The land behind us has gone up for sale. It could be you and me and thirty Jersey girls.”
“Oh my goodness!” Hands moved to hips. “You’re giving this serious thought?” Her neck curved back until her face was parallel with the grooved ceiling—her martyr position. If it had been a picture, the caption would have read: Dear Lord—what is this cross I’m burdened with in the form of a husband?
She wasn't one to give up. “But—but, we aren’t cheese people, or even dairy people.”
“We could be.”
“Be strong,” I muttered on my way to the dishwasher. Dad was precariously close to receiving the silent treatment. Sometimes it included the unnecessary slamming of cabinet doors and silverware drawers. I didn’t care, though; I didn’t want him to back down.
Dad had warned me plenty about love while I was growing up. “Holden,” he’d say, “watch out for the fairer sex—there’s nothing fair about them. They’ll roll into the crook of your arm, trace hearts on your chest, and then pow and wow—you’re asking yourself, ‘what just happened?’ Next thing you know you’re handing her the checkbook to buy new living room furniture.”
My wedding looms and still, I haven’t made an employment decision.
“That’s fine,” says Lily. “Take your time. I want you to be sure.”
I’m not comfortable with this change in tactics.
The big day arrives. I wait at the end of an aisle flanked on both sides by beribboned pews. The smell of the gardenias she’s been raving about makes me a little queasy. Our organist starts up the march. For the merest sliver of a second I picture a sack over my head, a firing squad before me.
But Lily appears—the proverbial vision in white fluff on her father’s arm. The vows take me by surprise—we skipped over them at the rehearsal. Probably the pastor’s safeguard to his industry. The sharing of bread, a sip of wine—covenant and communion. This is serious.
The reception happens—I know because I watch it like an out-of-body experience. Food, dancing, toast, cake, rice.
Our honeymoon is a gift from her father. Right. The airport is two hours away and we need to be there at five in the morning. Lily hasn’t finished packing. By the time we check into our hotel room, we’ve been up thirty-seven hours. Her cheek nestles between my neck and shoulder. In minutes her breathing slows. Somehow I don’t think this is an accident.
Our first morning together streams through bamboo slats. Light reflects off the planes of her limbs, both ultra smooth and ultra soft. The ensuing warmth is overwhelming.
Oh, dear God, I think. I love her. I really love her.
“Lily?” I whisper a while later.
“I’m taking the government job.”
“Are you sure?” Her nose grazes my ear.
“Yes—very sure.” I think about my dad. It took him twenty-some years to get his cows and cheese.
It seems like such a small price to pay.
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