Read My Best Man Online

Authors: Andy Schell

Tags: #General, #Fiction

My Best Man (41 page)

BOOK: My Best Man


Harry’s dog.” She turned to me. “Harry, I want you to know, if you ever come back here with Nicolo, I’d like to be your best man. Just don’t ever ask your best man to wear an ugly taffeta dress.” She started to choke up about now, as she opened her purse and walked over to my mother. “And, Susan, something tells me that you and Donald will find it in your hearts to be here too,” she said, lifting a cold, watery, plastic storage bag out of her purse. She handed the plastic bag, containing thawed ice and the engagement ring, to my mother, and turned back to me with a stage whisper, “Had to freeze the ring, Harry. Didn’t want to be tempted to pawn the family jewels.” I laughed to keep from crying. “Listen,” she said to my parents. “I’ve come to know y’all over the past few months, and I’m sure that you love Harry and ultimately want him to be happy. If I’m wrong, forgive me. I hope I haven’t hurt your feelings. And Grammie Ford, I hope I haven’t shocked you or upset you, ma’am. I’m just doing what has to be done.”

“Not at all, dear,” my grandmother said, breaking the silence of the frozen crowd. She then opened her purse while saying to Amity, “Here, I want you to have a piece of candy and one of my credit cards.”

Amity refused the credit card, but gladly took the piece of taffy, which she unwrapped while returning to the aisle to tell the entire congregation, “I still think there should be a reception, because we’re all here, and the money’s been spent, and my folks are all the way up from Fort Worth. And I guess that’s all I have to say. So I’m going to walk out of here now.” She walked over to me and sweetly whispered into my ear, “I did it ‘cuz I love you.” She started to walk away, but pulled back and added, “And I’d be bullshitting you if I didn’t tell you I can’t stomach the thought of giving up all that money and being poor.” She then yelled up to the soloist, “Darlin’! This is going to be the longest walk of my


life. I know we planned the song for last, but I need you to go ahead and sing it now to kind of fill in until I make it out of here.”

The accompanist started the up-tempo introduction on the piano. Amity looked me square in the eye, kissed me on the lips, and said, ” “Bye, Harry. Love your guts!” She then tossed the taffy into her mouth and walked down the aisle while the soloist sang Cole Porter “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?” And as I looked at the check in my hands, I saw that she had endorsed it payable to me. She’d signed over the whole two million as soon as she’d gotten it from Winston.

I realized right then I’d underestimated her from beginning to end. And more than a few years passed before I realized why: I’d been so intent on holding my cards close, working every angle, manufacturing myself a preferred outcome, all the things I’d accused her of that I’d lost my own heart along the way, as well as the hearts of everyone around me. We really were a lot alike, Amity and I. It wasn’t until we gave it all up the wedding charade, the money, the resentment of being born into our families and just offered to love each other honestly that we started down the paths that would take each of us home.

To be sure, there were some bumps along those paths. Of course, after I signed the wedding check back over to Amity, she went on a clothes shopping and cocaine spree that nearly killed her. But I, Jackie, and Nicolo (who abruptly changed his opinion of her) stood by her as she went through her fourth rehabilitation program. This time, it was the Betty Ford Center, which I think motivated her by the very fact that she admired Mrs. Ford and her fairy tale life as First Lady which Amity learned wasn’t a fairy tale at all or the Betty Ford Center wouldn’t exist. But it was definitely worth it for her to complete the program because it helped her to understand herself and be done with the drugs, and she got a chance to see

Liza Minelli without any makeup on. “She’s kind of horsy,” Amity wrote to me in a letter, “but she’s real sweet.”

For the next several years, Nicolo and I continued to live in Dallas, where he worked as a political reporter for the Dallas Morning News. I didn’t go to law school, but opted to attend veterinary school after returning to undergraduate school to pick up my needed prerequisites. It was many years before Winston divulged the owner of Cinnamon, and even inheriting all my money didn’t assuage his anger at Amity for duping him. So working with animals was my way of sublimating my yearnings for contact with my horse.

As the decade moved on, we all became increasingly aware of how powerful the HIV virus was and how AIDS would alter our lives forever. I was so casual, so careless, so cavalier that year I spent with Amity. And lucky. I didn’t have safe sex with anyone and I’m sure Amity didn’t either yet we both came out of it unscathed. Winston, sadly enough, contracted HIV in 1989. I was shocked, because by 1989 we all knew how to protect ourselves. But sex is a powerful thing even more powerful than my omnipotent brother. His own cavalier approach to life was quickly commuted when faced with mortality. At first, he rebuffed my overtures. But as his term unrolled with prickly caution, each day becoming a lifetime, he let his edges soften enough to be approached. We formed ourselves a workable brotherhood, and though our interests were unlike, we made the effort to connect ourselves as best we knew how.

He’s here today, with his partner, Chuck. Yes, two gay sons is a bit much for my mother. Not so much for Donald, surprisingly. He’s been more adept at change than she. Winston, Chuck, Nicolo, and I have been grateful for Donald’s support over time.

I haven’t mentioned how I actually paid for my veterinary school. Given that I forfeited my inheritance to Winston and returned the


full two million to Amity, I was penniless, right? Well, my dear grammie died the year after my aborted wedding, and after bestowing an even one million dollars on Marzetta, I was named the sole heir to the rest of her considerable fortune, a windfall that actually exceeded what I would have received from my father. She left me everything except a single item, which she bestowed upon Amity: her silk kimono from Japan.

Grammie explained to me, in a sealed private letter delivered by the attorney, that my grandfather had caught my father at the age of twelve in the barn of their country house fooling around with one of the ranch hands a few years older than he. She said my grandfather whipped them both so hard they had to see a doctor. The ranch hand was fired, naturally, and my father’s relationship with his own father was never the same. She told me she tried to convince her husband that their son was doing what all boys his age do. just experimenting a little. She was sure my dad was straight as a Kiowa Indian’s arrow. But my grandfather was so afraid that his son’s behavior could be permanent he ruled him with icy formality and an iron fist for all of his days.

She said she hoped her words would help me understand my father in regard to my own situation, and they do. She concluded by saying that my grandfather was a cold and autocratic man who was difficult to live with or understand and that if it weren’t for her friend Louise she have known love!

may never

Nicolo’s mother, who had long been yearning for her native land, ultimately decided not to return to Argentina, but to stay in Dallas, and in due time allowed me to buy her a small house. She and I mended our torn fences long ago, and she often comes to visit her homeland, but the ghosts of her past eventually overtake her, and she flies from their grip by returning to Dallas. On the ranch, Nicolo’s aunt Angelica and her mate Aurora are our spiritual and land advisors since we’ve taken over the farming business,

since they have many years of connection with the earth in a way we are only beginning to learn ourselves.

The truth is, Nicolo’s aunt Angelica married us almost thirteen years ago in a grove of olive trees on the farm during our first visit to Argentina. But after all these years, my mother has decided, with Donald’s encouragement, it’s time she sees one of her children make a completed trip down the aisle. She readily agreed to come here, to Argentina, to have the wedding—probably because she’s unfamiliar with the small gathering of locals in the church, save for Nicolo and his mother, and I assume she’s imminently more comfortable having everyone speak Spanish so that she simply doesn’t have to know what they’re saying. To her happiness and mine, Amity and her latest boyfriend, a French-Canadian banking executive she met while working the first-class section of a flight to Montreal (“He’s all natural and big big big!”), are attending the wedding, with Amity serving as my best man, of course. And they’re staying with us at the ranch. Jacqueline and Thomas couldn’t make it, because it would be a difficult distance to travel with two young boys, and Jackie is seven months pregnant with her third child. “I hope it’s a girl. I really hope it’s a girl, ‘cuz I really want a girl,” she told me last night on the phone, after wishing Nicolo and me suerte.

Amity is happy. Since her last dry out, she’s managed to keep herself in control all these years, never spending money on a substance more potent than champagne. She does go a little overboard on clothing, but that’s OK considering she doesn’t spend money on automobiles she still drives the Mercedes presented to us on our wedding day, restoring it to mint condition after some bumps and scrapes acquired during her first wild months as a millionaire. She’s never married, because, as she told me, I’ll never find a man as wonderful as you, Harry Ford.” It made me feel guilty for her to say so, but then she added, “And besides, I’d get bored just sucking one dick for the rest of my life.” Atta girl.


The priest concludes, “Then with the power of our creator, who we recognize to be all loving and all encompassing, I now pronounce you husband and wife neither one nor the other. but both. You may kiss.”

And so we do. And though our lips have had years to grow accustomed to each other’s, it’s a sweet kiss I take from Nicolo’s lips, the sweetness of dulce de leche. And when our friends and family applaud, we break from each other and turn to them with smiles. Tia Angelica opens the doors to the small chapel, and waiting outside are our two horses.

Cinnamon is twenty-eight years old now, and he endured many miles on the freighter that brought him here, so I don’t much ride him anymore. He’s certainly earned the right to mingle in the field with the cattle in blissful retirement. But today is a special occasion, and Angelica has adorned him with a fine show saddle and buck-stitch bridle. Nicolo mounts up on his dappled Arabian, and I slowly swing onto my venerable old steed, and Nicolo and I ride slowly down the lane, side by side, hand in hand, as the golden wheat of the Santa Fe province rolls like waves beside us. As we look back, the congregation seems to be floating, drifting away, waving to us, singing a wedding song. Nicolo has promised he will play his guitar and sing the song for me tonight in our tent in the countryside.

I look back in my mind as well and see my buoyant Amity sitting on my hospital bed, visiting hours over, filling two glasses with the champagne she’d brought me, toasting to the “Us!” we had not yet become, and I realize our brief and shared paths ultimately provided the salvation that helped to shape our characters into something indelible and good.

Before I turn ahead, to the road in front of us, I take one last look at her and see that my manic ex-fiancEe is the only person not waving, not singing. Her hands are in her pockets, and her hair is blowing in the breeze, and she’s just watching us ride together on


our horses. And I realize that 1984 was more than my year of heterosexuality it was the year that I became a man. And if it’s true that you get what you give in this world, then Amity is destined for more happiness than she could ever think possible, because that’s what she’s given to me.

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