Read My Best Man Online

Authors: Andy Schell

Tags: #General, #Fiction

My Best Man (9 page)

BOOK: My Best Man


love for a girl. But caution tells me to say nothing, for it would too big an opening for my mother, and she would thrust me a stage that had no exit. “Yes, Mother,” I whisper back. “I stand.” ‘

“I feathered the engine, and we were slowly inching down, barely above the treetops, and the Mekong River was out in of us a little ways,” Donald says with dramatic warning.

“Come on,” my mother says, trying to pull me back out to living room.

I resist. “Wait. Have you told Winston?”

“Oh, heavens, no. He doesn’t understand these things the w you do. I’ll only tell him if it’s malignant. Promise you mention it to him.”

I can hardly bear to speak to him. “Of course,” I tell her.

“Good. Now come on,” she says, dragging me toward the room. “Donald’s about to land the plane!”

“Anyways,” Donald says, as if we’ve never left, “we brought her in and set her down, and just as we rolled out and turned the runway, we lost the other engine. If it had happened two earlier in the air, we’d have crashed and burned.”

My mother looks at me like, “See?” She is fully smitten this general from Georgia, who impresses her with his and heroism. And I see that she’s happy and taken care of. in a way she never was before.

Grammie answers the door herself. She’s almost eighty old now, and years of riding horses and other athletic have taken their toll. She walks with a lame gait, supported cane, and her hands are riddled with arthritis, but she’s still trustworthy and regal matriarch of the Ford family, and her and carriage, though painful, still reflect it.

“Hey, Grammie.”

She smiles. Laughs. “Harry.” We embrace, and she fills senses with the scent of childhood, the same citrus-and-spice


ture from the cologne bottles she has ordered from California since I was a child. “Come in. Marzetta is making sandwiches.” Grammie explains that she has inherited Marzetta almost full-time since Donald has reduced her hours, and she loves Marzetta so much she hired someone else to do most of the work, so Marzetta is free to enjoy life. “What’s it like being a poor airline attendant?” Grammie asks.

“Oh, well,” I laugh, while following her into the kitchen, “it’s great. You only have to pay half the rent, because you’re forced to have a roommate. You never have to worry about your car being stolen, because nobody wants it. And you never have to worry about shopping for clothes just throw on a uniform. Hey!” I say, seeing Marzetta. “How’s my real mother?”

“She’s proud,” Marzetta beams. “I hear you’re an airline steward, son. That’s the job I always wanted. I used to dream about flying the troops to Europe during the Second World War. “Course, they didn’t let colored girls like me be stewardesses back then. So it was just a nice dream.”

I’ll tell you what,” I say. “I like flying with black girls most of all. They don’t take any guff from anyone. The passengers behave better when a sister is on board. Us white women get no respect.” “Oooh!” she laughs.

“Come on. Let’s sit,” Grammie commands. She sees the two sandwich plates Marzetta puts before us and asks, “Where’s yours?”

Marzetta shakes her head. “I’m off to the drugstore. I’m needing some foot cream.” She waves goodbye, grabs the keys to the car Grammie bought her, and heads out the door.

My grandmother nods. “Drive on.” She takes a bite of her sandwich. “So who is this girl your mother wants to meet?” “Amity?”

Grammie is silent for a moment, then smiles. “You know, the


word amity is often used when describing peaceful relations between two nations. Have you two made a pact? Like two nations?” “Meaning?”

My grandmother quickly gives up on the chicken sandwich and makes for the chocolate-covered graham cookies. “Do you plan to marry her for your inheritance?”

I frown while biting into my sandwich. “No.”

“Does she know you’re gay?” she asks, picking up a piece chocolate that has broken off her cookie and fallen on her plate.

It’s amazing to me that my grandmother is perfectly c saying the word gay, but my mother can’t utter it. “Sure,

We have no secrets, Amity and I.”

“Good. We have too many secrets in this family already.” “Like what?” I ask.

She lifts her finger to her mouth and presses the little piece chocolate to her lips, then licks it away. “If I told, they be secrets,” she answers, winking. “Harry,” she continues,

her head, thinking, “how come you’ve never asked me for money “I don’t know,” I tell her. “Your money is your money.” “But I have an abundance of it.”

“That’s true. OK, Gram, since you brought it up, how you’ve never offered me any?”

“Because I’ve had no greater pleasure than watching you some of this family’s rustiest old chains. I like what you’ve Harry. For now, I’m afraid money might rock your boat, even tip it over.”

“I can swim,” I tell her confidently. “Don’t worry. I’ll mine. ‘

“Be careful, my boy. Just make sure you get it the old-fashioned way.”

“Inherit it?” I ask, a devilish smile on my face. “I intend to,


, ,


“Not at the expense of your self, she cautions. “I see


mother pushing you. Donald too. I imagine your father is still pushing you, even though he’s gone. But I’m telling you not to make decisions to please other people. Please yourself. Be yourself.”

“Don’t worry, Gram. I’m hopelessly born to the breed it’s just not the same breed as the rest of my family. Which means I’ll probably have a life of blissful poverty while remaining my own man—whatever the heck that means.”

“You’re anything but hopeless, kid. I wish I’d had a life like yours.”

I tease her. “You wish you were born a gay guy?”

“Not exactly,” she laughs. “Listen. Forget about the money, Harry. Everything will fall into place. Just promise me you’ll be honest with yourself. The word amity also means friendship.”

“And that’s what we have. Don’t worry about Amity and me. We won’t do anything foolish.”

“Good. Because that would suck.”

“Suck?” Now I pick up a cookie. “Grammie, who taught you the word suck?”


“My Grammie? My Steinbeck and Stegner Grammie? What’s going on?”

“I’m old now, honey. Can’t read. My eyes don’t work on the page. I watch TV and eat candy. That’s it. I’m done with marriage, horses, travel, and even philanthropy. I gave them my all for most of my life. Put up with a cold husband. Loved those horses as much as my children. Traveled the world in order to learn about people. And donated millions of dollars plus my own two hands to every charity that crossed my heart. But my life is near its end, and I’m stupid and sweet with TV and candy.”

“Hey, whatever works. To thine own self be true,” I say, squeezing her hand.

“Precisely what I’m saying to you, my boy.”


It’s not a week later that I come home from the gym to find message on my answering machine from my mother. She has cancer. She’s already had a modified radical mastectomy, she ” daintily informs me, and the doctor believes that he’s gotten all cancer. The good news is that while she was in the hospital got Bud Orenstein to come in and give her a tummy tuck and soon she’ll be able to have her breasts reconstructed to nice and perky, but don’t tell anyone. And not to worry, she doe have to do chemotherapy, but simply has to endure a little which she intends to look upon as a quick trip to the tanning Beep. End of message.

I’ve never blamed my mother for cutting me off financially. know that it was my father’s doing and that she’s of a generation and feminine ilk that acquiesces to all demands line. And though I think she’s often shallow and ridiculous words, I love her and I’m scared that she has cancer so soon losing my father. I call her and tell her I’ll be on a flight to that day. She says there’s no reason to come the general is care of her every need. I refuse to believe that I, her son of three years, can be replaced by her husband of three months.

The airline gives me a leave of absence and I go to When I bring her flowers, she says, “Put them over by the the general gave me.” When I bring her the morning paper, says, “Oh, honey, thanks, but the general brought the already.” When I bring her favorite candy bar, a Heath bar, says, “The general made me homemade toffee.” A general makes toffee? Forget it. I’m glad she’s happy and taken but I decide to head back to Dallas, where at least someone hates me.


“I on’t fuck with me!”

It’s late at night. It can’t be one of Amity’s nightmares because it’s a man’s voice. It sounds as if he’s outside the house, but I can’t be sure. I sit up in bed, hear Amity say something in a hushed tone.

“Don’t fuck with me, Amity!”

I get out of bed and step into the hall. Amity sounds strained, but controlled. I can’t really tell what she is saying. The man interrupts her. Angry. Accusing. Shouting something. I know who it is: Troy. He’s finally confronting her for leaving him. I step into her room.

“Is everything OK?”

“Yes, Harry!” She is at her window, a few feet from her bed, wearing nothing but a man’s dress shirt.

Outside the window is a Latin guy with glasses, not Troy. He looks at me, doesn’t give a shit who I am. “I mean it,” he warns, looking back at Amity.

“I think you need to go,” she says, nervous but in command.

The guy slams his fist against the frame of the window and takes off.

“Who was that, Amity?”


Amity shuts the window, locks it, and escorts me into the sitting room, where she grabs some rolling papers and my pot. “You don’t mind, do you?” Of course I don’t. I’m amazed that even with shaking fingers, she rolls the joint with precision and expediency-as if she formerly worked on a joint-rolling assembly line. “Ahhh,” she moans, exhaling the smoke. “Harry,” she says, handing me the doobie, “that was Miguel Arturo. He’s a flight attendant with the airline. I don’t know what’s wrong with him. I really think he must be some kind of a stalker.” She rises from the sofa and heads for the kitchen.


“You saw him,” she calls from the kitchen. “I was in bed, he just started banging on my window. He wouldn’t go away I opened it and we talked.” I hear a champagne cork pop bubbly being poured. She returns with two glasses, hands one to me. “I just wasn’t going to let him into the house. I mean, g’yaw, Harry, I only flew a trip with him. I fucked him because he reminded me of Dex Dexter from Dynasty and his parents own a hotel New Orleans, but it’s not like we dated or anything!” She takes long hit off the joint, speaks the next sentence with puffs of popping out of her mouth. “I think something’s not quite right his head. I can tell he’s desperate to be taken seriously. He have never had any attention, his mom running the Bates and all. I think he has some kind of mental problem.”

“Obviously he’s fucked up,” I say, bolstering her analysis Amity is so funny, so cool. I can’t imagine people being angry her unless they were sitting behind her in a movie theater couldn’t see the screen because of her hair.

We finish the joint and she drinks both glasses of after I decline mine. I ask her if she’s calmed down enough to go to sleep. She says she’s not sure if she feels safe, and so I offer t sleep with her in her bed. “Would you?” she asks.

“Sure,” I tell her bravely. She refills both glasses and


them to her bedside. After we get into bed and pull the covers over us, I’m not so sure. I don’t know why, but it feels strange for the two of us to do this. The last time we were in bed together was in Denver, and I was kissing her. I’m thinking about it, and I can tell she is too. I’m really stoned, and my mind is wandering all over the place while my body lies rigidly still. I’m an island in the sheets, and my heart is pounding out indigenous rhythms of warning. I’m afraid if I move my legs they might brush against her. Every time I swallow I feel it’s being broadcast through a bullhorn. Of course that’s probably crazy, but I’m stoned and paranoid, and gay. “Harry,” she whispers, “thank you for protecting me.” “You’re welcome,” I say.

She leans over and kisses me sweetly on the lips. My eyes are open, and so are hers. She looks at me and smiles. We kiss again, our mouths closed, but our lips soft and relaxed. It’s pleasant. Not full of heated passion, and not the kind of kisses that make me want to rip off my clothes, but nice. Soft. Loving.

She pulls back and sinks into her pillow. “And thank you for kissing me,” she says, evidently wanting nothing more. Then she rolls over and puts her arm across my chest, and within a minute she’s out. Fast asleep. With a satisfied smile on her face.

“She’s out on a trip. Chicago, I think.” “What’s her name again?” “Amity Stone.”

“Amity Stone. God, that sounds familiar. I know I’ve heard that name before,” my friend, Randy, says, looking up to the ceiling to grab an invisible memory. Randy’s a knock-dead handsome Jewish-Italian guy who speaks with a Texas accent. He lives with his boyfriend in Austin. I met him in college. He was in the theater department for five minutes before transferring to a school in Texas to major in fashion merchandising. I’ve flown over to Austin on my day off, and this is the first time I’ve seen him in two years. We’re sitting at the kitchen table, eating a spread of salami, crackers,


pickles, rye bread, and cold potatoes washing it all down with a couple of cold beers.

“She’s wild. We’re always having fun. I swear, Randy, there’s nobody like her.”

“What’s different about her?”

“She just doesn’t have that internal cautionary mechanism, that off switch that most of us have. You know, the one that keeps you from being too honest or too carefree or too sexual.”

“Let’s go straight to the sexual part. What do you mean? Too sexual?”

“She goes for it. If she wants some guy, she fucks him. Period.” “Definitely a shiksa.”

“And I just know, no matter who she’s in bed with, she’s top.

“A shiksa with a dicksa.”

“And she’s straight on with me about the fact that she money and guys with big dicks. I don’t know why she’s han out with me I’m not getting any inheritance from my father, I don’t have a big dick.”

“And you’re gay,” Randy laughs, putting salami onto a

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