Candy Rant

"I killed a rat with a stick once."

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

And Now, a Few Words About the Honeymoon

Wait! Come back! Not a full account of the honeymoon. I know I can get pretty specific about things but Candy does have her teaspoonful of dignity.

There are just some things I have to talk about on the subject of the honeymoon. Mostly about the bed & breakfast. It's as though I'm 9 years old and have returned from 4-H Camp where the counselors have spent the week beating the children with wet ropes. And I simply need to tell the authorities.

I'll be unexpectedly kind and not list the exact name of said B & B, lest someone google the place and feel all twisted up because they've already booked it for a weekend.

A little segment of the honeymoon night:

Scott and I were really exhausted, hair still drenched, struggling to carry our luggage up the sidewalk. It was 11:00 p.m. Wes and Sheryl, our pastor and his wife, had checked out of the 3rd floor suite right after our wedding ceremony. The owners of the Cozy Hideout (yes, let's call it that) had had at least two hours to change the sheets, tidy up, etc. No problem at all for us to get there so late.

The master of the house let us in, since we had not yet acquired a key. He is difficult to describe, but for me he looks like someone who was born to play the mortician/embalmer/creepy neighbor/creature of the woods kind of guy in movies of the "Friday the 13th" ilk. That guy who is determinedly stepping over felled limbs in a forest while glaring menacingly at the sorority girl who has, yes, fallen down while running away from him. In her underwear.

Upon arrival at the B & B I was especially worn out because, with the excitement of the night and the storm and the running up and down the hill for pictures, I had not eaten more than half a helping of lasagna in the last 12 hours.

Lurch welcomed us to the Cozy Hideout and asked us how we were. I answered:

"Great. Really great night. You know, I'm wondering...I ate hardly anything today and we didn't think to bring snacks with us. Would you happen to have a cracker or anything I could have?"

I admit it, I was embarrassed to ask, but I was starving and didn't think it'd be a big deal.

Lurch: "No."

Just "no." Then a beat of time passed and he threw his waxy hands into the air, way into the air since he's about 6'2", and rolled his eyes to the ceiling like a man who is about to trigger a trap door and drop you into his seething pit of rats. "We didn't plan on snacks!" It was as though I'd asked him to go to the kitchen and bring me the thigh bone of a Leprechaun. "But," he said proudly, "there are drinks in your refrigerator upstairs."

I was stunned. I stood there in a nutrient-deprived daze, trying to figure out if I had already killed Lurch, or was just gearing up for it.

Perhaps it was my physical weakness. Or my stunned-ness at his socially inept reply. Or just not wanting to mar the day by chewing out his spine in front of my groom.

"Oh," I said. "OK. We're going upstairs now."

As we started up the winding, creaky staircase, Lurch said: "Breakfast is at 8 o'clock."

Scott, naive civilized person that he is, asked "8 until when?"

Lurch: "Just 8."

And with that began our lovely 2-night stay in central Indiana's least adaptable bed & breakfast. Far be it from me to assume I know the proper etiquette for lodgery better than this man. I don't have a bed & breakfast. But it occurs to me that if I did, and if a freshly married couple came to stay with me on their wedding night, I would supply them with a few little goodies. Maybe a plate of Girl Scout Thin Mints and a bottle of cheap champagne. Or a measly Whitman's Sampler. Or a simple bowl of fruit with a "Congratulations" card. Any show of hospitality, say, a saucer of Fancy Feast, would have been a step up. But there was nothing. And the drinks in the fridge? Looked suspiciously as though the previous guests had left them there. A hodge podge of half a dozen mini-cans of pop sitting glumly, abandoned, like carbonated refugees from the Island of Misfit Snacks.

We were not impressed. Scott offered to go out and get me something at the convenience store, the only thing open in this little town at this hour. But I said I'd be fine.

Later, while my new husband was sleeping, I was starving. As my mom says: "My big guts were eatin' my little guts." I was cursing the sleeping Lurch, imagining his hearty dinner of something that would match his personality, like boiled flank of jackal. I got out of bed and dumped the contents of my purse onto the carpet. When I saw the little cellophane package with the fortune cookie inside, I clapped like a sea lion. Only the snoozing Scott kept me from triumphantly honking like a sea lion. It didn't matter that the fortune cookie had been purse-smashed to pieces the size of rice. It was my key to surviving until daylight.

The sound of the cellophane crackling was joyous. I poured the cookie vapor into my mouth and fished out the fortune before I swallowed it. I was astonished to see that it said "Use a sledgehammer on the big man downstairs." OK, I'm lying. But the cookie was delicious. I sat and sucked on my teeth for several minutes, waiting for my stomach to get the message that all was well. But it only felt toyed with, led on.

I'd asked Scott to wake me for breakfast. He shook me gently at 7:55 a.m., and said "Do you want to go downstairs to eat?"


No. So the poor lonely groom went to the dining room alone. Or so he thought. At the other table was a trio of elderly folks who were in town for their 165th high school reunion. When Scott told me later that the entree was "a sausage-y quiche sort of'd have gagged on it," I was glad I hadn't made the effort to show up. He also said that the conversation next to him had vividly revolved around chronic physical ailments and dead or dying friends. Always a perk at a meal.

We took off for my niece's farm at lunchtime. The diehard members of Scott's family were there to help gather up and put away the last remnants of the wedding. Then we all sat down and chowed on the wedding leftovers. The lasagna was even better the second time, as lasagna tends to be. When we headed back to the Cozy Hideout, we loaded up on foodstuffs. No way were we going to be stranded again in Ghoulville with nothing to eat. We had an embarrassment of riches. Cheese, garlic bread, olives, peppers, fruit, wine, and scrumptious no-bake cookies from the baker who did our wedding cake.

Honeymooning couples like their alone time. Especially if it is raucous alone time. And there is an unsettling feeling when, moments after such raucousness, the proprietor of the inn yells up the stairs:

"Hellooooo!" Lurch.

Oh my God.

"Uh, hello?" Me.

"Just making sure everything's going well and you have everything you need!" What did this mean?

"Everything's great. Thanks." Yeah, now he shows up wanting to be of some assistance.

It was then that Scott and I pointedly realized the very open design of the house. The quaint window-like cut-outs near the entrance of our suite made a clear passageway for sound to carry all the way to the first floor. Luckily we had gagged the hyenas and oiled the squeaky trapezes that we had rigged for our nuptials. But still, the idea of Cadaver Boy skulking by to yell up the stairs right then was icky.

I wanted escape. My parents are a 3-minute drive from the Cozy Hideout. And from everything in town, really. I was already feeling homesick for them, since I was leaving for Phoenix in 2 days.

Me: "I know it's our honeymoon, but can we go see my parents?"

Scott (most understanding man in the Western Hemisphere): "Hell yes!"

We hung out with Mom and Dad, watched some TV, talked about the wedding. At 10 p.m. we returned to our suite. I hadn't noticed, on our first night, just how remarkably creepy the place looks in the dark. Like scenery from "Young Frankenstein." As we climbed the merciless winding staircase again, I became focused on the idea that Motel Hell was, indeed, haunted.

During the night, I had to make a bathroom trip. The Ghouls-R-Us feeling had intensified. In the far corner of the bedroom was an old wooden rocking chair, a la Bates Motel. I was terrified that if I looked at it, someone would be sitting there, with or without all their limbs. I cupped my hands around my eyes to form some makeshift blinders.

"Don't look at the chair. Don't look at the chair," I whispered to myself. And yes, I did feel like a Grade-A idiot.

I managed to drag myself out of bed to make it to breakfast on our 2nd and last morning, only because I felt bad for Scott eating alone. We sat at the table drinking coffee and watching a plump, Oompah Loompah of a woman feather-dusting the 9,000 knick knacks covering every flat surface in the house. One of the flaws in the philosophy of the Cozy Hideout, in Candy's humble opinion, is that the owners spend their energy and money on collecting a massive amount of antiques, dolls, vases, homely amateur paintings, yellowed photographs, doilies, instead of providing some genuine, welcoming ambience.

I said to the woman "Interesting place to work, I'll bet."

She looked up with a somewhat trancey beaming smile. "It is a joy to work here. An absolute joy." OK. Good. Job satisfaction is good.

The mistress of the house, several notches closer to normal than her spouse, brought us a mediocre French toast/cream cheese/berry thing and said "Now you feel free to stay as long as you want today. Don't worry about the check out time."

Not that we were dying to stay, but it was nice to have some flexibility. After breakfast I of course needed a nap from the exertion. Scott went to put a few loads of stuff into the car. When he came inside, the cheerful Oompah maid had transformed into someone else entirely.

"I need to get into your room to change the sheets!" said the surly she-beast.

"Well, the owner said we could stay as long as we want," Scott said.

"Well I have to leave at 11:30 and I need to change those sheets!"

"NO," Scott said. "My wife is sleeping, and you can't go in there!"

The wildebeest hoofed away angrily, off to eat some children.

I woke up when Scott came back to the room. He had had it with the Cozy Hideout.

"Let's just shower at your parents'. I'm ready to be outta here."

So I tossed my stuff together and threw on shorts and a T-shirt. We descended the stairs one last time. But wait! We hadn't played basketball! The entire reason for our choosing this joint was going to waste.

Opening the door off the kitchen, we entered the stale old gymnasium, charming in its old timey-ness, the foul lines almost totally rubbed off from years of use. Each of us threw 5 free throws, and Scott took a photo of me kneeling down behind the basketball, my finger in a "We're number one" gesture. And that was that. We left.

Outside our own bed & breakfast world was another very different flavor of treatment. Gail, on whose blog Scott and I met, was our guest of honor at the wedding. We had gotten 2 rooms for her, her husband and daughter at the B & B on the outskirts of town. The place was beyond well-kept, gorgeously decorated, filled with just enough glamor and kitsch to please the eye. The couple who own it are amazingly nice, warm, accommodating, normal people. I knew Gail would love the various themes in the rooms. The one I chose for her and her husband looked fit for royalty, all purple velvet and lush pillows and perfection.

The day after the wedding, we went there to see Gail and family off, and regaled them with the details of our experience across town. Gail told us that their hosts had offered to feed them any time they were hungry. They had, in fact, provided a lavish breakfast and packed up a bag of still-warm muffins for their departing guests to eat on the road.

"If you'd gotten here on your wedding night and were starving," said the angelic hostess, "I'd have made you a full meal."

At this point, Scott and I were so crushed with envy that we wanted to crawl under the house and chew off our own hands. But instead we watched Gail drive away in the 24 karat gold Rolls Royce she'd been given along with the warm baked goods. OK, the car didn't happen, but the rest did. And really, who does that Gail think she is anyway? Sure, she handed us love and happiness. But she ran away with our muffins.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Ominous Clouds, Vows, Rain, Cows

The Wedding, June 23rd

Manicure: check.
Pedicure: check.
Bleeding from both procedures halted with carefully placed bread wrapper twisty-tie tourniquets: check.

Long, hot bath at Mom and Dad's condo, meant to relax the bride: check.

Except that it doesn't relax me. I have such butterflies in my stomach it feels like I'm getting ready to go to my senior prom, give my first in-front-of-the-class book report in 8th grade, and stand naked in a Macy's display window all at once. I am fuh-reaking out. I close myself into the guest bedroom, alone, and try to breathe while I comb out my wet hair. The butterflies are agitated, banging up against my stomach innards like drunken geese in a suit of armor.

By the time my sister (one of my 2 "Best Women") comes to pick up my parents and me for the wedding, I have entered the Cave of Surrealism. The wedding is really going to happen. Soon. I am going to put on the long purple dress (that matches the deep lilac nail polish adorning all 20 of my digits) and marry the guy I am completely ga-ga over. The one I've been flying back and forth to Phoenix a zillion times for in the last year and 10 months. The one who radiates "The Right One" vibe. The one I met on a blog. That's right, we met in the comments section of a blog authored by my friend Gail. She and I taught together at the Big Giant University for 9 years, our desks within spitting distance. Little did I know that in the 8th year, by casually stopping by her blog, I would run head-on into the guy I'd been waiting for my whole life. Not the first guy I married, but the only right one. And as we drive to the wedding site, I am actually happy to have endured that terrifically sour debacle of a marriage. It makes the anticipation about this one, the real one, even more electric. What will it be like to build a life with someone who is truly my partner and not some wildly antagonistic intellectual wanna-be with the sensitivity and warmth of a wooden leg? No offense to wooden legs.

As I am contemplating these and many other things, such as why I haven't managed to lose the porky 15 pounds I swore I would lose before the wedding, my digestive tract continues to imitate an angry python receiving a rectal exam. And the roads are no help because they, too, serpentine violently as we near the land where the hoot owls do you-know-what to the innocent, unsuspecting chickens. (Actually I'm now starting to be suspicious of the chickens. Those little come-hither looks they throw at the doddering old owl with their beady eyes. Like a coop of feathered Olsen twins twitching their beaks at Walter Cronkite.)

4:00 Candy and her entourage arrive. The 4 of us. As it has been all day, the sky is gray and cloudy. It is hinting at foulness. The white tents look sturdy but nervous. They have post-traumatic stress memories from having been blown down and pulverized on Thursday night. Scott's family, the part who's been in town for 3 days helping us prepare, is in the tent. They're all dressed up, which reminds me that I'm getting married. I'm not just at my niece's house to see her and her family and to play with her dogs and cats and run in the yard like a drooling mongrel myself. I have to act normal.

I go into the house and put my girlie supplies in the warehouse-sized bathroom off the master bedroom. This will be my dressing room. But we still have 2 hours before the wedding. I go outside to mingle. We've planned it so that people arrive around 5:00 to hang out for awhile before the big hoedown. The wedding is at 6:30. Our entire families will have time to meet and hobnob and maybe there could be some colorful name-calling and fistfights. You never know what'll happen when you get the city folk together with the country ones. Today is the one time on Planet Earth that this particular group of people will be congregated, and the whole idea is blindingly bizarre to me. Once about 20 years ago there was a social occasion when one of my high school friends met one of my college friends and I thought my hair follicles would melt together like Barbie hair from the not-supposed-to-happen feeling. My life is nice and compartmentalized. When the boundaries between the compartments dissolve, so do I.

I go outside to the tent wearing a brown knit extremely comfortable dress and no shoes and am told "You look like an Appalachian bride. Where are your shoes?" Mingle, mingle, mingle. I'm mingling before my wedding. Which is happening today. My brothers show up from Cincinnati with their families. Scott's dad and stepmom arrive from Columbus. Scott's brother and wife and three kids get there. There is a flurry of introductions among them and even though there will be only family, 50 people max, it is too much for me to take in. I start walking across the sharp gravel in my bare feet to distract myself. People are eating the gourmet hors d'oeuvres Scott has made. Fancy little antipasto and uppity yummy things I do not recognize except for the toothpick rammed through them.

Scott yells for me. Wes is here! The pastor from my church in Illinois. He's been kind enough to drive 2 hours to officiate. He has arrived early just to make sure he could find the place. Smart guy. We have a 5-minute rehearsal in the tent, which is really more than we need.

"You stand here. I'll say this and then this."

He's headed back to the bed & breakfast for awhile, and will return to do the official deed. Not much of a mingler, Wes. His wife has stayed behind in the room, reading a book. "She doesn't do weddings," he says. "Think about it. She only knows one or 2 people besides me, and I'm working." Last night Scott and I put Wes and Sheryl up at the very same bed & breakfast where we will stay tonight. In the very same suite, which is the entire third floor of a monstrous spooky house that used to be the town's YMCA. One of the big reasons we have chosen to stay there (other than the fact that my hometown has exactly one motel, rented by the hour and skanked up to the level where Dateline's secretion-finding blacklight would explode when shined on the bedspreads) is that this B & B has a full-sized basketball gymnasium hooked onto the kitchen. No lie. I am dying to play some basketball, just the two of us, the morning after we get hitched.

The Hitching

I'm just about to go in the house to put on my real dress and I see someone walking up the gravel driveway. This driveway is approximately the length of the Great Wall of China, so it takes a few minutes to hobble up it. The face comes into focus. No, that's mouth hangs open in disbelief. It is Teresa! Remember her? My friend from work who was one of the evil duo who planned my surprise going-away party? She's been ragging on me for months about not being allowed to wear purple taffeta and be a flower girl in the wedding. She has CRASHED the wedding! She and her daughter Bethany haved brazenly crashed our tiny "family only" wedding. I am so happy that I run screaming toward her. I am a chihuahua who does everything but pee on her. I didn't do that. Really. It didn't happen.

I run into the house. Scott is in the back bedroom putting on his wedding attire.

"SCOTT!" I yell.
"I need you. Right now."

It is true. Those who hear this little exchange may be a bit perplexed.

He is only halfway dressed but I drag him to come out and see who is here and he howls just like I did. Teresa has that effect. We adore her. And she is impossible to compliment, so when she reads this she will roll her eyes and scowl. Yes, Teresa, I can see you.

Meanwhile, the weather is looking extra pissy. My niece has looked at the radar online and she says some big-eyed, technical weathery things to Scott, who translates for me: "There's a big-ass storm coming. Maybe even tornado-y looking."

Great. We decide to call Wes back from the B & B, hopefully not in the middle of things pastors should never, ever do. At least not in the bed I will be sleeping in tonight. We tell him it's time to get the show on the road before we all get blown down the hill into the pond.

The pre-wedding music is now playing. We've picked out a dozen songs and burned them on a CD. Among them: The "Looney Tunes" theme and that song Bernadette Peters plays on her trumpet while walking on the beach with Steve Martin in "The Jerk." In between the songs, Scott's recorded voice says things like "It is now time to move toward the wedding pavilion. Please do not put chewing gum on the bottom of the rental chairs." The mood is set.

It is really time to put on the purple dress now. I bought this amazing dress in Scottsdale almost a year ago. I had the wedding dress before I had the engagement ring. It screamed to me from the rack: "There is one of me and I'm your favorite color of all time and I'm your size!" I broke all the wedding rules and had Scott look at it when I tried it on. He made some very ungentlemanly comments about it and I had to close the dressing room door on his hands, which told me it was the right dress.

When Wes gets back, he is in his suit. I tell him he looks hot. Scott says, "You mean he looks hot for a man of God. And he looks hot for a married man of God."

Wes needs us to sign the marriage license. I have been interrupted in mid-war paint and have one eyelid all sparkly with bronze eye shadow. I have on my wedding dress and one shoe. I am a study in fashion asymmmetry. I take off the shoe and go to the dining room table where Wes is waiting with the official document. Soon it will all be legal.

Scott tells me we have 15 minutes. One eyelid to go.

And this is where it starts getting fuzzy. I'm just warning you. It's not a cop-out. I do have some details in my brain, but I zoned out so hard I felt like I was back at the Doobie Brothers concert in 1979. The very smoky Doobie Brothers concert.

My mom and dad and I get ready to walk down the "aisle" which means walking out of the garage, down Michele's patio, into the tent and down a grass aisle between the seats. My mom is wearing a gorgeous purple suit one shade lighter than my dress, and my dad's in a suit with a fantabulous purple silk tie I brought him from the big city. I'm between them. My dad, now 89 and struggling to walk, and with very little memory, is here. He's at my wedding, which I never thought would happen. He was frail 2 years ago when I had very little hope of meeting the love of my life. I remember thinking as I stood at my niece's wedding 2 summers ago, watching my mom and dad very gingerly slow dance, that even if I met someone, they'd never get to meet my dad. We walk down the aisle, the three of us, and I hold my bouquet, 36 lavender and white roses, and mostly don't look up at anyone because I'm watching my dad's feet to make sure he does OK. I am so happy my parents are both with me. Even though I know my dad will, tomorrow, not remember that we were here.

A Stevie Wonder song plays instead of the usual wedding march. Scott is up there smiling at me. And it's so close to what I pictured and hoped for that I pretty much play freeze-tag in my brain right there. He's still Scott, but he's Wedding Scott. Like a special strangely-lit version of himself that I'm even more in love with.

My entire system of consciousness taps me on the shoulder and says "This is one of the big highlights of your life. Pay attention." Yes. I can tell this is going to be on the greatest hits list of memories when I'm Candy, Retiree. But for the life of me, I can not stay in my head. Thank God the whole thing is on video. I hope to visit it when I get the nerve to watch it. I do remember a pregnant pause before I repeated "For richer or for poorer." Not because I had to consider that part, but because I was trying not to cry. (Wussie.) And then we did the vows we'd written privately to each other. I remember those. But they were so personal and so emotional that if I tried to write them down here I'd have to spread myself on a cracker and go to bed in a Tupperware container tonight.

Scott looks unforgettably fantastic in his dark grey suit, blazing white shirt, purple tie. I can't look at him hard enough.

In 20 minutes it is over. Wes says his ending prayer, and when we are pronounced husband and wife, we turn to our guests and smile, with our fake Billy Bob teeth in our mouths. Yes, really. This here is a Hoosier weddin' and don't you fergit it.

Oh, and in case you have forgotten about the run-for-the-hills storm clouds that have been hovering all afternoon? They are about to blast. The food is brought out to the tent, tables arranged, dozens of groovy color-changing candles begin to glow in the blue-gray air. Scott and I run up an intimidatingly tall, winding staircase to reach the top of one of the giant silver grain bins. I have to ditch the high heels and hold my dress up like a wading cowgirl to keep from tripping. Our poor photographer, willful experimenter that he is, climbs up the one next to ours and gets some photos. We can see for miles and we're away from everybody and it's romantic and then it's suddenly apparent that standing on a tall metal structure as the storm gets closer is the kind of thing that will be a blurb in Yahoo's Weird News: "Newlyweds Electrocuted Moments After Vows."

Our photographer, Jim, has us run down the big rolling hill toward the cow pasture. He captures on film a mixture of "The Sound of Music" and "HeeHaw." He poses us this way and that, even lying on his side in the grass, in his suit, to get the angle he's visualized. He's won national awards for his work, and you can see the guy is into it. He's practically spritely as he runs about.

Eating. Lots of eating. Scott's many Italian options go over big. The sky grows darker. Not because it's the evening. Indiana is on whacked out Daylight Savings Time and the sun does not go down in June until 9:30. The storm is just around the bend. We can see it coming.

And then it's here. Pouring pouring rain. Wind whipping the tent like a lazy field donkey.

We cut the wedding cake. It is white with purple polka dots. Jim finds his perfect vantage point right where 2 tents are hooked together, and are leaking under the pressure of the deluge. Then, the piece de resistance: The Kitty Litter Cake. It is deliciously disgusting. Melted miniature Tootsie Rolls boosting it to its full potential of grossness. My brother later tells me "It was good. And I even found a turd."

The storm has now changed from an awkward, creepy, unwanted wedding guest to something that might kill us. Every grown man present is on his feet, trying to roll down and secure the sides of the tent to protect us from the horizontal rain. The women are looking at one another a little panicked about the whole thing. It's all so loud we have to yell, and it is becoming clear that the dancing we've planned is not going to happen. This is a huge letdown. My nephew Clint, age 19, does the most ridiculous, high-kicking, inbred hick dance to "Rocky Top" that has ever been seen. It has changed lives. I've seen it at three family weddings. Once you've witnessed it, you cannot erase it from your memory. I've looked forward to it for months, and Clint even reassured me that he was an "All Terrain Dancer." But it is not to be. People are loading up to take off, many for a 3 hour drive.

Scott and I indignantly taunt the downpour and walk out into it, getting drenched for a photo. We truly look idiotic but it's fun.

With just a few people left around, Jim packs up his lenses and wraps it up for the night. Scott and I are in the open garage, kissing as he backs out of his parking spot. From the window of his truck, Jim yells. It's raining so hard we can't see him.

"Do that again!" he says.

"Do what again?"

"Kiss underneath that garage light."

We do. And then he pulls away.

Scott says "I paid him ten bucks to say that."

My pricey sandals are found outside the tent, left behind to their own ruin during the "Sound of Music" scene. When I squeeze the soles, water drips out. Having forgotten to bring extra shoes, I go to the bed & breakfast barefoot. Tired. Married. Happy. Fake teeth in one hand, bouquet in the other.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Countdown to Matrimony

Friday night, June 22nd. The no-rehearsal dinner happened at a pizza place in my hometown. The specialty on the buffet was pizza with "croc sauce." The desserts included chocolate pudding and M & M pizza. No question about it: We know how to live.

My betrothed and I went our separate ways for the night. He stayed at the wedding location to hold vigil over the fickle tents. I love the phrase "fickle tents." It morphs nicely into "tickle fence". Uh, anyway, I hung out with my parents and sister, and we walked through the "preview" of my parents' condo association's multi-garage sale. This is among our favorite activities. 2 years ago, we participated in the sale ourselves. I drove 2 hours on a Saturday morning before it was even light outside, snacking on cheese fries and a chocolate shake from Steak 'n' Shake in order to make it to Mom and Dad's by 6:30, when the early birds start shopping. And, as is usually the case with yard sales, we worked our spleens out sorting and pricing and displaying and at the end of the day we were blisteringly tired and said we would never ever be stupid enough to mess with this again, and we had made about 12 dollars each. Which we spent in the other garages. This year we skipped the painful part and went right to the part where we spend money on stuff we don't need. I bought 3 identical keychains: replicas of the Roman Coliseum. All for a buck. And don't tell me you wouldn't have bought them if you'd gotten there first.

June 23rd: Ta-Daaaa! Wedding Day.

The day I would be married. The day I would walk down the aisle. The day I would exchange vows with Scott. The day I would be made an honest woman. Whatever that means.

Oh. And the day it would rain. But first things first.

At noon, I went to the local Korean manicure shop for a wedding day mani-pedi combo. Even in my hometown of 8,000, there is a local place filled to the brim with hyperactive fume-crazy Koreans whose speed and voracity for their nail services is Asian Game Show crazy. Race-the-clock crazy. Do this manicure faster than your colleague and we'll unlock the freezer where we're keeping your children crazy.

The girl who was my nail-ist was the size of a stick of gum. She immersed my feet into water so hot that my flesh sizzled like the first unlucky french fry tossed into the Ronco Fry Daddy.

Me: Holy crap. That's amazingly hot.

Stick of Chewing Gum: You get used to it.

Me: No. Seriously. It's like lava. I'm dying.

The skin just above my ankles had headed north, rolling itself up to my thighs into a makeshift pair of skin culottes.

Stick: You want me cool down?

Me: Yes. Just enough to keep me from screaming.

She rolled her eyes and turned on the cold water nozzle. The culottes slowly unrolled.

Stick: You want noh-mal pedicyuah or de-rux?

Me: What is de-rux?

Stick: Oh! Yo feet feel so good you no bereeve it! Many special rotions.

Me: Sure. What the hell.

What followed was a test of my female endurance. Stick made my feet and calves her special bitches. She scraped my heels with some sort of miniature machete, stopping only to admire the exposed bone shining whitely into her tiny face like a light from an ancient ancestor. I sat watching her and wondering if I'd be able to walk down the aisle or if I'd have to be wheeled in on a gurney, leading with my foot-stumps, appearing as white gauze watermelons.

But I was snapped back to the present when happy little Stick started applying some kind of lime green mixture from my heels to my knees. Something harsh, with sea salt and aloe and agent orange mixed together. Let me tell you something. Never ever be fooled by the stature of your Korean nail girl. She slathered it on and then squeeeeeeeezed my legs so hard with her little mouse hands, rubbing up and down, that I was sure every vein had burst and every bone crumbled under the pressure. When she finished, if she ever did, I was sure that my legs would shrivel and curl up like the wicked witch's legs in Oz. The one under the house. I was going to die.

Me: So, uh, what is this supposed to do for me?

Stick: (Throws head back in glee.) HA! HA! HA!

When she finished my toenails, what was left of them, I limped, in my salon flip-flops, over to the manicure station for above-the-waist torture. I was afraid to watch what she did with the cuticle scissors. I did not speak. Stick had proven herself unstable and I knew she had performed medically unnecessary tracheotomies with those little scissors.

My mother has gone to this salon. Once. My niece got her a certificate for a pedicure and only after we prodded her for a year would she go redeem it. It drove her mad listening to the Koreans talk. She's convinced that they're saying not-nice things about her. I scoffed at this until I heard Stick animatedly yelping something to her colleague, jumping several octaves and back with each word. I don't mind hearing foreign languages. After 9 years at a Big Giant University, I barely notice anymore. But there is no doubt in my mind that after Stick said to me, in English, "Boy you really needed a manicure." she said, in Korean "I could ram this pasty hag's paws into a Cuisinart on 'liquefy' and she'd still look better than when she brought her fat ass in." Some things you just know.