The Runcible Lad
© by the author
Yeah, I’m nervous. I’m not too proud to admit that. I’ve never been this nervous before. Look at my hands. They’re shaking, and we’ve not even begun yet. I didn’t expect to be this wound up. I’m not worried about the ceremony at the registrar’s. That’ll be over in a few minutes. That’s nothing. Henry says ‘I do’ and I say ‘I do’ and then we sign our names. In at 10:45 and out by 11:00. That’s just me and Henry and our parents and our friends Linc and Des as witnesses.
It’s later that’s making my stomach churn. At the hall we rented. When I have to get up in front of all our friends and everybody in our families and say something about why I’m there and what it means to me. Everyone I know will be there, and I don’t want to look a fool. I want to say that I’m the luckiest man in the world. I want to tell them that. I want to tell Henry that. I’ve told him that before, but I want to tell him that in front of everyone so that they know it too.
But I don’t want to do anything stupid. I don’t want to do that to Henry. For the past month, this speech is all I’ve thought about. And I can’t ask anybody about it. They’ll think me a right wanker if I admit to being worried about it. But Henry deserves my best today. I just want to say something important, something that everybody will remember, something that Henry will remember. A gift, it should be like my wedding gift to him. That’s what I want to do. Give him this gift in front of everyone and let them share in it.
I’m just no good with words. That’s my problem. It’s like the day I met Henry. I couldn’t find anything to say. I just stood there with my mouth open making noises. Grunting like. I was walking Blue—that’s my dog—I was walking Blue in the park, and Henry—well, I didn’t know it was Henry at the time. There was this man playing with a child. They were chasing each other around a tree. The child was shrieking, and the man was laughing. They were so happy. Everybody was smiling because of them. I thought they were father and son. I found out later that Carl was Henry’s nephew. He’s going to be there today. Carl, I mean. He’s almost four now. Of course, Henry’s going to be there.
I’m not telling this very well. I just can’t think straight today. Anyway, Carl spots Blue and he stops running and says ‘dog’. You know how children fix on things that catch their eye. One minute Carl is chasing Henry around that tree, and the next moment he’s toddling towards me pointing at Blue, saying ‘dog, dog’. Of course, Henry came up behind Carl just to make sure that Blue didn’t hurt him. He knelt down behind Carl and stretched his arms out around him. Not to keep him away from Blue, but just to be there to protect Carl in case Blue didn’t like kids or something. Henry’s like that. He tries to protect everyone he loves.
So Henry bends forward and kind of whispers aloud into Carl’s ear and tells him to ask ‘the nice man’ what the doggie’s name is. Then Henry looks up at me, directly into my eyes, and smiles. And it was like a flash of lightning going off inside my head. There was this loud noise, I swear, like thunder. That’d never happened to me before. I don’t know what caused all that commotion. It was just something right and good for once, something that felt like it had to be.
You’ve seen Henry. He’s not bad looking. But he’s not handsome or gorgeous. I mean he’s nice looking but he’s not spectacular or anything like that. I’m not either. I’m not complaining. It’s just that he doesn’t have the type of looks to cause explosions. Yet there’s this roaring in my ears, and I’m seeing black spots in front of my eyes, and he’s looking at me as if he’s beginning to wonder if I’m the village idiot, and then I stammer out ‘Boo’.
And Henry says to Carl, ‘The doggie’s name is Boo. Can you say “Boo”?’
Carl reaches out a finger toward Blue and says ‘Boo’ and then he starts screaming with laughter and shouting ‘Boo, Boo, Boo.’ Blue is leaning forward trying to smell Carl, and Carl touches Blue’s nose with his finger. And Blue licks Carl’s hand and then Carl jerks his finger back and starts laughing even harder. Then he puts his hand out toward Blue again.
That sets Blue off and he’s pulling against his lead and standing on his hind legs and hopping up and down so that he can get closer and lick Carl’s face. Henry lifts Carl away, and I bend over and try to grab Blue. Blue’s jumping about, and I lose my balance. That’s when I fell over. There I am, lying on my back on the path trying to hold on to a squirming dog, and Carl is all excited and Blue is barking just to add his bit to the noise and Henry is helping me up and then brushing the dirt off my clothes and asking me if I’m all right.
I suppose I could tell that story. Lots of people tell funny stories about themselves at their wedding suppers. But I don’t want to make a joke. In any case, I’m not good at telling jokes at the best of times, and today I know I’m not going to be at my best.
I don’t know how people get through all this. Is every groom this nervous? When I was ten or so, there was this older couple on our street. They were in their nineties and they had their seventy-fifth wedding anniversary, and everyone in the neighbourhood got together to celebrate. They closed off the road and then put tables down the middle and covered them over with coloured paper. Everyone brought food, and we had this great roaring party. They had games and funny hats and noisemakers and balloons. There was a band and dancing and fireworks at night. And Mr Moore stood up and said how nervous he had been on their wedding day seventy-five years ago but that he knew that everything would come right in the end because he and his wife were like a poem, a proper poem with rhymes where everything fits together right and all the words are just what has to be said.
Maybe I should tell that story. Then I could say that that’s what I would like, a party on our seventy-fifth anniversary. I’ll invite everyone to our seventy-fifth anniversary party. In seventy-five years, both Henry and I will be 98. We could live that long. People are living longer now. That’s what I would like—to have the neighbours throw us a party in the middle of the street. Maybe I could say something like that. Do you think that would be all right?
Oh, what idiot thought up weddings? There must be a simpler way for two lads to get married. Yeah, yeah, I know we’re not supposed to call it a ‘marriage’. It’s a ‘civil partnership’, but to me and Henry it’s our wedding day and we’re getting married, and anybody who says different—well I’m not starting a fight at my own wedding but I’ll not forget.
Oh, Christ, look at the time. It’s already 10:15. Linc and Des will be here to pick me up in a few minutes, and I’ve not even put my tie on yet. I bought this blue tie yesterday. Is it all right? Does it look good with this shirt? Or would my red tie be better?