The bikers in the parking lot of an abandoned pharmacy wore gator skin jackets. One sported a Viking helmet, each temple bulwarked with the twisted horn of an ox. He toted a revolver and twirled it with his finger. The gang formed a circle around a man in a tuxedo – a groom splayed across the clamshell holding his face. His seersuckers were ripped and his cummerbund wound around his thighs. His hair was soaked with something, probably urine.
He rose up on one elbow and a biker stepped forward, swung his leg and parted a tooth from the groom’s mouth with a steel toe mukluk. Mucus lashed from his nostrils like twin bullwhips as his head flew backwards. He tumbled across the ground to the feet of the Viking who collected him by the neck and crotch and lobbed him into the moshing bikers who bounced him about in a brutal game of squash. He spat out the backside of the swarm in a dust cloud, his forelimbs flapping about as he rolled.
A hog squealed up the causeway, a woman on its back, a white veil streaming from her head as she moved. The Viking raised his revolver and fired a skyward signal to the woman who, as if harkened by sonar, coursed her ride towards the origin of the shot, her wheels skidding to a stop about a yard from where the groom lay.
She was plump with child and as she unsaddled she straightened her veil and obliged the bikers in a bow of gratitude. Her skin was pale with fard, bruised in the sketchy light and her frame, frail, white trash erotic. She looked at the groom on the ground before her, shriveled like an enormous spider.
“Why’d you run?” she said. “You knew I’d catch you.”
The groom did not respond. The woman took hold of his head in her hands and began to explore its knotted contours. His eyes darted about beneath his lids and he clutched the woman’s wrists. Her peroxide locks cast an ivory hue across her sunken clavicles and mascara oozed from her sockets and as she huffed into the swampy air, her breath smoked like grey plumes of ghostsex.
“Wake up,” she said and she shook him. “We’re already late.”
The groom dropped his arms and the woman held the entire weight of his body by the head like a gaunt and psychotic faith healer. His eyes split open and he took her in with puffy goggles of swollen meat. He squirmed and she dropped him and he flopped across the clamshell like a beached dolphin battered by a boat propeller. She caught his leg and hauled him backwards. He fluttered and kicked helplessly as his mouth fizzed. He garbled something incoherent.
“What’s that?” the woman said. “What are you trying to say?”
He fell silent.
“Say something,” she said. “Anything. Please?”
He gummed his jaws, spat another tooth and wearily glimpsed the gang of bikers who loomed about like clan of barbaric seers braced for carnage.
“What happened?” the groom said. “Where am I?”
“What does it matter?” the woman said. “You fell asleep watching sports.”
“Don’t be,” she said, her expression, warming as she helped him to his feet.
The groom lolled his head. The woman draped his dead arms around her shoulders and swayed him as if music was playing.
“Everyone’s waiting,” she said. “We have to go.”
The pastor’s hog-nose jutted from his alabaster noggin, bone bare without a hair on it, not even eyebrows. He stood between the woman and the groom whose do had been greased and combed flat against his skull so that it looked painted on. The trio perched upon a sandbar waist-deep in the tide amid a low skein of mist across the surf. A congregation of spring breakers looked on like a leper colony from a cement jetty extending from the shore of a rundown beach house.
The pastor recited scripture judiciously, with a charismatic aura from a Xeroxed piece of paper. The woman listened, resting a bouquet against her potbelly as the groom gawked and drooled at the pastor’s chalky facade. The pastor paused in mid-verse and returned the groom’s glare with his beady yellow eyes.
“Please stop looking at me like that,” he said. “It’s distracting.”
The groom tottered and pointed clumsily with his eyes falsely brightened.
“Your head looks like a golf ball,” he said.
The pastor folded his paper and sighed soberly. An awkward silence fanned across the surf save for the chirp of a faraway seagull.
“For you information…” the pastor said. “I have leukemia.”
He dabbed the pearly foreplate of his skull with his sleeve. The woman looked mortified. The groom clutched his stomach and hunched over as if he was about to hurl.
“I’m sorry,” he mustered. “I didn’t know. Nobody told me.”
The woman rustled her bouquet and cleared her throat.
“You’ll have to excuse him,” she said. “Can we finish this please?”
The groom raked his legs through the water and sputtered the sound of a motorboat with his lips.
“I’m sorry,” the pastor said. “Are you going to be okay?”
“Don’t be silly,” the groom slurred. “I’m sorry. Like I said. Nobody told me.” And he swirled around and waved his arms in the direction of the importunate horde of tweens clad in bright trunk and bikini. “Not one of them.”
“He’ll be fine,” the woman said.
The groom waded clumsily towards the pastor and met his eyes with a strange priapic leer.
“I didn’t know,“ he whispered. “I don’t know anything.”
The pastor pursed his porcelain features and stepped backwards. The groom giggled as he made a series of loping simian steps, smacking his loose wet lips. He fell sideways and his body slapped the water with a violent chop. The tween assembly watched, stirring with the excitement of a cinema crowd as he flailed.
“I think he’s drowning,” the pastor said.
The woman rolled her eyes.
“Don’t be silly,” she said. “He just wants attention.”
The foamy current lapped the groom’s face in a grey gravy as he paddled, eventually surrendering his limbs to the current. He body ebbed lifelessly, his hands outstretched around his head facedown in the sea.
“Is he dead?” the pastor said.
“Doubt it,” the woman said.
“Well he looks it,” he said. “And I can’t finish if he is.”
He motioned towards the shore and a small altar boy emerged from the muted rave atop the jetty. The boy quickly shed his gown and skipped like a basilisk across the water to where the groom bobbed and took his wrist by the hand. The woman waited and sighed impatiently. The pastor checked his watch. The seconds passed. Waves crashed.
“He has a pulse,” the boy announced. He took the groom’s head by the scalp and held it upward. His face blue as he hacked and brine gushed from his toothless mouth.
“Well I’ll be damned,” the pastor said. “Hallelujah.”
“See,” the woman said. “He’s still alive. Now can we get this over with?”
“I’m sorry,” the pastor said. “Where was I?”
“Just skip to the end,” she said.
The pastor eyed his paper for a moment and shrugged.
“Well do you or don’t you?” he said.
The woman removed her veil. She narrowed her eyes on the groom as the surf swelled around him.
“I do,” she said.
The groom wailed a dolorous air across the seascape. The boy released his skull and it splashed into the water. The congregation rose and cheered and began dancing in a strobic flash of neon and techno.
“Congratulations,” the pastor said. He ripped up his paper and threw it in the air like confetti, pocking the skin of the riptide where it fell as it pulled the groom away.
The Seminole’s hair was dyed orange. He stood on the motel balcony with a cigarette hanging from his lips. He was about seven feet tall with a unibrow that resembled a large bat with its wings pinned to a caramel varnish. Beyond him, red break lights trailed across the nocturnal murk of a highway-lined bayou. The door was open. The room filled with mosquitoes.
The groom sat in a bathtub of ice and Pabst, paling and picking his ear cauliflower like a wastrel Christ, naked save for his bowtie. A tube had been plugged into the crown of his head and strung to an IV bag hung like a strange fruit from the plastic towel rack above him. A hole had been gouged into his abdomen and divulged his pancreas, bungled rudely between two exposed ribs.
The woman knelt beside him tugged the organ halfheartedly. It wouldn’t budge. She too was naked apart from her veil that she used to shoo hungry bugs from the varicose tracks about her baby bump.
“Close the door,” she snapped at the Seminole. “You’re letting all the cold air out.”
He pitched his butt and slid the door shut behind him. His flip-flops squished in a puddle pooled on the purple carpet, fed gradually by a wood grain air conditioner that rattled in the wall and leaked condensation through a brown crack towards the floor.
He reached around the woman and plucked a Pabst from the ice atop the groom’s belly. The groom followed suit, opening a can and holding it upward in a peculiar toast.
“For your information,” he said. “I believe this is illegal.”
The woman took his hand and forced the can to his lips. He gummed the rim and sipped and spat and struggled to swallow.
“Now, now,” she said. “Just try to relax.”
The Seminole said nothing and went about his business on the toilet behind her, his camel-like femurs contorted awkwardly as he sat and dispensed a vast assortment of pills across the sink top from a cellophane wrapper and proceeded to grind one at a time with a tarnished quarter.
“What’s happening?” the groom said.
“We’re celebrating,” the woman said.
“Because it’s official.”
“You made an honest woman out of me.”
“Finally,” the Seminole said.
The groom’s eyes lolled every which way, his face a red slick of oil and mineral that dripped and colored the ice under his chin.
“You did it,” he said. “I didn’t make you anything.”
“Well we did it and it’s done,” she said. “And you can’t change it.”
The groom tried to adjust himself beneath the ice but it held like cement around him.
“If I get out of here alive,” he retorted, his head bobbing dumbly. “That’s just what I aim to do.”
“Is that a threat?” she said.
“I don’t threaten people.”
“You don’t call that a threat?”
“It was a promise.”
The Seminole snickered and snorted a line of chalk from the sink top. He pulled back and pinched his nose and his eyes lit up like stark flambeaus.
“What is that stuff?” the groom said.
“A little Ritalin,” the Seminole said. “And a little Viagra.”
“Looks like it burned.”
The Seminole touched his face and blinked around the room.
“I think it’s already working,” he said.
He emptied his can, cracked another and swigged. The woman leaned over the tub towards the groom.
“Come here, baby,” she said. “Kiss me like you mean it.”
She lunged for his face with her mouth wide open. The groom turned his head and she planted her tongue on his cauliflower. The Seminole watched chuckling as the groom strong-armed her face.
“You’ve lost your mind,” the groom said.
“Aren’t you happy?” she said.
The groom panned his eyes about and said, “No. Of course. Everything’s swell.”
She seemed stunned by the baldness of his sarcasm.
“I know you don’t mean that,” she said.
The groom spat and looked back, indignant.
“The hell I don’t.”
The woman’s eyes blackened and she motioned to the Seminole with her hands like a third base coach beset with bees or madness. He emptied his second can and grinned wildly, his eyes onyx and ocelotish. He grabbed the groom’s IV and squeezed until the bag was empty. The groom juddered beneath the ice. His eyes filled with blood and bulged and steam sang from his noseholes and melted the ice around him as if he was being electrocuted. The woman watched his torso convulse with a vague amusement until the tension coursing through his body gradually slackened.
The Seminole rose and retired to the bed and turned the television on.
The woman hovered above the groom with her arms crossed.
“Are you happy now?” she said.
The groom perked up and looked around, eyes fully dilated, meeting hers in a vegetative gaze, his chest rattling like a dry husk of corn.
“I think I’m dreaming,” he said.
Dark arterial blood began to trickle from his nose.
“I bet,” she said.
“There’s nothing on,” the Seminole said. He slid his quarter into a slot on the headboard and the mattress began to vibrate. The woman lay beside him and spooned her rump against his hips.
“Who cares?” she said. “Just turn it off.”