Tennessee’s Howard Brown puts new meaning into the phrase, “Use it or lose it” …
THE WOULD-BE BRIDE
By Howard Brown
She was a very large girl. Not fat or ugly, just big. Big, as in Clydesdale or Mastiff, and much too large for the Shetland ponies and Chihuahuas who passed themselves off as eligible bachelors in our little town. So when this well-spoken, bear of a man showed up one day, it seemed like an answered prayer.
He was supposedly a land agent, in town to lease farms for a corporate soybean operation. But most mornings you could find him in the lobby of the hotel, smoking, drinking coffee and passing the time of day with the local businessmen who frequented the place. And one of those businessmen was the father of the very large girl.
This father, knowing his daughter was of an age when her prospects for marriage were rapidly diminishing, promptly introduced her to the stranger, and in short order the two were engaged. The girl basked in the adulation, showing off her ring and introducing her fiancé at the endless rounds of engagement parties that followed that summer.
No one really knew anything about the man, other than what he’d told them, and the girl’s father didn’t seem to care, the prospect of someone taking the daughter off his hands being all the information he needed.
In due course the wedding day arrived. Everything went according to plan until the minister got to the part of the ceremony where he admonished the congregation: “If anyone knows any reason why this man and woman should not be joined together in holy matrimony, let them speak now or forever hold their peace.” At that point, a petite redhead sitting in the very back pew stood up and calmly announced: “Well, he’s been married to me for the last nine years, so that might be a problem.”
The would-be bride looked over at her fiancé, but all he could muster was a sheepish grin as he turned, fled back up the aisle and out the front door of the church.
When the man left town that day, most people simply said good riddance and moved on with their lives — but not the girl’s uncle. This uncle was generally thought of as a lazy and shiftless individual, occasionally running a fruit and vegetable stand on the edge of town, but spending most of his time in the woods hunting and fishing. Still, he was a graduate of the University, more astute than most people gave him credit for and, above all, did not suffer insults lightly.
The uncle did nothing for a year, biding his time, waiting for the dust to settle. Then he went after the absconding groom, whom he found in a small town in Missouri, once more living with his pretty, little red-headed wife. And while nothing could undo the indignity which had been visited upon the jilted bride, when the uncle put away his skinning knife, romance would no longer be an option for the smooth-talking stranger.
Howard Brown is a writer and poet who lives on Lookout Mountain, Tennessee. He has previously published short fiction in Louisiana Literature; flash fiction in Fuck Fiction and Crack the Spine; and, poetry in Old Hickory Review and Poetry Super Highway. In 2012, he published a collection of poetry titled “The Gossamer Nature of Random Things.” He spends his time writing, biking, swimming and teaching yoga.