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For Better, For Worse

During the speech portion of the reception, the Flower Girl ascends the stage, removes the microphone from the Maid of Honor’s hand. She tells the Bride, “I’m sorry, but your dog Sparkles has run away.”

Without a word, the Groom — suave in his slick-black hair, heroic in his tuxedo — sprints from the wedding table, out the door.

“Then we found her,” the Flower Girl continues.

The Bride weeps: “Why are you telling me this?”

“Sparkles is dead.”

Bridesmaids assure the Bride the dog is not dead. They fan her with palm leaves. The Flower Girl continues: “Actually, I have no clue where she is. She’s not where I left her.”

Another plaintive sob. Flecks of mascara run in a river of tears down the Bride’s neck to the high, white neckline of her dress.

The Groom’s legs carry him at a full clip past his friends and brothers and grandfather, who have since left the reception under the aegis of “avoiding drama.” They watch a bonfire outside.

“You see, women are powerful because they are desired,” the old man says to the group. (They’re all smoking cigars). “What grants you more power than being desired?”

The group of bachelors shrug, then nod. The old man’s statement absorbs deeply into their skulls.

The Groom, now hundreds of yards into the unlit woods around the reception hall, searches through wet leaves, dead tree trunks. He gets a scent. “Sparkles?”

Inside, the Flower Girl has been removed from the premises.

The Bride’s mother is speaking: “My lovely daughter. When you’re married, nobody dies unless the Plot of Life reasons that they should. Death is always off-camera. Nobody has two emotions at once. When you’re married, nobody seriously cries. It’s always just one tear.”

The groom tackles the tiny beast, uses his necktie to bind its feet. He tosses it over his shoulder and begins the journey back.

“Isn’t desire an unfair thing?” the old man ponders. “And while I’m at it: Isn’t the body an unfair thing? And isn’t The Universe the unfairest thing of all?” Then, by divination, the men look up into the night sky (Their cigars, mere stubs now). “Imagine: a thinking, desirous being, forced to confront uncertainty every day of its pathetic life.”

“There are no deaths, only challenges,” the Bride’s mother continues. “There are no —”

She stops.

Everybody in the hall gasps.

The Groom has returned, a clean little coyote pup under his arm

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