The Sign

Prepare yourself! As you may remember from my first blog post, I told you about creating this blog as part of a creative writing course final exam assignment. An additional part of the assignment is the requirement to post at least two of my own works, so here is my first one. Hope you like the short story. Please post your reactions and comments. Thanks!

First United Methodist Church of Fort Worth - Fort Worth, TX, United States. One of the most beautiful churches here in FW!

The Sign

The wedding ceremony came to a wrenching halt, when Alvin’s face paled, and he vomited on his soon-to-be bride Vanessa, the long-winded preacher, and their best man. It just came out of nowhere, this gut-churning mix of gastric juices and partially digested food. Its projectile force stunned even Alvin.

The minister signaled to the organist to play something, anything as the ceremony stopped.

All three men quickly retreated to the small church parlor situated to the right of the pulpit and the disaster scene. They had to regroup and perform damage control.

The bride and her attendants made a beeline for the bride’s room at the opposite side of the sanctuary. Vanessa’s expensive, custom-designed wedding gown was stained by Alvin’s vomit, but not so much that the residue could not be cleaned off with water and paper towels—for the time being. The stain would remain even after numerous cleanings.

Vanessa cried as she surveyed the damage, while her six best friends tried to comfort her.

“Why did this have to happen in front of God and my family and friends? My wedding is ruined. I can’t go back and face all those people. I’m going to kill Alvin.”

It was almost as if a hive of bees had taken up residence in the room. Each attendant, without waiting for silence, began to comfort the bride, trying to reassure her that her dream wedding could be salvaged.

“You’ll laugh about this someday, Vanessa. I just know you will. You and Alvin will have something out of the ordinary to share with your children. Please don’t let this unfortunate incident spoil the beginning of your marriage.”

Back in the sanctuary, the church, filled to overflowing with flowers and guests, hummed with muted voices and some laughter.

The debacle was forever preserved on videotape. The camera just kept rolling, capturing the actual incident and the wedding party’s retreat. Nothing like this had ever hit the socially prominent, wealthy community, assembled to see one of its own wed.

“I saw Alvin turning green. Didn’t I tell you something was wrong?” Alvin’s cousin Robert said to his wife Bettie.

“Yes, you certainly did. I could see that something wasn’t quite right. Most grooms have smiles on their faces—but not our Alvin. He looked terrified,” Bettie said, trying to repress a giggle.

Most of the wedding guests knew that Alvin and Vanessa had been childhood sweethearts, dated all through high school and college, and now worked together in their own business. Their company specialized in antique auto restoration, with Alvin doing the mechanical and body work, while Vanessa designed and beautified the interiors. Their business lives seemed successful and productive, as did their personal lives.

The couple had been living together for two years. They finally agreed to marry after bowing to parental pressure.

Vanessa’s mother, a former runner-up Miss Texas, frequently lamented to her only daughter, “I am really ashamed that you and Alvin are living together without the benefit of holy matrimony. It is so very embarrassing for me and your father. Our church friends and Reverend Johnson have been calling me for years, asking when you two are going to marry.”

“Alvin, you need to do the right thing by Vanessa. I’ll give her a big fancy church wedding and, as a wedding gift, I’ll buy you all a house in the best part of Fort Worth,” promised Vanessa’s dad, who had been captain of the Texas Longhorns’ football team back in his college days.

Even Alvin’s mother had begun to pressure the couple to tie the knot. “Your daddy wanted to see you married before he died, but it didn’t happen. Son, you may never get another chance to marry into such a prominent, wealthy family. Your dad would have loved to have seen his grandchildren. I do, too. All my friends have at least one. I want one, too, and you’re not getting any younger, my dear.”

These conversations were running through the groom’s head as he stood in the small church parlor, trying to quell his nerves and sort out disturbing images of the past few minutes.

Alvin P. Worthington threw down his glove. “By God,” he cried, “I can’t go through with this.”

Ed, his best man was in shock. Jed Johnson, the wordy preacher, was at last speechless, and his mother Jane was furious.

“By God, indeed,” snapped Alvin’s mother. In less than ten seconds flat, she had made her way from the front pew in the sanctuary to this small room to confront her only child.

“What on earth has gotten into you, Alvin? This marriage is something you’ve wanted ever since you were a teenager. You cannot back out now. It’s only an upset stomach, just something you ate.” She dabbed a moistened handkerchief on Alvin’s soiled tuxedo, trying to make the damage disappear.

“Oh, yes, I can, and I am. I need time to think; to be sure that this is a marriage of love, not just convenience. Will I look back years from now and see this puking as a sign that I needed to stop the whole thing?” Alvin was adamant.

“Well, son, let’s just clean up a bit more and go back and finish the vows. Can’t disappoint the little lady, can we?” crooned the celebrity TV preacher Jed Johnson, nationally known for his evangelistic tours. He had more than a little snake oil slipperiness about him and was performing this ceremony only because Vanessa’s parents made huge monthly contributions to his media ministry. He felt obligated to get this wedding completed as soon as possible, without further delay. He would just have to limit his planned remarks, and he hated that. Maybe if he had been a little less wordy, the ceremony would have concluded without this embarrassing incident with the nincompoop groom.

“Yes,” Alvin thought, “I need to get out of here. I don’t want to hurt Vanessa, but I think this projectile vomiting came from a higher source.”

He felt smothered, sick, and almost psychotic. The primitive fight or flight instinct flickered for an instant in a distant part of his brain, but was almost immediately extinguished by his mother’s voice, “Alvin, you get yourself back in there. Right now.”

There was no escape. Alvin was trapped, and in that moment, the strong young man withered, replaced by the obedient small boy. As organ music filled the church, he hung his head, turned, and without a backward glance, slowly walked back into the sanctuary, surrendering his life and soul to the great god Obligation.

Annie Ambles at Tarrant County College, Trinity River Campus

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