June 5, 2015

Fiction By Steve Slavin: The Wedding Date

A recovering economics professor, Steve Slavin earns a living writing math and economics books.


The Wedding Date       

Diane is one of my best friends. We hang out, talk on the phone, go out to dinner occasionally, but that’s it. So don’t go getting any ideas. Yeah, she’s very attractive, smart, a lot of fun to be with, but we always been and always will be strictly platonic.
         When someone asks, “Is there anything going on between the two of you?”, Diane might  answer, “Not that I know of.” My friend, Don, truly believes that if a man and woman are regularly in close proximity, they would inevitably “do it.” I actually stayed in Diane’s apartment for a couple of nights when my place was being painted. As far as I know, nothing happened.
          I’m bringing all this up so that you’ll be perfectly clear about our relationship. So when Diane was invited to a wedding and was asked to come with a date, I was not exactly the first person she thought of. In fact she must have asked five or six different guys who she had either once dated, or maybe was thinking about seeing. But for one reason or another, they all turned her down. So then she asked me. Clearly, she was scraping the bottom of the barrel.
        Why was this? I happen to be a pretty decent looking guy, but I can well understand why Diane must have been pretty desperate to ask me to go with her. First of all, like I already mentioned, Diane and I are buddies. So would you want to bring your brother to a wedding as your date? And second, let’s face it: I am quite the ladies’ man, if you get my drift. But the third reason why Diane was kind of leery about asking me was the biggie: I do sometimes behave inappropriately.
          But now it was just one week before the wedding, and Diane just could not bear to show up without a date. She was so desperate that she decided to ask me.
         “Freddie, how would you like to do me a tremendous favor?”
          “Sure. Isn’t that what friends are for?”
          “Did I ever mention my friend, Amy? Well, she’s getting married next Saturday night, and I need someone to go with.”
          “You know that the Democratic Primary is the following Tuesday, right? I’ve already committed myself to give my political club all my spare time till then.”
            “You can’t spare me a few hours? This is really important to me. I would feel extremely uncomfortable going without a date. I’d stick out like a sore thumb.”
            “Don’t you have anyone else to go with?”
           “Do you think I’d be asking you if I did?”
          “Boy, it’s that bad, eh?”
           “Please Freddie, I’m begging you. Do you want me to get down on my hands and knees?”
          “Maybe later, but let me tell you what’s going on. I’m a volunteer in Bella Abzug’s campaign. She’s got a great shot at becoming our next mayor, so I really wanted to work on some last-minute stuff over the weekend.”
         “Bella Abzug? How can you even think about supporting her? She’s abrasive, obnoxious, loud, much too liberal … and I can’t stand those big floppy hats she always wears!”
         “So are you trying to tell me that you don’t like her?”
         “Like her? What’s to like?”
         “Look, I know the woman. And while she’s all of the things you just mentioned, she’s also  the most honest, intelligent, and capable candidate in the race. The city is bankrupt, and she’s the only one who can bring us out of this mess. And Abe Beame, who largely got us into bankruptcy, has the chutzpah to run for reelection.”
        “Freddie, I don’t care who you’re supporting for mayor. Look, I’ll let you do anything … well, almost anything, if you’ll come with me to the wedding.”
        “I said, almost anything.”
        “OK, then we’ve got a date!”
        “Wait a second! Freddie, what are you going to do?”
        “Nothing much. Maybe just try to convince a few of the wedding guests to vote for Bella. That’s about it.”
        “Fine. If that’s all, I guess I can live with it. Although I’m telling you right up front that I’m not going to vote for her.”
         “It’s a deal!”
         “Great! So we’re all set?”
         “Yes, Diane. I’m looking forward to our date.”
         “Thanks, Freddie. I really owe you.”

         The next Saturday evening it was still quite light outside when I rang Diane’s bell. As soon as she opened the door she blurted out: “Wow! A tuxedo! Freddie, you have done yourself proud.”
        “Thanks, Diane. You look beautiful. In fact, I’m afraid you’ll upstage the bride.”
         “Oh my! Flattery will get you everywhere. By the way, what’s with that stack of papers you’ve got under your arm?”
         “Here, take one. I know you’re not voting for Bella, but here’s her latest circular. I even had a hand in writing it.”
         “Freddie? I’m afraid to ask. What are you going to do with these? No, don’t tell me. That way at least I’ll have plausible deniability.”
         “All right! Mums the word. Are we ready to go?”
        “I guess so. I don’t want to miss the hors d’oeuvres. They’re usually much better than the meal.”

          A few minutes later we arrived at the catering hall. Diane spotted a couple of friends and made all the introductions.
         “Diane, where have you been hiding this hunk?”
        “Now Karen, Freddie and I are just old friends.”
        “Yeah, right!”
        Diane just smiled. Then I kissed her on the cheek and said, “Darling, I’ll be right back.” As I was leaving, I overheard them talking about me.
        “Diane, have you been holding out on us? Where did you meet this guy? He’s gorgeous.”
       “Elaine, I just told you guys, we’re just good friends.”
       “Sure you are.”
       “Enough already! So where are Mike and Joey?”
       “Over there by the food tables. You’d think we don’t feed them.”

       A few minutes later, I returned with two large plates of appetizers. I bowed to the three women and said, “Ladies, my name is Freddie. Ill be your waiter tonight. Would you care for some hors d’oeuvres?”
       Karen leaned over and whispered to Diane, “He is so devoted. I don’t know where you got him, but I want one too.”
        Diane could not believe how well this was going. Maybe she should rethink her relationship with this man. Just then, they were all called into the chapel. Diane took Freddie’s arm. She confided that she always cried at weddings, and that she was glad that he was being so nice.

         The ceremony was mercifully short, and in less than half an hour they were being ushered into the dining room, while the chapel was being readied for the next wedding party. Diane had managed to use up all their tissues.
          “Why do weddings make you so sad?”
          “Who said I’m sad?”
          Then why are you crying?”
          “Because I’m so happy. I’m happy for Amy. I’m happy that she finally found someone to love, and… and I’m happy that you’ve been so nice.”
          “OK, so when you’re happy, you cry. Then I’ll know when you’re really sad because you’ll be laughing?”
           This, of course, made her laugh, and she gave me a playful shove.” “You know, Freddie, you’ve made me very very happy tonight.”
           I just stopped and looked at her. Then she took my arm again, and we followed everyone into the dining room.
           As we approached our table, we could hear a strange sort of murmuring. And then Diane realized what was causing it.  At each place setting on all the tables, there was a picture of Bella Abzug in that damn hat. Freddie!
       She looked at him and he just smiled at her. “I will kill you,” she hissed.
      “Then I’ll die happy. My work here is done.”
      “I thought we had a deal!”
      “We do. I’m your date. I’m here for you.”
      “I think we’re having a menage a trois with Bella Abzug -- and we’re having it in front of all these people.”
       “I love the imagery. But just like it is between you and me, with Bella and me it’s also strictly platonic.”
     “Very funny!”
     “Diane, seriously: I didn’t mean to embarrass you.”
      “Well, you did!”
      “I don’t think anyone actually saw me leafleting the tables.”
      “Freddie, you walked into the place with a whole stack under your arm.” Someone must have seen you and put two and two together.”

      After we sat down, we introduced themselves to the other couples at our table. Diane didn’t know any of them, but an older woman said to me, “So you like Bella Abzug?”
      “Yeah, I think she’s great!”
      “You were the one who leafleted all the tables?”
     “So you must be in politics.”
       “Yeah, but I hate all the crooks. That’s why I’m doing everything I can to get Bella elected.”
       “That’s nice. My son is also in politics. He’s a reform Democrat.”
      “Yeah, me too! I’m in a club on the Upper Westside.”
      “Really? So is my son. Maybe you know him.”
      “Well, there are three reform clubs above 59th Street, but you never know.”
       “I’m very proud of my son. He even knows the mayor. In fact Abe Beame just appointed him Deputy Traffic Commissioner.”
        This didn’t make any sense. If this guy was a reform Democrat, why would Beame -- who was a crooked regular Democrat from way back – appoint him to a fairly high job just before the Primary. Even Diane sensed something was wrong. I felt her fingers digging into my arm.
          “Are you sure your son is a reform Democrat?”
          “Of course I’m sure. Wait, I’m trying to think of the name of the club he’s in. It it’s the…. the Park something Democrats.”
           “The Park West Independent Democrats?”
          “Yeah, I think that’s it.”
            “I’m not in that club. I’m in the club that’s up above 96th Street. But who knows? I might have met him. What’s his name?”
      “Robert Seinberg.”
      The words were out of my mouth before the censor in my brain could stop them. “That fuck?”
      Everyone at the table just stared me. And poor Mrs. Seinberg whispered to her husband, “Oy, oy, oy! Such a thing to say!... And at a wedding!  
       Diane was livid. I wanted to crawl under the table and stay there until the wedding was over. There was nothing I could say. Or unsay. I tried to think of how I could apologize. But all I could think of was, “Actually, Mrs. Seinberg, your son is not a complete fuck.” At least I had the decently to keep my mouth shut.
      Somehow we got through the rest of the wedding. Word quickly spread and everyone at the wedding knew who was responsible for the leafleting. And they would soon hear about “That fuck.” But the worst of it was that everyone knew what an awful date Diane had brought to the wedding. Which was a lot worse than having no date at all.
        On the way home, I apologized again and again. Diane admitted that a lot of it was probably her own fault for pressuring me to go to the wedding. And then she asked me to explain what had prompted such an outburst.
        “Just around the time that Seinberg got a job in the Beame Administration, we learned that he had evidently been spying on the Abzug campaign, and may have even been sabotaging some of our operations. And to add the icing to the cake, he actually knows virtually nothing about traffic, and probably has a no-show job.”
         “That’s awful! That guy is a fuck!”
        “Tell that to his mother.” She gave me another shove, but then she put her arm around me, which really felt great.
        “So are you going to vote for Bella?”
        “Only if she stops wearing those damn hats.”

         Time passes.  It’s six months later, and sadly, Bella didn’t win. Ed Koch, who had started out as a reform Democrat, but was now backed by the political machine bosses, had just been elected mayor, and would take office in a few weeks.
       Believe it or not, Diane decided to give me another chance to be her wedding date. I guess some people just never learn. But here’s the kicker: Bella will actually be a guest at this wedding. When Diane heard that she would be coming, she said, “For one day at least, can she go without wearing one of those damn hats?” Still, Diane thought it was great that Bella would be there to see us get married.
~Steve Slavin

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