Also, I'll be taking over Dreamspinner's FB page on Saturday, February 15th at 12-1 EST/9-10 PST. If you're around, I hope you'll join me so I don't hear crickets. Have a great week.
EXCERPT – WALK WITH ME BY CARDENO C.
THE PIZZA place was crazy busy, so they were behind in their orders. That meant I got to Seth’s apartment at quarter after nine. Not exactly something that would be categorized as late, but had things gone according to my schedule, I would have been sitting on his front mat, panting when he got home. Taking a chance that the ceremony ended on time, I knocked on his door.
“Come in,” he said.
At least I thought that was what he said. Mostly, I just heard a muffled sound, but the knowledge that he was behind the door was all I needed to forge ahead. I grasped the doorknob, turned it, and barged inside with a pizza and a smile.
The smile quickly turned into a furrowed brow when I saw Seth lying facedown on the couch. “Seth?”
“Uh, is everything okay?”
Okay, that sounded like a verbal yes to everything being okay, but his nonverbal communication indicated a different answer.
“Umm, shouldn’t you take your suit off before you get wrinkled?” There. That was practical.
He said something that sounded like a yes, but I had a hard time understanding him because he was mumbling into the couch cushion.
I set the pizza box on the counter and turned back to the couch. That was when I noticed something on the floor next to it. I walked over, picked it up, and asked, “Uh, what is this?”
A muffled sound was his response.
“Did you say party hat? Why would they have—”
He said, “No,” and then something else, but I had no idea what.
“I can’t understand you when you talk into the furniture,” I said. “Plus you probably can’t breathe that way. Flip over.”
Seth turned his head to the side and sighed loudly. “Safari hat.”
I looked at the hat, and sure enough it was one of those tan mesh round hats with black straps over the sides. Of course the answer didn’t really cover all aspects of my question.
“Why is there a safari hat here?”
“Theme wedding,” he said tiredly.
“Again? You’re kidding.”
“No, I’m afraid I’m not. They’re going on an African safari for their honeymoon, and at the last minute, they decided it’d be fun to get started early, so they brought that hat and asked me to wear it instead of a kippah.”
“They asked you to wear this hat while you officiated their wedding?”
“And you did it?” I asked in disbelief.
“Well, technically my head was covered and the hat is round, showing that God is above us and all around us and….” He sighed again, sounding defeated. “Yes, I wore the hat.”
“You’re way too nice.” I sat on the edge of the couch. “My dad would have told them to pound sand.”
“No, he wouldn’t.”
“Uh, yeah, he totally would.”
Seth sat up and dropped his head against the back of the couch. “Well, maybe if your dad had been there, they wouldn’t have lost the rings.”
I scooted closer to him. “They lost their wedding rings?”
“Do I want to know?” I asked hesitantly.
He was probably right, but I was too curious for my own good. “Tell me anyway.”
“The happy couple owns a ridgeback.”
“What’s a ridgeback?”
“Rhodesian ridgeback. It’s big African hunting dog. Their dog matched their honeymoon, so, of course, they decided he was perfect for the wedding theme.”
“Oh yes.” Seth looked at me and shook his head. “They had to put the dog in the wedding. Had to.”
“Did it poop on the aisle like the horses?” I asked.
“Don’t I wish,” Seth said.
I was afraid to ask, but I did anyway. “What’s worse than a shitty aisle?”
“They decided to make the dog the ring bearer.”
That didn’t sound so bad. I folded my leg underneath me and twisted sideways so my torso was facing him. There was something on his dark suit, discoloration or dirt or something. I peered it at as I asked my next question. “Uh, okay, so they attached the rings to his collar or something?”
Seth nodded. “Yup. They put the rings in a bag, tied the bag to the collar, and had a friend hold the dog at the end of the aisle. Then, at just the right moment, they called for the dog. It would have worked fine but—” He grimaced and bit his lip. I wanted to lick it to soothe the sting. “Did I mention the wedding was outside?”
He drew in a deep breath and mirrored my pose. “It was at the preserve.”
We were close enough to each other that if I leaned forward just a couple of inches, I could have kissed him. Instead, I reached for one of the marks on his suit to see if I could brush it off.
“You don’t want to touch that,” he said, grabbing my wrist firmly but gently. “There were squirrels.”
“Oh God,” I said. Outdoor wedding plus dog plus squirrels equaled a disaster in the making. I looked at his suit and then back up at his face. “What happened?”
“Randy was running—”
“The ridgeback. Randy the Rhodesian ridgeback was running toward the bride and groom, and then he saw a squirrel.”
“Oh no. Did he go after the squirrel?”
“Yes, but remember, we were in a preserve. There were lots of squirrels, and they’re used to being fed not hunted, so their reflexes were slow.” Seth looked a little green. “At least they seemed slow when the dog….” He shook his head and squeezed his eyes shut. “There was so much blood.”
“That’s what’s smeared on your suit?”
I officially lost my appetite. “And the rings?” I asked once I got my gag reflex under control.
“We don’t know. The bag must have fallen off the dog’s collar at some point. But between the shrubs and all the carnage, nobody was able to find it.”
After several minutes of silence, I patted his shoulder. “Well, I think you’ve learned a valuable lesson.”
“Wear rubber boots to weddings?” he asked.
“I was thinking more along the line of no more animals in weddings.”
He furrowed his brow in thought. “That’s a good idea.”
With the wedding carnage discussion coming to a close, I refocused on where I was—in Seth’s apartment, on his couch, just the two of us. I had fantasized about all sorts of situations that started out just like that and ended with both us naked and covered in jizz. Before those memories left me with an obvious hard-on, I made myself think about something else.
“So, uh.” I darted my head around his apartment and my gaze landed on the pizza box. “Are you hungry? I brought pizza.”
Seth groaned and closed his eyes. “I don’t think I’ll be able to eat anything with red sauce for a long time.”
I couldn’t blame him, but without food to keep us occupied, I wasn’t sure what to do. I knew what I wanted to do, but that wasn’t an option either. I twisted my fingers together nervously and hoped Seth wouldn’t tell me he was too tired to hang out. It was our last night together before I had to go back to school, and I wouldn’t see him again until summer break. I was nowhere near ready to say good-bye.
“Do you want to play cards?” I said out of nowhere.
“Cards?” He looked at me in confusion.
“Yeah, cards.” I smirked and waggled my eyebrows. “Isn’t that what old men like to do on Saturday nights?”
“Very funny. I don’t play cards.”
“Are you saying you don’t own a deck of cards?”
“Of course I do.”
“Well, then, bring ’em out. Unless you’re worried I’ll embarrass you,” I challenged.
Seth squinted at me. “What’re we playing?”
Relieved that my idea of an alternative plan worked, I said, “Whatever you want. Your house, your choice.”
“Okay.” He jumped up and hustled toward his bedroom. “I’ll get out of this suit, take a super quick shower, and then we can play gin rummy.”
When I realized he wasn’t joking, I started laughing hysterically.
“What?” he shouted from his bedroom. “Why’re you laughing?”
“No reason,” I said breathlessly. Then I paused for a few beats and quietly added, “Old man.”
“I heard that!”
I cracked up all over again.