Updated: 5 days ago
I’d never been to a wedding, so I wasn’t sure if a goat attack was part of the ceremony. Back when Rain and I married, we drove to a Justice of the Peace, brought Renga and his old girlfriend, said and signed some things, and called it good. I guess the current happy couple opted for the full experience, which is why we were at a park under a gazebo with rows of people in chairs facing us as Renga stood beside his bride while I stood next to him holding my staff and a ring in my pocket before the screaming started.
My meds kept me from worrying about that kind of thing. Or caring too much. So I’ve got the stoic gaze down as I towered over everybody as the tallest person here. I should be happy for the couple, but it’s hard to feel that beyond an intellectually calculated response. Still, I can appreciate Renga’s happiness. What I’m uncertain of is how this affects our secret wizard club. Did Jenny know? I suppose that’s why I haven’t thought of Renga’s wizard name. We’re here for a wedding. I would do my duty and see to the future later.
Renga looked great in a tuxedo, jet black hair swept back, with a lock hanging just over one eye like a Bollywood idol. Rain said I looked like a best man or a hit man. It’s the eye patch. Rain and I weren’t close to the bride, since we lived in Texas and Renga lived in Arizona by the time he met her. As a result, Rain sat on the brown side of the aisle with Renga’s family. I could spot her from the turquoise hair piece and the rainbow tribal dress she wore. The other side contained the Chen’s and friends. They wore clothes, too.
Jenny Chen looked like I imagined Renga dreamed about. Rain says I only have an eye for her, so I didn’t register what Jenny wore. Renga’s original plan was to have Rain conduct the ceremony in Klingon. Since Jenny nixed the idea after the summer, my wife talked little to her at the rehearsal dinner last night. Nothing like failing to make up with my best friend’s favorite person. Jenny switched to a traditional non-denominational wedding, so her family wouldn’t think we were weird. I’d seen enough TV shows to understand how a marriage ceremony worked, but I understood from doing magic that even weddings need practice. Nowhere did a goat appear during the rehearsal run.
I hoped the event would be an Indian or Chinese ritual, which would have been cool to learn about, but they opted for an American ceremony. Both of them grew up in America, though, so I shouldn’t expect them to harken back to distant shores. I should either work on not expecting things, or anticipating every possibility.
The pastor rattled off the usual words they say about mawwage and twue wuv before he got to the part where “if anybody objects to this union, they should speak now or forever hold their peace.” The pause made a good time to inhale before the officiant recited his next passage. He opened his mouth and as expected, a “baaa!” came from behind the bride.
I’d seen this piss-yellow bearded billy goat wandering around the park since we’d gotten here. It approached the wedding party, stopping to graze and stare with its green hourglass eyes. Until it chose the right moment to voice its objection while I stared the Lokibeast down.
Then it charged Jenny, catching the back of her legs. Renga leapt to catch her and held her before she hit the ground. The goat backed up and rushed the pastor, but the man took off running. I assumed goat herding wasn’t part of his service. People screamed, the animal bleated. I stood my post. The anxiety meds stunted my fight-or-flight response, but I should want to do something.
The horned beast trotted around, feinting toward guests in the front row as guests scattered. I lost track of the bridesmaid in all this and she wore a color of taffeta that stuck out like a peach on a sore thumb. The cloven wonder settled on a new target. Renga’s little cousin. Still, my staff remained rooted to the ground and my grip anchored me. The goat lowered its head, curved horns curled over, and it charged.
The Bifrost opened up and a twirl of Roy G. Biv spun in front of the child, crouching down to scoop her up. A loud crack and skulls collided. Prozac went to Hel and my world turned red. The rope binding me to that tree snapped and the real me unleashed. I raised the hand holding the staff and gave it a shake. The spike hidden in the base, that airport security missed, slid out and the scene flashed before me in rotoscope red vision. Rain on her knees. My arm pulled back. Girl buried in Rain’s embrace. The goat backed up. Blood dripped from her brow. The spear in flight. Horns lowered again. Rain turned to shield. Loki toppled sideways with my spear’s impact. Another blink and the head was raised by my iron grip on its horn. A war cry filled my ears as the buck knife Renga gifted me gripped in the other hand. Blood sprayed me as I drew the sharp virgin blade across the animal’s throat.
I stood up, dragging the slain foe with me while the knife hung in my other hand. Rain. The battle lust left me and I cast about, looking for her. How did I get turned around? I found her standing again. Renga’s cousin in her arms. I took a step toward her, dropping the bloody objects. When I reached out with my hands, she said, “You have blood on your hands.”
Silence overtook the park. Wedding guests, half deserters, half spectators ogled the knocked over chairs, toppled catering table, and me. Another upended thing.
A hand clamped on my shoulder, drawing me into a hug with Rain as Renga pulled us in from my blind side.. “You guys saved Aarna.” Tears streaked his face. I held my arms up to avoid touching anybody. “Oh my fucking god, I couldn’t do anything. Jenny got tangled up in her dress and y’all stepped up.” He looked around past us. “Looks like they knocked over the damn steaks, and the pastor took off. We need a plan B.”
Rain looked at me. She plans and prepares and expects to do the plan. Jenny nixed the last plan, after Rain spent all summer learning Klingon to conduct the ceremony in. So we’ll do it her way. “Rain, do the wedding like you practiced, but in English. The grill is still hot. I’ll clean this fokking goat and they’re gonna eat it.”
Rain pursed her lips and pointed them at Jenny. “What about her?”
Renga looked at Rain. “We’ll adapt. Now are you okay? I saw it hit you. There’s blood.”
She nodded. “My head hurts, and I just found out I have to talk in front of people. We will do this. Get the ring out of Alex’s pocket, he’s gonna need to get started gutting that thing.” I leaned over and kissed Rain’s forehead, holding it there to draw in some of her pain.
When we pulled apart, she looked at my wet lips and said, ‘You got red on you.“
Resetting a wedding amidst a blood pool and mess took a bit of time, but Jenny and Renga worked together to herd people back while Rain paced and revamped the words to a Klingon ceremony into English. Meanwhile, I removed the bloody tux jacket and shirt and used them to hoist the goat up to a nearby tree. I’d be out the money for it anyway. A couple of empty serving pans lay on the ground to catch the meat. Except for destroying a tuxedo, I’d done this a few times in my youth.
As an introvert, Rain hated public speaking. When she got canceled from doing the ceremony, after all her practice, Wasting all that work upset her. So I listened to my wife, despite the distance from where I worked.
“We are gathered,” she paused. “Again.” The guests laughed and Rain continued, “To join these two in marriage. I would ask for any objections to this marriage, but my husband is still here and you saw what happened to the last one who tried that.” One nervous chuckle followed that.
“I see that you have the courage to remain, unlike the P’tachs who fled. We will begin, as all things do, with a story. When the world was new, the gods forged many things. At the last, they fashioned the heart of man. It beat fiercely. Louder and stronger than the heavens had heard before. The gods cried, ‘Surely we have made the strongest heart, none can stand before its might!’' One of Renga’s cousins, who planned to perform later, beat a slow, heavy thump on his drum.
“Yet as beats passed, the heart faltered, its beat weakening. The gods asked it ‘Why do you weaken so?’” The drumbeat softened and lost tempo.
“And the heart of man answered.”
Rain paused, and Renga stepped forward, “I am alone.”
“And the gods knew at once their mistake. So they returned to the forge to bring forth a second heart.” Another drum, higher in pitch joined the first. Rain shifted her head, pointing with her mouth at Jenny, and the bride took a step closer to Renga. “The second heart beat stronger and jealousy filled the first.”
Lacking a Klingon Bat'leth, Renga mock swung a slow haymaker at Jenny. She blocked it with one arm and her other hand latched onto his throat. The drums beat angrily, each their own pattern
“Fortunately, the gods tempered the second heart with wisdom,”
Jenny spoke her line, “If we join together, we will be unstoppable.”
Renga drew Jenny in close, the faces almost touched.
The drumming syncopated, forming a complex rhythm. “And thus the two hearts began beating in unison, a thunderous beat filled the heavens. The gods trembled in fear at what they had wrought, and soon were defeated. To this day, none can oppose the beating of two hearts joined as one.”
“Renganathan of the house of Arumanayagam, son of Yohenderan, does your heart beat only for this woman?”
“And do you swear to join with her and stand against all who would oppose her?”
“Jenny of the house of Chen, daughter of Daiyu, does your heart beat only for this man?”
“And do you swear to join with him and stand against all who would oppose him?”
“Then, as one story ends, let yours begin. Know by my authority and the license from the state of Arizona that this man and woman are married.”
The guests cheered, so I assumed they either liked it or Renga and Jenny were kissing. Keeping my fingers out from under the blade kept my eye busy. I’d gotten the skin off when the owner of the interloper showed up. He greeted me in the timely fashion of those who don’t respect others while I held a bloody knife in my hand. “Hey asshole, you killed my goat.”
I don’t know how oblivious to danger someone can be when they open with that to a sweaty topless eye-patched man covered in blood. The air had cooled as the sun set while guests congratulated the happy couple in spite of this guy’s mean goat. My vision tinted red as memory fed back on itself. I turned to face him, holding my knife hand away, but not out of sight. My words clipped and dropped to my default Icelandic accent as I spoke with care. “Your loose animal hurt my wife. Consider this weregild.”
“Blood payment. It ends the killing between us.” I returned to scooping out the bowels and tossing the pile at his feet. He backed up.
“Oh.” He went away. I didn’t care. I finished cutting off meat for the trays and somebody took them.
The post-wedding went well. They kissed and shot all the photos while the meat grilled. I sat on a park picnic table a way off as the cool night air brought my temperature down. The smell of food and sounds of music wafted past me. The blood crusted and made my hands gritty as I rested them on my knees. I watched Rain walk over from the guests, the colored panels of her dress rippling with her steps. Her long black hair drifted behind her, the braids undone after a trying day. She shifted my staff from where it leaned against the table and took its place next to me.
“Hey.” My gaze remained fixed at the unseen middle distance of the desert beyond the park.
“Would you like me to get you a plate of food?”
“Nah. There’s blood on my hands.”
Her nearest hand moved to rest over mine, fingers curling under my palm. “They can be washed. Every day if needed.”
“I killed something at a wedding, Rain. On reflex.”
She shrugged. “You restrained yourself with the owner when he came to be an asshole.”
“I just didn’t care. Like I’m stuck in a fog. Even this,” I motioned with my hand, “It’s a TV show I can’t get into.”
Rain leaned over, her dress pressing against my bare, crusty arm, and rested her head on my shoulder. “When we get back to Houston, let’s ask the doctor to adjust your dose.”
“Yeah, I guess. But I don’t think that’s why I killed the goat.”
“It tasted good.” She yawned. “I don’t care about the blood on your hands. I know who you are.”
Her grip tightened for a moment. “O--”
I waited for her to finish. The guests cheered as Renga finished a Bollywood song.
Her weight pressed more on my shoulder as she began to slump.
This year’s annual slice from the pie of Alex Rune’s past, is dedicated to my dear friends, Nicole and Michael. who tied the knot this same week. Like all stories, there will be turns for the better and the worse. Though the outcome may be uncertain, all challenges are smaller when you face them together.
Also, read what happened next in Two Minutes to Midnight
Go here for other tales about Alex Rune: https://www.klforslund.com/alexrune