The Best Man

A Short Story by Colin Leahy

 

WeddingDanceI sat alone at a table  at the side of the dance floor, wearing a powder blue tuxedo, working on my third beer, watching all the pretty ladies. Then here came Ron, the father of the bride, holding a glass of amber fluid in a hairy hand.

“Billy, my man!”

“Ron.”

“How’s it hangin,champ?”

“It’s hanging loose, Ron, hanging loose.”

“Good. Good. Hey, I need to ask a little favor.”

“Shoot, Ron.”

Roger, the groom, had told me horror stories about this guy—a crazy, sometimes violent ex-Marine with a drinking problem and possible post traumatic stress disorder. I’d just met him in person the day before, at the rehearsal dinner, where he’d barked and bullied and berated the restaurant staff so badly I was afraid to touch the food, worried I’d find a cook’s green booger snuggled like a garden slug in a crevasse on top of the potatoes au gratin.

“I want you to ask my daughter to dance.”

“Emily?”

He showed me a tight smile. “Not the bride, you dumb ass; my younger daughter, Holly.”

“Oh,” I said. I’d met her at the rehearsal dinner, too, a petite and willowy blue-eyed blond, as pretty and perfect as a Barbie doll. “I’m a little old for her, aren’t I, Ron?”

The father of the bride knocked back his drink in one fast motion. “Bullshit, Billy. I know she looks young, but she’s nineteen years old. What are you? Twenty-six, twenty-seven?”

“Thirty-one,” I lied. His guess was closer to the truth.

He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand, fixed me with a hard glare and said, “Well, shit, I guess that is kinda old for my little girl. But fuck man, I’m not askin you to marry her. Just ask her to dance.” He thunked his glass down on my table, leaned in close so I could smell the whiskey on his breath. “She’s feelin like a little bit of a wallflower, her big sister gettin married and gettin all the attention.”

I considered saying that someone who looked like Holly wouldn’t suffer from a lack of male attention, but I thought better of it. I was pretty sure that the father of the bride was not a take no for an answer man. I sipped my beer and said, “I’m on it, Ron.”

He straightened up and grinned. “Good man. And don’t worry about the age thing, Billy. She’ll probably turn you down anyway. She’s outta your league. I just want to make sure she doesn’t feel ignored, know what I mean?”

“I do. And Ron.”

“What, Billy?”

And, my third beer talking, I said, “If she doesn’t turn me down, and we hit it off, I suppose it wouldn’t be OK for me to try to get into her pants, would it?”

Ron froze and gave me a murderous look. “There’s not a chance in hell of that happenin’, fuckhead. Now just do what I asked, Billy Boy.”

Holly sat at a table by the bar with her mother, Maxine. Holly had changed out of her bridesmaid dress into a very tight and bright red, low-cut blouse and a short, black leather skirt. I scuffled up and said hello. Maxine, her oval face framed with thick honey-blond hair that looked as if it were woven in heaven, was radiant in a strapless gown that dipped to show some tasteful and compelling cleavage between two breasts so perfectly cantalopian that there had to have been surgery involved. She smiled like a starburst and said,  “Hello, Billy. Make my day and tell me you’ve come to ask this old lady to dance.”

Holly’s expression was noncommittal, bored.

“I’ve come to ask two beautiful young women to dance, one right after the other,” I said.

Maxine’s eyes sparkled. She gave Holly an elbow. “You first, hon.”

Holly pushed her chair back and stood. She strode out into the lead, moving on a slalom course through the tables, toward the dance floor that had just emptied between songs. I followed. Her ass swished and her nylons, beneath the leather skirt and above a pair of black stiletto heels, were fishnet affairs, with dead-center black lines running up the back of each leg. I wanted to growl.

The D.J. cranked up that old Bee Gees song, “Stayin’ Alive,” and Holly and I were alone. I hate to dance. I lurched into my robotic shuffle-and-bob routine, using very little movement, very little floor space, as I prayed for a gathering crowd in which to hide. But Holly scared them off when she whooped like a maniac, pirouetted then karate kicked, sending one stiletto heel sailing. Then she cart wheeled, losing the other shoe, and hit her feet spread-legged, knees slightly bent, her skirt hiked to near crotch level. She stabbed her red-nailed hands into her main of blond hair and slithered into a snake-hips thing that could have been considered obscene. It would have made my mouth water if I hadn’t been out there with her, stage center.

An older couple shuffling onto the dance floor thought better of it and about-faced. I continued to bob and weave, sweat breaking out on my forehead now, and Roger, the groom, shouted out from the vicinity of the bar, “ALL RIGHT, BILLY, YOU OLD GRAVE ROBBER. SHOW HER YOUR MOVES!”

Laughter tinkled up from the crowd, and Holly dropped, did the splits, tossed her hair and extended a hand my way. I shuffled over and took it, tugged her to her feet, and she slipped and slid into a red-hot jitterbug, featuring an escalating series of pelvic undulations that drew wolf whistles and howls, as one of the other groomsmen at the side of the dance floor drank something fizzy from one of her discarded high heels.

The song ended. The crowd hooted and cheered, and before I could break away, Holly grabbed my hand and bent into a ballerina bow to her audience, showing a surely lovely cleavage to those in front of us, and a surely beautiful view of her ass to those behind. Somebody back there yipped like a coyote. Someone in front moaned. And Holly rose, clutched my arm to the side of her breast, leaned toward me, and, with a puff of sweet breath in my ear, asked if I had a car in the parking lot.

I said I did, and she said, “Good, this is so fucking boring. Let’s get out of here.”

If Ron hadn’t been such an asshole, or I’d had one less beer, I would have declined.

* * * *

“Kona Gold,” she said, passing me the joint.

I took a shallow hit. I didn’t want to get ripped.

“What the fuck is this music we’re listening to?” she wanted to know.

“Miles Davis,” I said.

She took the joint from me and took a long hard hit, then she tapped the CD player with a red fingernail and said, “He sucks.”

I pushed my driver seat back as far as it would go, then kicked off the rental shoes that were pinching my feet. I loosened the bow tie. I opened the plastic box behind the emergency brake and began to rummage. “I think I’ve got some John Coltrane in here.”

She pushed my hand out of  way so she could do the search. “Don’t you have any that old punk stuff? Like Clash or the Sex Pistols?”

In the cloud of smoke inside my car, one thing was becoming crystal clear: Holly Malone was, as Ron said, out of my league, and I was under no serious consideration by her as anything other than a diversion. And she was a pain in the ass, one who was sure, some day, to make some good man very unhappy, so I felt free to run my mouth. “Nope, I don’t have any Sex Pistols, Holly, love, but I have been told,” I patted the inside of my thigh, “that I have a sex bazooka.”

She turned her big blue eyes, cold as ice, on me and blinked twice. Her red rosebud of a mouth hung slightly open. She squinted at me, then a light went on in her stoned brain and she brightened, then she burst out laughing like a fool, and I joined her, and it went on for what seemed an hour, and got so intense that she gasped, “Oh, my God!” and yanked the door open and jumped out and dropped her fishnet panty hose and the cherry red thong and squatted down and peed right there beside my car under the silvery grin of the crescent moon.

Then we staggered, arm-in-arm, across the blacktop lot, under glimmering stars, laughing like two imbeciles, and I couldn’t feel my legs. I was flying, and I felt the young girl’s body, hot against my side, would melt right into my own.

“Get me something to drink,” she said when we stepped with aching sides back into the reception hall. “My throat is really dry.”

“I’ll be right back.”

I found the bar and ordered two rum and Cokes, and as I lifted them, Ron appeared at my side.

“Haven’t seen you in a while, Billy. How are you and my daughter getting along?”

“Great, Ron. Just great.”

He put a beefy hand on my shoulder. “Glad to hear it, Billy. Now here’s what I’d like you to do.”

“What you’d like me to do?”

“I’d like you to back off, now.”

“Back off. …”

“That’s right. There’s a couple of young bucks here I’d like her to meet, and I’d like you to back off and give ’em their shot.”

“Give ’em a shot. …”

Roy laughed loud, “Ah ha ha ha,” like the joke was on me. “You really thought you had a chance with her, didn’t you?” he said. Then he slapped my back hard and called me a dumb ass as he walked off. I stood there with my two drinks held out in front of me, fluid sloshing over the rims as I fought to steady them.

* * * *

“Hey Billy, what’s this? You turnin into a two-fisted drinker on us?” It was Roger, the groom.

“Uh, no,” I said, looking down at the drinks I had just stabilized. “One of these is for a lady.”

“You dog,” he grinned, slapping my back.

I adjusted this time, shifted the drinks and didn’t spill any.

“Say, Billy.”

“Yeah, Roge.”

“I gotta ask you something.”

“Shoot, Roge.”

“What’s with the shoes?”

I looked down and noticed I had put them—my shiny black rentals—back on the wrong feet. I thought they’d felt kind of funny. I looked back at Roger and said, “Corns. On my little toes. I find if you wear your shoes this way, it takes the pressure off ’em.”

“Ah,” Roger said, nodding, looking down at the shoes as though he was not buying what I’d just told him.

“Then why don’t you,” he said slowly,  raising his gaze to look me in the eye “just take them off?”

I took a sip of the drink in my left hand. “Roge, c’mon,” I said, as I began to walk toward the bar’s exit, back out toward the dance floor. “This is your wedding reception. I’m the best man. The best man doesn’t run around barefoot at the wedding reception.”

I stepped out of the bar into a bone rattling throb of a slow rhythm from the disc jockey’s sound machine, my drinks in hand. I scanned the crowd, looking for Holly. I elbowed my way to the edge of the dance floor and spotted her, wrapped like a python around a young buck. I gulped her drink down in one fast motion, then I drank mine the same way, pulling the glass from my lips as I felt a touch on my shoulder.

“I’m ready for that dance now, Billy.” Holly’s Mom, Maxine, sultry, beautiful, her facial features well-defined by an expert application of make-up, said nothing about my shoes.

I put the glasses on a table. She took my hand and led me out onto the dance floor. From my perspective behind her, I found fascinating the topography of the flesh on her back. Her dress swooped low, revealing pristine white skin. The slight movement of her shoulder blades looked like something designed by God. The vertical alignment of the bumps of her vertebrae  running down to disappear beneath the dress had a look of subtle, erotic perfection. I reached out the fingers of my free hand to touch them, gently, at a midpoint between her angel’s wings. She turned, smiled, pulled me to her, and nuzzled her lips against my neck, pressing her breasts into me, a sudden connection of flesh that had me staring off over her shoulder about a thousand miles away, until Ron came into a tight focus at the side of the dance floor.

I gave us a slow spin, to take Ron out of my line of sight. Maxine must have sensed my alarm, felt a sudden stiffness in my muscles. She turned and looked to her left and spotted her husband, then turned back to me and said into my ear. “Don’t worry about him. He’s just being an asshole today.”

“Oh,” I said.

“Let’s give him a show.”

“A show?”

Then, as I put my hands on her waist and we began to rotate, and she cupped my face in her cool fingers and pulled me down into a tender kiss that, enhanced by Holly’s dope, had the feel of a salacious Rapture, and I was suddenly keenly aware that the motivations of this mother-daughter tag team was much less about a communion with me—the safe guy—than it was about pissing off that blue ribbon son-of-a-bitch Ron.

And for the moment, I didn’t care.

After what seemed an hour, Maxine pulled her face away from mine, smiling, with a mean little twinkle in her eye, and a quick how ’bout that, Hubby, dear? glance at the bastard. It was a look that quickly expanded to an expression of wide-eyed horror, her fingers clutching my forearms as she spun me so my back was to Ron, using me as a shield against what I sensed would be his onslaught, and I suddenly found myself  no longer in contact with the floor and suffering a horrid pinching in my groin and between my buttocks. In my stoned state it took a few seconds to comprehend the situation—that I was on the wrong end of a monumental wedgie.

Maxine screamed. Ron, behind me, was stronger than a pit bull. He had my underwear—tightie whities—stretched up between my shoulder blades, his thick forearms braced against my back, elbows digging into my kidneys. He held me high and gave me a hard shake. I flailed. I kicked. I heard laughter, male and female, and as Ron turned me in a 360 degree rotation on the dance floor, I saw cell phone cameras galore. I was aware that this, the most humiliating moment of my life, in front of all the friends I’d grown up with, would soon appear in still photos on Facebook and that a film of it would surely show up on YouTube.

It was there, suspended above the dance floor, with a strip of my underwear digging deep into my ass, that I decided it was time to move on, to take that job I’d been offered a good long way away, where no one would know me as Wedgie Man.

……………………….

About Colin Leahy

Colin Leahy works as a night manager at a fast food burger place just off Interstate 15, in Baker, California, home of the world’s tallest thermometer. He writes in his spare time.

Photo credit: Bolshakov via a Creative Commons license.

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