Jude just as suspicious as I said, “Dad?”
A concerned yet somewhat contrite sounding Uncle Roe answered, “I swear to you Son … I don’t know who …”
The man in the front yelled, “I said shut up!”
I guess all of us were in shock for half a second. Well maybe not everybody. Jude pulled a shotgun from behind the pulpit … I’m assuming one that Uncle Roe couldn’t convince Brother Shirley or Paulie to brandish. Clewis jerked Bobby, Lonnie, and Corey up and tossed them behind the choir wall. Paulie and Tiff hustled the little girls into the same location. There was a general murmuring all over the church but I noticed it wasn’t sounding like I figured a bunch of scared people would sound. I wondered if they all thought that it was part of the same show that Uncle Roe had been putting on.
The interlopers were starting to look a little surprised at the lack of fear in their quarry and the guy in the lead was starting to sound a little crazy when he shouted, “I ain’t saying it again … shut up! Stop moving! Or I’m going to …”
Before anyone expected it, least of all me, he’d reached up and grabbed me and pulled me backwards off the stage. For a moment he and Jude fought over me like two dogs over a doggie treat and I thought I was going to lose both arms to their brangling. Then the guy stuck his gun to my head and he didn’t need to voice the implicit threat. Jude reluctantly turned loose and it looked like his heart was breaking underneath the fury that suddenly enveloped his face.
The ring leader of the bad guys was having a less than fruitful day. Nothing was going as planned. I could tell by the way he was spluttering and spitting, and the way his voice was cracking as he fired orders at people who kept insisting on just looking at him. His gun alternately pointed at me and then at everyone else. The barrel moved nervously back and forth at a fast pace. “The bride gets it if you don’t start emptying your pockets right now!”
I had had just about all I was gonna take. I was tied up so tight I could barely breathe, in a dress that had been altered all out of recognition albeit with the best of intentions. The corset was pinching me in some very uncomfortable places. My feet were sliding around in Mom’s ankle boots making it hard to keep my balance. My Hollywood hairstyle was giving up the ghost and the veil was slipping to the side. To say I was in a foul mood didn’t even scratch the surface.
The way the man had me by the arm I had to bend over and lean away a bit to avoid the swinging pistol barrel that had already nearly gotten hung up once in the netting on my head. Jude was approaching furious and I was worried he was going to make a move and try something that would get him hurt. My other arm was flying around as he jerked me to and fro. My hand brushed something sitting on the edge of the front pew and as I realized what it was I felt my Irish kick in.
The church was very old and old-fashioned, both in building and in practice. Rather than the fancy brass offering plates many churches have we still have the original antique oak plates that are almost too heavy for the kids to pass along. They feel like a chunk of concrete even when they’re empty. I grab ahold of the top one on the stack and swung it in a mighty arc. CRACK! I caught the man who had me right in the teeth with the edge of the plate. I swear I saw shattered white bits fly in every which direction. He turned loose of me to clap both hands over his bloody mouth but looked at me with murder in his eye. Well he didn’t know who he was fooling with. I was a bride and by God I deserved more respect than he was giving me. I decided then and there to deal out more punishment and started pounding on his head righteously with the offering plate that felt as good in my hand as my rolling pin did … and seemed to do just as much damage.
When I finished subduing the leader I turned to find a regular brawl going on. The entire church reminded me of the old Ray Stevens song that used to send my Dad and brothers into hysterical laughter … the Mississippi Squirrel Revival. A squirrel got loose and went berserk in a little church and caused all sorts of mayhem and chaos. Well, we’d definitely had some mayhem and chaos get loose in the church this day I promise you.
Nearly everyone in the church was armed; certainly all the men. Many of the women were as well, and if they didn’t have a weapon on them they found a makeshift one close at hand. I bet the publishers of the hymnals never expected them to see quite the kind of action they did. I wasn’t the only one that thought the offering plates were multi-purpose. And several of the older ladies had one of the bad guys penned down in the back corner and were whacking the heck out of him with their suitcase sized purses that had only the good Lord knows what in them. I wouldn’t rule out bricks given the look on the guy’s face; I nearly felt sorry for him.
It took a bit but all of those yahoos were finally rounded up.
“What do we do with them?!”
“Let’s lynch ‘em.”
Brother Shirley cried out, “Not on church grounds! Please! Let’s just send someone to the military patrol station. Just tie them up until the authorities arrive.”
There was a lot of disappointment with that I can assure you. “What if they get away before the soldiers can come get ‘em. Might be we should hang ‘em just to be safe.”
Someone yelled out, “Strip ‘em! Coats, boots, and all. Tie ‘em together and then to the tree right here. If one goes they’ll all have to go and have to do it walking around like a hunched up bunch of queer baits.”
“All right, that will be quite enough of that!” Brother Shirley bellowed. “I’ll remind you that there are ladies and children present!”
It took less time to accomplish than you would have thought due to the fact that it was more than a little cold outside. Those men were stripped faster than a sheep would have been sheered, and with a lot less care for their feelings and dignity. Afterwards everyone just sort of milled around.
I was just standing there all bedraggled in the trodden down snow and didn’t answer.
“Uh … Dovie? Brother Shirley says we can reschedule and …”
Ping. My Irish was back.
“This … is … our … wedding … day.”
Carefully Jude asked, “Uh … you … you ain’t gonna cry are you? ‘Cause we can …”
“No. This is our wedding day.”
“Er … you said that.” Jude looked around frantically for some help. I reckon he must have thought I was in shock or something. I was “or something” all right.
“This is our wedding day,” I began mildly. Then I turned to him and lifted my veil and my tone slowly rose in volume. “And if anyone thinks that I am going to go through all of this all over again they can think again!”
“You … you mean you don’t want to get married anymore?” Jude asked in a voice caught between anger and heartbreak.
“Ho, ho, no me fine laddie. If you think you are going to get out of this that easily Jude Thomas Killarney you better start changing your mind right quick!”
“I … I didn’t say … I mean …”
I bellowed an unladylike, “Brother Shirley!”
He rushed up and said, “Now Dovie dear. Perhaps some of the ladies would …”
“I mean to get married today,” I told him in a controlled but furious voice. “Get all these people back inside.” I turned to Uncle Roe and Aunt Frankie. “Get everyone back in their places we are going to have a wedding.” I bellowed again, “Paulie!”
He had been standing right there and winced like I’d hurt his ears. “Er … yeah Dovie?”
“Tie Jude to the pulpit if you have to but he better be there when I get there.”
Seeing his obedience as a way to get out of the blast zone he told me, “Sure thing Dovie. C’mon Jude. Dovie wants …”
Jude dug in his heels. “Dovie. You’re overwrought or whatever it is women get on their wedding day. Don’t you want …”
I grabbed him by the front of his suit. “Get … to … the … pulpit. We are getting this done.”
In a calming voice, the same one he’d probably use on a runaway horse, he told me, “Sure Sweetheart. As long as you are positive this is what you want.”
“What I want?!” I gave a cackle that had everyone but Jude taking two steps backwards; he was stuck because I still had him by the suit. “What I want is to have this done and over with. I have been pinched, prodded, goaded beyond patience. Now I mean to have you Jude Killarney and there is absolutely no escape for you. Do you understand me?!”
Suddenly Jude’s face lit up. “Well, when you put it that way I’ll do anything you say Sweetheart.” He turned around, and grinning like a fool shouted, “C’mon folks! Let’s have us a wedding!!”
Everyone started cheering and laughing and moving to go back into the church. The bad guys were looking at us like they couldn’t believe we were just going to leave them tied up in their skivvies in the snow while we carried on about our business.
The guests got seated and Brother Shirley got arranged at the front where he belonged and seemed to be making an effort to take charge pointing people this way and that. Uncle Roe was hustling the men into their places and Aunt Frankie was getting the little girls all arranged. I looked around and then realized something. I walked into the little dressing room but had to stop short when I was followed by Jude.
Carefully Jude asked, “Dovie, are you sure?”
“How many times are you going to ask me that? Of course I’m sure. I’ve been sure a long time.”
“Ok,” he said in relief. “You need some help with something?”
“Not from you.”
He took it the wrong way and shut the door so we could have a private talk. Seeing the look on his face I needed to see him go back to smiling. I told him, “Oh no you don’t big fella, we ain’t married yet. You’ll have your fun for the rest of our lives starting tonight but for right this moment I’ll take care of my wardrobe malfunctions with you on the other side of that door.” He stopped, blinked, and then a sleepy tiger’s grin started growing on his face.
Laughing and putting up my hand up to hold him off I said, “Behave Jude. I mean it.”
He stopped, gave it some consideration, then backed towards the door. “Don’t take long. If this day is any indication, being married to you is going to be all kinds of exciting and I’m more than a little eager to get it started.”
I giggled having a feeling that I knew exactly what he was eager to get started. And to be honest, so was I.