The Wed­ding Party

The Iowa Review - - TAYLOR KOEKKOEK - Tay­lor koekkoek

I’d moved into Ernie Pre­witt’s base­ment room for thirty-five dol­lars a week. He was a me­chanic at the ma­rina where I worked, and he’d set me up with a cot nes­tled be­tween his work­table and an ar­ray of props and grease-black­ened engine parts. My fi­ancée was liv­ing in our apart­ment with her sis­ter, though they meant to move in­land, she told me. Here, there was a tran­som-cracked skiff laid down and propped un­der­side up against the far wall with a few dried-up bar­na­cles still in a crowd on the hull. There was a sin­gle light: a hang­ing bulb and a chain, which rat­tled from Ernie’s foot­steps through the ceil­ing. The floor was un­var­nished ce­ment and cold and damp dur­ing the heav­ier rains. Some­times, Ernie’s wife had left­over din­ners, which she would leave for me in foil at the back door. In the evenings, I went to drink at this no-place, sea­side bar called Renny’s Yard, where the wood-pan­eled walls were dec­o­rated with old har­poons and pad­dles and green glass fish­ing floats in sacks of net­ting. A pal­ing of liquor bot­tles lined the mir­ror-backed bar and seemed to dou­ble by its re­flec­tion. This night, as the sun went to a drab lit­tle ruby and slipped, still glow­ing, into the ocean, a wed­ding party showed up. I no­ticed them come in, all sun­burnt and raw-eyed from the ocean wa­ter. They bought their drinks and set up in the cor­ner by the shuf­fle­board and the twin pool ta­bles and broke into a few groups, ex­cept for one young woman who trailed off aim­lessly to­ward the bar. She wore a lit­tle coral swim­suit cover-up and her bikini straps up, back, and tied be­hind her neck and her black hair pinned mess­ily. The way she looked was some­thing I felt in my guts. Her face was as small and round and as del­i­cate, it seemed, as a bowl, which you might turn up in your hands and drink from. And be­fore the shame of all my life could well up in me, as it usu­ally did on such oc­ca­sions, she came over and said, “You wanna buy a maid of honor some­thing to drink?” So we sat there for a while and got drunk on vodka so­das. She told me her lit­tle sis­ter was get­ting mar­ried to­mor­row. She asked if I could be­lieve that, and I said that I could. “She’s beau­ti­ful, isn’t she?” the maid of honor said. A cou­ple of the guys she’d come with no­ticed her talk­ing with me, and they seemed to dis­cuss this a bit be­fore losing in­ter­est and re­turn­ing to their games. “Over there,” she said. “See that

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