The Adventures of Chartan: Wedding with Reception

(Last Sunday: Chartan and Gina decide to get married.)

            Brazil teared up as the city official read the wedding vows. Chartan and Gina didn’t notice him. He’d become lost in thought over the failures in his life: divorced, estranged from his two sons and incessant nightmares over pulling a trigger 40 years ago.  These were the weights of his life. The tears were for simple happiness that never came. He sensed the joy between Chartan and Gina and wished he could share in it –at least he was the witness.

            “Skyler, do you have the ring?”

            Brazil nodded slowly at Chartan. He fumbled in his pocket and pulled out the ring Chartan had given him yesterday. 

            The ceremony lasted 10 minutes. No photos. Afterwards the trio walked across the street to a pizza parlor where they ordered an extra-large with the works and a pitcher of tap beer.

            They were the only customers—it was 3 p.m. They chose a wood picnic table by the window that gave them an unobstructed view of City Hall with its four gray columns with poorly sculpted nudes at the top, indicative of god rush architecture.

            “Well, do you feel different?” asked Brazil.

            Chartan and Gina looked at each other, then kissed. They both replied “yes” followed by a laugh.

            “You’re in sync,” said Brazil, stopping himself from adding, “for now.”

            “Thanks for being here,” said Chartan.

             “I wouldn’t have missed it.”

            “Oh, my god, there’s Aunt Julie,” shouted Gina. “I’ll get her.”

            Walking slowly up the city hall steps was a woman in a bright blue sun dress. She appeared to be looking up at the nudes.

            A few minutes later Gina returned with her aunt in tow.

            “Sorry I’m late as always,” said Julie, smiling at the two seated men she’d never met.

She sat down next to Brazil and raised her hand.

            “Hopefully, Gina hasn’t said much about me. I’m a talker, one, and two, I have opinions and three, I bake a mean apple pie—won the blue ribbon three years in a row at the county fair. I don’t smoke, but like my booze. I’m independently broke and laugh too much.”

            Gina put a hand by Julie’s mouth. “This is my husband of 30 minutes, Chartan.” She pointed to her spouse. “And this is our friend and witness, Skyler Brazil.”

            Brazil smiled, as much as the use of “our” by Gina as for the vibrant woman seated next to him—her arm touched his side, just enough to make his heart race.

            “I guess this is your wedding reception,” announced Julie as a teenage girl placed a giant pizza on the table.

            ”The best one I’ve ever had,” replied Gina.

            Chartan cleared his throat. “This is more than a reception. “

            Gina gently poked Chartan in the side with her elbow. “Don’t get heavy on us, after all this is a pizza parlor.”

            Chartan smiled to cover up his reaction: I guess I’ll be losing my identity in this journey to be a husband. It’s okay. I want to share life with Gina and that means …
           

            “A toast,” blurted Brazil.

            Chartan eyed his friend—he was smiling with Julie clutching his arm. Brazil and Julie had known each other for a few minutes but acted if they were in the midst of a budding relationship. Chartan clicked his glass with the others, but they were fuzzy to him, instead, he was thinking about how quickly Gina and he had gone from meeting at the restaurant to living together to marriage. Had it been six months? Maybe that is a long time these days?

            “Chartan, are you day dreaming?” asked Gina.

            He looked at his wife. “Of course, I am—I think it’s the beer.” She laughed. He looked across the table—Julie and Brazil were kissing.

            My god, they’ll be married by the time we finish eating, thought Chartan.

            Suddenly, Gina grabbed and kissed Chartan.

            The teenage waitress, mouth agape, watched the foursome kissing in the afternoon. 

            “What’s up with them?” asked the cook, standing behind her.

            “It’s a wedding reception,” she said.

            “Whose?”

            “All of them, I think.”

(To be continued next Sunday)

The Adventures of Chartan: The Discharge Interviews

            (Last week: Chartan unarms a distraught man inside a donut shop.)

            Chartan with Gina on his arm, stood at the hospital discharge window. “How much do I owe you?” he asked.

            The woman behind the glass shuffled some papers, then grinned. “Nothing.”

            “I don’t even owe you for the meatloaf?”

            “Nothing. Your bill was taken care of.”

            “By whom?”

            “My boss told me a woman covered the expenses—I think her name was Minerva.”

            Chartan nodded.

            “Who’s Minerva?” asked Gina.

            “Someone I used to drive to San Francisco.”

            “You must know her well.”

            “I don’t really know her at all—let’s go.”

            As soon as they went through the revolving door to the outside, they were besieged by a trio of TV reporters. Gina clutched Chartan tightly.

            “I don’t intend to make this a habit,” Chartan said loudly.

            A woman shouted out, “Were you concerned for your safety when you tackled the gunman?”

            He faced the woman who had posed the question. She was shaking slightly—nervous, thought Chartan.

            “I didn’t weigh the options—there were none. I didn’t want anyone to be hurt, so I just went after him. I was lucky again.” Gina squeezed his arm harder.

            The barrage of questions that followed did not advance the basic information that Chartan had reacted quickly and in doing so, he had saved lives. One reporter linked his heroism to the time he threw hot coffee into the face of the car window bandit. Chartan simply added, “Yes, the 72-bean brew to the rescue.” The reporters laughed while the cameras rolled.

            Finally, the woman who had asked him the first question, interjected: “Who is the person with you?”

            Chartan paused. He was about to say Gina was his wife, but stopped himself. “This is my bride to be, Gina.”

                                                                                ***       

            Skyler Brazil sat on his bed, staring at the war tattoos on both his forearms: skull and crossbones on the left, a serpent coiled around a cross on the right. The art was 40 years old, as vivid as the memories he couldn’t forget.

            By his side was the note from Chartan: Please be our best man, maid of honor and our friend this Friday at noon at the city clerk’s office. We’re getting married. Let me know.

            He had one hour to get to the wedding. His first order of business was to iron the long sleeve blue shirt he bought yesterday.

            Fifteen minutes later Brazil started the short walk to City Hall. He was soon overcome with the sense that an important moment lay ahead. Certainly, for Chartan and Gina it would be a special time, but why would it be significant for him? He had no friends, no mission to carry out. He was alone. Yet, there was something making him take each step with…pride. That was it, pride. Where was the usual anger? The hate? Perhaps, it had been taken over by the joy of being asked to be a wedding witness.

            “Cuse me. Got change for a veteran?”

            Brazil stopped at the alleyway where a man, maybe his age, held a can and weather beaten cardboard sign: “Help a vet.”

            Was he a vet? Did it matter? The man was clearly in bad shape. He handed him a dollar and left without waiting for a response.

            His monthly VA disability check assured him that he wouldn’t end up on the street. But what contribution was he making to make life better for others? Nothing at the moment. But something was coming, he could sense it, something that would alter his life’s direction.

            (Continued next Sunday)

The Forgotten Running Shoe

An oddity of 2021 was a single running shoe that rested by the side of the road in Carmel for over a month. If you walked to the beach like I did, you would pass this shoe which I never touched. Maybe it is still there. Of course, it was commonplace to spot Covid-19 masks along the way, but running shoes were not the norm. And why is it laced up?

The “Middle Finger” of Photography

When I photograph a cabbage white butterfly on a flower, I know I don’t have much time to focus and get the right light settings before it flitters off. Also on the checklist are merges that interrupt a clear shot. In the example here, the middle of the frame has the distraction of a leaf sticking up. Sometimes processing can minimize the unwanted merge and sometimes, it just is.

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