“I have a very special wedding present for you,” said Bernice, M’s mother. “You won’t like it.”
They were standing in the waiting room on Platform 3 of Cliftonville Railway Station. Clive and Bathsheba had insisted that the guests should not observe what they had described as “Shangri-La meets the 1435mm standard gauge railway system” until the finishing touches were complete. The station manager had become so distressed when shown the advance sketches of Clive and Bathsheba’s “graphic vision” for the main concourse that he had become doubly incontinent. It had been necessary for M to pop him down to the local A and E to select a “pick and mix” of disabling injuries should he remain demur, before the function was given the green light.
Adjusting M’s cravat in a proprietorial manner, Bernice sighed. This rudderless craft, careening blindly down life’s waterways, leaving one fatal collision after another in its wake, was all her own work. She had borne him for 9 long months, shat him out and watched him melt under the wicked gaze of his father, without lifting a finger to stop the party. What more could you ask of a parent?
Bernice was dressed in a full length amber velour evening dress and walked with the swagger of a victorious barbarian raiding party. She removed a small square present wrapped in hessian, bound in a silk bow and razor wire from her handbag and handed it, carefully, to M. It was a golden framed photograph of a man who could bleed you dry without opening his mouth.
“You remember your father I hope?” enquired Bernice.
“I went through 12 years of intensive weekly psychotherapy after blowing half of his head off with the gun he gave me as a birthday present, a gun that you let him give me. I have waking and sleeping nightmares about him - last night I dreamt that his demolished head sprouted teeth and tried to eat me. When I was 5 he tried to cook my brother and I on a BBQ and the whole symphony in D minor was punctuated by your laughter so yes, I do remember my fucking father” replied M.
“Yes, yes” said Bernice, “whatever, anyway, this is my present to you.”
“ A picture of my dead father.”
“Well this is a picture of him not being quite so dead” replied Bernice. “It was taken last week.”
M looked at the photograph again.
“I am pissing on your parade” said Bernice.
M could not breath. He sat down heavily onto the floor in the corner of the waiting room amidst the souls of a million dust bunnies.
“The wall was covered with globules of his brain, a shard of his skull lodged in Bathsheba’s hip and had to be dug out,” said M “how can he be.....”
“You were catatonic - you were always such a lightweight - you don’t know what you saw. I scooped up the bits of head gunk that looked important into a lunchbox with a bit of ice - I always knew that the girl guide training would come in handy - grappled him into the boot of the car and we all went on a nice trip to see Dr MarkwithaCK. If you are going to make an opium addled, cross dressing, debarred brain surgeon the godparent of your children you might has well get the best possible use out of him, I always think.”
“While the three of you were screaming sweet nothings in the car, Dr MarkwithaCK was proving that you can put humpty dumpty together again, although possibly not in the right order. I told you all that daddy had gone to Hades but he was in Hackney, running a cafe all this time. He was a cunt with half a brain and three children before you shot him and he was a cunt with half a brain and no children and a cafe in Hackney after you shot him. If anything. you did him a favour.”
“This is...” M did not know what it was, it felt like his hands were stopping his head from falling off.
“Evil” replied Bernice. “Well here’s a newsflash old sport, I’m not very nice, none of us are very nice, its a like a family tradition. We should have written it on the little tag that was sewn into the back of your school jumper instead of your name. You can run away from it as fast as your little legs will carry you but you will still keep arriving back at the same place - Nasty on Thames.”
Bernice crouched down so that her face was inches away from M’s.
“You are so much like your father” she whispered, “you have his sensibility and his insatiably cruel hands. Oh and just before I go, because I’m not hanging around to see the Mardi Gras of shite your brother and sister have conjured up for your wedding day, I have a little prediction. One day when you have a child M, a child who is not loved despite your indefatigable capacity to love, a child like you, your father, Jonah, will come to your door and you will open it and let him in. He will want to speak to your child and you will let him and then, he will come after you. Until then, don’t get too pre-occupied by this happiness thing- it won’t last.”
With this, Bernice swept off into the arms of her very own perfidious Albion, never to enter into M’s orbit again.
The bride threaded her arm through Clive's at the double doors leading to the
station concourse. Her prospective brother in law was dressed in what could
best be described as "period noir."
"Is that human blood" asked the bride, pointing an expensively manicured cuticle at Clive's crimson spattered dress shirt. "No, no, no" giggled Clive, "human blood, no, of course not.” He opened the doors allowing her to greet the audacious horror of reality. "Its pigs blood" said Clive, leading her down the 'aisle' towards her gaping guests.
"Its an abattoir," hissed M as he and his sister entered the thronged pavilion
which his siblings had erected on the concourse. His guests sat on either side of the interior of the pavilion, flanked by tall poles and the end was the altar, which had been constructed out of small cages. Atop each of the poles was a dripping pig's head.
"Its not an abattoir, its a charnel house" sighed Bathsheba proudly.
When the bride arrived at the entrance to the Pavilion on Clive's arm, Bathsheba raised her hand and each of the pigs heads burst into flames. Fat perspired down the poles onto the ground in pools.
M's siblings had dispensed with traditional music to accompany the bride. As she advanced, the mice in the cages which made up the altar, all of whom had been miked up to speakers, began twilling and chirruping in unison. The noise was a stomach churning cacophony.
When the bride reached M's side, Clive released a brace of white doves to whose feet the wedding rings had been tied. They fluttered above the heads of the guests until Bathsheba released the hawk. In seconds the rings had fallen to the ground at the bride's slippered feet amongst still trembling dove misogyny.
A number of guests screamed but it was difficult to be certain exactly how many because most of them were already crying.
The registrar had observed these events unfold before her eyes distractedly.
This was partially because she had been marrying people for over forty years and was not easily surprised but mainly because her leg had been chained to a tiger. The tiger had, granted, been heavily dosed with cannabis but it had begun to lick the registrar's foot in a way that might have been either loving or tasting, it was difficult to say which.
“Dearly-beloved-we-are-gathered-here-today-for-the-marriage of-these-two-people” said the registrar with tiger related expedition. “Any objections, no, rings on fingers, good, do-you-take-him, yep, you,her,right - I hereby-declare....”
“Stop” shouted the bride.”This is my fucking wedding day. Mine. Never mind the burning pigs heads and the tiger and the amplified mouse singing and the dove slaughter. Never mind the commuters gawping and the guests throwing up on themselves and my mother in the bubble and my killer sperm donor father. This is the day that I marry the man that I love, the beautiful man that I love.” She took M’s hand. “And none of this bullshit is going to get in the way of that.”
“Are those your vows, because if they are if we can just wrap this up, I need to....” said the Registrar who had sensed, more than heard, a low menacing growl emanating from the floor near to her feet.
“No they aren’t my fucking vows” screamed the bride.
“M, you have been a terrible boyfriend. You are ill mannered to the point of obsession, a poor conversationist, a clumsy, perfunctory lover and possibly the most impatient living thing since life first scrambled out of the primordial soup. But when I look into your eyes, when I really look, I know that you are the place I need to be.”
M lifted his bride’s veil and for a moment, sobs clotted his throat.
“When I’m with you” said M, “the screaming in my heart stops. I can find a path through the savagery that claims me and seek sanctuary. I love you for what you have shown me I could be and whatever happens to stain that love as the hours turn to tears, it will, it will always, in some form, endure.”
The bride looked at the ring that M had placed on her finger. Encrusted into the top in diamonds was a number 5.
“5’s are really important” said M’s wife, a single tear working its way timidly out of the corner of her eye.
“I know they are” replied M smiling with all the strength that he possessed.
“You-are-now-declared-husband-and-wife-you-may-kiss-the-bride, now get this tiger off my fucking ankle”, said the Registrar.”
The kiss was a moment of true honesty for M and his wife, which was only replicated when they stood together in silence as M held their dead son Saul in his arms.
“I’m suddenly ravenous” said M. “I feel as if I haven’t eaten anything my whole life and I need to start right now and never stop.”
And he never did.