I shook my father by the shoulder to wake him. He had fallen asleep on a worn out couch in an unlit, unheated house that looked like it had sat abandoned for a long time. Grey dust coated every surface, thick enough to trace through with a finger, and the air itself seemed pale and colorless. My father sat up grumbling and groggy, as he usually did when he woke up, and I handed him his brown shoes that he had left neatly paired on the floor beside the couch. We sat there talking about meaningless things and I ran him a glass of cold water from the tap while he cleared his throat and collected his thoughts and held the weight of his head in his hands.
We headed out the door and it was just around dawn on a cold winter morning, crisp and clear, the snow thickly crusted and frozen hard. The abandoned house that my father had slept in was actually just a small guest house that sat at a fork where the dirt driveway diverged into two driveways which both continued on up to the main house up on the hill. I had parked my pickup truck behind the guest house in a turnaround which connected the two diverging driveways. I could see from the grey smoke curling from the tailpipe that I had left the truck running this whole time. I figured that I had been in there waking my father up and talking him back into coherence for at least an hour. I couldn’t believe that I had left the truck sitting there running for so long. I kicked myself for the gas I was wasting.
But my father just patted me on the shoulder and told me, “Are you kidding? These people around here have been known to steal batteries and parts off of any car that’s not running. You never want to turn your truck off around here.” And then I looked and saw a car sitting under a tree across the other side of the driveway. The hood was popped open and there were pipes and hoses pulled out and hanging every which way over the sides of the fenders. The car had been gutted and the remaining heap had turned completely brown with rust. And farther off, half obscured in the tall weeds, I saw other cars in similar conditions, discarded relics crumbling into the snowy landscape.
This got my father talking about the country family who owned this property. He chuckled and waved his hand towards the main house as we started up the hill. The family had two wild twin boys in their twenties that loved to go for raucous shirtless joyrides down dusty back roads on summer evenings, climbing half out of the door and howling in the corn. Their older sister had a husband who was always in and out of prison. And whenever he was home, he mostly occupied his time by stealing cars and bringing them home for the boys, and after the boys had beat the cars all to hell and run them into the ground, they would dump them off around the property and part them out. They were crazy, trashy people. The terror of the whole countryside.
I wondered what we were doing here among these people, why my father was sleeping in their dusty guest house, why I was there to wake him on that frigid morning. It turned out my brother had been dating this older sister while her husband was off serving another sentence in prison. These didn’t seem like the kind of people my brother would get involved with, but I guess he was in love, and she had managed to get a divorce from her incarcerated husband, and now my brother was getting married to her, and my father and I had come here for the wedding.
So we climbed the hill, and I took my father’s arm as the slope grew steeper. And as we climbed, the day wore on with each step. It was late afternoon now and spring. The snow had melted away and there was green grass and blossoms on the trees and the tall weeds along the edge of the property had grown thicker, hiding all the rusted old wrecks from sight, and the sun lingered longer, lazier in the sky. When we got up into the shaded yard of the main house, we saw that the field out back behind the house had been set up for the wedding. There were rows of white chairs and the arbor was decked out with pink and blue flowers.
The twin boys wore matching light blue suits. They sat in the front row, wrestling and punching at one another, almost knocking over the chairs around them. They both had the same loose mops of brown hair that whipped about in their struggles. The sister had a blonde-haired son from her first marriage, and he sat in the back row, dressed up in a clean shirt and tie, staring down at his dangling shoes that didn’t quite touch the ground. My brother stood up by the arbor, hands folded before him, grinning and waiting for his bride.
And as someone began to play at an organ that had been wheeled out onto the grass, there she was, wearing a white dress, slightly discolored, that had been passed down through the generations of someone else’s family and lent to her for the occasion. She had the same loose brown hair as her brothers, but longer and tied up with a ribbon in the back. She could have been described as homely in the distribution of her features, the smallness of her brown eyes, the almost bulbous tip to her nose, and her wide thin lips. But there was also something radiantly adorable about her and the pink flush of her cheeks. She was a bride, in love, thrilled to be getting married.