For our delinquent readers whose lives are so cluttered they are unable to keep pace with Howard and Tally's adventures, our co-protagonists have decided to experience a "dry-run" or "once-removed" or "vicarious" swapping of holy vows before they swap their own. So let's join them shortly after they've pulled away from the gasoline pumps:
"Howard!" Tally suddenly yelped. "Look! On the left! That edifice that resembles an abandoned indoor skating rink! I think they're having a wedding there. Pull over!"
As was his wont, Howard did as he was told. Sure enough, the place was surrounded by high-end sedans and SUVs, and people in semi-formal attire were sauntering into the building.
Having just left their own wedding -- truncated though it was -- the couple merged easily with this other batch of guests, and soon found themselves commingling with a congenial crowd of connubial companions in the confines of a cavernous construction, crammed with countless comestibles and cocktails.
Cripes! Crikey! They had missed the ceremony, one that Tally's welding teacher Dr. Lysistrata claimed would inspire them to look more deeply into their respective souls about the whole permanent-mating procedure. And now they were faced with Howard's worst nightmare: a reception, and its eternal spring, or geyser, of small talk, drivel, empty syllables, all emitted for the sole purpose of dodging profundity -- that's how Howard saw it, anyway.
"Tally," he said, rubbing his forehead with several of his fingers, "I can't do this. I can't bear the use of a mindless gabfest as a social lubricant. If you need a lubricant maybe you shouldn't socialize."
(Over Howard's lamentations we hear the sounds of Robert Altmanesque and Howard Hawksian overlapping dialogue* periodically overlaid with Paul Simonesque dangling conversations:
“You look very nice, Cadie. I know I look awful today. I just got back from the restroom where I looked at myself in the mirror. I don’t see how anyone could ever be glad to see me. I just look so tired and used up. My eyes have no sparkle anymore. My appearance is a constant reminder to me that I’m dying. We daily move closer to death, don’t we?”
“Isn’t that just the truth now?”)
"The chatter of an over-caffeinated murder of crows is more dulce et utile!*" Howard adds. "It's the sound of nothing and I won't hear of it. I won't, I tell ya, I won't, I can't!"
(The shallow babble continues:
“Honestly, Rosa Lee, you seem to be holding off Mr. Death in pretty good fashion. Your make-up hides the wrinkles from over-exposure to the sun and the alcoholic – I assume – bags protruding slightly from beneath your eyes.")
"Just give it a chance, big guy," Tally murmured in his ear, then flicking her tongue gently on the lobe of said appendage -- or organ, if you will.
"I'll try, Tally. But remember in the Braxton-Hicks** translation of the gospels, Jesus says, 'Avoid idle talk and shun thee empty babbling and chatter'."
"The same Jesus who said he will return 'like an abductor in the night'?"
"Verily, the same," Howard proclaimed with just a tad too much certainty.
(More idle talk resonating from the abandoned skating rink:
"Rosa Lee, I feel like a part of nothing, like maybe I’m already in hell. Then I think back over the numerous trivial little details, the silly remarks, the petty actions that went into making up yesterday and I realize those wasted moments have made up my entire life, leading me to nothing more or less than death."
"That's a nice thought, Cadie. I think it’s marvelous that you look at everything you’ve ever done in your life as a mistake. And speaking of death, isn't this wine to die for?")
"Howard, I think you're mistaken," Tally said. "Remember when you abducted that Sunday School teacher and we brought him upstairs for bible study every Tuesday morning? Well, he said Timothy said that bit about empty chatter. Still, your point is well taken."
|Altman & Carver: good mix?|
"Long as you know what I'm saying. Well, maybe we should play like mule shit and hit the trail and find ourselves another wedding to bone up on the binding."
"You crack me up! But first I wanna sample those blackened crawdad legs with escargots a la Bourguignonne, and tapenade noir a la figue."
(The superficial social lubrication slowly fades as Howard and Tally head for the exit:
"I try to remember the last time I prayed or when I’ve ever helped the poor."
"I know, right? I feel completely alone, bound by gravity's grim grip to this cold planet floating through empty space."
"Oh, there's my hubby. Gotta skedaddle. See you at yoga Thursday! Mwah!")
*For the very young: Altman, Hawks, and Orson Welles frequently used overlapping dialogue in their films. You probably already know about "dangling conversation."
**"Sweet and useful," roughly. Howard learned this from an AP Latin teacher he abducted while in high school.
***Editor's note: Despite my endless pleas, the author insists on using the Braxton-Hicks reference until a reader acknowledges how that name (or those names) came to fame. Would someone please Google it so I never have to see it again?