(Names and locations changed to protect the guilty)
The thing about wedding gigs is that it is easy money. You show up and play off and on for one hour from a book of music so elementary you could take a little nap and no one would care. There is always the difficulty of not giggling if the minister goofs or the bridesmaids yawn, but after about a million weddings, the respectfully blank features are habitual.
I needed some money. It was summer, and I was between months of my stipend. So when I got a call from a local wedding music contractor, I agreed without hesitation. Another friend, “Diego”, would travel with us, the Impresario would drive and for just a few hours and no really tough work, I’d get $200. Easy peasy, squeeze the lemon.
It was an awkward drive. I sat in the backseat with the cello while the Impresario compared himself to various well known cellists. It’s uncomfortable to murmer positive but noncommital sounds for an hour. Diego did his best, and, sitting in the front, bore the brunt of the assault on the borders of credibility.
We arrived at the farm where the outdoor wedding was to take place, and that is when the fun began. The sky met the foothills in a grudging embrace of mist. The white fabric on the arbor over the altar flapped petulantly. There was a thick dew on the clover, and the rows of hay bales laid out as pews looked soggy. A handful of groomsmen were attempting to woo some lengths of white fabric over the top of the hay bales, but the breeze teased these bizarre shrouds up again with coquettish persistance.
Don’t worry about the rain, said the Impresario, I brought a tent.
We praised his foresight with quick zeal, glad for a new topic. But that was the last time we could talk to each other, or even look at each other for the duration of the gig. To do so would have been to lose all composure and succomb to a highly unprofessional desire to roll in the hay and the clover laughing.
Do you need help with the tent? No, it’s easy to put up.
We stood back. My high heels sank slowly into the fertile soil. Just as well we weren’t too close to ground zero and the tent. Every time the unfortunate man stooped to stake the tent, he farted. Diego took refuge at the car, talking 19 to the dozen about getting the music ready. I was pretty well rooted to the earth by my shoes, so I made desultory but frantic remarks about the scenery.
By never looking at each other, Diego and I survived the preservice music. The Impresario lost his place in several simple songs, but we didn’t look. We muttered measure numbers. He handed us each two hundred dollars during the sermon. We scrutinized Ben Franklin. The sermon rhymed (leave, cleave, and weave). We bit our lips and checked the tension of our bows. The bride and groom stirred some dirt together from their respective family farms. We succombed to hay fever and coughed delicately. At last the wedding was over, and we were free to pack up and go.
I rooted to the earth, Diego took the music back to the car. The impresario hadn’t effected a cure.
The newlyweds invited us to stay for the reception, but the gigantic oven was smoking like Hades, and I didn’t trust what they were cooking to be a civilized meat. I cast a clear vote for politely declining. We came to regret that.
Let’s stop for Mexican!
It was a long ride home. But I survived to gig another day.