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December 05, 2022

Off Course

By Dan Mulhollen

"I told you," Mina said, smirking, "that you should have got GPS for this car."

"Why?" I asked, nonchalantly, driving down the barren country road.

"Because, we're lost!"

"So?"

"So?" Mina repeated, becoming flustered. "We were supposed to be at the reception hall an hour ago. I'm sure our absence will be noticed."

I remained quiet, not wanting to use the word 'so' again. While we were off-course, I did not feel we were that lost. It was a warm if slightly overcast late-spring afternoon. While rural, this was certainly no wilderness. These little country roads would lead to a main road, and the main road to the interstate. Once there, it would simply be a matter of re-tracing our footsteps. All in all, I considered it a rather enjoyable mental exercise.

"I can just hear them now," Mina continued. "Aunt Petulia, 'Being anti-social again, aren't you, Mina dear.' Hell, when I was fifteen, she wanted me checked into the mental ward."

"That was a long time ago," I said, reassuringly. Mina might have been tightly-strung, but she was sometimes annoyingly sane. She had pretty much programmed every moment of her next five years into her cell phone organizer application. Even an hour deviation was unacceptable.

We passed a Victorian house. "Sad," I said, looking at the missing floor boards on the large front porch and the turret that rose from the ground, ending in a tall spire, all of which needed painting. "That house has probably been there a good one-hundred fifty years. If anybody pays attention, it will probably be bulldozed soon."

"Eh." Mina said, barely noticing the structure. I prefer living in places younger than me. Too many ghosts in older places."

"Really?" I said, smiling, seeing something I hadn't before in Mina. "You believe in ghosts?"

Her shoulders dropped and she sat back in her seat. "I believe there is an innate creepiness in old houses. Maybe ghosts, maybe something scientifically explainable." She stopped for a long moment. "Maybe something worse."

We came to a small intersection. "Mortuary Road," I said, reading the sign.

"I should have known," Mina said, "We've died and gone to hell."

"I don't see any whip-bearing demons," I replied. "Of course, there was that Black Angus bull a way back. Maybe he was Lucifer in disguise."

"You know," Mina said, looking puzzled, "that is strange. All these houses and barns, livestock, but no people."

"Hell is Green Acres?"

"There's just this weird, Twilight Zone sensation I've been feeling all day. I just can't shake it off. It's like I see my life changing and the future is looking as lifeless as this road."

I was afraid to say anything, not wanting her discomfort to turn into panic. But there was a hopeful turn.

"Well," I said, as we approached a larger intersection, "Things may be looking up." I looked at the signs, and then checked the map. "State Route 450," I muttered, "to exit, yeah." I could see my mistake.

Within fifteen minutes we were entering the reception hall parking lot. We parked the car, got out, and walked towards the doorway.

"Maybe we should take all that's happened," Mina said,trembling, "as an ill omen and go back home."

I chuckled and took her by the hand. She squeezed tightly.

"We'll be okay," she said, almost whispering.

As we stepped inside, Mina's Aunt Petulia greeted us.

"So, Mina," the family matron said, showing disappointment, "over an hour late for your own wedding reception. What are we going to do with you?"

-- Dan Mulhollen

Article © Dan Mulhollen. All rights reserved.
Published on 2009-07-27
3 Reader Comments
Anonymous
07/27/2009
09:15:57 PM
i like the set up and twist, but no bride would be unaware of how to get to her own reception. it's a day they LIVE for. it's a glory that defines their purpose.
Mary
07/30/2009
08:38:33 PM
I don't know. I would have gloried in some time alone with my hubby right after the wedding. Better than a frantic meet and greet, dancing and driving until late so that the wedding night was more tiring than inspiring.
Dan Mulhollen
08/19/2009
06:25:25 PM
Anonymous, Interesting point, however to say 0 percent of all brides would forget is going a bit far. Mina was marrying more to please her Aunt Petulia than out of any belief in the institution. Perhaps I should have been more up front with her opinions, but I fear that would have ruined the ending.
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