"Move back," Sarah said. "Give me air."
"What can we do?" Tammy said, her eyeliner staining her cheeks.
"Take him to Valhalla," Sarah answered evenly.
Valhalla, Trudy thought. That's where the souls of dead Vikings go.
"Valhalla Medical Center is a ten minute drive," Tammy answered.
Trudy ran out of the tent crying hysterically, thinking, "I'm not going to Venice tomorrow. Izzy's dead. I'm not going to Venice. He fucked up my wedding. I can’t believe I'm not going to Venice."
A moment later, Michael stepped into the sunshine, his eyes as thin as slits, and walked over to Trudy wrapping her in a tight embrace. "It'll be okay," Michael said. "Izzy's a tough bastard."
But then she saw Izzy being wheeled away in a golf cart, his head hanging limply to the side, the blue and white balloons she had so fastidiously tied onto the back, floating playfully on the thick air.
"We're not going to Venice," she cried.
Michael kissed Trudy on the forehead and said firmly, "We're still going to Venice. Even if he's dead."
"Trudy," Esther Schwartzstein called as she tottered along the grass in her four inch heels. "Trudy. You're ruining this wedding for everyone. You're out here. Your guests are in there. You're ruining the wedding."
Rabbi Greenfield stepped into the sunshine and waved at the couple, beckoning them to come inside.
"We're staying out here," Trudy called.
Rabbi Greenfield walked over, looked them both in the eye and put a hand on Michael's shoulder and the other on Trudy's. "Whatever happens today. And some bad stuff might happen, has happened. You got married. That's what you take away. That’s what happened today.”
“Thanks Judah,” Michael said.
The band was playing Stevie Wonder’s, “A Place in the Sun.”
“That’s our song,” Trudy said. “That’s supposed to be our song.”
“Then go on in and dance,” Rabbi Greenfield said.
“I’m a disaster, Trudy said.”
After the meal the cake was cut and the music played on. Trudy, shanghaied by her former crush Steve, danced a slow-danced with him as he said, "Remember the time we--"
She was pulled into a reggae hora, a spinning circle of whirling bodies, sweat pungent in the air, and lifted onto a chair above the jubilant heads of the crowd. Michael was somewhere down below, wearing a pair of bunny ears on his head with his arm around Simon. She could see her father-in-law, Max sacked out in a chair, with a bag of ice pressed to his forehead, an abject look of misery punched into his face and Bobbie laughing oblivious with a friend. She could see her mother in white, posing for pictures, with Rhonda Katz, and Jefferies, his bald head thrown all the way back, drinking wine from the bottle. And then the band was kicking out Parliament's "Get up for the Down Stroke," and Aunt Rennie, in her blue suede outfit was grinding against the lead singer in the most lascivious manner, her neck arched back in ecstasy. Trudy felt hot all over, her teeth on edge, stomach tight. She felt the presence of the whole wedding party all over her body, within her, through her nerves and veins. Up near the high arch of the tent, where the sun shone brightest, Trudy could see everything down below illuminated in a bright, white light.
"Get me down," Trudy shouted to her friends undulating beneath her. "Get me down. I'm going to throw up."
She found Michael shaking hands with Max's business partners. They stuffed their faces with wedding cake and halvah. Halvah?
Just then Trudy saw Bobbie serving sweating chunks of marble halvah to the guests. "The bride loves halvah," she said "Loves it."
"I don't love halvah. I hate halvah. I hate everything about halvah."
Bobbie looked hurt, "No. You said you loved halvah."
“No, I didn’t.
“Yes. You said at the shower.”
"I was being polite."
"Anyway, apricot marzipan. Uch!" And Bobbie went on her way with a tray of sweating halvah raised in the air.
Trudy grabbed Michael by the hand, pulling him away from a man in canary yellow shirt sleeves. “We’re not going to Venice.”
“What do you mean?” “Your only uncle dropped dead at our wedding today,” Trudy said. “We’re going to a funeral. Like it or not.”
A mid-afternoon thundershower did little to kill the humidity – in fact the air was wetter and swampier after the downpour – but it did chase most of the old folks back to their air-conditioning in the City or points beyond. Trudy kissed Max on the forehead and said, "Get some sleep. I'll see you tomorrow." She said goodbye to Grandma Dot, as her caregiver wheeled her away through the muddy grass. Trudy's mother said "Well, you can't help the rain," blowing a kiss to her daughter.
After a round of perfunctory goodbyes, many to people she had never seen before her wedding day, Trudy went back to her bridal tent to take off her stockings. She saw the bandleader-- snorting a line of coke on her makeup mirror. "It's cool, baby," he said.
“Sorry. Wrong tent.” And Trudy backed away.
Michael and Simon raced golf carts up and down the slick lawn, spinning out into turf-shredding donuts in the manicured grass. The remaining guests were covered in mud and Jefferies, the painter peeled off his clothes – others followed, sledding on serving trays down the hill towards the pond.
“Let’s go for a swim,” Trudy called.
She felt free now, diving into the cool water in her slip, at peace as she dunked her head below the surface, and the noise of the day was blotted out. She saw legs kicking, luminous bubbles and someone’s penis being playfully grabbed. Down she swam to the silty bottom of the pond, her arms stretched before her, the rhythm of her pulsing heart beating in her ears. She felt her hair flowing behind her. Flowing! I am perfect, she thought, touching bottom.
The band had turned their speakers towards the pond and they were blazing through a horn-heavy rendition of a '70s funk anthem. Trudy found Michael floating on his back, with his eyes closed.
"This has healing powers," she said massaging pond muck into his cheeks and forehead. "Give me a kiss," he said.
After drying off, Trudy noticed the guests pairing off and wandering up towards the house or the privacy of the woods. The sun was finally sliding down the western sky, flickering its oranges and reds through the trees, lengthening shadows across the trampled grass. A thin silver mist rose almost magically off the lawn, shimmering like diamonds then fading like smoke. "It's beautiful," Trudy thought.
In the distance, she could see a figure stumbling slowly through the grass. "Michael," she said. "Look."
It was Izzy.
Izzy continued tripping his way, zombie-like across the grass until he reached Trudy and Michael. His suit jacket was missing and his white shirt was open at the neck.
"It's night of living dead," Trudy said in disbelief.
"You're alive," Michael said.
"You're fucking right I am," Izzy said. "Checked myself out of the hospital."
"We thought you were dead," Trudy said.
"Well, I'm not."
This is too much, Trudy thought, her throat clenching. "I can't look at him," she turned away and was about to shout through her tears, "Get him out of my sight," when she heard Izzy ask," It's over?"
"Yes," Michael said.
"Aw, I'm sorry doll. I'm sorry for fucking up your wedding. C'mere."
Trudy heard something plaintive in that gruff voice that she had never heard before. It was clear to her now that nobody had gone to the hospital to see if Izzy were alive or dead.
"Doll. Mikey," Izzy said in a voice ruined by a hundred-thousand cigars. "This was a tough day, and I just want you to know that I'm gonna look out for you, take care of you,” he spread his arms expansively, and it was clear he had difficulty lifting his right arm. “I haven’t gotten your wedding gift yet. So just name it."
“Izzy, are you sure?” Michael said.
“Sure I’m sure.”
“Our honeymoon in Venice,” Trudy said.
“That’s thousands of dollars,” Izzy said, and the words hung in the humid air for a moment like every one of his promises since Trudy had met him; so real and then gone.
“I’m parched,” Izzy said. “They pack up the bar yet?”
“No. I don’t think so,” Trudy said.
“Help me up the hill then.”
Trudy gave Izzy her hand and they slowly climbed the hill.
Jon Papernick is the author of The Ascent of Eli Israel and his fiction has appeared in Nerve, Memorious, Reading Room, Confrontation, Lost Tribe: Jewish Fiction from the Edge, and Scribblers on the Roof. He writes a column called "Perfect Jew" for Jewcy, and his new novel, Who by Fire, Who by Blood, is being published by September by Exile Editions.