Ties And Nooses

“Well you do what ya want, but I’m goin ta bed.”

“It’s morning, Dad.” The old woman called her husband ‘Dad.’ It never seemed strange. Except to their grandchildren, who wondered if she would call her father ‘honey’ or ‘dear’ if he were alive. “I’m makin eggs.”


“You want coffee?”

“Coffee, for chrissake!”

“You should eat something. Skin and bones.”

“You eat, if you’re crazy. I’m goin ta bed. You’ll do the same, if ya know what’s good for ya.”

“Well you’re going to the wedding, aren’t ya, Dad?”

“The which?”

“I told you, Dad. Robert’s wedding is today. Carol’s driving us.”

“I’m tired for chrissake. . . . Who?”

“Robert, Dad.”

“He’s dead, woman. That was years ago.”

“Not Herschlep, Dad. Robert. Your grandson.”

“Who’s drivin where?”

The woman shouts, “ROBERT! Robert’s getting married today to that whatsername, that girl! Carol’s driving us!”

“Carol who.”

“Your daughter, Dad.”

. . . . . .

“I’m goin ta bed.”

“Happy Halloween!” Robert’s mother flips the lights on, set a cup on the nightstand, pulls the shades open. Robert does not move. “It’s your big day, get up now.” A low grumble from beneath the covers. “Come on, Robert!”

“Five more minutes.”

“You’ve been saying that for an hour and a half. Now get, up!” She yanks the covers off him. He rolls onto his stomach, his arms beneath him, face away. “I’ve got coffee here for you.”

“I’m cold.”

“Well get” and she spanks his behind this time on the “UP!”

Like a toothless sloth he mumbles, “Damn it, Rachel, you’re such a–“

“Watch it, Robert. Just watch it now. And you call me Mother, like everybody else.”

“Get out!” He pulls the covers at his feet back over him, over his whole head.

“There’s no more time, Robert.”

“Five more.”

“You gonna get married in your underwear?”

“Uh huh.”

“Well I’m makin eggs. You come down and eat. Can’t get married on an empty stomach.”

Robert snores softly in a pool of drool.

“You didn’t smell it?”

“Well we weren’t necking, Rachel.”

“I could smell it from across the kitchen.”

“I try to stay as far away from him as possible.”

“You can’t tell me you didn’t notice, Ted.”

“He’ll brush his teeth, everything’ll be fine. Is there any more bacon?”

“He won’t, though. And he refuses to change clothes.”

“You told him to change his goddam clothes?”

“Well didn’t you see him, Ted? He’s s’poseta be the best man and he looks like a hobo clown.”

“It’s informal. Robert said so.”

“Informal, sure. But a flannel shirt? And that straw hat? Where did he get that thing, anyway? He’s all full of holes and booze and condiments. That’s a best man?”

“Robert don’t care.”

“Of course he does.”

“Nope. It’s you, is the only one.”

“He doesn’t care that his brother shows up drunk for his wedding? For his only wedding? Ted.”

“There’ll be others.”

“What? Ted.”

“Is that all the bacon, then?”

“Maybe I can get him to chew some gum, at least.”

“Gum, Rachel? Gum at a wedding?”

“It’s just awful.”

“Betsy’s goin’ as a werewolf.”

“That’s a little different, Ted.”

“Well just say Sammy’s a scarecrow.”

“That’s what he is, Ted. Sometimes I think that’s just what he is.” She shakes her head, pretends to have a headache. “Why they have to get married on Halloween I’ll never understand.”

“It just happened that way. Is there coffee left?”

Betsy comes tromping and waddling down the stairs in her furry suit and oversized wolf’s head, growling.

“We’re not leaving yet, honey. Take that mask off.”


“Aren’t you hot?”

“No,” she mumbles through the slit, muffled by the thick rubber and hair. She sits down at the table, sighs heavily.

“Is that brother of yours up yet?”

The wolf head shakes.

“You’re kidding me.” (Wolf head shakes.) She sighs, shakes her head. “Betsy. Go and get that squirt gun from your room.”

“If he doesn’t get up, can I marry Cynthia?” Betsy asks through the mask.

“Wolves can’t get married.”

“But I like her a whole bunch.”

“He’ll get up.”

“O.K. But if he doesn’t, I’m goin in his place.”

“Do you even know where you’re goin?” the old man says from the back seat.


“Is this the turn?” Carol says.

“Do you even know where you’re at, for chrissake?”

“Well I think she’s a real nice girl,” the old woman says.

“Who? Cynthia?” Carol says.

“Is that her name? I thought it was Christine.”

“I never thought Robert’d get married, though. Never in a million years,” Carol says.

“Ya, it’s kinda funny.”

“So who is it? Whose funeral are we goin to?”

“Not a funeral. Robert’s wedding, Dad.”

“Was that the turn?”

“He’s dead already. Don’t tell me. He fell off that scaffold.”

“No, Dad. Robert.”

“Did we miss the turn?”

“Robert who.”

“Maybe we should turn around.”

“Your grandson, Dad.”

“How many funeral’s a guy need? It’s crazy.”

“I hate to say it but–I think we just might be lost.”

“It’s a private wedding, Susan,” Rachel tells her sister outside the house.

“So, what, you have to be a member or something?”

“They just wanted a small wedding. If we let you come, then Eileen, and Aunt Glenda, and Marjorie, and–we’d have to let everybody come.”

“Well, what am I gonna do for an hour?”

“Oh, it shouldn’t’ take that long.”

“All right. Well? Let’s hit the bars,” Susan says to Ted’s sister.

“This isn’t’ a church,” the old man says from the back seat of the car.

“Come on, Dad. Get out. We’re gonna go in now.”

“Where’s the coffin, in the garage?”

“You can come to the reception, for wings and cake.”

“And champagne?”

“No, There’s a punch.”

“In here?” The old man looks at the house, finally out of the car.

“Where in the world is Sam?” Rachel says.

“Well,” Susan says, “if I run into him at the bar, I’ll send him ‘round this way.”

Rachel shoots her a look. “I hope he’s not in a ditch somewhere.” She digs in her purse for some gum.

“Just set the gifts over here,” Cynthia says.

“Where’s Robert?”

“Oh, he’s just brushing his teeth.”

From the bathroom: “Cynthia? Can you commere?”

“Your family’s here, Robert.”

“Commere and help me with this goddam tie.”

“Forget it, Robert. Just come on.” To the others: “He just woke up.”

“I didn’t get around to wrapping mine,” Sam says. “Here.” He reaches into his pocket, hands his brother some ear plugs. “Here.” He hands a bottle of pills to the bride-to-be.

“Thanks, Sammy,” Robert says.

“I didn’t think you needed any more dish towels or blenders,” Sam explains.

“Oh! It’s a little wolfman! Well aren’t you just the cutest.”

“I thought you were bringin a bottle a wine, Sam,” Ted asks his son.

“Oh, I did. I bought one, but–I don’t know what happened to it. I forgot to bring it.”

“Is it in the car?”

“No. Here.” Sam takes a fifth of Windsor from his coat, holds it out for Robert. It’s about two thirds full.

“Thanks, Sammy. Just set it over there.”

His brother sets the bottle on the pile of presents.

“Oh, here comes the judge.”

“He’s blind. Don’t make faces at him, Sam.”

The fat bald blind man gropes up the walk, whacking a pink flamingo with his stick. They all look out the window.

“He’s in your roses! He’s walking in your perennials!”

“I’ll go help him.”

“Oh! He fell into your juneberry bush.”

“He dropped his book.”

“I hope the bookmark didn’t fall out.”

“He’ll be reading from Revelations.”

“He’s not gonna read for chrissake.”

“So what’s with the book then.”

“He’s got it all up here?” Pointing to her head.

“He must be omniscient.”

“What’s he doing?”

“He’s crawling.”

“His teeth fell out. He’s looking for his teeth.”

“He can have mine,” the old man says. “I sure as hell don’t need em.”

“Have some cake, Sammy.”

“No thanks.”

“You want some wings? Crackers? Grapes?”

“Nah, that’s all right. I’m good.”


“No. I’m good.”

“More punch?”

“All right.”

“You don’t want any cake, Dad?”

“What in Sam Hell I want cake for?”


“We should be headin home. It’s late. It’s gettin late.”

“I don’t think Carol wants to leave yet.”

“It’s gonna be dark soon. We got chores ta do.”

“She’s not ready to leave yet.”

“Why in hell not? Where is she, what’s she doing for chrissake?”

“She’s visiting, Dad.”

“It’s crazy. It’ll be dark in a minute. There’s chores–“

“Ted’ll do em. She’s visiting.”

“Ted? Where is he? Where’s Ted?” Looking madly around the huge mirror-walled room. The reflections, extending into infinity, seem to bewilder him.

“He’s right there, Dad. Talking to Robert.”


“Robert, Dad.”

“He’s talking to a corpse?”

“Robert, Dad. Your grandson.”

“This is crazy.”

He gets up, goes to his son.

“So,” Ted is asking his son, “Ya got a honeymoon planned then?”

“Oh, nah, not really. We might take in a movie,” Robert says.

“Ted?” the old man stands a few steps away. Glances at Robert, but says nothing.

“You’re gettin ready ta go, I s’pose,” Ted says.

“Ain’t ya gonna do the chores? It’s gettin dark.”

“It’s only 2:30.”

“Them cows ain’t gonna feed themselves, I know that much.”

The old man looks around apprehensively. “It’s crazy. Just plain crazy.”

“Where ya goin, Dad?” Ted says.

“I’m walkin home.”

“He didn’t even smile. Not once.”

Cynthia laughs. “Sammy. He’s so funny.”

“But how’s it gonna look, in the pictures?”

“That photographer,” Cynthia laughs again, “he had to keep telling him ‘Head up. This guy with the beard, there. Head up. A little further. Up a bit more. Just a liiittle bit more.’” She smiles hugely.

“He could have at least shaved,” Rachel says, shaking her head. “Or combed his hair.”

“Then he made him take his hat off.”

“Oh. That hat,” Rachel says, shaking the image out of her head.

“’O.K. Smile now.’” Laughs. “I think it was worse when he said ‘Cheese.’ Sammy just looked so disgusted. I thought he was gonna throw up, I really did,” Cynthia says. Laughs.

“That woulda made a good picture,” Robert says.

The photographer comes over. “O.K., now if I could just get the bride and groom with the grandparents . . .”

“Christ,” Robert mutters. “Here we go again.”

“Can’t you do this digitally now?” Cynthia asks.

“What?” Ted says.

The photographer grins uncomfortably.

“You know: with a computer, just cut and paste us in all the different combinations? It’d be so much easier.”

“I bet with Photoshop,” Robert says. “They could even put smiles on Sammy and grandpa.”

“He smiled at that baby.”

“Ya, he likes little kids.”

“I didn’t get a picture, though.”

“Where’d he go, anyway?”

“Ah, who knows. I think he’s walkin home.”


“I better go get im.”

“Where’s Sammy?”

“Over there, by the punch bowl.”

“Robert. Robert! Wake up.”

“Huh?” His head leaps up from its bed of chicken bones and styrofoam.

“We gotta go find grandpa.”

“What?” He blinks, looks confusedly at his mother, stretches his neck, looks startledly at the mirror, lets his head fall back, stares at the ceiling.

“Grandpa’s missing. He wandered off somewhere,” Rachel says.

“Oh. All right.” He looks around. Can barely find himself in the reflections, although the huge room is nearly empty. “Is there some coffee left?”

“Here.” His mother hands him a cup. “You’ve got some chicken in your hair.”

The flashlights in the rain steam and weave through the thick dark silence.

“He could be anywhere.”

“He’ll turn up. Let’s go home. I’m cold.”

“What, and just leave im?”

“We shoulda just left im at home.”

“You can’t, though,” the old woman insists. “You can’t leave im alone. He gets confused. Wanders around looking for Ted, wondering where everybody’s at.”

“Jesus, I’m tired.”

“Can we at least warm up?”


“Sammy. Sammy! Where ya goin?!”

“I know where he is,” Sam says.

“What?! Hold on, I can’t hear you!”

“I’ll get im,” Sam says.

“Jesus, Sam. As if we don’t have enough–“

“Is he smokin? Did he just light a cigarette? That kid.”

“Sammy!” Robert calls. “Hold on!”

And Sam begins to run. The rain comes down harder. The wind picks up, drowning out the voices. He runs like he’ll never stop, without looking back. His untucked shirt drips, his soggy shoes slosh and squeak with each wet step, on and on and on.

He trips on a flat headstone. A thick thwack gashes the air. Lies motionless.

Everybody runs.


“Is he O.K.?”


“I think he hit his head.”


“He’s just passed out.”

“Where did he think he was going?”

The wind begins to die down suddenly, like a sheet lifting the rain away and unveiling a voice, approaching through the dark. The old lost voice, groping.

“Ted? Ted, where’s Ted?”


“Dad! What were you doing?”

“Where’s Ted? . . . Ted. Where were you?”

“What’re you doing out here, Dad?”

“There’s a goddam body. Lookit that for chrissake. Somebody forgot to bury that guy. Is that Robert? They took him out and forgot to bury him again?”

“Dad,” Ted says. “What were you doing?”

“Where were you, Ted? It’s dark. We got chores ta do. I come back and everybody’s gone. We gotta get home. It’s dark, it’s dark already. This is crazy. And lookit that: there’s a body lying out. It’s just plain crazy.”


copyright1998 by dustin hansen