This is the concluding part of the Cinderella’s Wedding story. If you haven’t read the first two parts yet, you can go over to the right column and find them. Happy reading!
After the Wedding ceremony the evening before, Cinderella and Tony were at the head of the table for the formal dinner party that was presented on the main deck as the boat cruised back around Santa Catalina. After that, we didn’t see much of them. I assumed that they were below decks changing and packing for their Honeymoon.
The food was very good and in plentiful amounts for that dinner. When it began, Bill leaned over to me and said, “we may as well make pigs of ourselves, once we get into open sea, it’s all going to come right back up.”
I raised my wine glass to him. “Here’s to fish food.”
We gripped our forks and forged ahead, determined to ruin the galley’s production schedule. Course after course of top-level cuisine kept appearing in front of us. Finally, stuffed to the eyebrows with Wedding cake, ice cream, and champagne, we painfully pushed back from the table.
Ian approached us with a box of Dramamine motion sickness capsules he’d purchased in Avalon. “It’s about to start,” he said grimly. “I just took two. How many do you want?”
Bill opted for two himself, but I demurred. “I think I’ll wait. If it gets bad, I may be back.” As they found some comfortable chairs near the rail, I felt the ship make a slow turn toward the mainland and I went up on deck to see what was ahead of us.
I have seen some truly beautiful sights in my short existence. I have seen the pastel light of dawn on the Grand Tetons of Wyoming, I have seen the river-carved red rock canyons of Utah, I have seen the rolling green lushness of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia. And I have seen the city lights at night of Southern California from the foredeck of a boat 25 miles out in the ocean. From Malibu in the North all the way down to Laguna Beach, it’s a glittering, golden, living thing. And it’s entirely accidental.
No one ever said, “Let’s put some really ugly stuff here – refineries, slums, junkyards. I know it’s a repulsive mess up close but from far away, by night, it’ll be magnificent!”
I was caught up in the loveliness of the view for a long time before the thought hit me that something strange was going on. Or rather, something wasn’t going on. The boat was not bounding up and down, or rolling side to side. It was as solid and stable as a deck nailed to the back of a house in Nebraska. I turned to go get the others to show them when I saw Victoria, Tricia, and Evie walking arm-in-arm, singing some silly song. Knowing some of the lyrics, I was compelled to add my not perfectly in tune but always eager baritone.
There was a space right at the point of the bow where we could thrust ourselves out over the rail and pretend to be a small flock of geese flying low over the water. Then we sang some old show tunes and I tried to teach them to dance the Old Soft Shoe (step-brush-ball-change, step-brush-ball-change, step-brush-ball-change, ball-change, ball-change). This would have been easier had I known how to do the dance myself.
Tricia and I went back to the saloon to get Ian and Bill, but the effects of taking too much Dramamine had made them both morose and drowsy. “We can see fine from here,” they mumbled, so back up to the foredeck we went without them.
While we were straining to see if we could make out the Hollywood sign on the distant mountainside, Evie said, “Look at that. What is that?” She pointed out a bright light in the sky moving parallel to the shoreline. We could see the lights of commercial jetliners lining up to land at John Wayne Airport and LAX, but they were lower and following the legally prescribed air lanes over the city. This light was much higher and moving in a completely different direction. All four of us watched as it moved Northwest over the city, then it seemed to hesitate.
“Has it stopped?” someone asked.
“It looks that way,” I said. “But I don’t think helicopters fly at that altitude.”
Suddenly whatever it was shot straight up at an amazing speed and then vanished. Four mouths gaped open.
“Oh my God.. Did you see that?”
“It was a UFO! We saw a UFO!” Cheering and bouncing up and down, we hooted with elation.
Ian pushed his wet hair out of his face and hooked it behind his ears. As he leaned back against the tile coping he said, “What do you think? Should we go back through Utah, or go East and turn North at Albuquerque?”
“Or you could just stay here in Palm Springs for another day,” Vicki said as she sank down, leaving only her face and bikini top above the bubbling hot water of the spa. “Cindy and Tony are in Acapulco for at least another week and I’ve got the condo to myself.”
“Can’t do it folks, sorry,” Bill said. “I was barely able to get someone to cover my class on Friday. I’ve got to be there tomorrow. And I’ve got to be there by noon, otherwise there’ll be a whole class of undergraduate Physics nerds having pencil fights and dueling with their slide rules.”
“I saw a newspaper over by the pool when we came out,” Victoria said. “If it’s the Times, they’ll have a weather page.” While Tricia and Ian got out of the spa to look for it, I laid back and thought about the crazy places we’d been so far – the car ride, then the boat to Catalina, the Wedding, the trip back and the UFO, and now here we were, the next morning, sitting in a spa in Palm Springs.
The weather page reported a heavy winter storm moving from the Sierras into Utah that day which made us all agree on the Southern route through Phoenix and Albuquerque. Even allowing for a couple of extra hours, we thought we could be back in Laramie by 11 Monday morning.
Tricia and Vicky made us a nice breakfast and we were on our way by Noon.
Too uncomfortable to sleep in a moving car, I volunteered to drive the graveyard shift. “On one condition,” I added. “Somebody has to stay awake and talk to me.” Ian said he would, so that night around midnight, the little red Maverick pulled into a truckstop near Flagstaff and I went inside to buy a giant cup of coffee to go. When I got back to the car, bladders had been emptied, people had rearranged themselves, and I slipped behind the wheel.
Ian stuck to his job as designated entertainer until about 3 o’clock when I asked him a question, got no answer, and glanced over to see him fast asleep with his head against the side window. A quick look around the car and I knew I was on my own.
We came through Santa Fe and then Taos in the darkness. About twenty minutes further on, my rear-view mirrors suddenly lit up with flashing red lights. A police car had come up behind me and snapped on the full “pull over immediately or you’ll regret it” display. When this happens to anyone the normal reaction is their heart speeds up, their palms get sweaty, and they frantically wonder what they did that was wrong. After a night of lots of caffeine and no sleep, it was like being hit with a defibrillator. While my brain was wrestling with a torrent of paranoid thoughts, my shaking hands were wrestling the car over onto the shoulder.
In the mirror I saw the cop get out of his car. Not wanting to disturb my friends’ sleep, I got out to go talk to him. Big mistake. As soon as he saw me emerge from the car he pulled his gun out of its holster and yelled, “Stop right there! Put both hands on top of your head! Now!” I quickly complied.
The cop was young, slightly built, and looked even more frightened than I was. He made me sprawl, spread-eagle, across the hood of the car as he patted me down. Then he shined his flashlight through the windows at the three half-asleep, squinting faces within. He collected my license and the car’s registration and told me to get back into the Maverick.
“Put your hands on the wheel and don’t move them,” he said. “Thirty minutes ago an all-night cafe in Taos was robbed at gunpoint. The guy took off in a red sedan. I’m going back to my car to radio this in.”
During the wait, the other three decided that there was nothing to do but to go back to sleep, and they did. Finally the cop got out of his car and I rolled down the window. He looked relieved as he handed back the papers.
“Sorry to keep you waiting, sir,” he said. “They just caught the guy down by Espanola. You’re free to go.”
I was able to drive another hour on adrenaline. We gassed up in Trinidad and Bill and I switched places. “Okay,” he said as he speeded up onto I-25. “It’s 5 am. We’ve got 7 hours to drive across Colorado and up to Laramie or my ass is grass. And the Physics department is the lawnmower. If we get busted for speeding, I’ll pay the fine.”
Too exhausted to care about how comfortable the tight little back seat was, I soon fell asleep. A few hours later the Maverick was on Highway 287, North of Fort Collins, and going through Owl Canyon. The serpentine road was making the car sway back and forth and my rolling head banging against the window glass woke me up.
“How are we doing?” I croaked.”
Ian glanced back over the seat. “It’s 11:15 and we’ve got about fifty miles to go. It’s gonna be close.”
At five minutes to 12, we pulled up in front of Bill’s apartment and he was pulling off his wrinkly, smelly shirt as he ran up the walk. He piled back into the car still buttoning up a clean shirt and we dropped him off in front of the Sciences building at 12:10. He had made it.
Six weeks after the Wedding on the Boat, Cinderella and Tony got divorced. Among other things, she found out that he had lied to her about his age – he was 7 or 8 years older than he had told her – and that the condo in Palm Springs was in the process of being repossessed. He seems to have disappeared after that. For all she knows, he may be under the foundations of one of the big casinos on the Las Vegas Strip.
After she got back from the Honeymoon, Cindy had the two rolls of film that I had given to her developed and printed. Evidently some small part in the mechanism had come loose and was sticking out and scratching the film as it rolled through the camera. Every picture came back with a thick, black line running through it.