The guests had started to arrive. We watched them meander on in. They shook hands with the groom and gave the bride a hug. Then they made a beeline to the refreshments, which we hadn’t touched yet. Surprising, I know. Well, none of the four of us had. Not yet. Doug though, as usual, had gone for a brownie and a couple lemon bars, hoping for a quick bite and maybe to inhale a little powdered sugar, but one of the aunts shooed him away.
But, like I said, the four of us, we hadn’t touched a thing. That’s why it surprised us so much.
See we were just standing there, away from the hubbub, not causing any trouble, shooting the breeze, talking about how Doug had gained a lot of weight since high school and how Marty’s ADD had gotten so bad he moved from place to place every two seconds. Nothing important. Just chit chat, you know. And we never saw it coming.
All I saw was a red flash. A blur—red like blood—like an alien spaceship the size of the sky, but not slow and rumbling—it swooped down faster than the fastest insect, crushing in a finger snap. Our ears rung with the crash. I spun. And then I was falling. Falling. And kicking my legs. Trying to roll over. But my body seemed paralyzed. With a thud, I landed on my back, which never happens to me. Not until today. I rolled over, my eyes twisting, unable to focus. And then I saw Steve, face down, his backside and legs suspended in the air, like a plane that crashlanded in the Sahara. Bob was close too, lying on his stomach. His legs were kicking wildly, trying to get off the ground, trying to flee. But he went nowhere: His guts were trailing out, stuck down onto the concrete beside him, like a giant biological anchor. His legs kept kicking, but he stayed in place. Kicking. And then he was still.
A sickness rushed through me, followed by a surge of energy—and fright. With all my might I pushed off the ground and into the air, darting this way and that. The panic ripped through my insides as I gasped for air, and for safety: from the window sill, to the curtain, to the back of a chair, to the bookshelf. I panted. Calm down. Calm down. You just need to get your head. Just breathe. Just breathe.
And it hit me: Where’s Larry? He was the only one unaccounted for. If I were missing, I knew he’d come looking for me. So I needed to look for him. Maybe he’d gotten away. But maybe he hadn’t. Maybe he was at ground zero, wounded, hovering beneath death’s gaping palm, and his only hope of survival would be the return of a faithful comrade.
And so I went back to the wall.
I know it’s insane. I know it will never make any sense to you, but I went back to the exact same wall where it happened.
But there was nothing. No answer. Not a peep. Just the quiet chatter of the guests—who had now taken their lemon bars and were quietly inhaling them at the tables, completely unaware of the carnage surrounding them.
But still no answer.
I choked on his name because of what I saw.
It stood over me.
It towered over me.
A massive body hulking above me and tapering away into the sky: the bride’s little brother. The bottom of his fist pointed at me, the fly-swatter was cocked back, jutting away from me like a saber—poised to strike.
It was weird: When it all came to a close—to that final breaking point—the end of it all—I didn’t think of Larry. I didn’t think of Mom and Dad either. Or anything from my to-do list at work. I just had one buzzing thought:
I wish I’d had the guts to ask Kelsi out.