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WITHIN A WEEK OF THE DAY ED MET GIOVANNA IN THE BEER PARLOUR AT THE COBALT, Mrs. Pinsky married them in the living room of her house near the corner of Pandora and Triumph. Mrs. Pinsky was the mother of Ed’s shop steward on the docks. She was also a marriage commissioner without a commission. Norman, the shop steward, set it all up for them with his Ma. Ed was grateful. Her fee? Fifty bucks. Less than a quarter of what it would have cost if they’d gone legit. “We’re in business,” said Ed to Giovanna. She blushed.
When the formalities were ended—that is, when the government forms had been signed and imprinted with a freshly inked stamp lifted years before from the Marriage Registry—Ed and Giovanna sat down together with Mrs. Pinsky on her faded green sofa, ate Pot o’ Gold chocolates, popped some bennies and drained their Lucky Lagers. Mrs. Pinsky put “Our Love is Here to Stay” on the record player (as, indeed, she did for all the couples she married illegally in her living room). Ed and Giovanna watched the record turn round and round, lost for the moment in a vertiginous happiness that had just been sealed forever with a stolen, yellow-gold ring.
Ed’s alcoholic parents, and Giovanna’s, learned of the civil ceremony a week later. He had nicked two postcards displaying Mounties in red serge on horseback from the gift shop in Stanley Park. She wrote the news of their fait accompli in a loopy hand on the backs of the cards and together they dropped them into a post-box.
Ed and Giovanna should have paid Mrs. Pinsky’s fee.
The postcards reached their parents the same day the couple set sail on a cargo ship bound for Hong Kong, their bodies stuffed into a refrigerated container in a lower hold labelled “salt pork” in both Chinese and English.
Norman watched the Empire Peiping slip its lines just as his shift on the docks was ending. A tugboat nosed the vessel slowly out into Vancouver harbour. It was a Wednesday and, as was their habit, Norman and Mrs. Pinsky would soon be nestled comfortably beside each other on her faded green sofa with their TV dinners balanced on their knees, waiting for The Honeymooners to come on.
“That Ralph Kramden—he’s such a card,” Mrs. Pinsky would say the minute the laugh track kicked in after the first gag.
“Isn’t he just, Ma,” Norman would almost always reply, never exactly sure of what “card” signified in this context but reflecting, this one time, that—like “honeymooners”—the word must carry more than one meaning.
P.W. Bridgman writes from Vancouver, B.C., Canada. He has earned undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in psychology and a degree in law as well. His short stories and flash fiction have appeared in various literary publications. They have won prizes or been finalists in several competitions, both in Canada and abroad, and some have been included in anthologies published in Ireland, England and Scotland. Mr. Bridgman's first book of short fiction, entitled 'Standing at an Angle to My Age', is published by Libros Libertad Publishing Ltd. and was launched in May of 2013. It can be purchased online directly from Libros Libertad or from Amazon.