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19 Puffs of Smoke

19 Puffs #10

19 Puffs of Smoke Installment #10

Copyright James Crawford, 2014

“Is there any individual whose heart opposes this act of love, or needs to bring peace to their soul, by sharing a truth with us?” They’d asked for something like the old if anybody has reason crap, even though I’d counseled against it.

I was relieved that the room stayed silent for the sixty seconds I’d allowed for responses.

“Karyle, do you, with all your heart and intention of spirit, commit your heart, and emotional well being, to the care of Shannon? Will you love her, appreciate her, console her, and support her, through all the trials you face together?”

“I do, and I will,” she answered.

This is the point in the ceremony when most people begin to blubber a little bit. Lesbians, gay men, straight people, modern polyamorous groups, are all the same.

“Please, give her your ring as a sign of your love,” I said, and it was all over for Karlye’s stoic facade. The butch lost it.

Somehow, she managed to get the ring on Shannon’s finger. Maybe tears are an effective lubricant for platinum bands. Shannon patted her wife’s hand and offered her a smile like summer blossoms. It is possible I had a crush on her. Oops.

As soon as Bride Prime pulled herself together, I began the other side of the vows. Shannon handled it with regal composure, and slid her ring onto Karlye’s finger.

They kissed, and it was as delicate as any I’d ever seen. It was a little surprising, actually.

“By the power vested in me by the state of Washington, and the approval of the Universe, I present to you, Karlye and Shannon Johns!”

The room went wild. They always do.

The brides didn’t make it down the aisle. They were mobbed right away.

Stan hugged me, and told me, with puffy blue eyes, how beautiful the ceremony was. I agreed that it was pretty fabulous, and watched the rest of the wedding party go out to the back patio for photo opportunities. It was the perfect chance to jolly my little friend along, so I did.

His reluctance was pretty evident, much to my discomfort. The stranger thing happened after he’d sidled off behind everyone. Chauncy Steel, the Leather award winner, strode over to me in a wave of whispering cowhide.

“Your oratory was superb,” he complimented me.

“Thank you, Mr. Steel.”

“May I call on you when I propose to my boy? I think you have the flexibility to handle a rigorous ceremony.”

I put my hand over my heart, and reached out with my right to shake his. “I am honored and touched that you would consider me for the opportunity to officiate.”

The man actually smiled, and shook my hand so hard I worried it would pop off, and he’d take it home as a trophy. He walked out to the patio with a slight bounce in his stiff stride. Me? I wondered precisely what I’d gotten myself into, besides generous compensation.

No one left me much time to ponder, they pulled me, toga and all, into the group pictures.

“You look like a cheap whore who can’t afford kimono,” Katsu commented, while I was trying to smile between the happy couple. “Even your nipples are less than manly.”

The camera flash went off while I was trying to figure out what a manly nipple looked like. The photographer looked at the image on the camera’s screen and immediately asked if he could take it over. I guess my expression was pretty horrible.

Everyone, and I mean everyone wanted a picture with me. The most shocking was Shannon’s father. He put an arm around me, breathed Bourbon up my nose, and told me to “schmile fer de birtie.”

I smiled, and wished I was someplace else. Luckily, I didn’t have to wait long. The First Butch grabbed me by the arm so hard my toga almost unwrapped, rushed me out to the limo, and pushed me inside. Once everyone was in, she slammed the door.

It was just the five of us Karlye, Shannon, First Femme, First Butch, and me. Karlye whipped out the strangest bong I’ve ever seen. It was shaped like a woman laying on her back on top of a typical bong. She had a hole in her head for air, and her legs were raised in a V.

The four of them chanted, “This is our wedding bong, it won’t last very long!” Karlye packed the strange thing, lit it up… and inhaled between the glass woman’s legs.

Oh.

They passed it around as we wound our way through traffic to Stan’s house. He’d been kind enough to offer the lovely couple the use of his house for the reception. The crazy little goldsmith even had the event catered for them as a wedding present.

I guess it was a tighter community than I ever imagined.

The smoke from the glass hoo-hoo started to make my brain furry. I could tell there would be a biblical case of the munchies coming very soon.

“Where… shit… who did you get this green leaf from?” I managed to ask, wobbly as I felt.

“My fucked up family,” Karlye burbled, “grows shit for dispens… dispensaries. This is the Gamma 35-B cannabis strain.”

19 Puffs of Smoke

19 Puffs #9

Part 9

©James Crawford, 2014

I didn’t find out how I made it home until Katsu, the ghost, appeared to me while I was taking a shower the next morning. My head hurt, and my mouth felt like a dry cotton field.

“I got you home,” he told me.

“Uh,” I replied.

“I possessed you when the little guy tried to mess with you.” My Bodhisattva sounded smug. “Then we hitchhiked back here.”

“Oh.”

“You’re pretty well-known around here for such an annoying little asshole.”

“Why are you so mean to me?” I always whine when I have a hangover. It isn’t one of my best qualities. “All I want is to make a living and approach spiritual truth!”

“You’re lazy! When I was a boy, my father hit us with sticks! When you were a boy, your father asked you about your feelings! You’re soft, and stupid.”

I cried in the shower, and after a while, my tears flowed into the sewer. I suppose it was cleansing, but it didn’t do anything for my headache. Only electrolytes, water, and Midol, seemed to do anything for me with a lobe-crushing hangover.

My face was still puffy when I looked into the mirror after drying off. The dreads on my head were limp, I’d forgotten to put on a showercap. There wasn’t anything left to do but get back in the shower and wash all the crap out. I’d do the wedding with long, ginger hair, instead of clumpy snakes.

“See, you really are a girl with hair that long and nothing but stubble for chest hair.” Katsu poked at me.

“Damn it! Fuck off to wherever you came from! If I eat some shrooms will you go away?”

He seemed to consider what I said for a moment, and then shook his head. “I think I’m stuck with you, and it pisses me off.”

“Oh, joy.” I dripped sarcasm and water onto the bathroom floor. Then I wrapped a towel around my head, and another around my waist. It was time to get ready for the wedding.

In retrospect, I should not have preloaded against my social anxiety before leaving the house. The wedding party, and their friends, believed in partying hard. That definitely had something to do with the way things played out.

3

Karlye was an impatient bride. Frightfully so. She stood beside me and vibrated with nervous intensity. Luckily the floor was poured concrete, painted salmon pink, and could take a six on the bridal Richter Scale.

“Everything is going to be okay,” I whispered. “Just breathe from your center and let the peace flow outwards.”

“She’s late,” Karlye hissed, “the bitch is late.”

“Its traditional,” I replied. “Here’s the music. She’s coming. Breathe and think of happy puppies.”

She probably would have punched me, if Shannon hadn’t appeared from behind the curtains. Her soon-to-be spouse was radiant. Really, really, radiant.

Did I even mention her father was walking her down the aisle? He refused to show up for the rehearsal, claiming that he didn’t need to know how to walk. I strongly suspected he was homophobic.

Shannon and Karlye clasped hands once her father peeled off and took his seat in the front row. That was my cue to begin the wedding ceremony.

“Friends, family, and loved ones of all preferences and races. We gather today in view of the World, the Universe, and one another, to celebrate an expression of love and commitment between Karlye and Shannon.”

Stan started weeping quietly. Chauncy nodded with grave enthusiasm, and the First Butch blew her nose loudly.

I continued. “The Universe gave us the wonder of creation, which is an expression of the Great Love. Karlye and Shannon stand together as an example of the Great Love in action. Where, now, there are two people, by their will, soon, there will be one heart between them.”

Shannon’s father took a drink from the flask in his sock, and tried to cover up his tears. Excellent on the tears, nerve-wracking on the booze.

19 Puffs of Smoke

19 Puffs #7

©James Crawford, 2014

#7

“Are busses ever on time?” I retorted. ‘Bob’—Roberta—and I didn’t mesh well. Neither one of us seemed inclined to cross that invisible line in the sand to come to a mutual understanding.

She snorted, dropped the butt to the sidewalk, and crushed it out under her black ass-kicker. Then she opened the door for me. There are worse things she could have done, I’m sure.

Letting me into a bar in the middle of the day, with two brides nearly having a fist fight, was a jolt to my weed-powered equilibrium. My spur of the moment solution was surprising, even to me. I stood up to my full height, spread my arms, and declaimed, “Peace be with you!”

It stopped the argument! All eyes turned to me, and every mouth opened. Most of them let loose hysterical laughter, including Bride Prime, who fell over on the floor. That was not the sort of reaction I expected, but I can’t argue that it worked.

Shannon Black, Bride 2, walked across the concrete floor and shook my hand. Her eyes were a little moist from laughing so hard, but she looked radiantly happy. I’m a sentimental sucker for people who express joy through their pores, regardless of sexual preferences.

“Jammy, you are beyond brilliant!” Shannon gushed at me. “You knew we’d be insane today, didn’t you?”

“Yeah!” Sometimes you have to let people believe what they want to. “I thought looking outlandish would help everybody take things less seriously.”

“No wonder our community recommends you so highly,” Karlye Johns, Bride Prime, said as she got up off the floor, “you’ve got a deep understanding of people.”

My spirit guide broke into my consciousness, looked around, and snorted derisively. “American lesbians.”

I smiled at Karlye, and remarked on how excellent her leather pride vest looked. Apparently, I couldn’t have offered her a better compliment if I’d tried. She almost oozed satisfaction, and in my semi-high state, I could see it popping up like pimples in her aura.

“Scooper is a bootblack, and he really did a fucking excellent job.” She pointed across the room at the heavy man—decked out in black leather from his shoulders to shoes—hanging at the bar.

Now Scooper Ronson is the one person in the group that I’d known before being introduced to the wedding party by a second mutual acquaintance. He was a pretty well-known local personality, at least in the gay leather community, and exuded drama like the smell of shoeshine. I halfway expected for him to be a problem, and hoped I’d be wrong about it.

I’d been introduced to the rest of the attendants during the first meeting. They were all gay men.

Raul Chuparón was probably the foremost hispanic transvestite performer in the Northwest. If she was female and hispanic, he could look like her and lipsynch her lyrics better than the original. His version of Selena was enough to pull on your heartstrings.

Holding up the far end of the bar was Chauncy Steel, an International Leather Master title holder. I didn’t research it, but it was some kind of serious award, and his attitude matched it. When he laughed at me, it was the first time I’d ever seen him smile.

Stan Jingles rounded out the attendants. He was a pleasant little fellow, dressed so dapper that you could cut your finger on his pleats. I was told that the wedding rings were his creations, and having seen them, I was more than slightly impressed. If I wore high end jewelry, I would go to him in a flash.

Stan was holding up his end of the conversation with the First Femme, Tina McGill. She was the only member of the party that I actively wished was straight. One look at her glamorous features, to die for body, and flowing chestnut tresses, and anyone would be enraptured. I was. Silly me.

“Okay!” I smiled at the brides. “Let’s get this rehearsal going! There’s an epic party afterward, right?”