Here in Fjord, Wisconsin, I have become acquainted with some of the personal history of a currently married, twice-widowed woman who, sixty years ago this past week, on seven seven fifty-seven, a month after she graduated from a high school in New York and exactly one week after she turned eighteen, married a man ten years older and in seemingly good health. At that time, she took the surname of her husband, a somewhat uncommon name five letters in length, a name I had never heard of in Fjord until a few days ago when I noticed on the Fjord Community Club calendar that another couple with that same last name had also been married on the seventh day of the seventh month (but in a year not stated). When I pointed out the seven seven plus surname coincidence to the woman I know, she seemed not particularly impressed but asked if I would like to hear another story of happenstance. Of course I would.
In the early 1970s, she told me, she was unmarried and residing in Long Beach, California, when a certain man persistently courted her for eight or nine months until, one day in August, he persuaded her to drive with him to Las Vegas to get married. The wedding took place at City Hall, before a justice of the peace who, the bride tells me she clearly recalls, was a tall, pleasant, nicely built man of perhaps forty, who rose from his chair behind a desk and turned out to have but one leg.
No friends or family members were present. He called in a lady from out in the office as our witness, the bride told me. Throughout the brief ceremony, the bride is sure, the officiant balanced straight and steady on that one leg without cane or crutch in sight, and though he held a little book open in both his hands, he said sincerely all that needed saying without looking down at the pages. The one empty leg of the mans slacks, the bride wanted me to know, was neatly folded and safety-pinned.
Twenty-five years went by. The New York woman and the California man had moved by then to Galloway County, Wisconsin, though not yet to this village of Fjord. On the day of their silver anniversary, they went out to celebrate with dinner at The Pyramid Supper Club in Beaver Dam. The bride ordered lobster and promptly experienced so unpleasant a reaction that she was not able to continue eating. Her husband perhaps managed to finish his own meal; she says she does not really remember. But she does know for sure that they went into the restaurants bar for after-dinner drinks, hoping a crème de menthe might settle her stomach, which it did, a little bit. What a way to celebrate our anniversary! she exclaimed, when shed taken a sip of the drink.
A man and woman several stools away at the bar overheard that remark, and the wife announced, brightly, Todays our anniversary, too! Then she asked, How many years are you celebrating? When she heard twenty-five, the woman said, Us, too! And when she found out the Galloway County people had married in Las Vegas, the other woman nearly fell off her bar stool, according to the woman I know. Oh, my God, the other woman said, we were there the same day!
Same city, same day, and, yes, even the same fellow with memorably pinned pants. Such a lovely little story, but it troubles me, even though I completely trust the person who told it. I would be less skeptical, I think, if I knew for certain the answer to one question: Who bought whom the next round of drinks at the Pyramid Supper Club bar?