Remember the song "Get me to the church on time" from My Fair Lady? There's this childhood friend of mine, whom I'm still very close to. He's late for everything. Yep, I mean everything. But we were determined that if there was one thing he'd be on time for, it would be his own wedding.
If I cloak this yarn in the necessary anonymity, I'm sure he'll have a restrospective chuckle as well.
He's a very - how shall I put this - meticulous dresser. You know the sort of bloke I mean? Goes in for a shower and comes out about 45 minutes later. Never in a hurry to do anything. Pretty easy-paced and relaxed about life.
So on the day of his wedding, I thought I'd have a bit of fun. Yep, I have to confess, I've always been a bit of a prankster and if you'd like to catch up on what happened to one of my workmates, you'll need to read Name, Prank And Serial Number.
The wedding day dawned (time for a cliche) bright and clear. His tuxedo was freshly pressed. His bow tie was immaculate. The whole outfit waited on the external door of a cupboard. Only the finest threads for this bloke. The label on the tux said Hugo Boss.
He's that sort of guy. Get the picture?
But precisely because he's that sort of guy, I had a great plan ready.
I was going to paint the word "HELP'' on the sole of his left shoe and the word "ME'' on the sole of his right shoe. So that when he knelt down at the altar, the entire congregation would see the fluoro message ``HELP ME''.
Yes, I know all about the sanctity of marriage and the overwhelming need to be respectful in church. But the opportunity was just too good to miss.
When he went in for his shower, I knew I had time on my side. The way I figured it, a bloke who had taken 45 minutes all his life just to get ready for school, was odds-on to take 90 minutes on his wedding day.
Follow my logic?
So as soon as he went in for his shower, I commandeered his shoes. His aunt, a delightful woman, was horrified. She asked if I was going to hide his shoes.
Nope, I chuckled, worse than that.
What could be worse than hiding his shoes, she asked, intrigued.
Er, painting then, I fessed up.
At this point I thought she was going to swoon gracefully before calling bravely for the smelling salts.
I had the paintbrushes handy, I had the paint handy. At this point I thought it would be pertinent to mention that her two eldest sons, both gifted artists as well as ordained Catholic priests, were my fellow conspirators. They had done a contra deal with me and supplied me with the paint and the brushes. And they were laughing in the background, because a) they shared any perceived guilt in the project and b) they knew exactly what I was doing.
I picked up the left shoe and in my neatest, boldest script, I painted HELP on the sole in large, condensed script. I chose the colours carefully. Because the soles of his shoes were dark brown leather, I chose red and yellow paint. As in red and yellow fluoro paint. The way I figured it - taking into consideration my extensive experience in newspaper and magazine design - red and yellow would be highly visible.
I was as proud of my handiwork as Michelangelo would have been of the Sistine Chapel ceiling.
By this time, my buddy's aunt was fanning herself to ward off the impending panic attack. "That's not going to dry before he gets dressed," she pointed out.
I pointed out that her nephew would not emerge for at least another half-hour. And then I slipped in the remark that I was about to put on the oven and put the shoes in for five minutes, just to make sure the paint was well and truly dry.
I was kidding, but she clasped the piano, the better to break her fall.
When the colour drained from her face, I promised her I was exaggerating. The paint was almost dry. I wouldn't have to put his clod-hoppers in the oven.
Yeah, right, she was thinking. She'd known me long enough to recognise the fact that it was just the sort of thing I would do for the sake of a prank. So she hovered around. Just in case I reached for the oven door.
Like a burglar hiding the evidence, I placed the shoes back in precisely the same spot from where I had "liberated" them. Sure enough, he put them on and laced them up without a shred of suspicion. Everything was going to plan.
We drove to the appointed address to take some family photographs before the wedding. Then things started to fall apart. Because we were very close to the church, it was decided that we would simply walk across.
This was an unexpected spoke in the wheel. I'm a great advocate of walking and other healthy pastimes. But, for cryin' out loud, not when a guy's got paint on his shoes. I was running out of options. What could I do? Ring Dial-A-Palanquin, perhaps? Phone Dial-A-Phaeton? Whistle up a retinue of palace guards to transport him, like some ancient potentate, to the church door?
So we walked. A couple of hundred metres, that was all. I gritted my teeth all the way. Each step that he took drove a knife into my soul, the soul of an inveterate prankster. By the time he knelt at the altar, you had to look really closely to see the words "HELP ME!"
Now I know how Rembrandt must have felt (posthumously, of course) when his masterpiece "The Night Watch" was slashed to ribbons.
I felt like I needed a quadruple art bypass.
For the home of ABC Wednesday, go to Mrs Nesbitt's Place.
Thursday, April 17, 2008
M Is For Marriage
Photographs copyright: DAVID McMAHON