Monday, June 1, 2009

A Wedding in Birmingham: A Good Story for Summer

Voltus Electricalus and Strata Illuminata

They were married. The wedding march ushered them briskly out of the candle-lit church into the ecstatic sunlight. Rice and birdseed were thrown. Brown sparrows and gray doves skittered along the warm sidewalk amid the feet of exuberant guests. A solitary squirrel ventured down the trunk of a massive oak tree to peer at the festive crowd, as Albert Slater led his bride to the car parked at the curb.
That was on Saturday. Now it was Wednesday. Marissa was still trying to get used to the fact that she was Mrs. Albert Slater. She thought she might never get used to the fact that she was Mrs. Albert Anybody. Albert was such a difficult name to get used to; so old fashioned and stiff. She would have preferred a Daniel, a Greg, or a Jason. Albert was a stuffy, dusty sounding name.
But here he was. Thank goodness he didn't look like an Albert. They stood together on the hotel balcony overlooking the endless view of mountains piled one over another into the blue distance. Sun struck his clean thin face, causing him to squint as he smiled at her. She could see scattered prisms of refracted sunlight in his hair. Suddenly the thought struck her that he seemed to actually emanate light. That's it, she thought. He looks electrical.
She continued to watch him, the sunlight firing off his face, his eyes, his red hair; then she had to explain why she laughed.
"It's because you look electrical, Albert, like a volt of electricity. Like a watt. Like a million watts. Like a bolt of lightning tearing across the sky, like the king of all lightning and electrical impulses."
Albert had no objection to being the King of Electrical Impulses, and since it amused her, he let her fashion a costume for him out of coat-hangers, plastic dry-cleaner bags, shoulder pads snipped from articles of clothing, a clear plastic belt strapped diagonally across his chest.
"Wild King of Electricity," she addressed him that night inside their institutionally impersonal honeymoon suite. "Your name henceforth shall be Miraculous Voltus Electricalus!" And she laughed and laughed.
And he laughed too, watching his new bride apply red lipstick lightning streaks to her fresh just-married face and along both arms from shoulder to wrist. He pranced about the room, uninhibited for the first time in his life, striking poses he deemed to be thoroughly electrical, as she continued drawing red zig-zags of lightning from her thighs to her ankles and from her breasts, downward across her stomach and abdomen.
She moussed her blonde hair into two huge spikes that actually looked quite like horns, and she sprayed them with hair spray until they radiated stiffly from her head. Then she fashioned a costume for herself, folding many sheets of white writing paper into fans which she tucked into her bra and under the straps and around the elastic of her bikini panties. Then she encircled herself with a long, heavy-duty extension cord which she ripped from the lamps on each side of the king-sized nuptial bed. From this, she dangled her curling iron, her hair dryer, his electric razor.
"My electrical darling!" he exclaimed, as if he had recognized her for the first time.
"Yes," she answered. "I am known as Strata Illuminata." And she danced for him, a frantic, twitching pavane with many starts and stops, like an electric light switch flipped on and off.
Thus, when they came back from their honeymoon, they possessed a private world, inhabited entirely by electrical lovers of wattage. No one else guessed that there was such a world, and that of course made it all the more amusing. When in the company of relatives and friends, often they looked shyly at each other when anyone mentioned power surges, or they winked furtively across the table when someone predicted an electrical storm.
They felt, even more than most young married couples, special, set apart, conspirators. Mythological.
They had a nice little home, a renovated 1940s bungalow on Southside. There were tall trees in the back and thick, luxurious green grass in the front. The young couple enjoyed lying on their backs on that verdant green carpet at night, watching the stars and talking of the distant electrical galaxy from which they came. Soon they began wrapping themselves in long strings of Christmas lights, augmenting their electrical costumes with thousands of tiny luminous bulbs. His were multicolored; hers were clear.
They purchased more and more extension cords, stringing them together end-to-end, so that the two glowing, frolicsome beings of enlightenment could run about across the lawn each night, sparkling and volatile, dancing dances of astonishing incandescence on the dark summer grass.
Strata Illuminata teased and tempted her mythological hero, Voltus Electricalus, as she romped across the dew covered lawn. The fescue glittered under her feet, reflecting the brilliant beams cast by thousands of tiny lights adorning her otherwise naked body. V.E. laughed lustily and gave chase.
"Come to me, my flashy seductress!" he called, pursuing his flickering loved one. "Illuminata! Illuminata!"
She squealed and threw herself into his arms, giving little thought to the crackling of tiny bulbs. They bought only the kind that would continue to burn if one burned out.
The thunder of the approaching storm was muffled by the shouts and laughter of the radiant lovers who were now entangled in their multiple extension cords as they thrashed about in fervent embrace. The immense bolt of lightning ripped out of the turbulent sky and made contact with their many-lighted bodies.
And that was the end of that marriage.

©Ramey Channell 2004


Susan Ramey Cleveland said...

Oh boy! the best short story ever--with the most puzzling title.

Joanne Ramey Cage said...

This is a great story, and I'm glad it has won a prize and been published. Write more.

Linda Ricottone said...

I was "captivated"! Loved every word!