The next thing he knows, Jones is up in the choir loft with his groomsmen and assorted others, chasing whiskey with Altoids and rubbing a hole into his palm with his thumb. His stepfather-in-law-to-be is telling a joke. It goes:

"So, just before the ceremony, the bride pulls her groom into a confessional and gives him a blowjob. After, when the groom gets to the front of the church, his best man says, 'Why do you look so happy?' And the groom says, 'I'm marrying the best woman of all time!' Simultaneously, at the back of the church, the maid of honor says to the bride, 'Why do you look so happy?' And the bride says, 'I just gave my last blowjob.'"

Everyone laughs, nervously, casting sideways glances at the statue of the Virgin Mary and the twelve-foot cross suspended above the altar. Jones's uncle-in-law-to-be, the secret service agent, has cased the church. "Just say the word," he jokes, "and I can have you out of here in fifteen seconds."

"Don't even think about it," says Jones's stepfather-in-law-to-be. "You couldn't get far enough that Kelly's mom wouldn't find you."

Jones peeks over the rim of the loft. Below, the church has begun to fill. Jones sees his parents―his father standing arms crossed in the first row the way he did at Jones's hockey games, his mother looking around to find her Preservation Society friends in the crowd. From his vantage point in the choir, Jones can pick them out by their great round hats.

"Your mother and I," Jones's dad said, "twenty-eight years and counting."

"It's work," Jones's mom said, "but I know you're up to it."

Jones's best man loops an arm around Jones's shoulders. His breath is fragrant with Jack Daniels and his eyes twinkle. "If you're in trouble up there," he says, clapping Jones on the back, "fake a seizure."

On the walk in, Jones saw an ambulance parked in front of the church. Jones wonders if the ambulance is there to ensure that, seizure or not, the ceremony goes on.

Jones goes downstairs and meets up with Kelly's mom, who is dabbing her eyes and clutching her purse like it has her daughter inside.

"Hi, Mrs. Owens."

She places her hand on the side of Jones's face and pulls him into a hug. "Take care of my little girl," she whispers. "She's my whole life."

Her hand is cool. Jones walks back to the chancel. It smells of hyacinth and incense. Father Howard is there.

"Are you ready, my boy?" he says.

Jones nods, chewing on an Altoid. When he breathes out, he imagines his minted breath floating like a cloud through the room. He wishes Kelly was there. He hasn't seen her since dinner the previous night.

"God will be watching," says Father Howard.

Is that true? Jones thinks. Is God going to be stepping up here, placing his divine chips on this union? Does God Himself have a horse in this race? Do I have that to worry about, too?

Jones steps from the chancel and into the church, now swelling with the chords of an organ and the murmurs of the crowd. The sounds curl like snakes around his loins and constrict. He mouths Kelly's soon-to-be hyphenated surname. Owens-Jones. Is there an omen there? Is he to become the property of this new beast, indentured to it?

Jesus, he thinks, can I get out of this church? He considers inviting himself into the velveteen confines of a confessional, vanishing from these people and this place hungry for ceremony. He could perhaps lock it from the inside. No one would find him, not his parents with their scorecards, not Kelly's mother with her cold hand and vengeance, not God should His horse falter down the stretch. Jones considers the odds presented in solemn tones at the pre-cana classes and around the bar tables. Fifty percent of these things don't work, they said. What do so many owe God when their horses fail to place? What torments and fires, what dashed hopes and scorn await even the hardest-working newlyweds whose luck fails?

Behind Jones, a door leads out to stairs on the side of the church. Jones steps out into the May air and removes his jacket. For a moment he is alone. He can see the processional forming at the front of the church. Will you promise? From now on? In the eyes of God and the hearts and hopes of so many others? Jones catches a flash of white, a cottony Kelly at the distant vestibule. She looks nervous and spectacular. He feels the splintering want that got him here in the first place. Do you invite these shackles of expectation? Do you dare?

What the hell, Jones thinks. What the hell.

Dave Fromm spent a year playing basketball for a Czech club that won infrequently but lost well. Away Games, a memoir of that bittersweet campaign, waits for his grandchildren, or a publisher―whichever comes first.

His work has been published in the e-zines Opium, Carve, Zacatecas Review, Sweet Fancy Moses, and other places. He can be reached at

It's such a great, fraught moment, that moment of looking before you leap, of measuring a huge unknown against a world of tepid knowns. I remember asking my wife to marry me, the hours of thought preceding that decision, the switchbacks, the fortune-telling, the people whose advice I sought, tentatively, elliptically. I remember the drive to the restaurant―it was such a long drive―with the ring box pressing through my pants pocket, and how I could see things on the menu but not understand them. It was an exquisite time. And you can't quite justify what you do then, except to say that this leap, this is what I want, and then suddenly you're floating through the air.

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