Romance Non-Fiction posted August 1, 2016

This work has reached the exceptional level
A story of love, an injured roadrunner, and the universe.

For Better, for Worse, ROADRUNNER!!

by Mary Wakeford

Thirty-eight years ago, my husband and I exchanged wedding vows on a Friday evening to the generic "for better for worse, in sickness and in health, until death do us part" intentions.

From the moment the "We Did's" ended, the universe seemingly began sending smoke signals that one could interpret as "maybe we shouldn't have". A prison breakout, three dead car tires; two dead popes; baby vomit, and my boss's brand new Monte Carlo sustaining a shot out windshield during our reception were just the beginning of the calamities that began as our "I Do's" ended. The universe sent  signs that even the rosiest of optimists couldn't ignore. But then a roadrunner happened along and restored faith in our union... BEEP BEEP!!

Our ceremony was l-o-n-g and h-o-t, representative of monsoon August in Arizona. The only thing limper than my veil was my hair. My future mother-in-law was late for the ceremony which delayed the start of the Mass, while a colleague who lived nearby, returned home mid-ceremony for a beer only to find us "still going at it" (his words, not mine) on the altar a half hour later.

Unknown to me at the time, and with each genuflection before the priest, the letters HE and LP in bold black lettering appeared respectively on the right and left soles of my grooms rented shoes, seemingly sending a passive-aggressive S.O.S. to the photographer's lens and assembled guests throughout the up and down calisthenics Catholic mass is known for.  To this day, he and his groomsmen contend they had no hand in the act of graffiti. 

As we exited the church following the ceremony under a veil of rice bombs and tulle, a hearse pulled up and parked right behind our toilet paper'd sister's 1972 Plymouth Duster. Soon thereafter, an oaken casket was pulled from the hearse's belly emoting a dramatic exclamation point on the "til death do us part" part of our vows. Once the collection of 'WhatTheHell' expressions faded, we learned from an altar boy pulling double duty, a rite of Rosary was scheduled to follow our wedding.  It would seem the delay my in-laws created caused a life and death, bumper to bumper reality moment for the new Mr. and Mrs. Wakeford.

As my brother-in-law fired up the Plymouth for the short trip to our reception hall, we tried to ignore the innuendo as Karen Carpenter belted "We've Only Just Begun" via the 
8-track stereo, and I pondered "ashes to ashes and dust to dust" from the backseat of a Duster.   I quietly hoped the dead guy was a car buff and appreciated the concert of celebratory BEEP BEEP's heralding "party time" as we pulled away to a barrage of honking horns, compliments of our wedding party.

It was becoming obvious to at least me, HE- LP and a hearse had launched the universe's first two salvo's upon our nuptials. White lace, promises, and a kiss for luck would only go so far.

We enjoyed a festive Irish Catholic reception with family, friends, and booze, celebrating us and my parent's first grandchild, Ryan, my brother's six week old newborn making his debut. Ryan was passed between giddy women with as much affection as Jim Beam was passed around the hosted bar by giddier men. We had no idea baby Ryan was a bubbling hot potato, as we played pass the bundle of joy. I would soon learn the only thing worse than a newborn projectile vomiting on a bride's wedding gown, is a newborn projectile vomiting on a cocktail dress worn by the bride's boss's wife. Ryan covered a beautiful burgundy dress from collar to hem in one swift, epic blow. He couldn't have chosen a more gracious recipient. As my boss's wife attempted to clean pugnant, imbedded curds of Enfamil from her dress in the ladies room, her husband discovered the windshield of their brand new Monte Carlo had been shot out in the parking lot. Enter Salvo #3 and #4. The universe was playing hard ball. I was all ears, while hoping for continued employment.

The morning following our wedding, we set out for the California coastline in my '74 Camaro; the same car held hostage two years earlier when my dad assisted in negotiations at a dealership, demanding retreads replace the radial tires as part of the deal, and much to the salesperson's admonition. Dad read something about radials and gas mileage, and I could sense it was going to be a deal breaker. It was the 70's and block long gas lines and rationing day assignments were still palpable in Dad's withers. I was young and dumb, and would have agreed to wooden wagon wheels. I just wanted the damn car. Dad's retreads would eventually win out, and those battled tires would become the universe's salvo's #5, 6 and 7, dispensed one day post wedding when two hours out of Phoenix, three of four tires disintegrated as chunks of black rubber bailed from our honeymoon train. THUMP WHAP THUMP WHAP THUMP WHAP THUMP WHAP THUMP THUMP THUMP THUMP THUMP. Try saying that fast, as in 65 mph fast.

Imagine this going down on the I-8 as semi trucks passed at mach speed by comparison, and news broke over the radio warning of a prison breakout. The notorious Tison-Greenawalt murderers were on the run, raping and killing families in their wake, with recent sightings reporting them on our stretch of the Arizona highway. THUMP THUMP WHAP THUMP. We would make easy victims limping along in my smokin' hot but turtle slow Camaro as we pulled into Gila Bend, Arizona; population,12.  I was already regretting my Daisy Sharp Shooter BB gun not making it into my curler bag.  Salvo #8 did not go unnoticed, and made for one uptight bride...m'wa!

We found a dilapidated tire shop on the only drag, located just across the street from the Space Age motel--a place as a child I begged my parents to stay during our annual treks to San Diego; a begging always denied. At age twenty-two, the property didn't look so space aged. It didn't look like a honeymoon getaway either, and if Gus couldn't find tires locally, the flying saucer motel just might be our "To the Moon, Alice" hook up on wedded bliss night number two. Be careful what you ask for as a child, as wishes aren't always granted in real time.

Four hot foooooking hours later, and half our honeymoon budget depleted on black rubber and tepid Dr. Pepper's from a rusty beverage dispenser, we peeled out of "Gila Bend Over" trying once again to ignore the universe, its innuendos, and the Tison-Greenawalt gang as we clung by our fingernails to the notion of happily ever after atop our three new radial tires.

We arrived in San Diego, but not before our hotel hold had expired due to tire death delay. As we drove the city looking for an alternate place to stay, breaking news sounded across the Camaro's radio/8-Track destroyer combo unit announcing the death of the pope, two days following our "I do's".  His "I done" was big news. It would get even bigger a month later when his successor, Pope John Paul I died suddenly just thirty-three days into his papacy, creating a conspiracy theory of papal murder. Salvo 9 & 10 noted. The universe quivered as we wondered if a marriage annulment based on papal defection by death might be cheaper than radial tires and a divorce.

Sometime following a full day of exhaustion from lack of sleep in a rangy motel and walking laps around SeaWorld where I was chosen out of the audience to be French kissed by Shamu #32, we arrived hot, tired, hungry and 'whale slurped' at a local San Diego specialty pizzeria to pick up the pepperoni pizza I had been craving since calling in the order a half hour earlier. I registered great concern on my groom's face when he returned to the car empty handed, with the upsetting news they accidently gave our pizza to someone else and it would be forty-five minutes before they could make another. I dissolved into a pity party of uncontrollable tears. Enter the fooooooking universe's salvo #11. I was now questioning at the age of twenty-two, whether I was even mature enough to be married if a stinkin' pizza, or lack thereof, could take me to this level of hysteria.

In reflection, it could have been the very moment in time the word "FOOOOOOK" was incorporated into my language vault. Our Taco Bell drive-thru dinner ten minutes later did not contain any foreign objects, so I took that as a sign the universe was also concerned about my state of mind, and let up for a moment.

As we headed north toward Los Angeles following our San Diego adventure, we arrived at a hotel in Burbank holding our non-reservation, reservation. Oops, there was no room at the inn for this Mary and her Mr. My hand written confirmation number held little clout in 1978. They apologized profusely while proffering a room at a neighboring motel. 'Neighboring' should have been our first clue. "Comparable" was a lesson we would soon learn. When the desk person returned with a place called the Bahia showing availability, we jumped on it. We knew the Mission Bay Bahia was a class act and even sported a seal rescue tank on property. We were all in. Then we were all out as we rolled up to the Burbank Bahia to witness a stray dog peeing on the maid's cart parked outside our room. The place looked like fodder for bad dreams. A peak inside the guest room revealed torn plastic, and I mean shopping bag plastic curtains on a back window hiding weeds taller than the window itself. A red velvet bed spread, and conquistadors killing bulls finished off the decor. It screamed romance. Not. My buddy, the universe had struck again with salvo #12. The Camaro hotel, parked beachside seemed a better option as we wondered if a divorce cost more than three radial tires and an annulment.

Following ten days in California, we headed eastward for a few days in Sedona before returning to jobs, assuming I still had one, and responsibilities that did not involve tires, popes or pizzas, but rather two hundred thank you notes awaiting pen to paper. As our new radials sped eastward on the Interstate, we learned the prison breakout murderers were still at large, and recent sightings placed them in, you guessed it, Sedona...FOOOOOK!

Then "it" happened about an hour west of Blythe, California. A full grown roadrunner ran onto the interstate just ahead of us with lead cars bearing down on him at 70 mph. I screamed. Really, really loudly. With that, my husband safely executed an unexpected and involuntary lane change just before we witnessed the large bird being hit by a car. It struggled to make its way off of the interstate, obviously injured and in pain. Following a reaming out for scaring the bejeezers out of my husband that could have resulted in our own broken wings, I insisted we stop to help the poor thing in my most firm, unwavering "You must get out there and catch it" voice.

The universe paused and took notice.

My handsome, athletic husband, gulped once then responded, "okay, let's do it" as he pulled safely into the emergency lane and threw those shiny black radials in reverse. The bird was in distress attempting to get beyond the barbed wire fencing adjacent to the roadway. My job was to keep the bird from re-entering the high speed lanes. With a plan in place, it was time to execute the capture of this wild bird. Neither of us exhibited the Marlin Perkins, Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom fearless swagger, but the bird didn't either with a broken leg, so our confidence level jumped to a six. Following fifteen minutes of high speed sprinting and sporting in extreme heat, my husband captured the injured bird.

The stars and planets aligned as I witnessed the man who stole my heart fifteen months earlier chase the flapping, wild, injured animal across the desert landscape in an attempt to save its life and appease his new wife. It was a moment of clarity. I had chosen well. The universe smiled.

I ran to the car and awaited the bird transfer as semi-trucks careened passed. My husband placed the roadrunner on my lap, and I held him tightly while conducting a body check. The bird seemed to understand we only wanted to help, and settled in immediately. He had an obvious fracture to his leg, but for the most part, seemed alert with minimal lift off attempts.

We decided to forego the Sedona portion of our trip to take him to a local bird farm near my office. "Roady" seemed to be on board with the plan as he sat on my lap staring straight ahead. I would love to know what must have been going through his mind as we drove faster than he ever dreamed of fly-walking, while jamming to The Commodores' Three Times a Lady; the Bee Gee's, How Deep is Your Love and Stayin' Alive. With a Little Luck, 'Wings' would be as good as new in no time. We joked I should have left dad home and bought a Plymouth Roadrunner a few years back. It would have come with better tires, and we'd be more richer than poorer driving with a live one on board; oh the irony it could have provided in the storytelling.

An hour later, we pulled into a Circle K in Blythe, and stabilized his broken leg with wooden stir sticks and medical tape. As we settled in for the drive home amid gawkers at the "K", "Roady" was a super star while we were the freaks of the hour to a lot of inquisitive, "you did what's?"

As our party of three rolled up to the Arizona Border Patrol crossing some fifteen minutes later, a federal agent leaned into the window inquiring if we had any fruit or vegetables to declare. It was the 70's and fruit flies were busy. His monotonous job posturing and his voice became elevated the minute he spied the well-behaved avian poised on my lap. He jumped backward in alarming animation and began ranting about a wild animal, the law, jail time, blah, blah, blah. I got the sense Mr. Badge was more afraid of us than the wild bird on my lap. I indignantly replied in the most take charge voice I could muster, that "Roady" had been hit by a car and suffered a broken leg, and we were taking him to Phoenix for treatment and re-release once he was rehabilitated. We had a plan in place and he need not concern himself about the bird.

Mr. Badge wasn't amused. He was actually a little pissed, and demanded we 'surrender' the bird immediately. I was skeptical and asked respectfully, what he was going to do with it out in the middle of nowhere, while we could guarantee help in a matter of hours. I was even bold enough to ask if his idea of taking care of it involved a Colt 45 behind the building, or a hammer to its head. I double dog dare stared him down while trying to keep my emotions in check to avoid another pizza breakdown moment.

Mr. Badge assured me 'Roady' would be held and surrendered to the Game and Fish agent when he came calling in a few days. My emotions once again would not be contained. I wailed as I surrendered 'Roady' under threat of a large fine. Salvo's #5, 6 and 7, otherwise known as black treads of bank death, left us in no position financially to challenge a Good Samaritan bird kidnapping trial or fine. Not to mention, we were out badged and outgunned. Damn those fruit flies.

I experienced separation anxiety as we drove away from the checkpoint on three good tires but birdless. Well kind of. A bird finger may have been involved in the making of this story. My husband likely experienced a "what the hell did I marry" kind of moment as the large wooden Welcome to Arizona sign waved us home.


My husband and I will celebrate our thirty-eighth wedding anniversary on Thursday, August 4th.

I could not have chosen a kinder, more loving man to put up with me and my wildly embarrassing, sometimes emotional predicaments; not to mention the few additional rescue animals following Roady the roadrunner. God and universe willing, we'll be blessed with a few more decades together.

Murderous prison escape, August 1978:

Papal Deaths August 1978:

We've Only Just Begun, The Carpenter's courtesy of YouTube:

You Tube Carpenters

The photograph was taken by Candid Photography at our wedding.

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© Copyright 2018. Mary Wakeford All rights reserved. Registered copyright with FanStory.
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