5/8/08

Summer Story: Bus Tickets and Blood Tests

June 1984—Truth can be stranger than fiction. [What does this have to do with the story? A lead-in like this builds an expectation of huge coincidence or something really eerie. There's nothing really strange about this story.]

“Excuse me, Sir. Where can we get a marriage license in Salt Lake?” Tom Springer asked, hesitantly.

The Greyhound ticket agent snapped the cash drawer shut and glanced up to see a teenage couple, dressed in jeans and casual shirts.

“Marriage license?” he asked, surprised, looking at the gangly dark-haired boy with legs like telephone poles.

“Yes, Sir. Becky and I just came on the bus from Minnesota, and we want to get married. So where do we go?”

The agent paused, scratching his balding head. “I think it’s still in the county clerk’s office. Hold on and I’ll look it up.”

Squinting behind his bifocals, he scanned the telephone book. “Yes, here it is, in the Hall of Justice.”

“Is that very far from here?”

“Yes. About eight blocks. Why don’t you take a taxi?”

“We don’t have much money,” Tom replied. “But we can walk, if you’ll tell us how to get there.”

Tom listened carefully to the agent’s directions. Then grabbing his duffel bag, he turned and smiled at the slight girl beside him, with hair the color of Minnesota wheat and eyes as blue as a robin’s egg. “Come on, Becky. Let’s go.”

He grasped her hand, and they walked outside. The warm dry air wrapped around him like a blanket. Feels like home, he thought, only lots warmer for June.

“Are you doing okay, Becky?” he asked, squeezing her hand three times. That was their secret signal for “I love you.”

“I’m fine,” Becky smiled. “Just a little tired. Hey, Tom. What’s that across the street with all the glass windows?”

“The agent said it’s Symphony Hall and up ahead is Temple Square. Temple Square is supposed to be pretty now with lots of flowers.”

“You know I love flowers. That’s the best part of summer. Maybe we could walk around Temple Square before we catch the bus this afternoon,” Becky suggested. “We should do something special on our wedding day.”

“Are you sorry, Becky?”

“Sorry?”

“About getting married when you’re seventeen?”

“Oh, no, Tom. I love you and my folks are happy for us. Dad even offered to help build our house. It’s just too bad Minnesota has such dumb marriage laws so we have to come to Utah.”

“Yea, but at least we’ll get to see something bigger than Pine City,” Tom said, laughing. “It’s warmer too. Wonder how people celebrate summer. They seem to be friendly here.”

They walked briskly, stopping occasionally to window shop. But at a jewelry store, Becky lingered, her blue eyes gazing at the sparkling diamonds.

“Wish I could afford a diamond for you, Becky,” Tom said, softly.

“It’s okay, Tom. Just being with you makes me happy.”

“Thanks, Becky,” Tom hugged her. “Maybe you can get a ring for Christmas. My boss promised me a raise, now that I’ve graduated from high school.”

A short time later they paused before a concrete sign embossed with bold black words: Metropolitan Hall of Justice.

“We’re here, Becky!” Tom cheered, squeezing her hand three times. “Let’s go find the marriage office.”

They wandered inside, searching until they discovered the right room. Tom picked up the license forms and scrawled in the necessary information. Finished, he walked to the counter and handed them to a smiling, gray-haired woman.

“So you’re from Minnesota,” she said, glancing at the forms. “Since your bride’s seventeen, do you have notarized parental consent?”

“Yes, Ma’m. Right here,” Tom answered proudly, pulling out a carefully folded paper.

“What about your blood tests?”

“Blood tests?” Tom gasped. “I forgot about those.”

“Don’t worry. There’s a clinic nearby.”

Tom gulped. Blood tests cost money, he thought. And we only have return bus tickets and money for hamburgers. Swallowing his pride he explained their situation to the marriage clerk.

“Maybe I can help,” she offered. “Wait here while I make some phone calls.”

Tom grabbed Becky’s hand and they settled down near an elderly couple and a pile of magazines. After what seemed like hours the marriage clerk returned. “I’ve got good news,” she said, smiling. “The clinic can do your tests, if you go right now.”

Just then the elderly man sitting nearby spoke up. “Excuse me, but I couldn’t help overhearing. Rachel and I can take you to the clinic. And we’ll even pay for your blood tests as a wedding present.”

“You will!” Tom exclaimed. “Gosh, thanks.”

“No problem. We just came from there. This is our wedding day too.”

Quickly they drove to the clinic where a nurse tested their blood. “You’re finished,” she said, sticking on a bandaid. “Good luck.”

“Are you nervous, Becky?” Tom asked as they walked back into the marriage office.

“A little.”

Clasping hands they followed the clerk to the marriage room. Inside, Becky stood calm and radiant, but Tom’s head whirled and his heart thundered. He barely heard the clerk say, “You may now kiss the bride.”

Tenderly he kissed Becky, suspended in ecstasy until the marriage clerk’s voice jolted him back to reality. “Congratulations. Can I treat you to lunch?”

“Lunch,” Tom gasped. “What time is it?”

“12:30.”

“Oh, no. Our bus leaves at 1:00.”

“Wait, I’ve got a surprise for you. While you were gone we took up a collection from people working in our office and couples waiting for marriage licenses. How would you like to spend you wedding day in Salt Lake instead of on the bus?”

“Oh, Tom, could we?” Becky pleaded. “It’d be fun. We could call our folks collect.”

“Okay, Becky. You convinced me.”

“Great!” said the clerk, handing Tom an envelope. “Here’s your second wedding present—a nice room at Howard Johnson’s and dinner for two. Come on. I’ll give you a ride.”

Tom and Becky snuggled together in the back seat, watching downtown Salt Lake speed by until suddenly Tom recognized a familiar landmark.

“Could you stop for a minute?” he asked.

“Of course.”

“I’ll be right back, Becky,” he called, jumping out of the car.

He rushed into the gray building directly to the ticket window. “Excuse me, Sir,” he said boldly. “I need to exchange some bus tickets.”

Watch your punctuation—especially the commas. Also some structural problems.

There's not enough tension in the story to make it captivating. We don't really know the characters on a deep level; we don't get much of a peek into their personalities. Why are they getting married so young? Why are they so poor?

I can't quite believe this is 1984. It doesn't feel right. Feels more like something from the 40s or 50s.

Why come to Salt Lake? Minnesota is three states away. Surely there is some state closer than UT that allows underage marriages. Also, why mention the temple if it's not going to be part of the story?

What I liked best: I liked the idea of the story, that here's this couple in need and strangers come to their rescue.

Magazine ready: No. It needs more umph.

2 comments:

Weston Elliott said...

I vote for this one

TC said...

I vote for this one.