Rain chased the children indoors even as sunlight poured over the garden bordered with grape hyacinth, sweet william and johnny-jump-ups. April and her older sister crowded onto the back porch, clutching their bedraggled dolls. They watched in astonishment as the sun continued to shine as rain hammered the lawn and flowerbeds.
April turned to her grandmother. “How can it rain when the sun’s still shining?”
Grandma came to the doorway of the kitchen where she had been rolling out dough for strudel. She was brown and withered as a winter apple and so old that she knew almost everything there was to know. April watched her study the sunlight filtering through the blue gauze of clouds.
“The sun shine, that mean the devil is marry his daughter.” Grandma spoke in a thick accent that was difficult for the little girls to understand. However the canary seemed to know Grandma’s native language instinctively and always sang to her whenever she spoke to him.
April’s older sister rolled her eyes, but April didn’t doubt for a moment that the devil might be marrying his daughter. She wondered what a demon wedding might be like. Pressing her nose against the window, the little girl stared through the ribbons of rain interwoven with sunlight. The ash pit that sat at the far end of the garden caught her attention. It was an old adobe oven where Grandma burned old newspapers and dead leaves and broken branches. It smelled acridly of stale smoke. April was always careful not to brush against it so she wouldn’t get smudged with soot.
The more April pondered the devil’s wedding, the more likely it seemed that there might be a hole in the back of the ash pit that burrowed deep under ground right down to the devil’s parlor.
That parlor might be hung with twisted roots withered from the smoke that the devil puffed from his great, black pipe. The little girl imagined that the shriveled roots knotted together to form a chandelier hung with half-burnt candles.
She squinted into the misty rain, envisioning a cluttered room coated with dust and tobacco stains. It was smoky too, because there were no windows in the under-earth, only a huge stone fireplace filled with flames that threw off a rancid heat. April envisioned the plastic couch melting under its pile of singed pillows.
Not that the devil cared. He could always help himself to more furniture at a landfill. That was where he’d found his tattered chairs and scratched coffee tables. People were always discarding things. He didn’t have to worry about not having enough furniture until the end of the world. After that he would have to be much more careful not to wreck his grease stained sofas. But until that day, the devil had more furnishings than he could use. His parlor resembled the nest of an obsessive-compulsive pack rat.
On his wedding day, the devil was as nervous as an agitated hornet. His collar was too tight and his cumber bund kept snapping open. The patent leather shoes he had found in a dumpster were too small, but he had stuffed his feet into them because they complimented his rumpled tuxedo with its stiffly starched collar emblazoned with three shades of lipstick.
As he paced and up and down, he occasionally tripped over a cuspidor brimming with spit. The devil yowled as he stubbed his long, crooked toes. His flat, lizard-like feet already ached from ingrown toenails. The devil swore and kicked a brass doorstop fashioned to resemble a Doberman Pincher. It bounced against the wall and hit him in the shins. He yelped again.
“That’s it! I’ve had all I can take!” the devil howled and limped painfully across the room. He banged his huge, furry fist on his daughter’s door.
“Miranda! Hurry up! We’re going to be late!”
“It’s my wedding and I’ll be late if I want to,” his daughter bellowed back. “You want me to look stunning, don’t you?”
She threw open the door.
The devil bit his tongue before he said something he might regret later. Miranda’s hair hung in great, matted clumps around her crooked shoulders. Her nose was as large as a pelican’s beak, and her lips were crusted in warts.
He chose his words carefully. “Stunning doesn’t do you justice, my dear.”
“You’re just saying that because you want me to hurry. We both know you can’t see past your nose.” The devil’s daughter slammed the door in his face.
He banged on it again and put a dent in the veneer. “Please, Miranda! Our guests will want to choke down the hors d’oevres before they go entirely bad.”
Miranda was not to be hurried. “They’re better when they’re tainted. More indigestion that way.” She leaned over the copper casket that served as her vanity table and studied her reflection in the Bronze Age shield pilfered from an ancient grave. It was heavily dented, but her image would have shattered a proper mirror.
The devil’s daughter selected a felt tipped marker and drew a long, single eyebrow across her forehead, then rubbed it out and drew another. She considered adding a beauty mark to her cheek, but decided one large mole was probably adequate.
“Mir-an-da!” Her father banged on the door again. His huge, hairy fist shot through the panel.
“I’m hurrying,” she lied in her most exasperated tone. She had read all about weddings in the glossy print magazines that were thrown into the ash pit. Some of the pages were stuck together and some were so smeared that they were practically illegible. Others reeked so strongly of spoiled eggs and fish heads that Miranda ate them at once. But she still read enough to know that this was her special day and everything needed to be as imperfect as possible. If her father got drunk and the guests were bored, it was so much the better. A demon bride couldn’t ask for more.
Miranda scowled into her mirror, hoping she hadn’t made herself too alluring. There was a fine line between questionable and deplorable taste.
Her father pounded another first through the door. “You’ve got five minutes! Then I’m going to drag you down to the hall. I don’t care if you’re in your underwear.”
“What a splendidly horrid idea. Give me a minute to undress.”
With a mighty roar, the devil tore down the door and snatched his daughter’s hand.
“We’re going!” He started to drag her out of her room.
“Wait!” Miranda dug in her knobby heels. “I have no stench!” She doused herself with skunk oil. “My dress! There’s still a white splotch on the bodice.”
“No one will notice.”
“My flowers aren’t properly wilted.”
The devil belched out a gust of fire and brimstone. The dandelion and milkweed nosegay withered in the blast.
Miranda squealed with delight. “This is all too imperfect!”
“Let’s just get this over with,” The devil grunted and steered his daughter toward the door. Miranda was a bovine girl, twice as wide as the devil was tall. He strained his arm and tore his tuxedo trying to push her through the opening.
“Everything is going to be ruined!” He grumbled beneath his breath. “Any minute now, the guests will discover that half the hors d’oevres are plastic. The Injustice of the Peace will get so soused that we’ll have to prop him up and the musicians will have stolen the silverware. All because of your mule headed stubborn streak.”
Miranda broke into a broad smile. “It’s too much to hope for!”
The devil shuddered. “Young lady, I will NOT I won’t have you using that kind of language under my roof, even if it is your wedding day!”
“Sorry, I’m sorry,” Miranda put her hand over her mouth although she was particularly proud of her rotten teeth.
“You should be! Haven’t I taught you how to swear properly?”
“I said I was sorry!” Miranda stamped her foot. The ground rumbled and shook. A mayonnaise bottle holding a collection of fire ants teeter-tottered on the mantle piece and fell to the floor. Ants scattered everywhere, carting off tobacco leaves and breadcrumbs.
“I swear, this is all your fault!” Miranda planted her thick knuckles on her hips as she glared at her father.
“There’s enough blame to go around. Let’s get this whole sordid business over and done with.”
“It is rather sordid, isn’t it?” Miranda sighed wistfully.
“Too sordid for words.” The devil steered her toward the front door again.
It abruptly flew open. An elderly demon named Moe, who bore an uncanny resemblance to a naked mole rat, stepped inside. “Are you two coming or what?”
“We’re coming!” The devil snorted over his daughter’s objection that she wasn’t quite ready.
Moe peered at her. “You look terrible. I guess that’ll have to do. Half the guests are drunk and the other half are spoiling for a fight.”
“You got the ring?” The devil grunted as Moe helped him squeeze Miranda’s copious girth through the double door.
“Got it right here!” Moe produced an iron ring yanked from a bull’s nose. He had tied it in a ragged handkerchief for safekeeping.
“Perfect!” The devil hated that word, but today nothing was too good to be perverted for his less than adorable daughter.
“I’ve got to hand it to you,” Moe muttered as he and Miranda’s father pushed and pummeled her expansive derriere through the creaking doorframe. “I’ve never been to a wedding as tasteless as this one.”
The Devil beamed at the compliment. “We spared no inconvenience.”
He was interrupted as a wide swath of chiffon ripped out of Miranda’s skirt, exposing her thick legs mottled with cellulose.
“Not to panic!” Moe calmed the devil before Miranda could insist on changing her dress. “I always keep a bottle of gorilla glue in my pocket. It bubbles when it dries and hides the cracks.”
The devil tried to appease Miranda. “This does add to the over-all effect.”
“I suppose it is a fashion statement,” Miranda acknowledged, much to the devil’s relief. It would take Miranda half a day to change into an alternate dress, and by that time the guests would all be drunk or hospitalized.
“By the way, I had to glue the cake back together.” Moe admitted.
“Glue is good eating.”
“Let’s just do this!” The devil gave Miranda a push that sent her tumbling down the long black tunnel that snaked under tree roots and through gopher dens. It dead-ended in a coal-lined reception hall deep in the recesses of the underworld.
Moe and the Devil loped after her.
“It’s a disastrous day for a wedding!” Moe chortled.
The devil shook his tail. “Let’s hope for the worst.”
The rain finally drizzled to a halt. Sunlight glistened on the wet grass. Rain and sun mingled together in the droplets dangling like crystal prisms from the grape arbor.
“Everything’s wet. This is just awful!” April’s older sister pouted.
“It’s supposed to be awful. The devil married his daughter. Didn’t you listen to Grandma?”
“That’s just something they say in the old country.”
“What if it’s true?”
Her older sister rolled her eyes. “I can’t imagine how.” But April could, and took great care to stay clear of the ash pit.
Published in Stories