I’m dozing with my head against the bus window when my drop-dead handsome husband of less than a week says, One thing you might want to be ready for is shivaree. I smell Juicy Fruit gum before I turn to see him unwrapping another stick. It’s a long way between cigarettes on this cross-country ride.
Shivaree? I ask. What’s that?
He takes his time folding the gum into his mouth and crumpling the foil into a tiny ball he tosses into the seat pocket. As he launches into storytelling mode, his narrow chest fills for the delivery and his eyes gleam. He’s hit the audience jackpot with me because I’m a suburban eighteen to his worldly twenty-three. Most of what I know comes from books. It’s what they do back home, he explains, when a couple gets married. The night of the honeymoon, a bunch of guys sneak up to where they’re sleeping. They bang on pots and pans until the groom opens the door. Then they barge in and haul off the bride. My eyes widen in horror. His light up.
What do they do with her? I imagine the embarrassment of being caught unclothed by a bunch of hooligans tanked up on delinquency and god knows what else. I resolve to keep a robe beside our bed just in case.
They dump her in a wheelbarrow and ride her around town raising hell, he says, grinning so the tails of his mustache fan wide.
What about the groom? Does he chase them?
Sure, but he knows everybody and there’s nothing he can do. I imagine a sleep-stunned young man in white briefs flailing at a hooting, clanging mob.
Are they drinking? I’m wide awake now and turned in my seat.
Shit yeah, he says. We were always three sheets to the wind when we did it. Sometimes we’d sneak in during the wedding and short sheet the bed or put a snake in it. Then we’d wait for the screams. One time we took the bride out in the woods and left her there. She was calling us all kinds of names. He chuckles as he tips his head back and closes his eyes.
I picture a girl in a flimsy nightgown—bruised from her wheelbarrow ride, deafened by merrymaking, starting at every sound. That’s awful, I say. How could you do that?
He opens an eye and shrugs. Not much else to do for fun in a small town. As he dozes off I pull out the rumpled map I picked up in the bus station. I trail my finger from my hometown in the Pacific Northwest down the west coast to Los Angeles, then across six states to Arkansas.
We leave Missouri through through Gateway, more spit mark than town, and soon our two rolling lanes narrow and kink into what my father calls dog leg turns. We thread between layer cakes of rock on one side and thickets of maples, oaks, and loblolly pines on the other. Even the light is strange, like someone dimmed the sun. When we spot the sign for Eureka Springs, he starts pointing, and every turn that makes me gasp sparks a story. Here’s where me and Howard crashed the Chevy. That’s where we almost bought it trying to outrun the sheriff. Here’s where we went ass over teakettle coming back from Seligman with the beer.
The edge of the road disappears beneath the high windows of the bus. Ravines plummet, and the trees go on forever. The empty space inside me hums and rattles, and I shiver until he wraps his arms around me. Molten in his heat, I remember that had the sign on the bus said “Out” or “Someplace Else,” I would have handed him my heart and clambered aboard.
Heather Diamond has worked as a bookseller, university lecturer, and museum curator. She is the author of “Rabbit in the Moon: A Memoir” and her essays have appeared in Memoir Magazine, Sky Island Journal, (Her)oics: Women’s Lived Experiences of the Pandemic, Rappahannock Review, Hong Kong Review, Waterwheel Review, Pacifica Review, New South Journal, and Undomesticated Magazine. She is working on a second memoir about escaping to and from Arkansas in the 1970s.