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Black Lamb

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A good chuckle

April 1st, 2007

BY ALAN ALBRIGHT

weddingcake.jpgMy friend Alan appeared, sleepy-eyed, at the door. I’d just rousted him out of bed.

“Doing anything today?” I asked.

“Well…” he said.

“Could you make me a ring?”

I knew he could, and would — his jeweler’s equipment being right there — so in I walked, invited by now of course, and watched him cut a piece of brass wire, bend it around a mandril, and braze it into the conventional form. It took about three minutes.

“How about lunch?” I asked him. “Chinese? In the City?”

Not only did we need the ring, we needed a witness.

It takes about an hour to drive from Warwick down to New York’s City Hall and park.

“Do you…?”

For a marriage factory, the little city chapel room was amazingly dignified, as were the officials. The three of us hustled through the ceremony without a single wistful smile. It was as though these strangers actually cared. Alan handed me the ring at the appropriate moment, and Nadine and I repeated the prescribed formulae.

Afterwards, on our way over to Chinatown, Nadine said to me: “You’re in an awfully bad mood.”

Perhaps it was because of the clerk back at the county registry in Indiana. For official purposes, I had needed a recent copy of my birth certificate, and the one sent me had me tagged with my father’s name, not the one I had been using for thirty-six years, nor the one that both mother and father later claimed they had bestowed upon me. And so, in this solemn act of marriage, I had been forced to assume another man’s persona, as far as I was concerned!

“Do you, Rodney Albright…?”

With these words, though, my new wife took a step away from her status as illegal alien, for she was French and had overstayed her welcome. The next step was to the U.S. consulate in Montreal, so that, upon return, she could be officially refused entry at the border — as herself — but allowed to cross as the wife of an American citizen.

Then came the visit from a couple of cowboys from Immigration. After making the rounds of our neighbors to make sure we were a bona fide couple, they were delighted to find we were of European stamp and spoke good English. They’d just spent the morning, they told us, rousting out a bunch of nasty Turks — at the peril of their lives. Not that they weren’t up for it, as they had seen service with the Special Forces in the “non-existent” war in Laos. Told us all about it.

After Nadine’s American Green Card came through, it was time for a French gray one for me. This turned out to entail a considerably more friendly procedure, conducted in San Francisco. We were on our way to France where I needed to be able to work. But for Nadine, return to her homeland meant being able to confront old demons, which she did, and soon I was obsolete. It was a shock, but one deals with such things. A friend of mine told me he knew a good divorce lawyer. So there I went, bearing my box of official papers.

“I need a copy of your birth certificate,” the lawyer said.

“Here it is,” I said.

He looked and, with a sort of sneer, said, “No, it has to have been authenticated within the last three months.”

“But I was born fifty years ago,” I protested, with a sinking feeling. France is the mother of all bureaucracies.
Thus it was, not long afterwards, that I found myself on the gambler’s bus from San Francisco to Reno. I’d been married in the U.S., after all, and a quick round trip to Nevada was going to cost me far less than the “reasonable” fee the French lawyer had proposed. Nadine and I had agreed to split the costs.

Seventy-five bucks for uncontested “dissolution of marriage” at Divorce Made Easy, right there on Main Street! However, to do this, I needed to be a resident of Nevada, which requires a three-week stay. Through some friends, I found a local who would vouch for my fictitious presence, and I was facing the final sheath of papers to sign when in walks this Good Samaritan.

“You must be Alan,” he said, reaching out to shake my hand. “Nice to meet you!”

Back in Paris, my ex-wife and I had a good chuckle over that one.

“Did you ever wonder why we got together?” she asked me.

I knew from experience that what she really meant was that she herself had been thinking about it. “Have you?” I answered.

“Oh, yes!” she said with an innocent smile. “I was just asking myself this morning what it was I ever saw in you.” •

Posted by: The Editors
Category: Albright, All Marriage Issue | Link to this Entry

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