Keep On Truckin
(sequel to IMYOR62)
Mack took a deep breath and sighed. His rear axles twitched nervously. Ramone couldn't help but notice. He'd have to be blind and deaf not to know an anxious semi when he was standing right beside him.
"Yo relax, man. You look great."
Glistening from fender to fifth wheel, and with an elaborate corsage affixed to his left blinker, Mack nodded appreciatively. "Thanks. You did an excellent job, no question, but don't you think the undercarriage wax was a bit much?"
"Pssh, hell no! You wanna give Vee a wedding night she'll remember, right?"
Mack blushed. "Well yeah, but -"
"But nada!" Ramone interrupted. "Listen, chicks love it when you polish up down there. Gets 'em all hot and stuff. Trust me, man."
The truck raised a skeptical brow. "And you would know because -?"
Ramone grinned impishly. "Dude, paintjobs aren't the only thing you get at Ramone's. I seen lotsa guys come through wantin' a little wax for their honeys. Chicks too. In fact, Vee came in here last night for a full-body wax." At Mack's scandalized look he added, "Don't worry, ese. I didn't see nothin'. Flo handles the ladies for me."
As if on cue, Flo came speeding around the corner, headed toward the courthouse. Sheriff, who was just exiting his garage there, ordered her to slow down, though there was little authority in his voice. All day long the town had been filled with frantic cars speeding about, hurriedly preparing for Mack and Vee's wedding that afternoon. The patrol car had long since given up pulling folks over after Vee, the speediest speeder of them all, had told him to take that annoying siren of his and shove it somewhere most unfavorable.
"If you weren't gettin' married today, I'd throw you in Impound!" had been his ruffled reply. So Sheriff stopped harassing those who exceeded the speed limit and resigned himself to harassing everyone else. As self-appointed supervisor, he fell with ease into a pattern of barked orders and unhelpful critique over nearly every aspect of the preparations.
Every single vehicle in town did their part. Red hosed down the entire length of Main Street and parts beyond. Luigi and Guido strung up garlands and other decor. Flo and Fillmore busied themselves with catering. Ramone helped all the men spruce up, doing everything from simple touch-ups to full-body waxes. Sarge ordered everyone around, even though he knew next to nothing about wedding planning and more often than not working against Sheriff. The two slave drivers quickly got into an argument and forgot about their jobs, much to everyone's relief.
Even old Lizzie pitched in, daintily polishing or dusting whatever she saw fit between constant naps; everything from teapots to back bumpers. Lightning kept best man Mater busy by demonstrating repeatedly how to drive up the aisle with Yvette while keeping his tow hook to himself. Sally, and to a lesser extent the twins, helped Vee and Yvette get ready. Midge looked after Benji and Gaspar, the latter far more difficult as he insisted on pestering his son every chance he got, giving him unwanted and embarrassing tips for his wedding night.
Not that every other man in town hadn't already given him some advice by now. Especially Ramone who, it turned out, was nearly as bad as Gaspar.
"Dude, it's almost time. You ain't gettin' cold tires, are ya?"
Mack shook his hood. "I just wish I could have a moment alone with Vee before the ceremony."
Ramone quirked a brow. "Oh? Can't wait to start consummatin', huh?"
"What? No! I just want to talk to her, that's all."
"Heh heh, yeah right. No can do, bro. You know it's bad luck."
Mack sighed. "Yeah, I know. I'm just so nervous about this, and not getting to see her all day is just making it worse. You know what I mean?"
Ramone nodded. "I do, hombre. Believe it or not, I feel the same way every time me and Flo renew our vows. S'like I'm gettin' married for the first time all over again."
"How many times have you guys renewed your vows, anyway?" Mack asked, remembering the small ceremony that had taken place less than two weeks earlier, while Sally and Lightning had just celebrated their second anniversary five days ago. What was it about the month of June that made people want to marry?
Ramone grinned. "We been doin' it every single year since we got hitched for real. Good way to celebrate your anniversary, ya know," he added with a wink.
Sheriff rolled up to the two men just then. "Curtain call's in five minutes, gentlemen." He nodded at Mack. "You ready, son?"
Mack looked down at the squad car, and suddenly he felt several feet shorter. "As I'll ever be," was his meek reply.
* * *
In the living room at Flo's house, a group of women swarmed around a breathtakingly beautiful bride. Her pearly lilac paintjob dazzled. Orchids, roses, daisies and lilies formed a colorful and fragrant crown atop her cab, from which trailed a long, sequined train of the finest lace.
"Oh honey, your Mack is gonna have massive engine failure when he sees you!" Flo gushed as she drove in through the front door. "It's a good thing for him you're getting married by a doctor."
Vee chuckled. "Is it safe to go outside yet?"
"Not quite. Last I saw, my man was giving yours a hard time out by the café," Flo said. "No chance in getting past without him seeing you. We'll just have to wait till Luigi tells us it's time."
Vee nodded. She looked up at the clock on the mantle. 11:54. A sudden attack of nerves sent a small shiver through her chassis. 'Only six minutes to go. Well, not necessarily. I mean, it's supposed to start at noon, but it's easy to fall behind schedule by a minute or ten.'
Knock-knock! 'Or twenty or thirty or forty or fifty -' Sally opened the door. Luigi was standing on the front stoop, his excitement only barely contained. In his newly retouched paintjob, he looked like a banana ready to burst open at the seams. Vee gulped. 'Or, we could always end up AHEAD of schedule.'
"Eet ees-a time!" he announced breathlessly, then sped off without another word.
* * *
Solemn and silent, Doc Hudson stood in front of the courthouse, the Stanley statue hovering just behind him like a most unusual altar. Mack stood to his left, doing his best to keep from fidgeting. Despite his nerves, he forced a small smile as Lightning and Sally drove up the street, the first groomsman and bridesmaid to grace the open-air aisle. Once they reached the altar they split, Lightning driving to Mack's side and Sally to the side opposite the men.
Next came Mater and Yvette. The best man and maid of honor drove a bit too quickly for custom's sake, blushing and glancing around anxiously all the way. Sheriff clocked them at two miles over the previously rehearsed five-mile-per-hour limit. Once the two had taken their designated places, a hush fell over the already quiet crowd.
Moments of tense silence followed as Red rushed off to change the CD. The velvety violin music faded away, to be replaced by the rumbling organ notes of a traditional wedding march.
Mack's engine sputtered and died the instant he saw Vee coming up the aisle. The summer sun dazzled her pearly paintjob, glittering like stardust sprinkled across her hood. He had waited all day for tradition's sake just to catch a glimpse of her, and now, he decided, it had been well worth the wait. It wasn't until Vee was parked beside him that Mack realized he had been holding his breath. One look at the Chrysler's flushed face and he guessed she had been doing the same.
The music ended. Mack and Vee exchanged shy smiles before turning to face Doc Hudson. A final hush descended on the crowd, from the back of which Midge could clearly be heard sobbing.
Doc's smile was as warm as the sun. "We have gathered here today in the presence of the Manufacturer to join in holy matrimony Mack Gaspar Trucker and Veronica Violet Vroom," he declared. "Happiness in marriage is not something that just happens. A good marriage must be created. In the art of marriage, the little things are the big things. It is never being too old to hold tires. It is remembering to say 'I love you' at least once a day. It is never going to sleep angry. It is at no time taking the other for granted."
The Hornet's gaze shifted from the couple standing before him to the crowd beyond. "The courtship should not end with the honeymoon; it should continue through all the years. It is having a mutual sense of values and common objectives. It is standing together facing the world. It is forming a circle of love that gathers in the whole family. It is doing things for each other, not in the attitude of duty or sacrifice, but in the spirit of joy. It is speaking words of appreciation and demonstrating gratitude in thoughtful ways." Doc paused for a moment to let his words sink in.
"It is not expecting the husband to wear a halo or the wife to have the wings of an angel. It is not looking for perfection in each other. It is cultivating flexibility, patience, understanding and a sense of humor. It is having the capacity to forgive and forget. It is giving each other an atmosphere in which each can grow. It is finding room for the things of the spirit. It is a common search for the good and the beautiful. It is establishing a relationship in which the independence is equal, dependence is mutual and the obligation is reciprocal. It is not only marrying the right partner, it is being the right partner."
Doc paused once more and turned his full attention to the groom. "Mack, will you have Veronica to be your lawful wedded wife? Will you love her, comfort her, keep her in sickness and in health and, forsaking all others, be faithful to her so long as you both shall live?"
A little sob of anxiety mixed with joy caught in his throat, causing Mack to choke up slightly before he managed to get control of himself. He locked eyes with Vee and smiled. "I will," was his quiet answer. Doc nodded and turned to Vee.
"Veronica, will you have Mack to be your lawful wedded husband? Will you love him, comfort him, keep him in sickness and in health and, forsaking all others, be faithful to him so long as you both shall live?"
There were a hundred ways she could have answered that question. Duh!, Of course, Will I ever!, Yes, Always, Until the end of time... a hundred things she could have said, but only one answer was needed. And, sometimes, the simplest answer is the best one of all.
"I will," she whispered, just as a single tear came free and rolled down her hood. Seeing this roused a few tears in Mack's eyes as well.
At a cue from Doc, Guido sped up to the altar. He was holding a white satin pillow on which lay two gleaming lug nuts, identical save for their size. One was considerably larger than the other. He set the pillow down between Mack and Vee, then from seemingly out of nowhere he brandished an impact wrench. The little forklift picked up the smaller of the two lug nuts, then looked to Doc, who in turn looked up at Mack.
For a moment it appeared the truck had forgotten what came next. That is until Guido held up the lug nut. "Peet stop?" he said, jabbing a fork in Vee's direction.
Mack blushed. "Oh! Right." He looked down at Vee. "With this lug nut, I thee wed."
The beauty of the moment was mangled only by the high-pitched whir of the impact wrench as it applied the lug nut to the bride's tire. Guido picked up the other lug nut and stood poised beside the semi's large tire, awaiting Vee's word. She couldn't help smirking up at Mack. If truth be told, she too had nearly forgotten her line, until he had spoken his.
"With this lug nut, I thee wed," she repeated. The words were barely out of her mouth when Guido rushed to work. One point five seconds later the nut was in place, and the little forklift had already retreated back into the crowd.
"By the power vested in me by the state of Arizona, I now pronounce you husband and wife," Doc proclaimed. His bumper curved in a grin. "You may now kiss the bride."
Cheers erupted from the crowd as the newlywed couple melted into each other, sharing the kiss that sealed their vows. From their place at the back of the crowd, Mack's parents managed to make the most noise: Midge bawling her eyes out and Gaspar howling with joy. Mater, Robbie and Ramone were each doing their best to compete with them, while a mute Red outdid them all by blaring his horn.
Mack and Vee broke apart laughing. With a flick of her antenna, Vee flung her bouquet straight up in the air. It bounced off several hoods as nearly everyone in town scrambled to catch it. After the chaos and confusion died down, it was discovered that the bouquet had come to rest on Yvette's canvas top. It had landed right in front of her son Benji, who had climbed up onto her roof during the ceremony. The little boy squeaked in surprise, then giggled and buried his face in the fragrant flowers.
"Whoa! Nice catch, little man!" said a male voice. Yvette turned and glanced up at Robbie Dieselman, the Roto Rooter van who was Mack and Vee's high school friend. He caught her eye and grinned. Yvette blushed and smiled meekly in return.
Meanwhile the crowd had surged in and surrounded the newlyweds, all hugging and kissing and jostling and congratulating the bride and groom. Vee, feeling an odd sensation on her backside, tilted her mirror to see Ramone hovering rather close on his hydraulics, but before she could say anything he dropped out of sight.
Moments later the crowd parted to allow the new couple to pass. As Mack and Vee drove down the street toward Flo's, and the banquet prepared in their honor, everyone honked and cheered and laughed. Hearing a metallic jangling sound, Mack slowed down for a moment and looked behind himself. Only then did he realize that someone (probably Lightning, from the grin on his face) had tied a bunch of tin cans to his fifth wheel. It was also then that he spotted the words JUST MARRIED spray painted in white on Vee's rear windshield. Mack laughed.
Vee stopped and looked back at her husband. "Something wrong, Mister Vroom?" she teased.
Mack grinned. "Not a thing, Mrs. Vroom-Trucker," he purred, nuzzling his wife.
"That's Mizz Vroom-Trucker to you!" Vee declared, kissing him.
Chapter Thirteen: [link]
**A note of interest to Doc Hudson / Paul Newman fans: The wedding vows used in this chapter were the same ones used by Paul Newman on his marriage to Joanne Woodward in Las Vegas on January 29th, 1958.