Several years ago, when our children were still eating strained vegetables out of those little glass jars, my wife and I took the youngsters down to Florida for a winter in a beach-house on the Gulf of Mexico. A few weeks after we arrived, a sportsman friend of ours rang up from New York to ask if the fishing was any good down in our neck of the woods.
Our friend, who was a bachelor, said he planned to drive down to Key West for the barracuda and sailfish. If there was anything he could bring us from New York, why he didn't mind coming by way of the Gulf Coast at all. "You're very sweet to offer to bring things down for us," my wife said. "But the truth of the matter is that we've brought along everything we want. On the other hand, as long as you are driving down...."
Four days later Frank arrived at noon in what looked like one of the Conestoga wagons used by the Donner party. After I helped him unload the folding perambulator, the extra bathinette, two strollers, a playpen, a plastic wading pool and half a dozen other items that we had left behind, I noticed he wasn't carrying anything even remotely resembling fishing tackle.
I said nothing about it. I merely joined my wife in thanking Frank effusively; we fed him a hundred drinks and a heavy lunch and waited for him to take off for Key West. Two days later we were still waiting.
Frank seemed to have lost interest in Key West and fishing. He just paced nervously around the house, staring alternately at the sea and his wrist watch, making an occasional guarded phone call and generally giving the impression of a man who thinks he is being stood up by his date.
The following day the mystery was solved. A convertible drove up, all covered with dust, and she stepped out. Her name was Phyllis, and she was a joy to behold, and she came from Pasadena, but had been delayed by the weather and motor trouble. Frank's story about being on his way to Key West was just a blind. He and Phyllis had arranged by long-distance phone to meet at our place, because they were crazy about each other and wanted to get married, but they were both orphans and had no immediate family, and did we mind, since Frank was such an old and dear friend, acting as family for them until the knot was tied?
"Of course not!" my wife cried eagerly. Like all women, she feels about the imminent marriage of another (any other) member of her sex the way a Broadway angel feels about rave-opening-night notices.
Eight days and several near nervous breakdowns later, all the legal technicalities had been surmounted. We drove to Clearwater with Frank and Phyllis and stood up for them before a local judge. Then we all came back to the beach for a champagne wedding supper and, finally, after a good deal of manly handshaking and girlish weeping, the newlyweds drove off in the direction of St. Petersburg on the first leg of what they said was going to be a month's honeymoon in Key West.
"Well," I said, since I am the member of the family who is considered the phrasemaker, "that's that!"
"I know exactly what you mean," said my wife.