Richard Daybell – Novels, stories and short humor
Listen to Will His Love Be Like His Rum
“Please, oh please,” Caterina sobbed as she sat cross-legged in front of the closet, speaking to its door, a flat, lifeless wooden thing — albeit with a pretty brass knob — that, being but a door, would not or could not appreciate the beauty of the long legs folded in front of it. Long legs were common in her family, but Caterina’s were the longest and most pleasantly proportioned. Nor could the door perceive the pout that played on the full red lips that also ran in the family but which once again reached perfection in Caterina.
And so too it was with raven tresses, flashing eyes and practically any other physical feature one might catalog — Caterina had dipped deeply, and perhaps unfairly, into the gene pool. Even though the closet door could not appreciate the loveliness of the creature sitting before it, Etienne, who sat behind it, cross-legged as well, could, but would not — at least not during the past several hours of his self-imposed incarceration within the dark cubicle.
“Please Etienne,” said Caterina, for in truth she spoke to him not to the door, as a passerby, were there one, might conclude. “Please come out.” Caterina was certainly justified in her lament, since this should have been her night of nights, her wedding night, and not a night to be sitting in front of a closet, a closet whose only inhabitant was the man with whom she might more appropriately be sharing a conjugal bed, not a locked door.
“I can’t,” sniffed Etienne. This man in the closet was a young man who, everyone agreed, was the finest catch for a young woman in the entire valley, perhaps on the entire island. The closet notwithstanding, Caterina was one very fortunate young lady. Never mind that Etienne was handsome but not outrageously so, that he was smart and industrious but not fantastically clever, that he was interesting but not totally diverting. And never mind that Caterina was outrageously beautiful, as talented as she was beautiful, and as witty as she was talented. Never mind. It was she who was the lucky one.
Etienne now managed and would soon share with his twin brother, Hippolyte, ownership of the Buccaneer Rum Works, the island’s leading manufacturer of spirits and its most successful business enterprise. Their father, who had inherited the company from his father, had thankfully retired after spending his last few working years dabbling with senility and seducing a string of shockingly young female employees.
As twins, Etienne and Hippolyte shared their appearance but little else. While Etienne took after their industrious father of his early years, Hippolyte aped his later years. And while he might be an equal catch to Etienne in theory, Hippolyte was expected by most observers to end up at the wrong end of an angry father’s or jealous husband’s shotgun long before he gave any thought to an exchange of wedding vows. Hippolyte had pursued Caterina (as had most of the other young men in the valley), but since his pursuit was neither monogamous nor sustained, Caterina never gave it much thought. She had occasionally wondered what life with a rogue like Hippolyte would be — exciting probably, but tortuous. She was more comfortable with the stability of an Etienne.
She had not counted on the closet. After all, Caterina was a young woman with a very traditional set of desires, and while she had not come to this marriage as pure as the pristine sands of Coyaba Beach, she certainly had not engaged in enough sexual pleasure to now pledge herself at this early age to a life of celibacy by the closet door. For that was what had driven poor Etienne to the closet — a sudden fear of the marriage bed, a fear of the consummation and a fear of the very object of his desires.
The party that followed their picture-book wedding was loud and energetic, and as might be expected, the rum was plentiful. As the evening careened forward at an ever-greater velocity, the dancing and talking and laughing grew more animated, and the young men who insisted on kissing the bride over and over again grew friskier. They kissed more passionately, hugged more ambitiously and fondled more freely until the bride found herself becoming eager to explore that final item on the day’s calendar of events. She took her new husband by the hand, announced to an enthusiastic cheer that they were going upstairs to do it now, and left the party.
When they were alone, Caterina began to pursue the timid Etienne shamelessly. But even though rum had clouded his mind, it had not put him enough at ease to prevent the overwhelming fear that her playfulness instilled. And when she disrobed, he bolted for the closet.
“You hate me,” said Caterina. “I made you marry me when you really didn’t want to.”
“That’s not true,” said Etienne. “I don’t hate you. I love you.” During Etienne’s tenure in the closet, Caterina had coaxed, cajoled, needled and begged. Sweet talk and angry words. Appeals to intellect and appeals to carnality. Nothing she said could lure him from the closet. At eleven o’clock she returned to the wedding celebration and found that, even without the bride and groom, it still had a full head of steam. Teary-eyed but nevertheless fetching in a little T-shirt, she told the celebrants of her plight, of the door that stood between her and marital bliss. And snicker as they might at the absurdity of the situation, not a woman there could help but feel the greatest pity for Caterina’s wedding night woes. Nor could any of the men help but lament the opportunity Etienne was passing up and wish that the opportunity were his.
At Caterina’s sobbing request, Etienne’s father went up to talk the young man in a matter-of-fact, father-to-son, man-to-man sort of way. He spoke of honor, duty and masculinity. He explained both plumbing and methodology. He even shared some of the secrets of his own liaisons, naming several names that might have shocked Etienne were he not so wrapped up in his own turmoil.
Finally, the old man concluded his tour of duty at the closet door with some fatherly advice: “Get out of that closet and do the manly thing with your wife or I will leave everything to Hippolyte.” Even this most fearsome of threats did not budge Etienne.
Caterina waited patiently among the panting, pawing paramours who now saw their own selfish overtures as sympathetic gestures that were quite honorable given the situation. When the old man returned, he just sighed and gave her a sorry look. He did not speak to her but instead found his other son. After a few words with his father, Hippolyte climbed the stairs and took up position outside the closet door.
Figuring that his brother was either virgin or homosexual, Hippolyte crafted his remarks accordingly. He first spoke about the inherent superiority of women as sexual partners for men. Next he gave Etienne the benefit of his own proven technique. And he finished up with a highly imaginative account of what it would be like to make love to Caterina herself, being boldly descriptive considering he spoke to her husband.
He was becoming wildly innovative when the subject of his discourse appeared in the flesh, having grown weary not only of the behavior of the swains below but of the immovable object in the closet as well.
“My dear husband,” said Caterina, her sweet voice not quite concealing a razor’s edge. “I love you very much, but I am not going to try to persuade you from the closet any more tonight. I am going to my bed where I will be lying in all nakedness should you desire to quit the closet and do what people usually do on their wedding night. Should you choose to remain in the closet, I hope you sleep comfortably. Goodnight, Etienne. Goodnight Hippolyte.”
Caterina had lain in her bed as advertised, sobbing slightly, but growing ever more relaxed and sleepy as the rum she had been drinking sang its alcoholic lullaby. Finally, just as she was about to cross over into sleep, he came to her. She started to speak, but he placed a finger to her lips, then his lips to her lips and finally all of him to all of her. The lullaby became a sweet song of love, an energetic rhapsody, and then a horns-blaring, drums-pounding, cymbals-clanging orchestral brouhaha — a crescendo punctuated by cannons and fireworks.
And then they were quiet. As Caterina slipped into slumber, her voice trailing off, she said “Oh Etienne. It was so wonderful. I never expected. If it will always require you to spend hours in the closet preparing for it, I don’t care. I’ll wait. I’ll wait. I’ll . . .” After she had slept for several minutes, Hippolyte arose, dressed quickly and returned to the party below. And to his credit, he told no one there of his adventure.
In the closet, the groom slept. And he dreamed. He dreamed of Caterina, of the two of them together. Dreams inspired by Hippolyte’s description, magnified by his own desires and fancies. It was the most vivid dream he had ever had. She came to him in the closet, and they made love right there. It was like nothing he had ever known. And then she left the closet, leaving the door wide open, and said, “Come to bed, my darling. Everything is well. We’ll sleep now.”
And Etienne, without ever really waking, left the solitude of his closet. He went to the bedroom, lay down next to his sleeping wife, and did not move again until aroused the next morning by her kiss.