My friend, Andrew, is getting married this week. I'm the best man. The makes the second time in my life where I was the best man. The first time was for my brother's second marriage which was a very downplayed affair. My responsibilities included wearing a suit and showing up. For Andrew, I was charged with putting together a bachelor party.
For most guys, that means renting a limo and figuring out which strip club to start at. It's really a lame, trite ritual that exists mainly for the groom's friends, not for him. It's also strange. "Hey, you;re getting married to a woman you love. Let's take you out, get you drunk, and thrust boobs in your face. Your new bride will love it!"
Andrew's bachelor party had to be different. Out were strippers and booze. I thought about some big, macho thing, like paintball or skydiving or racecar driving, but none of those felt right, either. Paintball is old and Andrew's not a big fan. The other two things would be a group of guys watching Andrew do something out in the suburbs that would last a few minutes. I wanted something more intimate and personal. I drew on my strengths.
I did a shout out to all my storyteller friends to see if they could make the date and time and then to see if they could come up with a two-fisted tale of manliness, real or made up. Dennis Frymire and Jason Adams, two WNEP Skald winners, answered the call. Dennis told a personal story about confronting a 60-year-old man for grabbing and kissing his girlfriend. All men have been in the situation of risking a physical confrontation to stand up for your woman. It's not pretty. Jason told a rousing sea-faring adventure about a tallship's encounter with a Cracken.
The final story came from Erin O'Shea, the only woman allowed at the event. Being the only woman at a bachelor party usually means one thing and this wasn't it. She kept her clothes on and everyone was gentleman. Erin told this story...
Up until a year ago, I did not know that Andrew Ettenhofer existed. Let me clarify. Like everyone, I had heard of him. I had heard the stories. Ice fishing in the Antartic with his bare hands, starting a fist fight with Vladamir Putin, and winning, breaking sales records at Fig Media. But one files those under the same category as Adonis, Santa Claus, Superman and Sasquatch. Of which, Andrew is all of them. Not just a little bit of each. All of all of them.
After graduating from St. Mary’s Catholic School for Slightly Wayward Girls – by the way, the uniform still fits – I went to college. There I majored in astrophysics with a minor in competitive cheerleading. I still have the trophies. And the uniform. I graduated magna cum laude the same time the economy turned sour. The climate was not kind for a scientist-slash-leader of cheers. I took what jobs I could, eventually landing employment with an international airline as a flight attendant. I still have that uniform, too.
One night, on a redeye from Kathmandu to Nepal, I was having a typical work shift. The only thing that made it different was the ruggedly handsome man with a sparkle in his eye in first class who ordered a glass of wine and then explained to me how you can tell how old it was by holding it up to the light. As an unsolicited sidenote, he also told me how to carve a rose out of a radish. I did not have a radish or a knife he could use, so he demonstrated on an Oreo cookie with a toothpick. It was the most beautiful chocolatey-creamy-centered rose I ever saw. He gave it to me. I thought to myself, well, this may not by just any old flight from Kathmandu to Nepal. I thought, Dana, this man was someone special. Someone a girl could really throw herself at and be happy to be rejected just because he spoke to her.
It could have been the start of something special, except this was the night a group of Norwegian terrorists tried to hijack the plane. He and four of his terrorist buddies each had brought on board a piece of a bomb hidden in the lining of their parka hoods. I became suspicious when all four of them retired to the lavatory at the same time. Usually when more than one person enters an airline restroom at the same time, it can only mean one thing. They really have to go bad. But when four people enter, well, my training in mathematics, geometry and probability told me something was amiss. I knocked on the door and told them they needed to return to their seats. I heard something drop and then there was an explosion. I blacked out for a moment. When I came to, I was falling through the sky in the dead of night. An icy updraft kept me from plummeting like a rock. The updraft meant I must have been somewhere near Mount Everest.
My physics education and the elective I took in meteorology told me that there was a slim chance that I could survive this. If only something firm, but soft could break my fall. A peek down revealed by the full moon a wall of jagged snow-tipped rocks reaching up towards me.
It was then that I felt two strong arms cradle me. A warm voice whispered in my ear, “I’ve got you.” It was my Andrew. I mean, just Andrew. I asked if I was dreaming. He said, “No. This is real. The explosion knocked a hole in the plane and sucked you and a band of Norwegian terrorists out of the lavatory. It was no accident I was on that plane. I’m a secret agent. I’m also a dj and I do sales for, you know, weddings and stuff. Here’s my card. Facebook me.”
“The plane…Is everyone…?’
“Everyone else is all right. I was able to stabilize the cabin pressure by draping my Kevlar Travel Snuggie over the opening. I did it as I jumped out. They should be fine.”
“Why would you do that?”
“To save you, Flight Attendant Erin.” He remembered my name! “I felt bad about not preventing the explosion. My name is Andrew.”
I could not believe my good fortune. The man whose eyes twinkled when he talked about wine and the culinary arts was rescuing me from my fall. Except, “Andrew, how are we going to get out of this? We will be hitting the rocks any moment, now. Do you have some secret agent thing that will save us?”
“No. But I used to live in Colorado. Mount Everest shouldn’t be anything I can’t handle. I always come prepared for snow.” Andrew reached under his sports coat and brought out a boogie board. He slapped it onto his feet with one hand while steadying me with another. We hit the rocks at an extreme angle and Andrew boogied his way down Mount Everest without ever dropping me or toppling over. It was the most amazing feat of manliness I had ever witnessed.
Fourteen hours later, we reached the bottom. I gave Andrew a big hug and a kiss on the cheek, but, of course, I wanted and hoped for more. We heard a car horn honk. It was his bride-to-be Nicole in a red Chevy Nova. He had texted her as we were coming down and she came to pick him up. He explained that Nicole was the one and only love of his life and that saving me was something he would have done for anyone in distress, just like Superman.
Oh, and then the four Norwegian terrorists parachuted down around us. Andrew quickly dispatched them with a dazzling display of mixed martial arts.
(She reaches into her pocket and pulls out a handkerchief. She unwraps it revealing a pile of Oreo cookie crumbs.)
Nicole may have his heart, but I held on to the rose he gave me. It hasn’t held up well, but it’s still a rose to me.
They dropped me off at the nearest hospital to be treated for frostbite of which I am fully recovered. But what the doctors couldn’t cure was my broken heart.
(On the verge of tears, Erin approaches Andrew.)
I sincerely hope you and Nicole are very happy, Andrew. I really do. But if things shouldn’t work out, or she dies, unexpectedly, or even of old age, I’ll be waiting. I’ll be waiting.
I wrote the story, in case you couldn't tell. Erin did an excellent job with it, making it much funnier than it had a right to be. After the stories, the other men toasted Andrew, sharing with him their hopes, wishes and desires for his wedding day and marriage. Pretty cool. No one got drunk and no one has to lie to the bride. Maybe we didn't do it right.