Summary: Joe makes a commitment without fully understanding what’s involved.
Word Count: 1200
Little Joe loved to party. If there was a barn dance or a church social or fiesta anywhere within 20 miles, the seventeen year old would be there with bells on. The only thing he liked better was getting all “duded up” as his older brother Hoss would say. While Hoss generally objected to wearing fancy duds, Joe loved them; loved the way he felt in them and especially loved the way the girls looked at him when he was wearing them.
Always shorter and lighter than his brothers at the same age, he never had to suffer hand me downs. Ben bought his youngest son’s work clothes at the mercantile in town, but his fancy, Sunday-go-to-meetin’ clothes were ordered from the Emporium in Sacramento, and on extremely rare occasions from Ben’s own tailor in San Francisco.
This was a rare occasion. The family had been invited to the wedding of Maria Elena Alejandro y Montoya, the seventh daughter of one of Ben’s oldest friends in Monterrey. Arroyo Seco was one of the largest ranchos in Monterrey and the wedding would be attended by at least 300 guests and last 2-3 days. With Hoss and Adam attending to a cattle drive, it was Ben and Joe who would represent the Ponderosa at the wedding.
Little Joe could hardly contain himself, he was so excited—not only about the wedding which promised plenty of dancing with pretty senoritas—but about the new clothes he was going to get in San Francisco. He knew exactly what he wanted: tailored black pants with silver studs up and down the legs. He couldn’t wait until Pa and Adam finished going through the mail and finalizing the ranch details so he and Pa could get into town and catch the stage for San Francisco.
“Pa, will there be mariachis at the wedding?” Joe asked.
“Mariachis? Oh, you mean musicians? Yes, I’m sure there will be,” said Ben, distracted by what he was reading.
“Joseph, listen to this. Elena’s cousin Eduardo broke his leg in a riding accident and can’t be in the wedding. She’s asking if you would agree to take his place as a groomsman.”
“Groom what?” asked Joe, his vision of whirling around the dance floor with willing senoritas dissolving into stables and brushes and curry combs. He frowned momentarily; then in quick Joe-like fashion imagined himself riding the fine Arabian horses at Arroyo Seco and smiled again.
“The male attendants to the groom at a wedding,” responded Adam. “There’s one for every bridesmaid so they can walk down the aisle together before the bride.”
“How come she doesn’t ask another cousin or neighbor?” asked Hoss.
“Mmm,” Ben said as he perused the rest of the letter. “It seems it’s a large wedding party and most of the available men are either already in the party or are too tall or heavy for the clothes which have already been custom made and fitted. Joseph and Eduardo are roughly the same size so she’s asking as a favor. If she can’t find someone to take Eduardo’s place, then her cousin Teresa will not be able to be in the wedding either.”
“What’s tray de luck?” asked Joe, reading over his father’s shoulder.
“Tra-hey de loo-sus,” Adam said. “It means suit of light.”
Joe took a huge bite of the apple he had been holding and gazed upward. He could see himself already in his silver studded duds. He remembered some of the mariachis also wore silver sombreros and he knew he would dazzle the senoritas in such a suit of light.
“I’ll look great,” he mumbled as he chomped on the apple.
“I said, ‘It’ll be great.’ Being in the wedding, I mean.”
“Are you sure you want to, Joseph? It’s a big commitment and you’ll need to be very attentive to the bridesmaid you’re paired with and participate in all the rituals and customs.”
“Sure. Anything to help Elena out.”
“Joseph, come here please,” Ben asked again.
“I am not doing this!” said Joe from inside the wardrobe in which he had hidden.
“Joseph, you will finish what you started and that’s final. You made a promise to Elena and you will not dishonor yourself or this family by not following through on that commitment.”
“Do you hear me? Elena and Teresa are counting on you, son. Come on out now.”
“I can’t pa. It’s embarrassing.”
“It can’t be that bad, son. All the other men in the wedding party are wearing the same thing.”
“Then I won’t be missed if I’m not there.”
“Joseph! You come out of there this instant!”
Slowly the door to the wardrobe cracked. “Don’t laugh,” Joe begged, his voice trembling.
“I promise I will not laugh.”
“Promise you won’t tell Adam and Hoss.”
“I promise. Out. Now.”
Joe stuck a white stockinged leg out the closet door and a leather slippered foot felt around for the floor. First one leg emerged and then the other until he finally stood before his father in his traje de luces.
At first Ben’s attention was riveted solely on the slippered foot and then, as his gaze slowly traveled upward, his eyes widened and he covered his mouth with his hand to stifle an “Oh my.”
Instead of the Charro outfit Joe was expecting to wear—the black pants with silver studs and matching silver trimmed jacket—he was dressed in a peacock blue matador’s costume, elaborately embroidered and very, very fitted. In spite of Joe’s slight frame, the skin tight pants left nothing . . . absolutely nothing . . . to the imagination.
The matching blue jacket was encrusted with flower motifs laden with silver and gold threads and on top of Joe’s head was the traditional montera—a hat shaped like a bull’s head—in bright, matching peacock blue.
“Oh my,” was all Ben could say again.
“Hey, Adam. What does ‘fruta prohibida’ mean?” Joe asked at breakfast on the first morning back on the Ponderosa.
“Forbidden fruit,” responded Adam. “Where did you hear that?”
“Oh, something the older ladies kept saying while we were dancing at the wedding.”
Adam looked over his coffee cup first at Hoss and then at his father who was suddenly very busy with his French toast.
“Something you’re not telling us, Pa?”
“Not a thing, boys. Not a thing.”
Author Notes: I was challenged to write a story that incorporated the following elements:
- Pa, I want new designer jeans that have silver bling studs.
- You shouldn’t start what you can’t finish.
- A blue hat.
- Forbidden fruit.