The minister, severe, self-important, looked past the two figures and glowered at the assembled body slumped in the pews..
"If anybody here can show reason why these two should not be cycling together, let them speak now, or forever hold their peace."
After a brief pause, an attractive lady of indeterminate years stood up, cleared her throat, and said
"Uh... I'm June, Barc's wife."
A stirring in the congregation acknowledged the apparent physical incongruity between the stunning, statuesque blond standing poised and erect, and the bald, withered, flaccid figure slumped pathetically on his bike at the alter.
"Barc called me last night, sounding just a tad whiny, and I happened to take a few notes on the very off chance that a ceremony just like this one would be held today. Furthermore, in a burst of perspicacity, preparedness, and prudence, I just happen to have a Powerpoint presentation prepared."
A slight shift could be felt in the room, as the various husbands suddenly swung from "He doesn't deserve her..." to "Poor Barc..." - no one likes to be on the wrong end of a Powerpoint.
June continued "I took these down verbatim, so I apologize in advance if some of the language is offensive. Lights please."
The figure on the bike slumped a little more. He might have been praying, or determining the exact size of burial plot needed for one bike and one husband. The other biker on the alter, youthful, fit, and in the prime of his life, seemed oblivious to the proceedings, scrolling through Reddit on his tablet.
BARC'S MOST RECENT COMPLAINTS AND EXCUSES
June, remember how I said, with appalling breeziness, how I'd "ride myself into shape" this time? Why didn't you tell me how completely inane, idiotic, and painful that would be? What's wrong with you? The first three days of this ride were climbing over the snow-capped Sierra Nevada mountains! You can't ease into cycling up cliffs! Turns out my Garmin heart rate monitor maxes out at 300 bpm, so I can't even track my cardio!
June, whenever I see my shadow while riding, it looks like it's someone from the Bomb Disposal Unit, in full-protective regalia, moving with old-man caution toward an IED. Why didn't you gently, lovingly remind me that eating thirds and fourths at breakfast, lunch, and dinner could possibly, just maybe, Dear Sweet Husband, make the first two months of your bike ride feel like you were on a tandem with Look-Mom-No-Legs Larry, Last in Line for Liposuction?
June, remember how, with smarmy complacency, I said about a hundred times how Emer might be "in shape", but he's not "in bike shape"? Well, guess what? Turns out being 23 and "in shape" is about a million times more useful than being 56 and shaped like a pumpkin. Emer has taken to riding backwards behind me, to ease the boredom of travelling at 6 kph.
June, seriously, isn't it your role, as wife and guiding light, to warn me that I'll feel, every day, like that poor, twitching, spasming, dehydrated lady trying to cross the finish line at the Ironman race in Hawaii? Or like the ski jumper from the start of Wide World of Sports, who's wife failed to warn him of the perils of going off-piste from the ski jump track?
June, it's Day 4, and my body has yet to adjust to the rigours of this trip. If it doesn't get better soon, I may have to break my long vow of stoicism and share some of my sufferings. I just wanted to prepare you for this, as it would be the first time in our over 30 years together that I gave even a hint of weakness. Probably won't happen but, as a good husband, I wanted you to be ready. If you had only told me to get ready for this trip, we'd be even...
The Powerpoint screen went blank. The lights came up. At some point during the presentation, Barc had slid off his bike and was lying inert at the feet of the minister. Emer continued to scroll.
The minister stared for a long time at June, who had resumed her seat, moved his gaze to the prone body at his feet, took in Emer, who may or may not have been aware of the world around him, and finally said "Well, the thing is, they don't really need a paper from me to cycle together. Let's just see what happens. Coffee and sandwiches are being served in the basement. Thank you for coming."