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Forty-one short stories
by Holly Gramazio

About | Stories by date
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22 down

What am I?

Hello everyone. Hello. Your attention please. We're all gathered here today for a very special reason. Yes, that's right, it's the free drinks. But it's also to celebrate the marriage of our good friends Geoff and Gretel. There they are. My name's Robert, and I've been a friend of Geoff's for many years now, and since the best man Dan who you met earlier is unfortunately feeling unwell at the moment, I'm going to be your Master of Ceremonies for the remainder of the evening. So first of all I'd like to call on a man who most of you will know, he's a television pundit, a successful publisher, his company regularly puts out some of the best-selling books in Australia, but today he's here because of perhaps his greatest achievement, as Gretel's father.

Thank you Mr Patterson for that speech. Leslie Patterson there, from Patterson Books.

Now, for the next step in the proceedings it's traditional to call upon the groom to say a few words of his own. This seems a bit risky if you ask me. I was at school with Geoff, and once he'd started talking there was no way to get him to shut up, no matter how many times you told him you were trying to work on your novel. But it's his day, or his and Gretel's, so I suppose I can't stop him. Will you please give Geoff a hand.

Thank you Geoff. Now I picked up Dan's notes from him, dodging the vomit, and it says that next up it's the best man's speech. Of course, I'm not really the best man. I'm not even the second-best man. What am I? As far as I could tell, until Max and Dan started feeling queasy during the entree, I was just here so the third bridesmaid had someone to walk down the aisle with. Geoff was going to buy a shop mannequin and pull it along on rollerskates but that turned out to be too expensive. I'm much cheaper. They only had to buy me half a suit, for a start, as the people standing on the other side of me can see. I already had my own shoes and socks and rollerskates, too, and everything else was easy. See this handkerchief? Not even a real handkerchief. It's made of tofu.

So no, I'm not the best man, or even the first stand-in, but it still falls to me to toast the groom and his lovely bride. As I say, I hadn't been expecting to give a speech, so I don't have anything prepared, but there is one speech that I happen to know by heart. "Let tyrants fear; I have always so behaved myself that, under God, I have placed my chiefest strength and safeguard in the loyal hearts and good will of my subjects. And therefore I am come amongst you at this time, not as for my recreation or sport, but being resolved, in the midst and heat of the battle, to live or die amongst you all; to lay down, for my God, and for my kingdom, and for my people, my honor and my blood, even the dust. I know I have the body of a weak and feeble woman; but I have the heart of a king."

No, it doesn't quite work, does it? That was the speech of Queen Elizabeth in 1588, to the English army, when the Spanish Armada was attacking. I'm very familiar with the speech, in fact the novels I'm working on at the moment are historical fantasy, and this speech comes at the climax of the first volume. It's a great speech, but maybe not very good for today's purposes.

Never mind, you can't expect a dead queen of England to think of everything, and I'm sure I can come up with something myself, I've been to a few weddings lately and I've seen how it's done. I'm supposed to mention that I'm nervous, for a start. Well, as you'll have gathered I've been working with language for some time now. Nothing too impressive of course, nothing published as yet, but I feel it's helped me to become more comfortable with public speaking than a lot of you might expect. I'm also supposed to say how honoured I was to be asked to be Geoff's best man, and I'm sure I would have been if he had asked me, but second reserve isn't something I feel like I really need to be proud of, and it's obviously complete chance that Max and Dan happened to get the bad salmon; if it'd been me then I'd be in the bathroom now and they'd be up here talking to you. I'm also supposed to thank the bridesmaids, but despite the dictates of tradition they showed absolutely no interest in having sex with me out the back of the church, no matter how often I suggested it, so I think I can skip that bit as well. Ha.

Now when Erik of Sweden asked Elizabeth to marry him, in 1560, which corresponds to chapter three of my current work, she tells him she is grieved that she cannot gratify his Serene Highness with the same kind of affection that he feels for her. Geoff's no Erik of Sweden, but luckily Gretel's a bit less picky than Elizabeth, or we wouldn't be here today. Then in 1566, when a parliamentary delegation urged Elizabeth to marry, she said, and I quote, "I will marry as soon as I can conveniently, if God take not him away with whom I mind to marry, or myself, or else some other great let happen". And I'm sure you'll all join me today in relief that no such great let happened here to prevent the marriage of these two wonderful people.

A few people have suggested that a trilogy about a virgin queen isn't going to sell very well in today's climate, but I should point out that it's a historical fantasy, not straight history, and that the bulk of it takes part in an alternate universe in what I feel is a very marketable manner. In particular at the end of the first volume, Elizabeth not only declares that she has the heart of a man, but actually becomes a man, and remains one for the second volume, indeed she can only convince parliament that she is still Elizabeth by the scar on her forehead. Then by the final volume of the trilogy she's transformed into a synthesis of both sexes in a single form. It's a bit Orlando, maybe, a bit Tolkien, in some ways it's even a bit D.H. Lawrence, wild and untamed. Like some of Lawrence's works, it's also particularly relevant to Australia. The bulk of the second volume does take place here, following King Elizabeth as he sails the world with Sir Francis Drake, so I feel that the trilogy as a whole might be of particular interest to a local publisher.

I'd just like to read to you now a passage from the third volume, in which Elizabeth addresses her suitors. "My beloveds," zhe says, that's z-h-e, I know gender-neutral pronouns aren't popular these days but I hope I manage to ease the reader into them gradually, "ask ye that I should choose among thee? And yet each one of you sparkleth so brightly that I weep when I see you not for a day. How should I then relinquish any one of you to win unto me another? You, stubborn Will, with your nightingale's tongue, should I cut it out and clutch it to my bosom when I can have the rest of thee no longer in my chamber? Or thou, my brave Walter, or even you, my beloved Mary. Nay, it is an offence unto nature that I should choose: I shall gather ye all unto my heart, and unto my body. Am I not Queen, aye, and King as well? Am I not even the world, its wide rivers and its deep earth? I can encompass ye all, and more, and in our multitude shall we find true joy." For Geoff and Gretel it's a bit different, in fact they've decided to cut off the multitude altogether, and for them I'm sure that's the right choice. In their anti-multitude may they too find true joy.

Geoff's gesturing at me that I should wrap it up, and I haven't even covered half of the points tradition demands, so to cut the rest of it short: he's fat and he masturbated a lot as a child, Gretel's going to turn into a sex-withholding nag now that they're married. Aisle altar hymn, engagement ring wedding ring suffering, she looks stunning he looks stunned, his ex-girlfriends were all cows, raise your glasses, and Mr Patterson, if you'd like to talk to me about Elizabeth Rex I'll be over at the bar.