Hooch and Cake
Where there’s a Randy, there’s a way.
Mitch Tedsoe isn’t an expert on many things, but he’s pretty sure getting married shouldn’t be this hard. A justice of the peace, some hooch, some cake—all Mitch wants is to walk down the aisle with Sam Keller, have a party, and live happily ever after. But every day of wedding planning brings a new set of handicaps, legal, logistical, and emotional…until he brings in his best friend, Randy Jansen.
Randy loves being the third point in Sam and Mitch’s kinky triangle, and nothing would give him more pleasure than to thumb his nose at small-town snobbery and give Iowa the most fantastic gay wedding it’s ever seen. But as his plan comes together and his friends prepare to sail off into the sunset, Randy begins to consider the unthinkable: that maybe, just maybe, he wishes he could have a little hooch and cake of his own.
Mitch Tedsoe didn’t regret proposing to Sam Keller, since there wasn’t anything more he wanted in the world than to spend the rest of his life with the man he loved. But it turned out getting to that happily ever after wasn’t quite as simple as he’d thought it would be.
Some of it was easy. Mitch knew they’d live in Middleton, Iowa, until Sam finished school, and after that they’d wander nomadically around the country in Old Blue, Sam taking short-term positions in an area where Mitch could get regular trucking gigs. When they got married, they’d be hyphenating their names. Mitch had been ready to shift over to Keller, because God knew he didn’t need any ties to his blood family, but Sam had pointed out Tedsoe Trucking not only had a rep but a nice ring to it, so they compromised with the hyphen.
But first they had to actually have the ceremony. Mitch had no designs on how that happened, so when Sam’s best friend, Emma, got engaged too, and they began to plot and scheme for romantic ceremonies together, Mitch let Sam and his friend set everything up.
He had to get a best man, they told him, so he called Randy Jansen.
“I wondered when you were going to ask.” Randy sounded almost annoyed. “I’d started worrying you’d made some other best friend off in your Midwestern paradise.”
“Well, I always figured you’d be there, Skeet. I just didn’t know if Sam would want something simple or elaborate.”
Randy snorted. “Are you kidding me? Peaches was always going to be about the full experience, but not in a fancy way, either. So a bit of both, really.” He sighed happily, and Mitch could imagine him settling in on his couch. “What do you want me to work on first? The ceremony or the reception?”
“Come on. You can’t tell me you want to plan a party.”
“Well, no, but I think Sam does.”
Mitch wasn’t sure how Randy could make an eye roll audible, but he managed it. “Fine. When you get stuck, call me.”
“Hey. I’m not going to get stuck. Sam’s got this. Planning it with his friend Emma. She’s getting married too.”
Another snort. “Oh, excellent. You’ll be calling me inside of a month.”
Now Mitch was pissed. “No, we won’t. If Sam has trouble, I’ll help him.”
“You’ll call me before Christmas. I’ll keep my schedule clear.”
The fuck Mitch was calling him with anything but a date and a place and instructions for what to wear. He could do this. Or rather, he could help Sam do this. How hard could it be?
The answer, he discovered, was pretty fucking hard.
The worst part was that it wasn’t hard because weddings were a bitch—or, at least not only that. Mitch and Sam had an extra handicap, one with an ugly underbelly. It started when they tried to find a place for the ceremony. Sam wasn’t a churchgoer, which relieved the hell out of Mitch, but ruling out houses of worship didn’t leave a lot of attractive prospects in Middleton. Mitch assumed they’d get married in some rented hall then transform it into a dance floor and party. Problem was, there were two hotels in Middleton, both middle-grade chains that had little personality and no empathy for equality. While the managers didn’t refuse to let them book anything, they put such a damper on Sam’s enthusiasm that Mitch took over the search for somewhere to get married.
Except their other options were the American Legion Hall, the Knights of Columbus Hall, and the pavilion at the city park. The first two options came with even more icy glances and cutting remarks, and the last one just seemed really fucking pathetic. Fine for the ceremony, but what about afterward?
Mitch couldn’t help noticing Emma and Steve had no trouble at all with their plans. They were getting married at the Catholic Church in September and having a reception at some fancy hotel in Ames. Mitch had immediately called up the events planner there, thinking the college town had to be more open-minded than Middleton. It was, and they were thrilled to host another same-sex couple. They’d had twenty already that year.
They also had few open dates and wanted more for a deposit than Mitch had left in the bank.
What had been a decent-sized savings account when his rent wasn’t more than a post office box in Denver depleted quickly when he ponied up his and Sam’s half of the apartment, and when Emma moved out to live with her fiancé, Mitch forked over the full amount. Sam covered food and utilities, but with school, that was all he could manage. Delia and Norm had given him a loan, but paying the monthly payments was a stress for him. His uncle was more easygoing, but his aunt tended to lecture him if he didn’t offer a particular amount, so as much as possible Mitch made sure the only thing Sam had to pay for around the house was the loan.
Better for Sam. Living hell on Mitch’s wallet. Covering the bills meant being on the road a lot more, which was part of why it took Mitch so long to figure out there was trouble.
Emma’s parents were paying for her ceremony. Steve’s were buying the booze and giving them three grand for a down payment on a house in town.
Randy called Mitch. Often. “How’s the planning?” he’d always ask.
“Fine,” Mitch would bite off, and change the subject.
Except it wasn’t fine. Every day that passed illustrated how different Emma’s experience was than Sam’s. Emma went dress shopping with her mother and worried over the cut of bridesmaid gowns. Sam looked at a few tuxedos, but since they had nowhere to wear them and no date locked down, that was as far as it went. Emma planned for a honeymoon in Hawaii. Sam, still stuck on square one, got excited when he found out a local winery had a reception area—until he found out the rental price was three grand. Before catering.
Eventually Sam suggested they give up and go to the courthouse.
Mitch balked. “But that’s not what you wanted.”
Sam shrugged. “We can’t find anywhere we can afford or that won’t make us feel unwelcome, and really, outside of Emma and Randy and a few friends from the community college, who’s going to come?”
The comment about nobody coming burned because it was true. Mitch’s contribution to the guest list was Randy. His mom wouldn’t come up from Houston, not unless he offered her money. If Cooper Tedsoe showed up, Mitch would step on his neck. Mitch had renewed a few acquaintances the last couple times they’d been through Vegas, but nobody who would haul ass all the way to Iowa for a wedding. Sam’s aunt and uncle had made it clear they didn’t want to come, and they were the only family he had. Sam didn’t hang out with many people from school outside of Emma, and Mitch didn’t socialize much in town.
They didn’t need a wedding hall. They needed a wedding hallway.
“No,” Mitch told Sam. “We’re going to have a real wedding. Hooch and cake and the whole bit.”
Sam laughed. “Hooch and cake?”
“Yes. Hooch and cake and dancing and friends looking on while we go down the aisle. It’s going to happen. I’m going to make it work.”
But he couldn’t. Every hour of every run, Mitch noodled over the wedding, trying to find the way to make it small and special too. He could think of a million things to do at places they’d visited on their travels, but it had to be in Iowa, and not just because Sam was sentimental. Their marriage had to occur in one of the handful of places where it would be legal.
As the year wore on, Emma pored over bridal catalogs and went to wedding fairs and looked at fabric samples with stars in her eyes, and Sam got quieter and quieter, until he didn’t bring up getting married in any way, ever, at all.
In November Mitch gave up. Randy answered on the third ring, and from the noise in the background, Mitch could hear a poker game going on.
“I just want you to note, Old Man,” Randy began blithely, “that even though you’re chafing at having to grovel, I left a table full of fish to take your call. It’s not losing to ask me for help. It’s wisely using all your assets.”
Mitch grunted and slumped deeper into the couch.
When Randy spoke again, his voice was silky. “It’s not losing. But I am going to be bitch enough to make you ask.”
Mitch rolled his eyes at the ceiling then did his best to make his tone sound contrite. “Skeet, I need you to help me plan my wedding.”
“Of course. I’ll book a flight right now.”
Mitch softened. “Thanks.”
“Anytime, Old Man. Any fucking time.”