Owl and Raccoon sat in the front of the raft while Buck poled and pushed it across the river. He talked as he rowed about a man all dressed up in his Sunday Finest, dragging a reluctant goat behind him.
“Top hat and tails and everything,” Buck said.
“Any scars or other marks?”
“His mouth was hid behind a magnificent moustache, as thick and full as a field of summer wheat,” he said. “He fiddled and twirled it the whole way across.
Owl and Raccoon thanked the boatman, jumped ashore and went off in the direction of Buck’s pointed finger.
They walked up the river valley walls as the sun dropped behind the tall tress and grassy hills. Owl and Raccoon reached the crest just as the last thick brush swipes of orange, red and pink light gave way to the deep blue blanket of night.
Their stomachs pined for the blueberry pie, their feet were barking like dogs on short chains, the moonless night wrapped itself like a shawl on their shoulders. But they kept on walking up and down the rolling hills.
Soft music hits their ears just before the smell of roasting meat slapped at their noses.
A red and white striped pavilion stood in the middle of a clearing. It’s tent pole as tall as the trees around it. Smaller, plainer tents encircled it and a wide ring of flaming torches haloed and crisscrossed through the temporary settlement. From the top of the hill, it looked like a birthday cake covered in candles.
Lively music and whinny laughter and loud, overinflated talk snuck out from the tents flaps. The smell of crackled skin and dripping fat and sweet smokes assaulted their noses like troops over a castle wall.
Owl and Raccoon crouched and moved in closer.
A short man with a chin made for out-croaking bullfrogs on summer nights stood behind a shorter rostrum, scribbling in a large book. He looked over his glasses and down his nose at Owl and Raccoon as they approached.
“Pardon messieurs, but this is a private affair,” the main said, his voice a low snore. “Not only private, but also very elegant and dignified. No place for such obvious ruffians as yourselves. Even if you were on the guest list.”
Owl and Raccoon looked down at their wet and dried clothes covered in grass stains and cobwebs and blueberry stains.
A tuxedoed Minotaur and his evening-gowned wife stormed out the tent shouting at each other. In three surprisingly nimble hops, the short man stood between them, trying to maintain the dignity of the night.
Owl searched through the book. He found a name and pulled Raccoon off to the side. They changed into stiff dark suits, pomaded their hair, tugged on their shirtsleeves and pinned wildflowers to their lapels. Then walked back around. The minotaurs had calmed and reconciled and the man returned to his rostrum.
“Froman and Abraham,” Owl said. “Much delayed but very dear friends of the groomsman.”
The man looked down at them again, hesitated and then found their names on the list.
“Pardon messieurs,” he said. “I did not recognize you under all that travel and hardship. Please forgive me.”
“No trouble at all, chap,” Raccoon said, with a short guffaw. “We certainly did have a bit of the savage in our eyes, I’ll admit.”
The host croaked out another apology, saying how momentous the occasion was, how vigilant he had to be and how he hoped the fine gentlemen would forgive him.
Owl and Raccoon said they surely did and walked in to the wedding.