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Love and Marriage

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I am at Mindy's with my ever-loving fiance Tommy, we both having just started to eat some delicious strudel, when I hear my name being called. This is by no means an uncommon occurrence at Mindy's, many citizens having known my name since I was knee-high, but having Sky Masterson say it is somewhat less so, as a good deal of the time he is in Vegas or Havana or some other such place.

I very much like and admire Sky, he having taught me, when I was just a tiny doll, how to calculate odds of rolling double six boxcars, and how to figure if a g-note is counterfeit, and other such subjects of importance, many of which have come in quite useful when I was going around with Israel the banker before I met my Tommy, and also when I am investing the score I make off of Israel.

I turn around and there is Sky, big as life. I am greatly surprised to see him dressed in a mission suit. "Silk!" he says again. "And Tommy! I don't know whether you have met my wife. This is Sarah Masterson."

I have in fact seen this doll on previous occasions on Broadway, though I have never talked to her. She is the doll from the mission with the hundred percent eyes, which is how Tommy describes her to me until I say to him that this is not the kind of thing a guy says to his ever-loving fiancee if he would like her to stay his ever-loving fiancee. Anyway, I also have heard around Broadway that Sky Masterson has gotten hitched, and to that same mission doll, although the first six times I hear it I do not believe it.

"Pleased to meet you, Silk and Tommy," she says.

"Pleased to meet you," I say, and Tommy says the same. "This is very wonderful! I give three-to-one odds you'll be very happy."

"Why, Silk," drawls Sky, "I do not think you figure the odds correctly, for I take them to be at least six-to-one in my favor."

We commence to have a friendly tussle about whether anything in human relations can really have better than three to one odds, until I notice his ever-loving wife's smile is starting to get a little fixed.

"We've come over," she says, "to invite the two of you to dinner."

Sky adds, "You will be our first guest."

"What," I say, "and not Harry the Horse or Dave the Dude? Well, I feel special."

"Oh, well," says Sarah, and she and Sky tell me how it is.

*

Sarah surveyed their little apartment contentedly. It was small — two missionaries couldn't really afford much — but cozy, and all their own.

Sky's hand snaked around her waist, and his lips grazed her earlobe. She turned around, smiling, and laid her hand on his cheek.

This was, she thought, just like what she'd dreamed marriage would be.

"I was thinking," Sky said in her ear, "we might have Harry the Horse over for dinner."

She jolted backwards, out of Sky's hands. "Harry the Horse? The one who's best friends with Big Jule? I don't think I can have him in our place, Obadiah."

"Aw, Sarah," Sky said, "Harry's not so bad. And, now, it says right in the Good Book that Jesus sat down with sinners."

"Jesus," Sarah retorted, "didn't have a spouse to worry about." Harry had not bothered her when she first saw him. He was not, perhaps, the sort of character she would have herself chosen for a friend, but that was beside the point, given that she had come to Broadway to work with just such people. But Big Jule — Sarah shuddered. He was the only one who had lied outright at the prayer meeting about going straight. But more than that: there was something cold in his eyes, something that spoke of cruelty and complete disregard for other people's pain. Sarah found she did not even want Big Jule to notice her existence.

And Harry the Horse was Big Jule's friend; from what Adelaide had said later, Harry had obliquely but unmistakably threatened Nathan on Big Jule's behalf. And the next time she saw him, she knew: the coldness she saw in Big Jule's eyes was also in Harry's, though a little better camouflaged.

"No," she repeated, "I don't want him here. In the mission, yes, of course, but not here."

"Sarah," Sky said, clearly struggling to stay reasonable, "I can't be holding with this. It is not the done thing not ever to bring one of my compatriots home, now that I am no longer living out of hotel rooms."

Sarah blinked. "Obadiah," she said slowly, "is it Harry the Horse in particular that you want to have for dinner?"

Sky furrowed his brow. "What do you mean? Is this not what I have said?"

Sarah sighed and took Sky's hand again. "It sounds like you think I don't ever want any of your Broadway friends over. But that's not what I'm saying."

"It's not?"

"No," she said patiently, "it's Big Jule and his friends that bother me. A person who is willing to go along with Big Jule's violence is a person I'm not comfortable having in my place, and that includes Harry."

Sky looked as if he were struggling to understand. "Not Harry. Okay. I don't like Big Jule either, I will cheerfully admit."

"But, oh —" she cast about in her head -- "Nicely-Nicely would be welcome."

Sky laughed. "Nicely-Nicely? He's all right, but I can think of several people I'd rather see before him. Maybe several hundreds."

Sarah said hopefully, "I wouldn't mind having another woman over. What about Adelaide and Nathan?"

Sky looked thoughtful. "Have I told you about Silk, the doll that grew up on Broadway? I think you'd like her. She's a bright little thing, bopped around in Europe for a while, she has some interesting stories. Her fiance is in the pharmacy business, I believe."

"Let's try it," Sarah said resolutely.

*

So Tommy and I, we have dinner with Sky and Sarah the week afterwards, at their place. At first it is maybe a little awkward, for Tommy does not know either of them and I do not know Sarah, and I have already decided that talking odds with Sky is not going to take us very far. But Sky asks Tommy about the pharmaceutical business, and Sarah asks me about Paris, and we get to talking about my upbringing on Broadway and how Mr. Damon the scribe shows me all his Broadway stories and gives me writing tips, though I never ask for him to do this. And we start discussing real estate and stocks, of which I had quite a few before Israel the banker popped off, though I have no more of them these days. Apparently this is also a topic that counts as genteel, even though I consider horse racing to be much the same except that a sure bet is more likely in horse racing than in the real estate dodge. But in any case we manage to scrape along in conversation.

Then I say to her, "So, Sarah, how is the mission business going?"

She replies, "We have made some progress. Nicely-Nicely, of all people, has taken to bringing in people to the mission."

This is progress indeed, if you think going to the mission on Broadway is progress, which if you knew half the citizens on Broadway you might well think. For Nicely-Nicely, before this time, is not one I would have thought of as missionary material. According to Sarah and Sky as well, he has a flair for it and will spin a whole story for you about the wonders of heaven or the horrors of hell. Although I am not so sure, at that, what the difference is between a lie and a story, given that I am pretty sure Nicely-Nicely has no direct personal experience of either, I let it go.

"And I saw you beating that big bass drum in the mission band the other day," I say to Sky. "Allow me to say that you beat it better than the previous guy who was doing so."

Sky looks a little embarrassed but somewhat pleased as well. "That part I enjoy," he says.

Tommy, who has been rather quiet as he is not the type of guy who will talk your ear off, which is one of the many things I love about him, pipes up at this point, "Which parts don't you enjoy?"

Sky and Sarah look at each other, and I can see immediately that this is not a subject on which there is total agreement in this home. "Well, I may be looking for a new situation," Sky says, without answering the question. But I can make a guess. For it is known to one and all that the number of potatoes in the mission line is very few, and that although Sky does not need a great number of potatoes, I know that he is the type of guy who likes to feel as if he can have a great number of them at any time.

"What kind of situation are you looking for?" I ask.

"Oh, well," says Sky, and he and Sarah tell me how it is.

*

Sky lasted about two weeks doing mission work full-time.

It was not that he did not enjoy the mission work. He told Sarah several times that he did enjoy it, far more than he had expected to. He enjoyed speaking to the denizens of Broadway in their own language; he enjoyed talking of life as a craps game.

After a while, Sarah noticed he was becoming short-tempered and irritable, from time to time, but she paid it no mind until she happened to be walking back to the mission after a morning spent tracting on Broadway. She heard voices inside as she laid her hand on the doorknob, and she hesitated for a second.

This was long enough for her to hear Sky saying, "Two pennies."

"No, I don't think so, Brother Sky," said her grandfather in his usual mild tone.

"Ah, come on, Brother Arvide," Sky wheedled. "Just bet one penny on whether Nicely-Nicely comes back to the mission before Sarah. It's just a penny!"

Sarah flung open the door. "You lose," she said succinctly to Sky as she stalked past them.

"Sarah, wait!" Sky said.

"Wait, Sarah," said her grandfather gently, and despite herself Sarah turned around. "I think Brother Sky is unhappy sometimes. You might talk to him about it."

Sarah looked at Sky and saw that it was true. Sky said, somewhat shamefacedly, "I'm not saying I don't like the mission, Sarah. It's just —"

"Just that you're a gambler," Sarah said quietly, as her grandfather slipped out of the room.

"Yes," said Sky simply, helplessly.

They were silent for a moment.

Sarah said, "I knew it when I married you. You don't have to be a missionary, Obadiah, I wouldn't insist on that. But a gambler, that would be hard for me."

"Here's a thought, Sarah," Sky said. "Is it the gambling you object to, or the respectability?"

"Of course it's the gambling!" Sarah retorted, then looked away. "No, you're right, Obadiah. It's the respectability. If gambling were respectable and lawful, then — well, there's nothing in the Bible strictly against it, after all, and I know you're not the type to covet money for its own sake. But Obadiah! It's against the law, and that means other sins can thrive in that environment—" she thought again of Big Jule — "and it's not respectable."

"Hey. Come here." Sarah stepped into Sky's waiting arms and hid her face in his shoulder. He said into her hair, "Look, Sarah, I'm going to try real hard to think of something I can do. I'll find something that'll work for both of us. I'll give you my marker on it."

Sarah had been around Broadway enough at this point to know what Sky meant. The marker was more than a promise, more than a pledge; it was a solemn vow.

"Oh," said Sarah, smiling into his arms through the tears pricking in her eyes. "I love you, Obadiah."

"I love you too, darling."

She thought, this is not a dream. This is love, and it's real, and it's ours, and it's better than any dream could ever be. We'll figure it out.

*

It is maybe a month after Tommy and I have dinner with Sky and Sarah that I am back at Mindy's, this time with a piece of cheesecake. And who do I see walking in but Mrs. Adelaide Detroit with her ever-loving husband, Nathan Detroit. I am glad to see them. I am good friends with Adelaide, though I have not seen her much since she is married, and although I never hit it off so well with Nathan, I greatly admire that he is in love with Adelaide and even marries her after some number of years.

Nathan is wearing fancier digs than I have ever seen him in, and Adelaide has pearls that I can tell are the genuine article, not the glass beads she wears dancing at the Hot Box.

"Why Adelaide, " I say to her, "it looks as though Nathan has scored big in the craps game business." This comes as something of a surprise to me, as copping a little dough off craps games is not where the big money is generally to be made, and anyway I have not heard that there are big rollers in town at this time.

"Oh," says she, "Nathan is not in that line any more."

Now, although I myself do not play the old craps and therefore do not have direct knowledge of what may be going on with it, I am privy to many of Adelaide's complaints over the years about how Nathan does not give up the craps game this time and that time, even after years and years of their engagement, so I am maybe a little skeptical of this. I look at Nathan.

"It's true, Silk. I'm copping dough off the financial markets now," Nathan says to me genially.

And this is how I learn that Nathan Detroit now works with Sky Masterson on Wall Street, where I introduced him to the stockbrokers who invested my money from Israel, and where Sky now gambles in plush smoky rooms on whether hundreds of thousands of dollars' worth of stocks will go up and down, instead of on craps games in the backs of garages.