The Marriage problem
Sat, 05 Mar 2016
I was woken early one morning, at barely 6.30, by a banging on my back door.
I quickly dressed and rushed downstairs to find Alun on his knees at the foot of the stairs, holding out a cheap ring.
“Will you marry me, Jed?” he said.
I was not inconsiderably surprised by this development, I had known Alun all of my life and he had never shown the slightest of romantic leanings in my direction.
“I’m flattered,” I said, “but I’m not gay. To be honest, I had no idea you felt this way towards me.”
“Of course I don’t feel this way towards you Jed,” he said, “I’m proposing a marriage of convenience.”
“A marriage of convenience?” I said.
“Yes Jed, the world is stacked against single parents like you and me. We’re not allowed in the Mother and Baby Club on Ladies Only Island, we can’t send Jed and Alun to the No Bastards Here primary school. And it’s going to get worse, Jed, the mainland council’s about to introduce an Unmarried Parents Act, that will make single parents pay additional taxes.”
“That’s terrible,” I said. “But do we really need to get married. It seems a bit extreme.”
“It’ll avoid paying extra tax, Jed. There’s nothing extreme about tax avoidance.”
“But what if one of us wanted to get married to someone else. Suppose Jed and Alun’s mothers appeared and wanted to make the children legitimate?”
“It wouldn’t matter, Jed. We could get the marriage declared void at any time, as it will never be consummated. You weren’t planning on consummating our marriage, were you?”
“Of course I wasn’t planning on consummating our marriage. I was in bed, asleep, oblivious to all your mad schemes, until you woke me with your proposal.”
“It’s not mad. Think about it Jed, it’ll solve a lot of problems, it’ll give Jed and Alun the stability of a normal set of parents, and it’ll enable us to get them into the best school and we’ll be able to join the Married Mothers’ Circle.”
It was strange that I even considered the proposal. Marrying someone I didn’t love, just for tax advantage and to get my kid into a good school. What would mainlanders think of us if they found out? But Alun was right, it was the most sensible option, our children’s best hope of a normal future. Within a matter of days I found myself accepting Alun’s proposal.
Alun sent off to the mainland council for the getting-married paperwork and we set a date for the wedding. Alun and I were to become husband and husband, the first ever gay marriage in Happy Island history.
We invited everyone we knew across the archipelago, even the people we didn’t particularly like, after all, it was a wedding. The Empty House was packed with people and the Boatman had agreed to be best man and had even amended the boat’s timetable so that he could be there for the wedding.
Alun, as well as being one of the grooms, was also the priest, having inherited the role of Priest of All Faiths from his father, and being the only person on the archipelago authorised to marry people.
“Does anyone here present know of any reason why Jed Wood and Alun Davies should not be legally joined together in holy matrimony?” he asked.
A shush descended the church, with barely a wail or gurgle from Jed and Alun.
“Nobody?” Alun repeated, “everyone’s happy?”
Again, there was no answer.
“I’ll just check my phone, just in case anyone’s emailed or texted a reason we shouldn’t marry. You can’t be too careful in these situations.”
There was a pause while Alun checked his phone for messages. This is actually a traditional part of the Happy Island marriage ceremony, our ancestors believed that if the bride and groom were making a really bad mistake then God would let them know before they committed themselves. This is the reason why happy Island priests carried mobile phones hundreds of years before the mobile phone was even invented, a fact known to confuse mainland historians.
Finally, Alun finished checking his phone.
“The weddings off,” he announced.
I couldn’t believe my ears. “Why?” I asked, “has somebody sent you a reason we shouldn’t marry?”
“No Jed, but I browsed the news pages while I was checking for messages and the mainland council has just announced that they’re scrapping the Unmarried Parents Act.”
“So we no longer need to get married?”
“No Jed, there’s no longer any tax advantage, this whole enterprise has been completely unnecessary. You needn’t have brought that wedding dress.”
Our guests were somewhat disappointed that the wedding was called off, but cheered up when we announced that we would be hosting a ‘not getting married’ party, with free drink for all guests. The Boatman even made a long speech, completely improvised, explaining why it was a good thing we weren’t getting married and how we’d both make terrible spouses.
Best of all, Betsy Shoeleather, who runs the No Bastards Here Primary School, got so drunk at the party that she let slip that she wasn’t married herself, and had merely assumed the name ‘Mrs Shoeleather’ for reasons of respectability and decorum.
“That worked out well, Jed,” Alun said.
“Yes, but it’s a pity we didn’t record her confession, we could have blackmailed her into letting Jed and Alun become pupils,” I said.
“Yes, but it’s a pity we didn’t record her confession, we could have blackmailed her into letting Jed and Alun become pupils,” I said again, but this time without moving my lips.
My confusion didn’t last long. “You did record it!” I said. “But how could you have possibly known she’d confess a secret so wondrously scandalous?”
“I didn’t, Jed. I record every conversation I ever have. You never know when it will prove useful.”
And so it was that we were able to ensure that Jed and Alun would have a normal schooling. Or they would have had, had it not been for the next unexpected development.