‘Wedlock’ by Richard Bausch

Wedlock by Richard Bausch, 1990

The magic trick:

Running a misdirection on the reader

Howard and Lisa have just gotten married. They’re drunk and happy.

For now at least.

“Wedlock” has a sneaky way of bringing its backstory to the fore.

We learn on the first page that this is actually Lisa’s second marriage. She sees Howard as a chance to move beyond that troubled past.

So it’s surprising – to her at least – that Howard can’t help her move beyond that troubled past, because as it turns out he’s obsessed it with himself.

And that’s quite a trick on Bausch’s part.

The selection:

Honeymoon night, Howard locked the motel room door, flopped down on the bed and, clasping his hands behind his head, regarded her for a moment. He was drunk. They were both drunk. They had come from the Starlight Room, where they had danced and had too much champagne. They had charmed the desk clerk, earlier, with their teasing and their radiant, happy faces. The desk clerk was a woman in her mid-fifties, who claimed a happy, romantic marriage herself.

“Thirty-five years and two months,” she’d said, beaming.

“Not even thirty-five hours,” Howard had said. His face when he was excited looked just like a little boy’s. “But it’s not Lisa’s first one.”

“No,” Lisa said, embarrassed. “I was married before.”

“Well, it’s this one that counts,” the desk clerk had said.

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