Nancy brought up the idea of vow writing to Anton the night before their wedding. Anton thought vow writing was something annoying yuppies did. He'd gone to college with these types, and they were always bragging about some new thing they did that was better even though it was more expensive and less convenient, like riding horses and cooking in dutch ovens.
Outright disapproval of vow writing would have been unromantic, so he instead took issue with the timing of the conversation: "It's three in the morning."
"Let's do it," she said.
"Perhaps. Let's talk about it more in the morning."
The next morning, over breakfast, she again began talking about writing vows. "Everyone thinks you're funny," she said. "You could write something funny for your vows."
"Something like, 'I promise to love you and cherish you and dark chocolate all the days of my life.'"
"But what if I develop a chocolate allergy? Can I really promise to love it all the days of my life?"
"Never mind," she said.
On the day of the wedding, in front of three hundred of their closest friends and much to Nancy's delight, Anton took a leap of faith and included dark chocolate in his vows.
Nancy had let Anton plan their honeymoon. Her only request was that the hotel had a swimming pool with a deep end. She wanted the sex on their honeymoon to be special and had read in a magazine that doing it while sinking in the deep end of a pool provided the weightlessness feel of astronaut sex.
Anton had chosen a hotel on the coast of Venezuela. They arrived at their honeymoon suite late at night and, despite their intentions to consummate the marriage, they immediately fell asleep.
Anton woke Nancy up the next morning and told her to put on clothes she could hike in. He then led her out to the pave-lined drive at the front of the resort where a man stood waiting beside a jeep. "You must be Lelo," Anton said in Spanish. The man nodded and they shook hands. Lelo opened the door of the jeep and Nancy started to get in and then stopped. An assault rifle was tangled up with the seat belts.
"Is that going to be needed?" Nancy asked in English.
Lelo shrugged and then said to her, "sometimes banditos." He moved the gun to the front passenger seat and motioned for Nancy and Anton to get in.
"Are you kidnapping me?" she asked Lelo. She was trying to be funny now, to show Anton she was up for anything, relaxed. Lelo looked confused, and Anton told him in Spanish not to worry, that his wife was just making un chiste, a joke.
Lelo drove to the village of Guariquen and from there, they went on foot. Lelo left the assault rifle in the jeep as if it were an umbrella on a dry day.
"Here, mosquitoes worse than banditos," he said to Nancy when she asked him why he wasn't bringing it along.
Lelo walked ahead of them, clearing the trail with downward swipes of his machete. Initially, they walked alongside cacao and platano haciendas. Over time, the vegetation became denser. When they needed to cross a small lagoon, Lelo turned to Anton and said in Spanish, "There are bacteria in the water. Tell your wife not to urinate or she will get an infection."
Anton pictured his wife bemoaning the bacteria-filled places he had taken her on their honeymoon at future dinner parties. Besides, he reasoned, a woman who likes to write her own vows for her three-hundred-person wedding won't think to urinate in a lagoon. He said to his wife, "Lelo says you're doing a great job." She thanked Lelo, and Lelo, thinking what he had said had been accurately translated, blushed.
Soon after crossing the lagoon, they came to a clearing. Lelo swung the blade of his machete into the trunk of a tree and let go of the handle.
"Lake Guanoco," he announced. Lelo sat down on a nearby rock, pulled out a sandwich, and began to eat.
At first, all Nancy saw was yellow savanna grass, but as the sulfurous smell of asphalt filled her nostrils, she noticed the oil-black craggy murk from which the savanna grass grew. "A tar pit?" Nancy asked.
"The proper name for it is an asphalt pit," Anton corrected.
"On a honeymoon?"
"There are only five in the entire world," Anton said excitedly, before running out over the lake.
Nancy stood perfectly still and considered her options. She would not have chosen to come to an asphalt pit on their honeymoon. She tried not to let herself get angry.
"You need to move or you become extinct like woolly mammoth," Lelo said to Nancy, pointing down at her feet.
She had already sunk in up to her ankles. She pulled her feet out of the oozing tar, took a deep breath, and then ran after Anton.
That night, as they cooled off in the pool, Nancy suddenly grabbed Anton, and the two of them slowly sank to the pool bottom.
Back at the surface, Anton asked mischievously, "Want to try it?"
"What do you mean?"
"Well, my vagina is swollen."
He splashed her. "You urinated in the lagoon, didn't you?"
"How did you know?"
"Lelo told us not to urinate in it."
"Why didn't you translate?" she asked.
"We're going to be married a long time."
"Promise to always tell me when not to pee in the lagoon."
"Hey," she said, laughing. "That sentiment would have been good to use for our vows: I promise to love you and tell you when you shouldn't pee in the lagoon."
They spent a few minutes kissing by the side of the pool. Then they dressed and Anton had the concierge call a taxi to take them to a hospital where Nancy would be able to get antibiotics for her vaginal infection.
About the author:
P. Terrence McGovern is a former writer for the Harvard Lampoon and has his MFA in creative writing from the University of Florida. His work has appeared in The Southeast Review, Verbsap, Amazon Shorts, and Quick Fiction. He currently lives in Brooklyn, New York.