Big Billy – Something (black and) blue

My buddy Murph is somebody who gets stuff stuck in his craw pretty easy. Around Christmastime, Murph comes in the coffee shop one morning, and he got this look on his face. His eyebrows were scrunch up and his jaw jutted forward a little further, and we could tell somethin’ was stuck in his craw.

My niece Vivian is gettin’ married, he says.Big BIlly

Everybody says how nice that is and then Tommy, who don’t always think before he speaks, says – Holy cripes, how old is she?

And all that anger that was scrunchin’ up Murph’s eyebrows and juttin’ his jaw forward came together and shot out his eyes in exactly the kind of death stare ya see just before he pucks somebody in the head.

Eighteen! Murph said. You got a problem with that?!

Tommy said – No, bye! I think that’s great. If ya know ya wanna put a ring on a girl’s finger, do it while you’re young. No sense waitin’!

We all chimed in, agreein’ with how much that made sense, and Murph seemed to relax a little bit.

Yeah, he said. I guess that’s all it is.

The next day Cyril’s right in the middle of tellin’ a joke about an elephant tryin’ to mate with a tow truck when Murph comes in with his face all scrunched up again.

Vivian’s boyfriend didn’t even give her a ring when he proposed, he said. He just asked her. I should puck him in the head on principle.

No, we said, young ones today do things different. They’re not into the old traditions, we told Murph.

Ya know what I’m startin’ to think? Murph said. I’m startin’ to wonder if maybe she’s pregnant.

And since we knew how Murph would lose his mind about somethin’ like that, the four of us fell all over ourselves sayin’ how unlikely that was, even though it was the first thing any of us thought of.

Now I should say, Vivian is the daughter of Murph’s sister Heather, who raised the girl all by herself. They say the girl’s father was the Tilt-A-Whirl operator at the Bill Lynch Shows, and once the show packed up and hit the road, she never seen the fella again. Murph always swore he’d kill the guy if he ever got his hands on him, but the fella probably didn’t even know he was a father.

Anyways, the point is, Murph has always been real, real protective of his little sister Heather. So ya can imagine when his little sister had a little girl of her own, Murph was about 10 times as protective over that little girl. That’s how ya get stories like the time Murph showed up at the school and grabbed the principal by the scruff of the neck because some little boy tugged Vivian’s braids when she was in Grade 1 or 2.

Now, Murph moved his wife and kids away for work and was gone out west for a long time until he moved back a couple of years ago, and when he did, he took up right where he left off, basically actin’ as little Vivian’s personal body guard, stakin’ out school dances and threatenin’ any boy stupid enough to call her mother’s house’. Murph’s basically a puck-in-the-head machine waitin’ for somebody to press a button and point him in the right direction.

Anyways, it was a few weeks later, after Christmas, when Murph comes in the coffee shop with his face pretty much turned inside out it was that scrunched up. They’re gettin’ married in March, he said.

Now, if an 18-year-old couple gets engaged at Christmas with no ring and gets married in March, call the bakery, because there’s a bun in the oven. And sure enough there was.

So fast forward to last weekend and the wedding bells are ringin’. We never went to the wedding itself, and the supper was just small to keep the cost down, so me and Minnie went to the reception at the church hall and there was the bride – big as a house but just beautiful in her sparkly white dress.

Now, it turns out the groom was a MacDonald fella. We grew up with some of his uncles and, since there was about 10 different MacDonald families, they were all known as the Fightin’ MacDonalds. See if ya can guess why.

Now, to picture Murph’s family, picture a whole family of men, women and children of all different sizes, all with Murph’s face, ready to puck anybody in the head anytime.

The booze was flowin’ and it was only a matter of time before a fight broke out.

There was a table by the door where people could put cards and gifts. And every once in a while, I’d notice Murph’s sister Adelle would run over, scoop up the cards and put them in her purse. The general idea was, Murph’s family didn’t like the look of the groom’s family and thought somebody might try to steal the cards.

Needless to say, somebody from the groom’s family noticed Adelle takin’ cards and thought she was stealin’ them, so then one of the groom’s aunts starts goin’ over and swipin’ the cards. Well, that was all the Murphys needed to set them off. Just as Bob Seger was singin’ about Old Time Rock n’ Roll, the two women got into it at the card table and all hell broke loose. There had to be ten different fist fights that broke out, and almost as many women flingin’ each other around by the hair. When the dust cleared, the groom’s busted nose bled all over his white tuxedo shirt and Vivian herself broke a bottle of Spumante over somebody’s head. It took four cop cars and a paddy wagon to break it up.

Me and Minnie couldn’t believe it. It was the best reception we ever been to.

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