The white boy falls out of the Ford F-150 pickup truck first, hitting the road with a sickening thud. His left eye is already turning purplish-red, eyelid swelling to a most startling size. Moments later, a pretty dark skinned girl is launched from the Ford’s passenger side as well, but she elegantly falls, executing a dive, tuck and roll, ending up on her feet as if she’d been preparing for that particular move her whole life—all while keeping ahold of her purse.
It is impressive.
We almost applaud, taking the cigarettes from our mouths, quietly enjoying our break in front of the Yazoo County Circuit Courthouse before the tumult starts.
Where are the police when you need them?
The sheriff’s office is only a half mile away—certainly one of those doughnut-eaters heard the F-150’s turbocharged engine growl its hearty disapproval of the teenagers, the truck screeching its fat tires as it loudly sped off. Whoever drove that vehicle no doubt spent quite a bit of his paycheck on aftermarket mid-pipes, proudly displaying an oversized Confederate flag in the rear window.
“Heritage, not hate—” We whisper, rolling our eyes.
We slowly stand up, stub out our cigarettes, make our way to the sidewalk. The young girl tends to the boy, now cradling his head in her lap. Seeing us come up on them, she helps him stand up. Though half his size, she has all but dragged him out of the middle of the street and onto the sidewalk.
“How you doing, son?” we ask.
The boy just nods.
“He got hit. Hard. In the eye,” the girl explains. She looks younger close up. Maybe seventeen. Maybe younger.
“Son, you seein’ double? You seein’ everything just so?”
“I’m good,” the boy replies, steadying himself on his feet. The girl hovers nearby, fretting over him like a favorite aunt.
“We can take you to Fast Pace Urgent Care around the corner. They’ll fix you right up,” we suggest. “You got health insurance?”
“No, but thank you though,” the boy says. “I’ll be alright.”
“We have business with the Circuit Court,” the girl states, holding her purse more tightly.
We look at each other. What kind of business do these children have with the government?
“Okay, just so you know—we work here,” we inform them, pleased to be of some service to the young pair. “How about we walk you inside and see what you need?”
“Thank you,” the girl politely replies, her brow unfurrowing, a smile showing profound relief that lights up her entire face. It even makes her eyes sparkle.
“Do we need to worry about—” We point vaguely in the direction where the pickup truck has sped off.
“We don’t need to worry about that truck or that man ever again,” the young boy states firmly.
“Well, then,” we say. “Come on this way. Let’s see how we can fix you two up.”
🜋 🜋 🜋
“Here are our blood tests,” the girl explains, opening her purse, eagerly handing us the folded up papers. She has a yellow Post-it Note on the top that reads: “Blood Test within 30 days” in her careful handwriting.
“Well, we no longer require blood tests in the state of Mississippi for marriage certificates.” We hand her some standard forms to fill out. “But we will first need to ask you an important question.”
The boy and girl look at each other, her eyes water, his hand covers hers.
“Are you older than 21?”
“We are not,” he admits. “I’m 18 and she just turned 17 last weekend.”
“But we have our ‘Out of Office Parental Consent Forms’—right here. Notarized. I went down to the bank—where they have a notary. These are notarized,” she repeats emphatically, handing over two documents, a coffee cup stain on one of them. “And here are copies of our parents’ drivers licenses.” Again, she has carefully affixed colorful Post-it Notes to organize their documentation.
“Do you have your $21.00 application fee?” We ask, but if they don’t—we’ve already decided we’d pay for it ourselves.
“Yes!” The boy quickly stands up. He unspools a number of one and five dollar bills from a wad in his pocket. He counts out twelve quarters to complete the financial transaction.
“We’ll also need to see two forms of identification,” we continue, good bureaucratic clerks that we are.
“I have my driver’s license and my baptismal certificate,” he says, motioning to his fiancée to pull them out of her purse. “. . . and—and she has her birth certificate and high school transcript.”
We look over the documents, noting her exemplary school grades. Smart girl.
“We have to ask a few more questions,” we say apologetically.
“Okay,” he replies. “Anything.” His face is utterly without guile, his battered eye now more purplish.
“Has either party been divorced within the last six months? If so, we need a copy of the divorce decree.”
“Uh, no?” she says. “This is our first marriage.”
“This is our only marriage.” He takes her hand and looks at her intently.
We feel like we’re intruding on their private reverie, but there are more forms to fill out and boxes to tick.
“Are either of you drunk or mentally incapacitated to the extent that you do not understand the nature and consequences of your actions?”
“I guess I am crazy,” the boy laughs. The girl pulls back, giving him an incredulous look. “I’m crazy about her.” He leans over and kisses her on the cheek.
We secretly grin as we photocopy their documentation, printing out forms, signing and dating and stamping all the necessary paperwork to make the great state of Mississippi happy.
We also make a few phone calls.
Paperwork ready, we call their names.
“And here is your marriage license. It is effective immediately upon issuance.”
“Can you marry us?” the girl asks.
“I think we can do better than that.” We turn to each other, smiling as broadly as she is. “Pastor Greene at the Southside Baptist Church on Monroe Street is available at this moment.”
The young couple holds each other, then she jumps up and down.
“Tom’s Restaurant on Main wants you to come over right afterwards for a wedding lunch. On the house. The special is baked catfish today—but the meatloaf is always good. Knowing Tom—that soft touch—he’ll probably throw in some of his bread pudding. Best in Yazoo.”
“Thank you so much.” The young girl’s eyes tear up again.
“I’m not sure how to repay you all,” the boy mumbles, overcome with gratitude and embarrassment.
“Stay as happy with each other as you are right now—and consider your bill paid in full. Now run along now. Pastor Greene is waiting on you.”
We watch them fall into each other’s arms, a sight better than watching them fall out of a Ford F-150 pickup truck.