“So, I arrived at her house, dripping water and snow all over the place.” Hildreth grinned. “I was a right and horrible mess.”
Kaneshiro laughed. “That is so typical of you.”
Hildreth pulled a shocked look. “I don’t know why you’d say that. I am a very stable and unimpulsive soul.”
Darius snorted at that.
Jeff stopped in front of the table. “Hey, Dweeb.”
“Hey, my favorite dork in the whole wide world! Took you long enough to get over here.”
Jeff shrugged. “It couldn’t be helped. I got a little sidetracked.”
“I’d say. By the way, great job with the singing.” Hildreth leaned forward and fist-bumped Jeff. “You rock. You literally rocked my face off.”
Jeff laughed. “So, now you don’t have a face? Is that it?”
“Huh? No. Elsie found it and hot-glued it back on because she’s just so awesome that way.” Hildreth admired her as she finished eating her potatoes au gratin. “She’s awesome in so many ways.”
“Yes, she is.” Jeff said and he left it at that. He didn’t try to “umm” and “errr” those three words into something else.
Hildreth noticed, but chose to not point it out. “Hey! Where are the doughnut holes? I’ve been quietly obsessing about them over here and when I saw you coming this way, I was like ‘Bonzai! Doughnut holes comin’ my way! Wooooo!'” He flapped his hands in mock exasperation. “But no doughnut holes.”
Jeff laughed. “I still have them in the car.”
“Well, go get them, man. I’m starving here!”
“Starving and wasting away. Poor, poor me.”
“Idiot.” Elsie said affectionately.
“Not just any idiot, Els. A starving idiot.”
“Don’t worry. I’ll get them in a second.” Jeff walked around the table to his seat. “I need some food in me before my stomach decides to eat itself.”
“Well, that would be a tragedy.” Hildreth tapped the side of his face. “But how would that work? If your stomach eats itself, where’s it all going and what exactly gets left behind? Wait. Does your stomach have its own stomach and, after it eats itself, is that second stomach all that’s left behind? So, would there be a disconnected stomach just floating loose in your abdomen or would it reconnect itself to all of the right body parts and blood vessels? Or would there be chewed up stomach pieces bobbling around in there like driftwood?”
Elsie put her hand on his knee. “Your mind is a most mysterious place, Hildreth Mayhew.”
Darius raised his glass of water. “I’ll drink to that.”
The other hunters and Jim-Marie raised their own assorted beverages and said, “Here! Here!” They all clinked their glasses and chugged their drinks down.
Jeff stood and raised his glass. “A toast to the bride and groom.”
“Toast! A toast!” The crowd called out. Uncle Pierre said, “Go for it, youngster!”
Jeff grinned. “A youngster, huh? Okay. I’ll take it.” He cleared his throat. “Hildreth and Elsie, it is an honor to be here today.” He chuckled. “This speech is completely impromptu. So, I’m not sure what should come after a big starting line like that. I could take it into so many directions. It is an honor to be here today.” He shrugged. “And it is. That is the honest truth. Hildreth, you are my friend. We’ve seen each other through some bad times. We know each other’s strengths and weaknesses. We can kick each other’s backsides in fifty different ways.”
The crowd laughed.
“And that is also the truth.” His mind shut down on him.
What more can I say? I need to say more. I can’t just leave it at that!
Darius stood and raised his glass. “We have grown as hunters together.”
Edmund stood. “And as friends.”
Kaneshiro stood. “We have each other’s backs.”
Jim-Marie stood. “And respect each other.”
Master Shinowa stood. “Also and have faith. Have much belief you can learn still and grow still.”
Hildreth smiled. “Or as Master Initskay would put it, ‘I can always do better’.”
“Indeed is truth.” Master Shinowa said. “So, always do better, Mayhew. Always do better in all many things.”
“Yes, Master. I will.”
“And may you and Elsie be as crazy for each other in fifty years as you are right now.” Jeff said.
“Cheers to that!” Darius said.
“Cheers!” the other guys and Jim-Marie chorused.
Jeff smiled sheepishly. “I know that isn’t the most elegant way to phrase that sentiment. My mouth may have spoken before I completely thought that line through.”
The crowd laughed at that.
“But it is the truth. Hildreth and Elsie Mayhew, I wish you every happiness in your marriage. May it be a long and very blessed one.”
Hildreth stood and came over to Jeff. He hugged him.
It took Jeff a little by surprise, but he returned the hug anyway.
“Thank you, Jeff.”
He patted Hildreth’s back and released him. “You’re welcome.”
The crowd went wild with applause.