Wedding bus gig has Vinny catching falling stars
Job was a long, lonely, slog and Vinny disliked it, not just because there was the risk of folk getting rowdy, randy and retching, but because the day dragged its wheels
From the driver’s cabin, Vinny Fitzpatrick could hear the sound of tinkling glass and laughter as it carried across the Fingal prairie on a cool, clear, August evening.
The passengers, or rather guests, would soon be emerging from the Skerries Lodge Hotel, some of them probably worse for wear, he feared.
Like most of his co-drivers, Vinny disliked the Wedding Bus gig, not just because there was the risk of folk getting rowdy, randy and retching, but because the day dragged its wheels.
Invariably, it was a long, lonely, slog and Vinny, who had pushed hard for the introduction of providing such a service in Dublin Bus almost 20 years ago, tried to duck and dive whenever the Wedding Bus finger was crooked his way.
On this fine Monday, he had ferried guests to the wedding of Sam and Alex. Theyhad been good-natured, well-behaved and well dressed, which was always the case early doors. Later on, when drink was on board, there were invariably rows, ructions and often all sorts of shenanigans down the back, some of them of the carnal variety.
As he tapped the steering wheel, he felt his tummy rumble for he was starving.
He glanced at his watch. It was ten to eleven. Soon, the revellers would be boarding. From his pitch in the car park, Vinny had a fine view of the hotel. Upstairs, in a room above the reception, a light was on and he could make out two figures behind a curtain.
Judging by the bulky dress the woman was wearing, he reckoned they were the bride and groom, Alex and Sam. Or was it Sam and Alex?
Before he could figure it out, he heard the scrunch of high heels on the gravel. He looked up and was startled to see Alex – or was it Sam? – her dress bunched up, running towards the bus.
Within seconds, the bride, clearly tearful and distraught, had clambered on board. “Driver, get me out of here. Now,” she hissed.
Vinny was taken aback. “I have to wait for the other passengers, I mean guests,” he stammered. “We’re due to leave shortly.”
The woman pressed her face, stained with running mascara, against the driver’s window. “You don’t have a choice. I need to get away from this place. Now either you drive me or I will do it myself.”
The voice was icily calm and Vinny had a suspicion the woman – he was sure it was Alex – was used to getting her own way. “Yes, Miss, I mean Missus,” he said. “Could you stand back from the doors, please?”
As he engaged gear and nosed the bus down the drive, Vinny was vaguely aware of bodies emerging from the hotel, of voices being raised. Unlike Lot’s wife, he didn’t look back; he kept on driving.
With the runaway bride urging him to put the foot down, Vinny sped down the main Skerries-Lusk highway, before hanging a left on to a side road which rose slightly.
Checking there was no lights on his tail, Vinny pulled the bus over. It was, he felt, time to address the matter in hand. By now, the bride, Alex, had stopped barking orders and was whimpering. Vinny left his cabin and put a fatherly arm around her shoulder. “C’mon love, let’s get you some fresh air.”
Outside the bus, Vinny looked about him. Across the road, he recognised Baldongan Castle, the last resting place of the late, and much-missed, Shanghai Jimmy. “I know where we are. C’mon follow me,” he said, steering Alex through the tiny graveyard.
At the rear of the old fort, they sat on a grassy knoll, overlooking Fingal. As the light of Dublin twinkled in the distance, Vinny turned to the reluctant fugitive. “Right Alex, spill it out,” he said.
After a bit, Alex stopped sniffling. She poked her blonde head out from Vinny’s oxter and looked up. “Oh my God, what have I done?” she said softly.
Bit by bit, Alex explained how she’d quarrelled with her husband, Sam. It followed from his choice of music for the opening dance of the night, an old Andy Williams number, where Alex had preferred The Carpenters.
Half-way through Can’t Take My Eyes Off You, Alex and Sam had changed partners, she to be with her proud-as-punch father, while Sam hooked with one of the bridesmaids, Jemima, who happened to be an ex-girlfriend.
Their cavorting had been far too informal for Alex’s comfort and she told Vinny she “completely lost it” with her husband when they went upstairs to change.
“We’d both had a fair few glasses of champagne, probably too much to be honest. It was an awful row and I said some horrible things. What am I to do? I’ve ruined everything,” she said tearfully.
Vinny took her hand. “See that, love,” he said, touching the wedding ring. “That’s a symbol of undying love and allegiance. You’ve just put it on and you’re not about to take it off, not now, not ever.”
With that, the sky suddenly lit up a burst of light as a star shot across the horizon and disappeared over Portrane.
Then, there was another flash, and another, and another. For several minutes the skies over Fingal were illuminated by a most brilliant heavenly spectacle and Vinny and the runaway bride had the best seats in the house.
“You know your wedding song,” Vinny piped up after a bit. “I’d have gone for a bit of Perry Como myself.”
With that, he cleared his throat and crooned: “Catch a falling star and put it in your pocket, Never let it fade away, Catch a falling star and put it in your pocket, Save it for a rainy day.
“For love may come and tap you on the shoulder some starless night, Just in case you feel you want to hold her, You’ll have a pocketful of starlight. Catch a falling star . . .”
Alex stared at her portly 55-year-old companion in his Dublin Bus uniform and a smile replaced the frown on her pretty face. “Thank you so much, Mr Driver, for showing me the light. I’m ready to go back now. We can’t keep our guests, or my husband waiting, can we?”