F. Mumfordstern’s Classic Tale of Twoo Wuv and High Jinks
The “Twitterpating Bits” version abridged by Kevin Wilmeth
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Ah, if only I’d have written it myself. This story originally was authored by the renowned F. Mumfordstern, the famous Aptenodytes forsteri known best for his exhaustive historical tomes The Beautifulest Rockhopper and Seven Brides For Seven Chinstraps. I have adapted it here by excising the most flowery of the prose so that it can be digested in a single sitting. (Mumfordstern, high and artistic as he is, is a bit given over to bombast.)
1. The Seeds
Once upon a time, there was a smashingly agreeable dining venue famous not only for its tasty comestibles but also for its flavored vodka and charming staff. (Actually, let’s get real: the place still exists; Mumfordstern is a bit disingenuous in suggesting that it is no more with that whole “Once upon a time, there was…” bit… Okay, so there was a name change and a minor updating to protect the innocent, but that whole “witness protection” rumor never did really fool anyone. The same charming people are still there, the food is still terrific, and the vodka is still responsible for a shocking number of stories featuring the line “oh dear, did I do that?”)
One fine evening, The Little Russian Cafe was the scene of a birthday celebration for a local debutante, and various characters were in attendance. Among the company was one David Sweeney, who was accompanied by his great friend and our intrepid heroine, Catherine Hudachek. (You will forgive me for excising here some 148-odd pages of extraordinary but probably superfluous background that Mumfordstern gives on both Sweeney and Hudachek, their respective childhoods, countries and planets of origin, and obvious connections to societies so secret that Mumfordstern was paid that little visit you may have read about some years ago.) Mr. Sweeney at the time was working at Boston Chicken with the birthday girl, and this was his and Hudachek’s first opportunity to meet The Shlub, the birthday girl’s husband, who from the stories seemed to be about as uninteresting and droll a personality as could be found with a pulse. Perhaps curiosity got the better of them, as their initial contact with The Shlub was not quite the experience they had been expecting. Then again, some people–especially the sort of characters that achieve single-syllable names with only one vowel–are highly adept at subterfuge…
(At this point Mumfordstern goes on for 351 pages–in italics, no less–about the possible scenarios and conjectures that may have been made by one character about the other, and the possible suspense that may have been generated by this sort of meeting, and all the things that were not known by the various members of the party, and the possible motivations for so doing, and…oh for the love of Pete, it goes on forever. Frankly, between you and me, I think Mumfordstern’s visit from the Sri Lankan secret service probably had more to do with telling him to get on with it than anything actually incriminating. At any rate, I’ll distill it down for you, out of respect for your time. It’s a good thing Mumfordstern’s language is so beautiful, or even the academics would never suffer it.)
The birthday girl decided to leave The Shlub. She did. Time passed.
(See? You got everything you needed from that version. There was contemplation! Action! Passage of time!)
The Shlub, who was known in other circles as Kevin Wilmeth, emerged from his chrysalis quite a bit happier (somewhat to his own surprise), and sooner, than anyone had expected. By this time, Miss Hudachek, remembering the disconnect between the stories and her own first meeting with The Shlub, remembered that they seemed to share an interest in hiking. So, in the year 2000 (being a nice round number for such things) she took a chance and contacted Mr. Wilmeth–who definitely remembered Miss Hudachek.
2. The Stage
Admit it: you probably never thought to contemplate what goes on in the mind of a Shlub. (Excise here 125 pages of Mumfordstern’s beautiful but painfully exhaustive history of Shlubs, from the earliest hieroglyphic records–it seems the impulsive Egyptians often fed them to the cats for being too difficult to deal with–right up through what makes a proper modern Shlub, including the famous Moon Pie Incident of 1988. Smashing stuff, to be sure, but just a bit much for a single sitting.) Miss Hudachek, in a series of hikes with Mr. Wilmeth, got an earful of it, which she suffered with grace and aplomb–and a little wonder. She got the impression that Mr. Wilmeth may not even have known that he appeared to be a proper Shlub during this entire time, and also that his behavior struck her as, well, quite normal–enough so that it led her to suspect he may not even really be a Shlub after all. He seemed to be much more full of enthusiasm than one might have expected (given all the wind-up), and in fact would hold court for hours on the wonders of his family, and friends, and the outdoors, and of course all sort and manner of Sphenisciformes. (It seems to me that Mumfordstern really got a bit opportunistic here, as he took that opportunity to expound on the “noble penguin” for…I don’t even know how many pages, I’ve blacked it out. It’s as though the book became a vehicle for his family history. Great stuff, don’t get me wrong, but sheesh.) Miss Hudachek must not have found it too stifling as she continued the contact deliberately, and eventually invited Mr. Wilmeth to her birthday soiree in April of 2001.
3. The Besmittening
It had gradually dawned on Mr. Wilmeth, during this time he spent with Miss Hudachek, that he quite liked her. Here was someone who would not only agree to accompany him on the outdoor outings, but would even suggest such herself. Here was someone who would both chat and talk with him (and with excellent quip and banter skills, no less), and even sit back and let him go on about pretty much whatever he wanted to talk about–and he had never been accused of not having something to say. (Mumfordstern put that final point a bit more bluntly; I have a bit of a soft spot for the not-quite-a-Shlub, and so rounded it out a bit. Hope ya don’t mind.) And add this unlikely bonus into the mix: she was a looker. He even had a bit of a crisis of conscience at this juncture, as he had not expected to find someone he liked–seriously liked–quite so soon after his “change in status”. He was expecting to go through the traditional series of meaningless recovery relationships and eventually right himself at some later time (isn’t that great language for a tabloid topic?). He’d pontificate all noble and such, with things like he didn’t want to mess up what was blossoming into a very nice friendship if he had it wrong about her. Quite possibly he should have been much less concerned about such things, but he actually lost a bit of sleep over this, and by the time Miss Hudachek’s birthday soiree arrived, he was fully and completely discombobulotwitterpated. (Classic Mumfordstern there. Now that’s a word.)
Mr. Wilmeth could not have known how significantly the cast arrayed at this birthday event would figure into the next years of his life. It was pretty much all he could do just to speak intelligently that day, so he tried to. A lot. And then some more. (Just what are you saying here, Mumfordstern?) This scene played both very similarly and very differently from the one at the Little Russian before: although three of the four principals again were in attendance for a birthday girl, fancy vodka was replaced by greasy spoon (the steaks were renowned far and wide), and Shlub was replaced by a lovestruck babble-box. Mr. Wilmeth would later learn that among the attendees, who all knew Cathy, there was a considerable interest in protecting her from the attentions of…well…undesirables, and that he (being the only outsider) was under evaluation the whole time. It may have been for the best that the Shlub history never surfaced here–and Mr. Wilmeth probably owes Mr. Sweeney a debt of gratitude for that. At any rate, everyone was cordial (we are, after all, talking about high-quality people here…even the most rigorous scrutiny and babbling can be done with panache…), and left with smiles. As it happened, Mr. Wilmeth, screwing up every ounce of courage he could muster, probablymanagedtotellMissHudachekjusthowhefeltaboutherwithallthedetailofaDickensnovelbutinthetimespanofaNewYorkminute. (Nice, Wilmeth…nice. Find the girl of your dreams and then just blast her to the wall with words. Very Don Juan.)
And, ladies and gentlemen, Miss Hudachek did not run screaming from the room. To this day (believe me, I’ve asked him), Mr. Wilmeth does not quite understand how that managed to happen that way.
But that’s not the punchline. The punchline is that Mr. Wilmeth, pretty much the next day, had to climb on a plane to go back to Boston for two weeks. (Find the girl of your dreams, then immediately leave her alone for two weeks at a time for several months…what, are you trying to screw this up?)
After Mr. Wilmeth got over his abject terror of messing up a good thing and actually said something to Miss Hudachek (and then quite nearly fell off his chair–do you know how hard it is to just up and fall off a chair?–when she didn’t smack him), things moved pretty quickly, and with a natural grace to which Mr. Wilmeth was decidedly un-accustomed (at the time, when asked why he would look nervously up to the sky, he’d simply reply, “waiting for the thunderbolt.”). The two found that they were on the same page a good bit of the time: “get out of my head” became a common term of endearment. Mr. Wilmeth also took a bit of time to get used to the serious openness and honesty that Miss Hudachek brought to him, and welcomed from him in return: it was around this time that he was known to start referring to “my previous life” as such.
At this time, Miss Hudachek introduced Mr. Wilmeth to her inner circle of friends more officially (as many of them had been present for the birthday soiree). Mr. Wilmeth to this day continually marvels at Miss Hudachek’s ability to surround herself with the finest people around; the group took in the not-quite-up-to-being-a-true-Shlub as one of their own and made him feel at home from the beginning.
(It is with regret that I was compelled to remove here some 733 pages of background and history of this circle of friends, which included several hundred pages of interview with Mr. Wilmeth himself as he heaped fairly impressive laurels upon the whole bunch. This was truly inspired work by Mumfordstern, who writes compliments with wonderful clarity and image, but it does not really help us with the story of Wilmachek. Trust me: if you want to learn some nice things about some nice people, just ask a former Shlub. When your ear finally gets talked off, I can personally recommend Dr. Erskine J. Seiwat, of Bowling Green, Kentucky, about a transplant that won’t break the bank… Oh, you think I’m kidding? Do you think that glass jar in the corner is for show?)
The two became comfortable with each other so quickly, in fact, that Mr. Wilmeth thought he should introduce Miss Hudachek to his family. And, in fine fashion, he found a perfect vehicle for that to happen, just about a month after they started dating: his sister’s wedding. (Nope, I’m not kidding here, either.) Any doubts about Cathy evaporated immediately; she had Mr. Wilmeth’s entire family eating out of her hand within a few minutes of meeting them.
Also during June 2001, Miss Hudachek did the one thing that probably cemented her more tightly with Mr. Wilmeth than any other single thing possibly could: she accompanied him to the Telluride Bluegrass Festival, and conspicuously enjoyed it. (I tried to interview Mr. Wilmeth about this, expecting a few pretty choice nuggets, but Mr.-Diarrhea-of-the-spoken-word was absolutely speechless about it. You know the incredibly cheesy commercials where the guy is talking about the perfect woman who not only goes to the hockey game but ends up starting the bench-clearing brawl? Totally that kind of vibe.)
When introducing Miss Hudachek to Kevin’s great friend and mountaineering partner Hunter Goosmann and his family, Hunter’s wife Julie pulled Mr. Wilmeth aside at one point and said, with deer-like eyes, “Kev, it’s freaky…it’s like I’m seeing two of you.” (Mumfordstern here makes a wisecrack about that which I’ve chosen to omit.)
Cathy returned the favor in the fall by bringing Mr. Wilmeth along to meet her family at her parents’ 25th wedding anniversary surprise party. He returned from the trip not only alive but smiling, and talking about meeting yet more outstanding people–so he must have done okay. You know, for a former Shlub and all.
By the time 2002 rolled around, Mr. Wilmeth and Miss Hudachek were a pretty solid couple. 2001 had seen the meeting of both families and circles of friends, multiple weddings, Telluride Bluegrass, 24 Hours of Moab, trips to Minnesota and Montana, and a heinous Halloween incident involving a diaphanous red belly-dancer outfit with chest hair. (Mumfordstern’s 25 pages on that event can be distilled down to Dave Tank’s singular comment, “Dude, I could have gone my whole life without having to see that.”)
In the summer of 2002, the Avon Breast Cancer 3-Day event came to Denver, and Mr. Wilmeth jumped on board the burgeoning Red Hot Chili Striders team for the fundraising and training–despite still being largely absent on his work travails. (He told me privately, “you know, it’d make a much better story if I was actually carousing around the world living la vida loca like a proper playboy, but I’m such a geek that I was actually working.” Then, as if eager to bolster his Card-Carrying-Guy bona fides, he added with a grin, “So Cathy came to me and described the 3-Day, and I thought, ‘Wait a minute…my efforts might save boobies? Hellyeah I’m on board!’ Of course, I softened this a bit for public consumption, saying–and this is quite obviously also true–that I’d walk ‘because I just love women’. Pick the story you like.” Mumfordstern adopted the latter description in high style–for 49 pages, no less. Being more of a scrapper myself, I’ll go with boobies on general principles.)
So the Chili Striders were born (the original roster–say it out loud for full effect–was Cathy, Cathy, Kate, Kye, [Victoria] Cohen, Kevin, and…Bob.), money was raised, bodies were trained, and the walk was a success. There is even a story about Mr. Wilmeth’s dedication to training himself while on the road, which involves Mexico, Sesame Street, an abandoned ironworks masquerading as museum, umbrellas carried in armpits, ambient temperatures more suitable for reheating casserole than sustaining human life, sweating “like a soaker hose”, and what I have personally heard referred to as “that unfortunate Bert and Ernie incident which resulted in Cookie Monster eating only celery and hiding out with Oscar for six episodes”. (Apparently the internal mischief on the show would make a sailor blush…) Mr. Wilmeth was so moved and taken by the experience that he wrote the event up himself–and as it turns out he really does love women.
Cathy was of course enriched by the experience as well. She turned out to be a much more adept fundraiser than Mr. Wilmeth (well, duh, c’mon…lovely heroine of her very own adventure story vs. former Shlub…who would you rather give to? I figured as much…), and her enthusiasm for training and preparation would lead her significantly to further volunteer involvement. With Cathy operating at full capacity, the world’s reserves of high-SPF sunscreen dipped measurably…area shoe stores both loved and feared her (the newspapers have only recently stopped running the psychological retrospectives)…and of course there was the now-famous Quizno’s “how can I manage to completely evade the one thing you are trying to accomplish” episode, after which the sub-sandwich chain famously came up with the overtly plagiaristic and full-time-creepy “We Like De Suubs” ad-campaign. (All official sources quoted at the time denied any connection between the two scandals, but come on–we all understand the art of deliberate diversion. Miss Hudachek should be quite proud of herself that an outfit of such size would fall on a sword that big just to give her an audible raspberry. Pyrrhic victory indeed!)
Such is the measure of our dauntless couple. Made for each other!
Another remarkable accomplishment of 2002 was the purchase of La Casa de Wilmachek (CDW), which was largely accomplished while Mr. Wilmeth was in Mexico. (At this point he was trying to verify, in person, if Grover was truly indeed the monster at the end of the book. Kevin still visibly shudders a bit at the memory of the things he found out, and swears he’ll take the coveted secret to his grave.) Cathy, meanwhile, was doing the legwork and research back in Colorado. There were several weekends when Kevin would fly home, weep for a few hours in Cathy’s arms saying, “people just don’t know…what would they do if they knew?”, and then they would dash off to look at this house and that, according to Miss Hudachek’s meticulous orchestrations. There was even a false-start in which a deal on what they felt was the perfect Kevin & Cathy house fell through (although in subsequent years they both confessed the persistent niggling of the Elevated Toilet Scenario may in fact have been a benevolent sign). In the end, they settled on a highly fitting place in Lakewood Forest (the trees are actually quite lovely, and the rodents only attain usual size), and held the housewarming soiree a scant month later. Miss Hudachek insists that no closets burst during the making of the housewarming, nor were they even unduly distressed. This sort of accomplishment is fairly remarkable, and showcases both the organizational skills of the lovelier partner, and the team-play of the combined couple in the face of, well, monstrous odds. (Editor’s Note: Grover threatened to sue over that one; Mumfordstern, in a moment of poignant sympathy for Mr. Wilmeth, suggested–over the course of a gross of pages in high eloquence–that Grover should first attempt mediation with his lawyer friend, located approximately at 87 degrees south latitude, who was at the moment out of the office for an extended benefit walk.)
It was around this time, and probably due to the need to name the house, that the mellifluous term “Wilmachek” first appeared. Account details vary, however, and the term may have been just a happy accident. At any rate, it stuck, and began to entrench itself in common usage.
Privately, Mr. Wilmeth admits that even before the term arose, the thought of proposing to Miss Hudachek had occurred to him–but he wanted to wait until the time was right. “She’s probably the perfect life-partner for me,” he told Mumfordstern. “Of course I don’t want to rush anything, especially since it wouldn’t be my first time around the block. She deserves ample time to come to her senses and head for the hills.” It occurred to me, personally, that he may have been a little too cautious in his desire to be proper and “not mess anything up”, and I told him as much. He just smiled and said, “I know. But when the time is right, I’ll know that too.”
6. Making The Name Stick (Without Utensils)
The years 2003 and 2004 served to solidify what everyone seemed to know anyway: that Wilmachek was here to stay. The bona fides of Twoo Wuv and High Jinks had already been established, but our dauntless couple decided to, er, pad the resume, so to speak. For example: in the spring of 2003, CDW was inundated with about five feet of snow in three days, and our heroes quite enjoyed the distraction.
It was fortunate that Mr. Wilmeth happened to be home at the time; getting to the front door would have quite literally required either treads or skis, if not both. As an illustration of how our home-team handled the situation, they thought it would be quite romantic to ski to the grocery store…so they did…arriving five minutes after it had closed up (some thing about “inclement weather” or other such obvious rot).
This period had growth. During this time, the seeds of Cathy’s volunteer involvement sprouted like alien sightings at National Enquirer after the Leonid meteor shower. She taught kids about the outdoors in a school-sponsored project called Project WILD (ask her some day about Elk Duds–a smile with every pile!–and the Crazy Woman Play), she became actively involved in the General Federation of Women’s Clubs, she took up the other side of the “walk for charity” banner by working for the MS-Challenge Walk, and in general never passed up an opportunity to do something nice for someone else.
Kevin, for his part, managed to get seriously involved with a circle of uber-geeks that want to play strangely tuned guitars to make music that you can’t dance to. He even went so far as to attend two courses on this subject, one in Spain no less. (Mumfordstern treats this geekery with far more respect than most of us can stomach, so I’ve removed his touching but Iliad-length ode to musical minutiae.) He started using phrases like “life-changing experience”, “capital-M moments”, “begin again”, and other such gibberish. (Hey, would you take a week-long course from a guy named Fripp? Seriously!) But the boy did manage to learn a lot, I’ll give him that. He even recorded a document of his playing that the couple gave as Christmas gifts.
This period had action. Cathy walked away from a rollover accident that totalled the Jeep Cherokee; Mr. Wilmeth’s relief was palpable when, as his beloved was relating the incident to him over the phone, personally, under her own power with her own voice, sounded really, really pissed off that she hadn’t been able to avoid the accident. “Don’t know what she was on about there,” Wilmeth said in an interview. “Now if it had been someone else telling me about the accident, I’d have been pretty freaked out…but she was not just alive, but okay enough to actually be irritated about the whole thing. When I got home a week later–she was on the way home from dropping me at the airport when the accident happened–and saw the Jeep, my first thought was, ‘that old Jeep performed perfectly, and Cathy walked away as a result. The rest is just minor details.'” As a result of the accident, a new vehicle joined the Wilmachek stable, a ’96 Subaru Outback that was christened Penny after the Greek heroine Penelope.
This period had spousal support. Although Cathy is neither a hunter nor a “gunnie”, she has always supported Mr. Wilmeth with absolute selflessness in his efforts to chase after large, tasty quadrupeds. When he came out of his fourteen-year hunting drought with a successful shot on a mule deer in Montana, Cathy was there. Mr. Wilmeth is a bit fawning on her attitude: “she walks all day with us, without a rifle, but more quietly than either Dad or myself, and with far better eyes than me. It’s an honor to have her along.” For her part, Miss Hudachek sees this outlook as a bit more logically self-interested: “What, are you kidding? The critters taste fabulous. I spot ’em, he kills ’em, we both eat ’em, and when there’s extra we share ’em with our friends, who seem to like ’em as much as we do. What’s not to like?”
Mr. Wilmeth happily returned the favor (“It doesn’t seem like this is nearly enough payback for a gal that will hunt with you, but I’m happy to do it!”) by showing his support for Cathy’s GFWC involvement. He accompanied her to Western States conventions in Seattle and Portland, organized his guitar circle to perform at a state meeting, and joined the Boosters organization.
This period had team play. Team Wilmachek was seen trekking to Arizona to support friends in the running of a marathon (the rumors of the mandolin-thrashing hippies with pool-floaties on their heads, as well as the “wait…come back here…we’ve got ice cream!” incident, were actually eclipsed by the success of the Smiles For The Miles project.), and again galavanting off to both Minnesota and Montana on missions of holiday cheer and conspicuous comestible consumption (that’s Thanksgiving, to regular folks).
There was also an appearance across the pond in which Mr. Wilmeth’s business was measurably improved by the accompaniment of Miss Hudachek; the two managed to learn some valuable lessons about Amsterdam (“coffee shops don’t serve coffee, pink elephants mean ‘red-light district’, and XXX means Amsterdam…these are useful things to know”), and the upper Thames Valley, whilst having a Jolly Oulde Tyme.
And of course there was the highlight of the grand Sweeney Wedding, to which the Wilmachek partnership contributed such memorable roles as “extended musical entertainment” (trust us on this one…during a sub-ten-minute ceremony, a four-minute musical interlude, however beautiful it may be, takes an eternity), “groomsmaid” (Mumfordstern had a field day with that one, folks. I saved you the trouble), photojournalist, deception artist, abductor, schuetzensafetyfuhrer, and cowbell circulation architect.
7. Wilmachek: Ready For Prime-Time
Similarly, the years 2005 and 2006 not only just flew by in a devilish flurry, but they served to polish our subjects and their partnership into the state Mr. Wilmeth had been looking for. If the early years had been spent revealing character to each other, these more recent ones reinforced it. In 2001 and 2002, for example, Kevin and Cathy were assigned to the same SEARCH Colorado team, and in addition to having a bonny time in general on these magnificent clue hunts, they learned a great deal about one another on the fly. Example #1: apparently Cathy is perfectly fine with the concept and practice of canoeing, but only outside of certain exceptional situations. Precisely one of those situations was discovered at a placed buoy in the middle of Boulder Reservoir, in the middle of a competitive retrieval operation involving a sunken lockbox whose combination was dependent on the other half of the team, accessible only by radio. Which segues nicely into Example #2: Kevin has a penchant for silliness at somewhat impractical times; in an attempt to keep Cathy’s mind from preoccupying while they waited (rocking) for the combination to be radioed in, his ineffective lame jokes turned to abject physical comedy: at the top of his voice he started singing the Jeopardy! theme into the radio–at the exact moment that, on the other end of the radio, Mr. Sweeney (of the other half of the team) had just torqued his knee trying to recover the clue for the combination and was in fact writhing in pain. Mr. Wilmeth, who had no idea, kept right on belting it out–which made for some amusing conversation later. (The serenade was even picked up by the event monitors on the open channel, and there were rumors of an honorable mention award for tackiness.)
The clue hunts also revealed Cathy’s considerable cryptography skills, Kevin’s sometimes razor-sharp and sometimes painfully incompetent deductions, and of course everyone’s willingness to use a random piece of clear plastic, marked with seemingly arbitrary lines, to sight the location of a lockbox several miles away, based only on information other people have when you need it. “You learn a lot about a person from jointly trying to figure out the hidden message in a junk organ.” (Mumfordstern included a full treatise here, not quite the full length of the Mahabarata but close, as an appendix and homage; if you want to read some great yarns about everyone’s experiences with SEARCH Colorado, make sure to check out When Too Much Brain Is Channeled: Beware The Clues Of Our Friend The Ice Weasel. “I have no idea how to describe it, really,” was one contestant’s comment. “We’re all afraid that the masterminds will actually hit their full stride some day, and send us to the thirteenth dimension to pick up the next clue by having us accidentally start a cold-fusion reaction with pipe cleaners and Gummi Bears. All we know is that–junkies that we are–we want to be there when it happens!”)
By contrast, 2005 featured the sordid incident that marked Kevin as a hit-and-run driver, occupying eight months of his physical life, and considerably more than that in anxiety. In this case, Cathy was there for him…gallantly and gracefully changing out the piece of wood he continually gnawed on when he considered how in the world he could actually be hit and chased by an obscenity-screaming young punk (already known to the law for multiple moving violations involving intoxication and injury, no less), and then charged with three counts of hit-and-run himself, on hearsay testimony from same punk (which testimony was self-contradictory unto itself), all just because said YP returned to the scene of his own crime and invented a story (I’m talkin’ Night-Court-In-Its-Fifth-Season-Laaame! Chaaah!), while Mr. Wilmeth and Miss Hudachek, after YP broke off the chase about five miles down the road, simply counted themselves lucky to be in one piece, went home and had a stiff drink. It never occurred to our heroes that YP would have the unmitigated audacity to accuse them, but Colorado law only cared that one party returned to the scene of an accident and another did not. (Mr. Wilmeth, not exactly known even before the incident to be a staunch advocate of governmental organizations of any stripe, did not manage to improve his opinion of Denver’s Police, District Attorney’s office, or presiding judge based on their performance in his case.) The ultimate outcome, of course, was no real surprise: the whole thing could be best made to (mostly) go away simply by paying the extortionist. (Here, Cathy was wonderful in helping Mr. Wilmeth to remember to do things like breathe, and stop clenching. The things we do for love.)
During this time, too, Cathy worked for the Town of Superior to help control the spread of noxious weeds within its borders. As she put it, “Well, I haven’t managed to find work growing things [which is her horticultural training], so I figured I might as well accept work killing things.” She made a couple of friends along the way, proved herself in a position that could only be survived (let alone grown and expanded) by a real go-getter, and along the way even taught Mr. Wilmeth a few things about weeds. “She’s amazing, what she knows,” Kevin said in an interview. “Today I learned one that has the hilarious name of Dalmatian Toadflax. I heard that and immediately thought, ‘Holy cow, it’s a Douglas Adams character.’ I mean, you can’t make a serious case that that is not in fact the name of Zaphod Beeblebrox’ long-lost brother. I’m just sayin.”)
2005 was also Mr. Wilmeth’s tenth consecutive year at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival (and Miss Hudachek’s fourth); the two had a devil of a time trying to recruit the yearly “new virgin” for the event, so instead decided to “just make it a date.”
CDW even garnered its first long-term boarder in Cathy’s brother Tom, who lived onsite for some six months as he evaluated where he wanted to end up next. Now boarding family can sometimes be a painful event (Mr. Wilmeth recalls a less than ideal situation in his previous life, and he is quick to remind people that Homer and Marge managed to attract quite a bit of federal attention after harboring–er, housing–Homer’s long-lost mother for just a short time. “Only positive thing to come out of that sordid tale is that we found out that the J. in Homer J. Simpson stands for Jay.”), but Tom was a great guest, and everyone seemed to feel that all made out well in the bargain.
The cause of Wilmachek was also reinforced in 2006 during the annual GFWC International Convention, at which Cathy in her multiple official capacities and Kevin as host/organizer of the Booster lounge kept a difficult event moving along as smoothly as possible, and even provided a little relief and refreshment (the rumors of fresh fruit in the Booster lounge spread like wildfire, and “guest visitation” was continually high as a result.).
In short, all things considered, Wilmachek was baked and ready. It was time.
8. The Proposal
Everything was in place. Wilmachek was an established force and recognized as such. Mr. Wilmeth’s employer Bowstreet had been absorbed by the Big But Stable Blue Man (that’s IBM, just to keep the acronyms straight) and things looked promising for the future. The couple had even gone so far as to take a deliberate holiday trip to scout out the ideal place to raise a family. All that was needed was an official wedding ceremony, which needed a proposal to get kicked off. “Of course I had been mulling the idea for some time, by that point,” Wilmeth relates. “I was in that dangerous place where we could quite easily have gone on far too long without accomplishing that little act of completion that both of us had wanted for some time–and I didn’t want to let that happen. Yes, everyone knew we were a pretty permanent thing, but if a formal wedding is something you both want, it has to actually happen sometime, right? I wanted things to be just right–this is, after all, the woman of my dreams–but you can wait forever for the perfect time, and when I thought about it, all the important pieces had been in alignment for a while already. No reason not to get on with it–so it was decided: I would propose.”
(Mumfordstern again. I swear, sometimes I don’t know whether to laugh or cry at this fella…but in an incredible demonstration of lyrical brevity, the old coot managed to distill the entire history of proposals–from the first questioning grunts through anatomically suggestive cave-paintings, right up to the most modern incarnation of proposing through text-messaging on Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride–in sixteen pages. I couldn’t believe it. Is this the selfsame bird who gleefully recounts the most minute (if interesting) details of penguin psychology and social ritual, and its correlation and influence on the history of western human society–which, he makes an iron case, is utterly indebted to the early antics of the Gentoos–and occupying enough paper to plant the Sonoran Desert? How is that possible? And yet here he is, every word serving double or triple purpose–every line an extended metaphor or double-entendre looping back upon itself in poetic glory. Sixteen pages. I’ve never seen its like before. Which is why it is so traumatic to have to excise it, because it just doesn’t matter.)
Then, of course, there was the important matter of style for the proposal. “I wanted to do something that would be most meaningful to Cathy,” Wilmeth said, “and that part was relatively easy–her friends mean more to her than pretty much anything else. It seemed obvious that I should engineer things so that her best friends would be close at hand, but still have the actual proposing part be done in private.” So, he began to connive with Miss Hudachek’s two closest confidantes, and jointly they came up with an excellent scenario–or, it would have been excellent, had the required parts all been available at the right time. Either all parties were not available, or Mr. Wilmeth really did have to be out of town when he was only supposed to be out of town, or an otherwise suitable ruse had an unprotected vulnerability, or–in the end–his ring guy had simply appeared to vanish off the face of the galaxy. (Mumfordstern here makes quite an interesting supposition, quite stark in its directness as he is known for being dispassionately objective about his subjects…he suggests that the ring guy was in fact released from the Matrix at just the moment that Mr. Wilmeth attempted to engage him–quite possibly it was in fact Mr. Wilmeth’s very contact message that provided the release itself–and is even now chasing the Nebuchadnezzar down with a penlight and an offer of “real” lederhosen, in preference to that synthetic stuff that just doesn’t breathe. Now I’m not always given to wild flights of fancy, but that is just possible enough to warrant some attention.)
Eventually, Mr. Wilmeth got frustrated waiting for his initial “ring guy” to plug back in (so to speak), and took Mr. Sweeney’s suggestion of a suitable replacement. This gentleman may have been a bit of a strange bird–hey, we expect no less of our beloved artists–but he was definitely in the same dimension and on the same planet in the same place as all the other principals, and he turned out to be pretty easy to deal with, too. (Apparently, his ability to flood our heroes with too much information has been duly noted by Mr. Wilmeth, who chalks it up to “the same sort of enthusiasm that allows me to lose an entire classroom in seconds.”) In heroically short order, Mr. Wilmeth had a ring, which arrived just in time to go with The Idea.
The Idea, as with most acts of sheer brilliance, happened by sheer chance. “The piece de resistance was getting her to plan her own proposal party, without knowing it,” Wilmeth beamed when he recalled the epiphany. After a successful deer hunt in October of 2006, CDW was blessed with an overabundance of venison, including a goodly portion of ribs that didn’t want to fit nicely in the freezer. Cathy herself suggested the idea of having an intimate get together with the “inner circle”, featuring slow-cooked venison ribs and steaks, as a way of sharing Wilmachek’s appreciation and love of their friends. Kevin recalls: “She said, ‘We should invite these guys, and these guys, and…’ and it occurred to me that she had just rattled off the exact same list of people that I had decided should be at the surprise ruse–the very same people who have managed to all be in the same place at the same time, oh, what, three times in six years? If I didn’t act on that opportunity, handed to me like that, I am quite sure I would have got myself such a divine smackdown as to warrant its own Homeric epithet for all time. Something along the lines of ‘Kevinus Wilmethicus, chief among the dumb-asses / Did miss the candy-apple-red sign of neon-obvious glory’…You know how Homer was–he’d ream you if you showed such a weakness…so I took my chance.”
So Kevin enlisted his helpers once again, to ensure that everyone could make the one-shot attempt, and distributed the inside word. In the meantime, Cathy labored to create an air of semi-mystery among the attendees (complete with invitations deliberately incomplete in their scope), thinking they had no idea either what was being planned, or who else would be in attendance. “She was brilliant, actually,” Wilmeth beams. “It almost took the fun out of the counter-deception.” He tries to suppress a grin, but can’t quite manage it. “Almost.”
Here’s how it finally went down: The guests arrived, began socializing, and preparations for dinner went almost to completion. At the precise time that the home telephone rang, Kevin noted that his hands were full (he actually had to contrive this a bit; the prearranged timing was only almost perfect.), and would Cathy please pick it up? Only the very most perceptive would have noticed that at this exact moment, all the parents had managed to retrieve their kids from downstairs, so that everyone was upstairs. (One of the funniest moments, recalled later, was that, although everyone was expecting to maintain voice levels to aid in deception at a later time, when the phone rang–to kick the whole process off–for a brief second, everyone stopped talking and you could hear a pin drop…and then, immediately, as if everyone recognized the error at the same time, picked up where they left off (but just a little louder than before). If the hostess had not been preoccupied with her own agenda, this may have tipped her off, but as it happened she just picked up the phone and the plan was set in motion.
The caller was Kevin’s father, and he needed to tell Kevin something privately right away, regarding something pretty important. Cathy then handed the phone to Kevin, who went downstairs to take the call. “The one part of the plan I didn’t like was that Dad’s necessary verbiage might risk suggesting to Cathy that something was specifically wrong with my grandmother, who had been out of pocket lately. I didn’t particularly like suggesting that, but it’s a risk we decided to take, because we needed her to be curious about the nature of the call, without specifically being worried–but if she happened to completely invent the worry herself, that would play into our hands nicely. Later I found out that Dad, in his enthusiasm to make sure that we didn’t suggest that, was explicit in telling Cathy right away that nothing was wrong with Grandma–which I didn’t know. Ah, the intrigue.”
Dad’s purpose in calling, of course, was to give Kevin the excuse to go downstairs and prepare the ring, which had been carefully hidden in the guest bedroom. “The nicest room in the house, for sure,” said Kevin. “There was a part of me that thought that proposing in your own house seemed kinda cheesy, but I thought the ‘involving-friends’ piece made up for it, and so I simply resolved to do it in the nicest room in the house. What Dad ‘needed to tell me’, privately, of course was, ‘good luck, son’, and he did that perfectly.” The ring thus prepared, Kevin made his way back upstairs, and asked Cathy if he could talk to her for a minute downstairs. She looked just a bit concerned, and for a moment appeared to forget all about the call to dinner, from which she was seconds away. Perfect.
They went downstairs, and he led her into the guest bedroom. “What’s wrong?” she asked. Mr. Wilmeth fumbled a bit, tried to calm things (read: himself) down. “Nothing is wrong. Hi, babe. How are you?” He smiled. As she made to inquire again, he said, “Have a seat–I just want to talk to you for a minute.” She sat on the lower bunk of the guest bed, directly underneath the waiting ring, which Mr. Wilmeth fumbled with as he tried to say something like, “I have something I need to ask you” (although what actually did get said may have not quite been those words, or they may have been uttered in a half-decibel falsetto…nobody is really quite sure.) An eternity later, ring in hand, Mr. Wilmeth managed to start his kneel, and he saw Cathy’s expression turn from almost-irritated bewilderment to full realization.
(Mumfordstern at this point treats the actual proposal with a touching 37-page annotated libretto, with a credited character list including Ring Box and a link to his website for Dolby-mastered transcriptions in five languages, as read by Dan Castellaneta and Julie Kavner. I’ll do my best to condense it with justice.)
He said, “Well?” She said, “Sure.” And it was done.
(There. Compact stuff. From me to you.)
During the time downstairs, the conspirators upstairs had carefully maintained their voice levels to sustain the ruse, and unfurled the carefully preplanned HPG (Hidden Party Goodies). On the newly-engaged couple’s trip upstairs, it began to occur to Cathy that the whole thing had been well-timed by Mr. Wilmeth–too well-timed. (Miss Hudachek is renowned for her ability to sense plotting against her.) She confessed that she did figure then that everyone was probably in on the deal–and in hindsight it even made sense that Dad Wilmeth’s call was a part of the plot. So, when the two emerged at the top of the stairs, she was only half-surprised to see the hats, kazoos, and other party paraphernalia that had been smuggled inside. (Mumfordstern apparently was a bit unnerved when he found out that, due to constraints of time and opportunity, the primary theme of the HPG was in fact SpongeBob SquarePants. “Guy gives me the creeps,” he said–well, that’s the gist of his 21-page diatribe, at least.)
And there was (wait for it) much rejoicing. (yaay.)
Epi-wogue: The Future
So Wilmachek is now going legit and the clock is ticking. The unlikely meeting led to a less likely friendship that turned out to be Twoo Wuv, and now the stage is set for our besmittened couple to begin the next stage of their lives with the official stamp they have long wanted. (That would be, of course, by name, MAWAGE.) Bystanders’ reactions have ranged from the soppy (“Oooh, we’re soo happy for you both, you’ll be wonderful together”) to the Chidingly Obvious (“S’about damn time, dontcha think?”) to the not-quite-sure-how-to-take-it (“Who the hell are you? Get that camera outta my face!”), and that pretty much tells us what we already knew: sometimes things work out just fine.
“In the end,” Wilmeth observed, “the thing that got me the most is that we managed to put one over on her. She really had no idea the proposal was coming. It’s hard to explain how difficult that is to do–she’s really perceptive and quite suspicious of things like this. I’m fairly certain I’m going to be paid back for that one, and it’s probably not going to be pretty.” He doesn’t seem that concerned, though–the grin on his face only gets bigger as he says this.
I think he likes the gal.