‘The Arranged Marriage’ by Ben Arzate


“Congratulations on your marriage!” my mom said to me as I walked in the door. She was standing in the kitchen with my dad, the girl from across the street, and her parents.

“What?” I said.

My dad pushed the girl towards me. She had a blank expression. “Meet Mrs. Michael C!” he said.

I looked at the girl. She was a head shorter than me and had curly brown hair. I looked at my parents. “What’s going on?” I said.

The girl’s dad frowned. “He’s not taking this as well as you said he would,” he said to my parents.

“Oh, don’t worry. He’s just surprised,” my dad said.

“Yes. Very,” I said. “What is going on?”

“Oh, honey,” my mom said, “Lisa was already set up with someone. Unfortunately, he can’t marry her anymore. Her parents told us all about at it and we knew you would make a great husband for her, so we went ahead and filed all the paperwork!”

Oh, Lisa. That was the girl’s name. “Isn’t she like 16? I mean, I’m only 18,” I said.

“That’s no problem,” Lisa’s mom said. “That’s when I married her father.”

“I don’t even know her,” I said.

“Don’t worry,” Lisa’s mom said. “You can get to know her over your honeymoon.”

“Honeymoon?” I said. “I’m trying to save for college. I don’t want to spend the money to travel somewhere.”

“You don’t need to. Just take her out to the carnival tomorrow,” Lisa’s dad said.

“Isn’t that more like a date than a honeymoon?” I said.

“You worry too much, Michael,” my mom said. “You’ll be a great husband. Just be loyal and caring and everything will be fine. Now, let’s go to your bride’s house to have dinner and celebrate!”

Lisa’s parents lead the way across the street, followed by my parents and Lisa and I behind them all. I looked over at Lisa, but she kept facing forward with that same blank expression.

We got to Lisa’s home and her mom made dinner. She served roast beef, mashed potatoes, green beans with cheese and biscuits. Our parents kept talking about how happy they were for us, but Lisa and I didn’t say a word. Her parents had us do the dishes afterward. Again, we said nothing to each other.

After we finished the dishes we went into the living room where our parents were sitting. After a few awkward minutes of sitting next to each other, Lisa’s dad spoke up.

“Well, I think you two should be off to bed,” he said.

“It’s only 8,” I said.

It’s your wedding night. You and your wife should go to bed now.”

With that, he lead us into a bedroom with a large bed and not much else.

“Good night!” he said and closed the door on us. I looked at Lisa.

“Is this your room?” I said.

“No, it’s a guest bedroom,” she said.

“Why are they having us sleep here?”

I don’t think they had us sleeping in mind.”


“It’s our wedding night. They want us to have sex.”


I stared at her for a moment.

“Aren’t you going to get undressed?” I said.

“Aren’t you?”


I started to undress. Lisa just sat on the bed. I motioned at her and said, “Uh.”

“Help me undress,” she said.

I stripped down to my boxers and went over to her. I kissed her but she didn’t kiss back. She went along with me taking her clothes off though. When she was naked, she got on her back and spread her legs. I took my boxers off. I was only half hard and had to jerk myself into a full hard-on. I entered her and she moaned and closed her eyes. After about five minutes of fucking her, I started losing my boner. I shut my eyes and thought about my English teacher. I finally came inside her after that. I rolled off of her. She sighed and stared up at the ceiling.

“Hey,” I said. “Was that your first time?”

“No, but don’t tell my parents that,” she said.

“I won’t.”

I rolled over and stared at the wall until I fell asleep


I woke up with morning wood. I thought about waking up Lisa and having sex with her again. I decided against it and just got in the shower and jerked off. When I came out, Lisa had woken up and was waiting to use the bathroom. We exchanged glances and she went in without saying anything. I got dressed and went in the dining room. Lisa’s mother had made a breakfast of sausage, eggs, hash browns, coffee and orange juice.

“Is Lisa awake?” Lisa’s mother said.

“Yeah. She’s taking a shower,” I said.

Lisa walked in and joined us at the table. Lisa’s father and my parents came in right after. While we ate, they talked about how well they thought we would hit it off at our honeymoon/first date.

“Are you looking forward to going to the carnival?” I asked Lisa.

“I guess,” she said.

“Yeah,” I said.

We finished our breakfast and headed out. Our parents waved to us from the porch as we walked to the carnival. I looked over at Lisa. She was staring straight ahead as she walked next to me.

“Hey,” I said to her, “What happened to the guy you were engaged to before?”

“He had this weird disease,” she said.

“Oh, I’m sorry. Did he die?”

“Not yet. But he will soon.”

“I’m sorry to hear that. Are you sad?”


“Did you love him?”

“I guess.”

“How long were you engaged to him?”

“Since I was ten.”


“Yeah. He was a pretty great guy.”

“Are you sad you had to marry me?”

“Kind of. Sorry if that sounds mean.”

“No, no. I understand. I’ll do what I can to make this painless.”


We got to the carnival grounds and I bought our tickets. We walked past the tents and stands. We stopped in front of a shooting gallery. The man standing in the booth was wearing a lab coat with fake blood and he had white makeup all over his face. The targets ran along on a conveyor belt behind him. They were painted on glass vials with different colored liquids in them. The sign above it read “Mad Science Mutation.”

“Good morning, young man!” the carny said. “Why don’t you try your hand and win a prize for your lovely girlfriend?”

“She’s my wife, actually.” I said.

The carny looked at Lisa, then back at me. He raised one of his eyebrows. “Well then!” he said and cleared his throat. “Want to try your luck and win a prize for your lovely wife?”

I looked around the booth. “I don’t see any prizes.”

The carny reached under the counter and pulled out a cage. There was an animal inside that looked  kind of like a shaved rat.

“What I’ll do is release this little feller in that little track under the targets. The goal is to hit the vials and spill the mutation chemicals on him. It’s five dollars a shot. If you hit him and mutate him, you get to keep him!” the carny said.

“That won’t hurt it, will it?” I said.

“Not at all, I assure you!”

I didn’t really believe him, but I gave him ten dollars. He took the rat thing out of the cage and set it down under the targets. It ran back and forth, trapped by the bars on either side. I took the air rifle from the carny. On the first shot, I missed the targets completely. On the second shot, I got lucky. Not only did I hit the target, but the rat thing was right under it. The white liquid spilled out and covered it. It rolled into a ball and made a squeaking sound. It sounded like it was in pain and I felt really bad. I looked over at Lisa and she was just staring at it.

The rat thing started growing white fur all over it’s body. After a few minutes, it stopped twitching and squeaking. The carny picked it up and brought it over to us. It seemed to be fine now. It went from looking a shaved rat to a combination of a fluffy baby rabbit and a mouse. It actually looked really cute.

“It eats any kind of vegetable,” the carny said. “Feed it at least twice a day. Congratulations!”

I held the bunny mouse for a minute and handed it over to Lisa. She hugged it to her chest. “It’s really cute, thank you.”

When she said that she actually smiled. That was the first time I’d seen her do that. Something about it felt forced.

We walked away from the booth. We went to a stage towards the center of the carnival. On the stage, there was a robot playing guitar and a guy dressed up as a flamboyant cowboy. They were performing George Jones’s “White Lightning.”

“I love this song,” I said to Lisa. “I suppose you don’t like country music?”

“I hate it,” she said.

“What kind of music do you listen to?”

“Nothing specific. I usually just turn on the radio and browse around until I find something I like.”

“What do you usually like?”

“It depends on what mood I’m in.”

She hugged the bunny mouse to her chest again. She stood there with me and we listened to the band play a couple more songs. We walked around some more and passed by the concession stands. “You want something to eat?” I said.

“No, I’m still full from breakfast.”

“Yeah, I am too.”

We passed by a gyro stand and I asked them for some lettuce. I gave it to Lisa and she fed it to the bunny mouse. It was pretty adorable watching it nibble on the lettuce.

“Are you going to name him?” I said.

“Why would I do that?”

We walked past a tent with a sign in front that read, “FREAK SHOW” in big letters. Underneath it said, “Inside You’ll See: Hans the Nazi Horse! Mr. Comic Character! Brad the Oldest 17 Year Old In The World! Fast Forward Boy! The Stringless Guitar Player! And More!”

When Lisa read the sign she grabbed me and hurried me into the tent.

“Hey, what’s the matter? Did you want to see this that bad?”

She didn’t say anything. I glanced at the freaks on display in their stalls. There was a guy who moved around like someone on a tape being fast forwarded, a horse with swastikas all over its body, a guy with small mouths where his eyes should be, a guy who mimed strumming on a stringless guitar and sang what sounded like guitar notes, a man in a suit with blank flesh where his face should be and a woman with a gash in her throat that looked like a vagina. Lisa finally stopped dragging me along in front of one of the exhibits.

It was an old man sitting on a stool. I looked at the sign in front of the stall he was in. It read, “Meet Brad! He looks 80, but he’s really 17! Don’t believe us? Ask him and he’ll give you proof!”

“Brad! Brad it’s me!” Lisa said.

The old man raised his head and looked at her. He stood up with wide eyes and hobbled over to her. She sat the bunny mouse on the ground and they hugged each other.

“Do you two know each other?” I said.

“Michael, this is my ex-fiance.”

“I thought you said he got a disease.”

“I do have a disease,” Brad said. “This is what it did to me.”

“Made you age really fast? I’ve never heard of that.”

“It’s really rare,” Lisa said.

“Huh. Why are you here?” I said.

“I took this job to save some money for Lisa before I died. Who are you?”

“My parents made me marry him.”

“They did? Those idiots. I told them not to do this.”

“I’m sorry about what happened to you,” I said. “I’ll try to take care of her.”

“Do you even want to be married to her?” Brad said.

“Not really,” I said. “No offense, Lisa.”

“It’s okay,” Lisa said. “I didn’t want to marry you either.”

“Why didn’t you just get an annulment?” Brad said.

“I didn’t know I could that,” I said.

“You’re not very smart are you?”

“Hey, screw you.”

“Calm down. Look, I’ll just tell the boss I’m taking my break. I’ll take you both to the courthouse and show you how to do it.”

“My parents aren’t going to be happy,” Lisa said.

“Yeah, mine neither,” I said

“You’ll both have to deal with that if you don’t want to stay in this marriage.”

“I guess so,” Lisa said.

“Come on,” Brad said. He walked towards the exit of the tent. Lisa took his hand and followed him by his side.

I saw the bunny mouse scurrying around in circles on the ground. I picked it up and followed the two out of the tent.

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