It was evening, and the morning star rose as an old fashioned wedding began in the gray and empty land. To the sound of trumpets, trombones and other brass horns, the nobles carried candles in glass jars and hurricane lanterns as they escorted the man, who had been ceremonially dressed in a torn coat, his head covered with a round wasp’s nest of white bandages, and his feet shod in boots that were too tight and soaked in rainwater. Not far from the sea they set him to work raking straw and golden leaves, for weddings always happen in the fall. The nobles ate cumquats and oranges as he raked. After the first raking was finished, they sat him in a wooden chair and bound him with ropes made from the lingerie of the bride and other women he might have known, even if he had never romanced them. Secured thus, the man now sat and watched as the peasants and craftsmen brought items that the man held dear, such as his good china, tools or papers. To the soft beat of drums they chanted in raspy voices as they smashed the china, broke or smelted his tools and burned his paperwork. The magistrates, priests, teachers, notaries and sergeants then took turns to remove the coins and bills from every pocket of his coat. Once all the coins had vanished, the most beautiful children would come and bring gifts, usually cumquats and candy. They sang, told beautiful stories and danced in a circle around his chair, leaving one by one until the last child remained. The last child was always the kindest and most beautiful one, and very often an orphan. This child would stay for a while and stare into his eyes in silent prayer, until it was time to withdraw. After giving him the last gift, which was a rusty nail, the last child withdrew very slowly, one glacial footstep at a time, walking backwards and still staring into the eyes of the man. After this, the man was temporarily released to resume raking. In addition to raking, he had to build ricks of straw and leaves, count pebbles and twigs, and then burn them. The smoke was acrid. Once the mountains of leaves and twigs were burning, they tied him to the chair with the musky ropes, lowered him into a shallow pit on the beach, and buried him up to his neck in sand, while he faced the great sea and watched the waves of blackwater crash on the rocks and sand only a stone’s throw away. Buried now, he watched his naked bride walk by in the distance, in the cold and lecherous surf, but she maintained her silence and paid no heed to him as he recited his vows. Lastly, they placed a cup on the earth before him, just a few yards away, but they would not let him drink. They would not help him quench his thirst in any way. Buried up to his neck in ash and sand and officially married now, the head like a wasp nest stared at the cup, at the foaming, saltwater waves and at the great night.