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“What can Brown do for you?” Old UPS motto.

It’s the second half of the Ray Bradbury Challenge of writing a short story each week for a year.

This week’s prompts:

Delivery Truck Driver
Hosts a Wedding
Somthing Old

Something Old, Something Brown

It was universally agreed, by the drivers in the hub, that the last stop of the day was the best. Getting the last boxes off the truck was like spring cleaning, only daily. That is how Charles saw it. So as he pulled up into the parking lot of the All Saints Episcopal Church, he anticipated dropping off his last delivery and enjoying friendly banter with the ladies that worked in the office. And also, since it was Friday, he would not say no to the offered baked goods.

He did not expect to have his way blocked by a sobbing woman. Awkward.

He scooched around her and carried the small pile of boxes into the church office.

Midge, the receptionist, stood up to get the delivery. “Charles! We were wondering if we would see you today! Thought maybe you decided to start your vacation early!”

“You know how it is – work harder before and after vacation. It’s a ruse, to keep us from taking vacation, right?” Charles handed her the boxes. 

Midge took them and set them on the table behind her desk.

Charles glanced out the glass door. The woman was still out there. “She okay?”

“Oh, Beth? She’ll be fine. Just another lesson in that the world doesn’t revolve around her.” Midge said.

Charles had to do a double take. That was not like Midge at all. She was usually kind and compassionate. 

Midge smiled, “Oh, it’s nothing critical. Her wedding planner had an emergency and won’t be here tomorrow for the actual wedding. So, devastation, right?” Midge looked toward the door. “She seems to forget there are people with real problems in the world.”

“It all starts in the home,” Carol, the other woman in the office, said. 

“My momma said you ain’t nobody without good home training,” Charles said.

“Oh, this is more than manners,” Carol said, “that poor girl’s family has treated her like a fragile princess since the day she was born.”

Charles could only nod. Carol and Midge were probably the office ladies back at the woman’s birth twenty-something years ago, organizing meals for the family, scheduling the baptism, and registering her for the nursery. 

Carol got up from her desk and picked up a platter from a side table. “Brownie, Charles?”

He started to say something about his uniform shorts getting tight but had another thought. “I’d love one. Thanks, Carol.” 

He took the brownie, wrapped it in a napkin, and went out the door. He paused a second, then sat down next to the steps where Beth was still sobbing. 

“Here, maybe something chocolate would help.”

Beth looked up with red, wide eyes, then looked down at the brownie. “No, thank you. They are sewing me into my dress tomorrow as it is.” She sighed. “If we even have a wedding.”

“Something happen to the groom?”

Beth shook her head. “No, he’s fine. My wedding planner, Tiffany. She went into labor this morning and won’t be here for my wedding. We’ve worked for 18 months on this wedding.”

“I see. I”d call that bad planning.”

“She still has twelve weeks before the baby is due. If she wasn’t in the hospital, I would think she was trying to avoid doing her job.”

“Twelve weeks early is pretty serious. Hope her baby is okay.”

Beth sighed.

“But you have the bride and the groom. I dare say the reverend will be here. Sounds like all you need for a wedding to me.”

“Ugh. You are a man. What do you know about weddings?”

“In my defense, i was part of one twenty-five years ago. And I was so good at it, i didn’t need another one.”

Beth wiped her face with an already wet, wadded-up tissue. “Was your wedding a good one?”

“Honey, it was 25 years ago. I remember two things: my wife glowing as she walked down the aisle and her momma’s smoked brisket at the dinner.”

“You think I am silly, that no one will remember this day. But I will. It’s my day. Your wife probably remembers it a lot more than you do.”

Hmm, maybe she did. Charles started to get up. “Well, I wish you luck with it all. But if your planner did her job, everything will go off without a hitch.”

Beth stood up with him. “Hey, you are a UPS driver. You must be pretty organized.”

Where was she going with this? “They give us the route, and we just follow what they planned most of the time.”

“But sometimes, there is road construction, or something gets in the way, or a package is missing. You have to think on your feet and adjust things, right?”

“Sometimes…”

“You could be my wedding planner tomorrow!”

“Oh, whoa, I am not–”

“You would be perfect. You know how to follow someone else’s directions, but trouble shoot if you have to. And let’s be honest, no one is going to give you any problems.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“You’re a big black guy. They will all do exactly what you say.” Beth’s face had brightened. “$1500, cash.”

This was not how Charles planned to spend his first day of vacation in five years. Not a bit. But $1500 was a lot of money. He could take his wife on a quick trip to Dallas and stay somewhere nice, maybe take in a concert. How bad could it be?

##

Bad. It could be really bad. It started at 7:00 am when Beth called him in tears. “The band canceled. Apparently, they emailed a few weeks ago, but Tiff was too caught up in her own problems to tell me or even fix it.”

“Tiff’s the one with the baby twelve weeks early in the NICU? And has planned your wedding with a difficult pregnancy? Let’s say we don’t talk about her and try to fix the problem. We don’t need to jinx things anymore trash talkin’ people just trying to do their best, ” Charles said. “How much are you paying a band?”

Beth was sniffing, “Oh, three thousand. But where can you find a band with such short notice?”

“My cousin Boo, he’s a DJ. He’s done lots of weddings. Maybe he’s free.”

There was a moment of silence on the phone. “Boo, he’s your cousin?”

“Yes ma’am.”

“So he’s, um….”

“He’s a great DJ. Does lots of weddings.”

“But he’s Black? Like you?”

“Well, yes.” Charles took a breath, “You really don’t have the luxury of being picky ten hours before the wedding, you know.”

“Oh, I’m not racist. I just dont’ like rap music. I don’t want it at my wedding.” 

Sure, she’s not racist. “He is a professional DJ. He has all kinds of music. Hell, he’s even done weddings where the whole reception was country music. He’ll play what you want.” Charles left out the part where Boo said his headache lasted four days after six hours of George Strait and Garth Brooks.

“I guess I don’t have much choice, do I?” Beth sighed.

“You have a few hours. You could get a spotify list together.”

She huffed again. “I am not dancing to someone’s phone on my wedding day.”

“Then you are going to have to trust me. Boo will have anything you want. For three thousand dollars, he’ll even sing if you want live music.”

“Can he sing?”

“Hell no, that’s why he’s a DJ and not fronting a band. But he’ll be great for you.” Charles bounced as he spoke on the phone. Boo better be available. 

He called his cousin as soon as Beth hung up. “Yo, my man! What’s doing  tonight?”

“Had a gig, but they cancelled last minute. Why, want to hang?”

“What’s your going rate these days?” Charles held his breath.

“Coz, nothing less than 1800. I am not a charity act.”

“Of course you’re not. How about a last minute gig? Two thousand.”

“Really? Two thou? What’s the gig?”

“Wedding. Band cancelled and I thought, my cousin would be great.” Charles smiled. Twenty-five hundred was even better than fifteen. And it was only fair he got his cut. He is the one who found the gig. 

Charles gave Boo the address and time, then texted Beth that the music was secured. Maybe he was in the wrong business. Wedding planning did not seem that hard at all.  

##

Charles stood in the church lobby and nodded at the guests as they came in. The ushers, frat brothers of the groom, had already done the task at each other’s weddings, so they had no problem taking the arms of the female guests and flattering them down the aisle. He felt a light tap on his upper arm.

“Mr, Charles, we have a problem.”

Charles turned to the mother of the bride. Not good. If this woman couldn’t get Beth in line, no one could. “What can I help with?”

“She wants to call the whole thing off. Can you go up front and make an announcement?”

Holy hell no. He did not give up his first day of vacation for this. “Where is she?”

“The dressing room.” The bride’s mom shrugged. “I tried everything.”

“Let me talk to her.” He brushed past the woman and strode to the dressing room. 

“Make sure you’re decent. I’m coming in,” he said, turning the knob as he knocked. 

“You can’t be in here?” one of the bridesmaids shrieked. 

Everyone was dressed, including Beth. She had tear streaks on her cheeks. They’d have to fix her makeup for sure. “I”m the wedding planner. I go where the hell I want.”

The four bridesmaids turned to Beth, who only nodded. 

Charles held the door open. “Can you give us a minute?”

They scurried out. Charles turned to Beth. “What in holy hell are you doing? People gave up their time to come celebrate with you and you send your mamma to tell me to have them all go home. No.”

“But,” Beth’s eyes started watering up, “Everything is wrong!”

“What is wrong now?” So far, he had to send the florist back for more roses, the groomsmen were sent to shave, and the hairdresser had tried three different styles.

“I’m supposed to have something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue.” She pounded the vanity with all the makeup. “Everything is new and blue! And they are gifts!”

Charles was changing his mind about wedding planning as a retirement gig. He could see why Boo’s dad was an undertaker. The star of the show couldn’t complain about anything. 

“So you need something..”

“I need to borrow something old.”

Charles looked at his tie. “Here, take this.” 

He removed his tie clip and handed it to Beth. “My great-grandfather wore it at his wedding a hundred years ago.”

She took the small silver clip and turned it in her hands. Then she pushed it back toward him. “This won’t work. I am not wearing a tie.”

Charles took in and took a step closer. “Stand still.”

He opened the clip and set it in her hair near her ear, securing the veil just a bit more. “There you go. Something old and borrowed. And if you don’t give it back at the end of the ceremony, you will be haunted by the ghost of my great-grandfather.”

Beth nodded, with just a little fear in her eyes. “Yes, sir.”

##

Charles helped Boo pack up his equipment after the reception. The guests had to be told to leave an hour after the newlyweds left. They were having that much fun. 

“Good job, Cuz.”

“Good job yourself,” Boo said, tucking some wires into a box. “You still thinking about this as a retirement gig?”

“Hell no,” Charles said. He pulled off his tie. It kept getting cough in the boxed he carried. 

“Did she not give you the tie clip back?” Boo laughed. “She’s going to be haunted forever. And what will Gran say when you tell her you gave her father’s tie clip to some spoiled white woman?”

“She’ll say, that’s fine because she hadn’t given me the real one yet. She got that for me at the Dollar Tree, she said I lose things too often for the real one.”