Here’s a short story for your enjoyment.
The morning sun followed Roy and Cale down a country highway as they sang along to George Strait. It was a bit early for a Saturday, but driving around listening to George Strait is what they did best.
“Can’t say I’m too happy either.” Cale swigged his Diet Coke. “I’m glad they were there though. It’s heavier than it looks.”
“I know. My back is killing me.” Roy put his hand on his aching back. “Just think of the two hundred dollars when we get this thing delivered.”
“They’re cutting it close if the wedding is today. What kind of church doesn’t have a piano?” Cale shifted in the seat. “You sure you know where you’re going?”
Roy held up a napkin with a crude drawing on it. “I’ve got a map. What could possibly go wrong?”
Cale took the map. “That Allie’s quite an artist.” He pointed at the hearts and smiley faces that decorated the borders of the map. “I thought you two broke up?”
“We did, but uh, well uh, now we’re not.”
“You two need to send me push notifications or something. I can’t keep up. Maybe she had us deliver this to a wedding to give you ideas.”
Roy looked scared. “We’re just helping her friend. You keep all those ideas to yourself.” As it turned out, Allie was better at making hearts than drawing maps. The boys to turned to Google, but even that didn’t help much. They reached town about two hours late.
“Shouldn’t be hard to find the church,” Cale said. Pine Grove, Illinois, was just a collection of buildings scattered along a main street. The street ran down a steep hill and ended in a small park on the bank of the Illinois River.
“It better not be.” Roy turned up the main street. “You think the state would put up more signs. I guess they’re too busy wasting money in Chicago.”
“There it is.” Cale pointed at a weathered, white church building. A cracked brick sign read “Pine Grove Church of Christ.”
“That’s a cool old building,” Cale said.
Roy stopped the truck and set his parking brake. “Wow, this road is steep. I’d hate to drive on it in the winter.”
“Hard to believe there’s a hill this big in Illinois.” Cale climbed from the truck and stretched. “I thought somebody was supposed to meet us.”
“We’re two hours late.”
“I guess, but if the wedding is today there should be somebody here.” Cale climbed the steps and tried the door. “Hey, it’s unlocked.” He pulled it open. “Hello? Anybody here?” Only silence and the smell of flowers answered. Cale stepped inside. The church was dark and empty.
“Maybe they got cold feet.” Roy came inside as well.
“We still get paid, right?” Cale looked worried.
“I hope so. Let’s get that stupid piano out of the truck.” Roy turned back outside.
“How are we going to unload it? There’s only two of us.”
“I got an idea.” They trooped outside and Roy pointed. “I think I can back the truck up to the steps and we can ease it off.”
“Okay, but if I hurt myself, you’re going to have to carry me.”
“Stop whining. It’ll roll right off.” Roy climbed in his truck. It did not roll right off. In fact, it was a good thing that no one was there because both boys said some words that shouldn’t be said in church. Finally, after a lot of hard work, they got it in the door.
“We should put it back here.” Cale examined a skinned knuckle.
“No, it’s got to be up there.” Roy pointed. Just then a gray-haired woman walked into the church. She stopped suddenly and gave a strangled shriek.
“What is that?” She pointed at the piano.
“Sorry to startle you ma’am.” Roy stepped forward. “We brought the piano for the wedding. We thought it would look nice here.”
“No, no, not there.” The woman looked like she’d seen a ghost.
“You think it should be in the back?” Cale nodded. “That was my thought as well.” He looked at Roy triumphantly.
“It shouldn’t be in here it all.” Her voice rose again to a shriek. “It must be outside. We were very clear about that.”
“Outside? What?” Roy said. The door opened and a pretty blonde girl stepped inside wearing what could only be a bridesmaid’s dress.
“Oh, hello.” She smiled.
“Lindi, the piano must be outside. Tell these young men that the piano must be outside.”
Lindi’s smile got bigger. “I’ll take care of it, Grandma.” She walked over to the old woman. “Why don’t you go make sure Mom is ready?” She steered the old woman gently toward the door
“Just make sure it’s outside the church.” The woman gave the piano one more horrified look before leaving the room.
“That wasn’t the reception I was expecting,” Cale said.
Lindi turned back toward them. “Sorry about that. My name is Lindi.” Cale forgot about the piano and sore knuckles.
He smiled back. “I’m, uh, Cale and, uh, this is Roy.” Roy just gave her a nod.
“So she’s serious about the piano?” he said.
Lindi nodded. “Yeah, they don’t use a piano in this church. They allow them for weddings if it’s outside.”
“What the-“ Roy paused and looked around. “Why not?”
Lindi sighed. “The Bible doesn’t say to use instruments in worship, so they don’t.” She sounded like someone who was tired of answering this question.
“Doesn’t say to wear pants either, right?” Roy said. “Yet we do.”
“I know, that’s different. Do you really want to hear all this?” She smiled again.
“No.” Roy grabbed the piano. “Let’s just get this out of here.”
“I was here earlier to meet you, but I had to leave.” She grabbed the piano on the opposite side from Roy.
“Yeah, sorry we were late.” Cale finally found his voice. “Somebody’s girlfriend isn’t good at drawing maps.” He moved up and stood beside her. “We’ve got this. You’re not dressed for moving a piano.”
“It’s okay. I feel bad for you guys.” She helped them roll the piano back to the door.
“It rolls well,” Lindi commented as they guided it down the wheelchair ramp.
“Yeah, as long as it’s level,” Cale said. “You’re pretty good at moving stuff.” He realized immediately how cheesy that sounded.
“When you transfer colleges as much as I have you get good at it,” Lindi said. They rolled the piano all the way to the street. Cale stood in front of it so it wouldn’t roll downhill.
“Where do you want it?” Roy asked.
Lindi pointed. “If you move your truck we can push it up by that window. They usually run a microphone outside.”
“Okay.” Roy shook his head and dug his keys from his pocket. Cale wedged a rock under one of the piano wheels. Lindi walked to the window and stood in front of some flower boxes full of petunias.
“Let me help you move those flowers.” Cale hurried to the window. “You don’t want that on your dress.” It only took him a moment to clear a path for the piano.
“Thank you.” Lindi said. “Sorry about the trouble.”
“It’s no trouble.” Cale waved his hand. “I’ve done plenty worse.” She looked incredibly elegant in that dress, Cale thought as they walked back to the street. Even elegant ladies have trouble with high heels and curbs, however. Lindi slipped and fell forward. She grabbed the top of the piano to keep from falling. It turned sideways and the rock slipped out. Lindi shouted as the piano spun in a wide circle and rolled down Main Street, taking her with it.
“Lindi!” Cale grabbed her, but the slick fabric of her dress slipped through his fingers. Swearing, he chased the piano and its lovely cargo. After four steps he caught up to them. Lindi perched precariously on the downhill side of the piano. Cale grabbed the uphill side and dragged his feet to slow it down. He almost succeeded before the heavy piano jerked him off balance. It dragged him a few yards before he regained his feet.
“Jump off! I can’t hold it!”
“It’s going too fast.” Lindi shouted. Cale looked into her wide eyes and then jumped on top of the piano. The runaway instrument swerved and roared down the hill. There was no question of jumping off now.
At the bottom of the hill, the Pine Grove Pentecostal Church had gathered in the park. It was time for their annual revival and Brother Franklin exhorted the crowd.
“You must come forth, brothers and sisters, and be washed of your sins.” His voice rose. “Do not deny the Spirit’s call. God’s mercy is extended to you now, but his judgment rolls down like an avalanche. That’s right,” Brother Franklin shouted. “Judgment is coming. Repent and wash away your sins.”
As he spoke the piano smashed into the curb at the bottom of the hill. It flew to pieces with a sound that resembled a cross between and angry elephant and a screaming cat. Cale and Lindi soared right past Brother Franklin and landed in the makeshift baptistery. Water went everywhere, soaking Brother Franklin and the people in the first row.
The congregation erupted in chaos. Cale came out of the water, sputtering and coughing. Lindi had to hold on to her dress to remain properly attired.
“Are you okay?” she asked.
“Yeah. Are you?” Cale staggered to his feet. His shin hurt and he felt a bump on his head.
“I think so.” She wiped mascara from her cheek. “I landed on you.”
“I’m glad it wasn’t the other way around.” He grinned. “I probably would’ve killed you.” He helped her to her feet. For the first time they noticed the frenzied crowd.
“Are you two okay?” Brother Franklin stepped up to the baptistery.
“I think so.” Cale felt a bit woozy. A practical looking woman in a practical dress handed a towel to him and LIndi. Lindi took her offered hand and stepped very carefully from the baptistery. The woman wrapped a choir robe around her shoulders. “Here you go, dear, your dress is coming off.”
“Thank you.” Lindi pulled the robe tight around her. Cale dried his hair.
“What happened?” Brother Franklin asked. Cale explained while he tried to dry his damp clothes. Everyone crowded around, shouting and talking until Brother Franklin shushed them.
“Brothers and sisters,” he shouted. “This is a sign from God. These two young people were saved from certain death by these waters.” He pointed at the baptistery. “Come and be saved from your sins.” The people surged forward in repentance. Cale and Lindi backed carefully away from the stage. Roy waited for them by the remains of the piano.
“Are you guys all right?” he said over the music. “I thought you were dead. I was going forty and couldn’t keep up.”
“If we hadn’t hit that we’d be dead,” Cale said pointed at the baptistery, which now had a long line leading up to it. Lindi nodded and shivered. Cale wondered if his eyes were as big as hers.
“I guess your grandma won’t have to worry about the piano now.” Roy picked up a shard. “I seriously can’t believe you both are okay.”
Lindi put her hands over her mouth. “What about the wedding?” She looked down at her dress. “What are we going to do?”
“I don’t know about your dress, but I got an idea on the piano.” Cale walked over to the man playing a portable keyboard and whispered in his ear. The man nodded and gave Lindi a thumbs-up before starting another verse of “Washed in the Blood.” Cale returned with a grin.
“He says we can use his keyboard after this song. Get your truck over here.” As soon as the song ended the man motioned Cale over. They loaded the keyboard in Roy’s truck while the band moved on without missing a beat.
“We’ll take good care of it,” Cale told the man.
He looked at the debris on the ground. “I’m not sure I believe that.” He slammed the tailgate with a grin. “I’ll come get it after a bit.”
“Thanks a lot.” Lindi climbed in the back of the truck with Cale. They rode up and deposited the keyboard just outside the window.
“One of these would have been a better choice all along,” Roy muttered.
“Oh I don’t know,” Cale said. “I don’t think I could get up to speed on one of these.”
“You could try it. If you like.”
I think I’m good.” Cale looked over at Lindi. “I guess we’ll go pick up the piano. Sorry about your dress.”
“We’ll figure something out. Sorry about the piano.”
“It was pretty old. I guess we’ll have to figure something out too.” Cale could feel the two hundred dollars slipping away.
“We better get going,” Roy said. “Take care, LIndi. Have a good wedding.”
“See you, Roy.” Lindi extended her hand to Cale. “It was good to meet you, Cale, even if it was scary. You could stay for the dance if you want.”
“Ha, if you thought that ride was scary you should see me dance.” He took her hand. It was cold but soft. “Anyway it was great driving a piano with you.”
“Well, that turned into sheep pellets,” Roy said after they gathered all the piano they could find.
“Oh, I don’t know.” Cale grinned. “I got her number.”
“I’m not sure it will work out, Cale.”
You started the relationship on a sour note. It’s all downhill from here.”