“Yes, Uncle Clarence.” Ted paused in the entryway and turned back, though he kept bouncing a bit.
“I was wondering if you’d help with the 4th of July parade tomorrow.”
“I’m a little too old to ride the float.”
“Heh – no I’ve already got some 4-H kids to ride the farm float. But there’s always a few jobs no one’s volunteered for yet, the randoms we call them. Show up at 8am and you can pick out one of them.”
“Sure Uncle Clarence, I could do that. 8am you said?”
“Yup. Now where are you running off to in such a hurry? You only just got home this morning and I’m sure your mom would like to spend some time catching up.”
Ted sighed. “I already talked to Mom. A whole group of my high school friends are home for the holiday and hanging out tonight, some of them I haven’t seen since graduation a few years ago. So I’m heading over to Lee’s but will be home all day tomorrow until the fireworks.”
“Alright then. Have fun, and I’ll see you at parade set up tomorrow.”
Ted nodded and dodged his little brother on his way out the door. He loved his family, but he was already sick of telling stories about college and his summer internship. He was looking forward to hanging out with his high school friends for a while, even more now that they were all 21 and he could have a few beers and just chat about nothing for a while. As Ted walked the half-mile down the road to Lee’s he pulled out his cell phone. “Better set my alarm now,” he thought. He had been half-hoping to sleep through the parade tomorrow, though he knew his Mom would never have let him get away with that. Still, showing up at 9:30am to watch would have been better than 8am to do who knows what. Oh well, the fastest way around Uncle Clarence was to agree. Ted put the parade out of his mind as he walked up and waved at friends already sitting on the front porch.
Ted cursed under his breath as he rolled over to snooze his 7:15am alarm. Ted thought he’d only have two or maybe three beers, but after three his decision making ability dropped precipitously and he had several more; or many. Now he was hung over but still had to get up for the parade. He fell back asleep.
His alarm went off again at 7:30am and Ted dragged himself out of bed to take a quick shower. He thought about breakfast and his stomach did a flip flop, so no need to worry about that, he'd just grab a bottle of water.
Ted arrived at the VFW parking lot and was surprised to find it nearly empty. He looked around for his Uncle Clarence, who wasn’t there yet. He walked over to Mr. Keyzers, who’d been organizing the parade for as long as he could remember, and asked “Where is everybody?”
“Good morning, Ted, it's nice to see you. We told everyone to be here around 8:45, you’re early.”
“Uncle Clarence told me 8am to pick a random.”
“In that case you’re late – it’s already 8:15.” Mr. Keyzers laughed. “Well, since you’re here, you can have first pick of the randoms. We need some folks to walk by the bank float and toss tootsie rolls, and drivers for a few of the high school floats.”
The thought of walking the two mile parade route made Ted queasy, as did the concentration required to drive a car at a steady 5 mph. “Are there any jobs that are mostly sitting? I’m not feeling great.”
“Mmm-hmm. Good party last night?” Mr. Keyzers grinned and checked his clipboard. “Tell you what, we need a wagon sitter for the parade court float.”
“That sounds perfect. Will you point me to the wagon now?”
“Sure it’s under that awning. Once the parade starts you also have to…”
“Wagon sitter. I remember the job.” Ted said, though he really didn’t. “I’ve got this.” Ted walked over to the indicated wagon and sat, shifting into a comfortable position leaning on the covered bucket at the back. He fell asleep.
Ted woke up to someone poking him in the shoulder. “Wake up, don’t want you falling off the wagon.” Uncle Clarence was standing there grinning at his joke.
“Hey, Uncle Clarence, I’m up.”
“Mr. Keyzers told me you volunteered for this job early, thank you. Usually we throw the last person to arrive at the wagon as it pulls out. Now there’s only one float after you and before the marching band so keep on top of it. Sam hasn’t pulled through a parade before so he’s likely to be nervous, though Suzy knows what she’s doing. I’m sure you can handle it.” Clarence handed Ted a shovel.
Ted took the shovel and stared at it confusedly. The wagon under him lurched as they moved out from under the awning to join the line of vehicles waiting to turn out of the lot and onto Main Street. Ted heard the clip-clop of hooves from the front of the wagon and realized exactly what job he had volunteered to do.
The horse-drawn wagon was covered in flowers and the young girls of the parade court waved grandly to the few spectators at the very beginning of the route. Ted was mostly hidden sitting on the back, and stared at the ground as it slowly went past his feet.
He took the cover off the bucket he had been sleeping against and jumped off the wagon to shovel up the first horse apple and get it out of the roadway. Much too late he remembered what everyone in high school had called this job - the ‘wagon shitter’ and why no one ever volunteered to be behind a nervous horse and in front of the marching band.
It was going to be a long two miles.
***LJI continues - we had three topics to choose from this week and you can read everyone's here. I know a Ted who did exactly this job at the Aurora Centennial parade this weekend, though the horse pulling his float was very cooperative.***