Shipping, a short story by Rico.Viejo. Date added: 2012-06-24. Times viewed: 449.
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- Intro: Let's take this route to Romance.
"What would it cost to ship a crated elephant from the Bronx Zoo to the Lower Sandusky Animal Preserve, panel?"Al's mind raced: "Flat bed truck to Elizabeth. No. Poughkeepsie. Boxcar. Route via ..." This was "The Shipping-Agent Show": the latest sensation on prime-time TV, where shipping agents competed to come up with the best and most economical routes."African or Indian?" another contestant asked.The question was allowed, after a consultation, and answered.Al hit his buzzer. The reaction was shock at how quickly Al had answered. The other contestants stopped calculating and waited for Al to make an idiot of himself. Al gave his number, his route, his forms of transportation. There was a long silence, then a murmur from the audience, then swelling applause, with sharp whistles and shouts of "Bravo!"When Al left the "Barn," he was surrounded by fans. He accepted congratulations, signed some autographs, using a marker and blank shipping labels a fan had thoughtfully brought along. "Got to go, guys," Al yelled to the crowd. "Lots of stuff to go out, tomorrow. No elephants!" That brought them practically to their knees, laughing.When he turned the corner onto 10th Avenue, Al was thinking of stopping in at the bar where all the CBS people hung out, but then he'd have to accept their praise, the free drinks. God knew when he'd get out of there. And there was a lot of stuff to go out, tomorrow. Better get some rest.As he passed a construction site, there was a lone girl leaning up against the green-painted boards, near one of the holes where passersby could look through. She had lots of frizzy hair, a loose low-cut blouse, a very short skirt, mesh stockings with a hole in one knee, and six-inch heels. "Oh, oh," thought Al, "one of them."He had tagged her. As he passed her, she said, bold as brass: "I run the postage machine and inventory the packing bubbles.""Yeah?" said Al, challenging, "for who?"She named a company twice the size of the one Al was associated with. She deserved respect. Al offered her his arm, like a gentleman he'd seen do in a movie. She must have seen the same movie, except Myrna Loy had been wearing a formal gown to conceal her thick ankles and had smiled a lot. This girl was morose. Al asked why."I could never come up with shipping estimates the way you do," she replied, practically in tears.Al hated to see a pretty girl cry, so he lied to her: "There's a trick to it. A very simple trick.""What is it! Will you teach it to me?" the girl cried. Al had definitely cheered her up.This was the moment, although Al was feeling really sleazy about doing it this way. But, he figured, in time she'd forgive him and understand why. "It's a family secret," he said. "Has to be kept in the family.""Are you married?" she said, to the loneliest man in Manhattan."No," Al said, to the prettiest girl he'd ever seen in his life."We're going to City Hall, first thing," she said.Al had gone on the show after noticing that all the rising contestants had got married, to some real knockouts. Front page on the New York Post! They got down to some serious kissing and discussions of the merits of bubblewrap versus packing peanuts. And would formed cardboard take over?
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