This is such a joyful occasion. It does the heart good to see Wilbur and Susie like this, finally married and at the start of their happily ever after. It's easy to see that they love each other so much, and I'm honored to have the opportunity to host their reception. It's really too bad that I'll have to ruin it for them.
Now, before you get too confused and start thinking that I'm the bad guy for wanting to ruin their wedding, let me just explain where I'm coming from here and give you some background info on what all is going on. My name is Joe, and we're all here at Joe's Diner. I own Joes' Diner; that's why I named it after myself. At Joe's Diner, we serve mostly high quality foodstuffs and make a more or less sincere effort to always please our customers.
We get some strange and interesting characters around here, but the regulars and I, we're all good buddies. Close as family. Looking around the restaurant, I'm really glad they were all able to make it today. These are some of Wilbur and Susie's best friends, and they're some of my best friends too. There's Jimmy, the little homeless boy, and Abcdef, the guy from Saturn. Sitting with them is Edna, a woman who, when you talk to her, you would never even know she was ninety-three.
Like I said, we get some strange characters around here sometimes, and those are just a few. But Wilbur and Susie are regulars here too, and they're sure not your average people either. Wilbur has frequented my restaurant for about a year, and he's changed quite a bit in that time. When he first walked in here, he was a ruthless, bloodthirsty scoundrel of a pirate who only wanted to plunder and cause trouble. 'Two-Patch Wilbur' they called him, seeing as he used to wear two eye patches. He was always in and out of town, since he had to go on a lot of pirate voyages, but whenever he was in town he would stop in here for an anchovy and octopus pizza and a glass of chocolate milk. For a while, Wilbur was a really mean and vulgar guy, and I hated his guts. But then about six months ago, everything changed.
I remember it clearly; it was the middle of June. Wilbur and his crew had been away in Antarctica for a while, pillaging and plundering and doing all that stuff that pirates do. Next time he came back to the diner, it was with a real nice-looking and beautifully dressed lady who he had kidnapped on his voyage. I later found out that her name was Susie and that she was in fact the princess of Antarctica. She seemed to be a very kindly and good-natured lady, quite a contrast from Two-Patch Wilbur. She didn't seem to like him too much at first, but since she had been kidnapped and was being held against her will, she didn't really have much choice in the matter. Even so, I could tell that Wilbur liked her, and Susie was always trying to get him to change his villainous ways and become a good, upright citizen. And, to make a long story short, it worked.
Turns out that Wilbur liked Susie so much, he was willing to leave behind his pirate crew and that whole lifestyle to settle down and live with her. He got rid of his two eye patches, shaved his huge pirate-y beard, and put his two weeks in with the pirate captain, getting a job as a rocket scientist instead. He and Susie did fall in love, and they've been planning this wedding ever since. We've all been anticipating it for some time now, and all the regulars at the diner—Jimmy, Abcdef, Edna—were invited and made sure they were able to make it. Me, I'm just glad I was able to provide the diner to host their reception. Makes me feel even worse about having to ruin everything for them.
Well, I've given you some background, but you're still wondering why I have to ruin Wilbur and Susie's wedding day. Trust me, I don't want to, but it's one of those things that can't really be avoided. See, right when the wedding ended earlier today and I came down here to the diner to get things ready, I was feeling really nice, like nothing could ever go wrong. That was until Chuck came to me, and I could tell things weren't good.
Chuck is my head chef, janitor, decorator, or whatever I need him to be. Pretty much, he's my second-in-command here at the diner, and he does all the work that I don't want to. Well, Chuck and the crew were preparing things for the reception and everything was going like it was supposed to. Then suddenly Chuck came up to me with the big smile that he usually wears tilted at a 180 degree angle. My mind went to panic mode. After all, Chuck is always smiling. If Chuck isn't smiling, then something is wrong. Seriously wrong.
"What is it, Chuck?" I asked, dreading what I would hear. He hesitated for a little while. Apparently, he didn't really want to tell me either. But he did. He told me what was wrong, and I just about broke down and cried.
"Tell me you're joking, Chuck," I had said in desperation.
"I'm not," Chuck replied. "This is serious, Joe. And, as bad as it is, Wilbur and Susie should know about it."
"You're right, Chuck. So why don't you just go and tell them right now."
"No way!" Chuck exclaimed. "You go tell them! You're Joe, you own Joe's Diner, and it's your responsibility to let them know what's going on."
I winced. Chuck had a point, and I didn't like it. It was up to me to tell Wilbur and Susie the terrible secret that would ruin their wedding day, and I sure wasn't looking forward to it. My first thought was to try to put it off—you know, just act natural, mingle in the crowd and pretend like nothing's going on. Maybe they wouldn't have to find out if I just ignored the problem. And, well, that's where I am now. We're all still here, and Susie and Wilbur are as happy as I've ever seen them together. What a shame.
I'm standing by myself over in the corner, contemplating my dilemma, when Edna comes up behind me. "Hey there, Joe," she says.
I turn to face her, smiling as if all is well. "Edna! It's great to see you," I say. Edna is a really unique lady. She's ninety-three, but she looks years younger. Two years younger, to be precise. A lot of folks her age are retired, but not Edna—she still has more than plenty of energy for life and everything that comes with it. She works as a firefighter and likes to climb mountains in her spare time.
"Isn't it so sweet? Wilbur and Susie are finally married! Why, it seems like just yesterday that he was out plundering every village from here to Moscow. Things sure do change, huh?"
"Uh, yeah, they sure do," I manage. I'm only half listening, and considering the nature of my dilemma, I'm not in the mood for talking to Edna right now. I need to get somewhere by myself so I can think of what to do. Quickly, I think of an escape. "Hey Edna, it's great talking to you, but I gotta go check on the, uh, the punch bowl."
"The punch bowl?" Edna asks.
"Yeah, it's out of order, and I've gotta call a repairman," I say, quickly slipping away into the crowd. Of course, that thing about the punch bowl was not true—all of our punch bowls are in perfect working order and are inspected on a regular basis. But now that I'm away from Edna, I can sit and think for a while. I find a good empty table and sit down.
"Greetings, Joe!" I hear from behind me. I jump in startled shock. "My apologies for frightening you, Joe," the voice comes again. "I merely wished to converse."
I turn around. It's Abcdef, of course. I forgot that his species can turn invisible. He has all kinds of crazy powers like that. "No problem, Abcdef," I answer.
Abcdef Ghijklmnop is visiting Earth from Saturn as part of some kind of an interplanetary exchange program. Sure, his name's a mouthful and he's kind of an unusual guy, but you have to put up with him because he's still getting used to Earth. He's pretty friendly, too, once you get to know him.
"Joe, may I please request once more that you call me by my full name?" Abcdef says. "It is customary and basic courtesy on Saturn."
"Sorry about that," I apologize. "It's just that your name is kinda hard for us Earthlings to pronounce."
"Perhaps," Abcdef admitted. "But if you think that my name is hard, you should meet my brother, Qrstuvwxyz!"
"I don't even want to try saying that one," I say.
"It is all right, Joe," he says. Then, changing the subject, "I trust that you are enjoying the festivities?"
"Yeah," I tell him. "Definitely. You?"
"Most certainly," Abcdef answers. He looks across the room. "Ah, I see Wilbur and Susie! If you'll excuse me, I wish to go congratulate them!"
"Yeah, sure," I say. "Have fun." He leaves and I keep sitting there, wishing I could just forget this terrible secret and go enjoy myself. But, no, I can't. I know the truth, however bad it may be, and somehow, I've got to bring myself to tell them.
"Hi, Joe," says Jimmy, as he sits down next to me, taking Abcdef's place. I smile kind of sarcastically. It seems I can't get away to think.
"Jimmy!" I greet him. "Lovely day, isn't it?"
Jimmy is a nice kid. He's seven years old and not yet five feet, but he's really smart and intuitive. He can always seem to be able to tell what's going on. I mentioned before that Jimmy was homeless. That's because a while ago, back when Wilbur was still a vicious pirate, he kidnapped Jimmy away from his parents and brought him here. Jimmy wasn't too happy about it at first, but he seems to like living here and seems to be doing fine on his own. Some nights he comes in here and I let him roll out a sleeping bag on the floor. And even though Jimmy hated Wilbur at first, he was willing to forgive him when Wilbur gave up his pirating ways, and now the two are becoming good friends.
"What's the matter, Joe?" Jimmy asks.
"What's the matter? What do you mean, what's the matter?" I'm trying to cover it up, but it won't work. Like I said, Jimmy can always tell what's going on.
"Come on, Joe. I know that something's wrong. What is it?"
Realizing I'm not going to win, I decide it won't hurt to tell the kid. I lean in close and speak softly. "I found out something terrible," I tell him. "It's important and Susie and Wilbur should know, but I can't bear to tell them!"
"Uh-oh," says Jimmy. "What is it?"
Reluctantly, I get right up to his ear and whisper the horrible news that I had learned from Chuck. Jimmy's eyes widen in horror. "This is a disaster!" he exclaims.
"Yeah, I know," I say. "What am I supposed to do?"
"You've got to tell them," Jimmy says.
"Well, I knew that."
"I mean, right now."
I look at him. "Right now?"
"They'll have to find out sooner or later anyway. Look, they're right over there. Go tell them."
"Uh…yeah." Hesitantly, I stand up.
"You can do it," says Jimmy.
"I can do it," I repeat. Not knowing what will happen and not liking to think about it, I walk over towards Susie and Wilbur.
"Joe!" Wilbur greets me happily.
"We haven't seen you at all yet!" Susie says, hugging me affectionately. I briefly return the hug, but cut them off.
"It's great to see both of you, too," I tell them. "But, listen, there's something you've got to know."
Wilbur's brow furrows. "What is it?"
"Well, uh, you see…there's been a bit of a mistake."
"What happened, Joe?" Susie asks.
"Uh, I really hate to have to tell you this on your wedding day…"
"Come on, Joe, spit it out," Wilbur presses me.
I can't hold it in any more. For better or for worse, I spit out the whole thing all at once. "You know that chocolate cake you wanted us to make? The chefs got the order wrong and they made it vanilla!"
Wilbur gasps. Susie shrieks in horror and falls to the ground in shock. The whole place is silent, and everyone is staring at us.
"Joe, we asked for a chocolate cake," Wilbur says, seeing his new wife on the floor and beginning to get angry.
"Calm down, Wilbur…" I plead with him.
Wilbur doesn't calm down. "And we'll have yer chocolate cake, or else I'm making ye walk the plank!"
Uh-oh. Wilbur is talking like a pirate again. He only does that when he's really upset. He reaches into his belt and pulls out a shiny cutlass.
"Now, Wilbur, no need for that," I say, beginning to back away. But it's no use. I know that Wilbur is faster than me, and he's coming closer.
"WAIT!" A cry is heard from the other side of the room. The call has come from Abcdef. Wilbur stops, and Susie manages to stand back up.
"Please, there is no need for alarm!" Abcdef assures everyone, coming towards us. "The mistake can be rectified!"
"What do yer mean, 'rectified'?" Wilbur asks skeptically. "We has a vanilla cake, and we needs a chocolate one!"
"Yes, but I can make a chocolate one!" Abcdef announces. "You see, my unique Saturnian biochemistry allows me to transmute certain edible products into other forms. I can change all the vanilla into chocolate!"
This surprises everyone, including me, but I'm also relieved. I knew that Abcdef had a lot of special powers, and if he can do what he says he can, it'll save everyone a lot of trouble. I have Chuck bring out the cake, which is a painfully obvious vanilla white. Abcdef moves in closer and stretches out his arms.
"Abcdef, are you sure this will work?" I ask him.
"Quite sure," he replies. "Please stand back." I stand back and watch the cake. At first nothing happens, but then I see the white color starting to darken. It turns beige, then light brown, then dark brown, until the cake really does look like chocolate. Amazing.
"Does anyone wish to sample a bite?" Abcdef asks. Cautiously, still reeling from her earlier shock, Susie reaches in and grabs off a piece. She slowly brings it to her mouth and bites, then chews. We all wait in agonizing suspense. Then her face lights up and she exclaims, "It worked!"
With this there is a loud cheer, followed by everyone jumping on the cake to get a piece of chocolate for themselves. Wilbur approaches me and pats me on the back.
"Sorry about that whole thing back there," he says sincerely, sheathing his cutlass.
"No problem. Wilbur," I say. "I'm just glad everything worked out okay, and that you and Susie are happy together."
I go over to Abcdef. I need to talk to him, too. "Many thanks, Abcdef Ghijklmnop," I say. "You pretty much saved the day back there."
"You are quite welcome," he says. "I was happy to oblige."
"You know, I never thought I'd see a vanilla cake just turn into chocolate like that," I say.
He glances at me quizzically. "Never? How strange. It happens all the time on Saturn." With a shrug, he turns around and walks off. I grin widely in happiness. Everything is going great, and all of my best friends are here, celebrating the marriage of a former pirate and an Antarctican princess. I'd better go get some chocolate cake before it all runs out.