Thursday, March 03, 2016

A Candidate I Could Have a Beer With, Part IV

To tell the truth, I hadn't really drank in almost eight years. It's true that I felt a little better without all the booze, and I lost a little bit of weight, but the real reason I stopped (and I have never told Jane this) is that after my father-in-law died, I didn't have nearly as much cause to. (I don't know if the old prick had a heart attack at the idea of a black man as president, but it seems possible to me, given the timing. I remember thinking he'd die on the spot if I told him that I actually once met the dude, but I never got the chance.) But overall, things have felt better since then. I'm older than I was, obviously, but not enough to really start feeling it yet. There's a lot of work for a geologist with all the new gas wells everywhere, and if my job remains pretty thankless (and depressing when I think about it), it's still meant more regular hours, better pay, even a better place to live.

Better restaurants too.  But, yeah, Jesus.

It was a couple Saturdays ago, on family night. Jane wanted to try a new place, a real barbecue joint like the people are always going on about on her tv shows.  I guess they're popping up even out here these days. We went there, and they had sawdust on the floor, long wooden tables, and served the food to you on big sheets of paper. It all seemed a little fake to me, or maybe just out of place.  It was too clean in the corners or something, and nothing was worn or busted (and of course it was too expensive to pretend to think of as a dive) but I can't deny the food was delicious. It was as if it was trying to be down-home, but also the kind of place the suits could come in to for a meeting.  And hey, for all I know, that's how they actually do it down south.

The guy who walked in behind us was wearing a suit.   But he didn't wear it like an office guy would, like it was part of the job. Instead, this guy was beaming in it, hands in his pockets, shoulders back, paunch on display.  (Brother, this is why I slouch.)  I think he was proud that he got to wear a suit, like a kid wearing something too big for him. First impressions, right? We all got in line, and he stood really close behind me. I'm not necessarily a hands-off guy, but like most people, I do like a little personal space.

"Howdy, y'all," he said.  Yeah, Texas, I'm pretty sure, even if he didn't seem like the howdy-ing version.  More like the college-Texas accent I come across in the industry sometimes.  Maybe he stopped at this place because he thought it would make him feel at home.

"Nice family you got," he went on, leaning his head toward Jane and Simon. "I can't tell you how good it makes me feel to see real American families doing well in these trying economic times."

He spoke these words slowly, drawing out 'real American families' to the point of discomfort, and grinned a little closed-mouth grin when he was done. I started to ask where he was from, but the line moved forward just then, and there was an awkward moment as my wife and son moved up a step while I stood still. This guy bumped up even closer to me, now physically touching, and the grin didn't change. I moved forward too, determined to ignore him from here on out, but he kept tailing us.

And by the way, I am never eating at one of these places with group seating again.  People piled up along these tables and were almost forced to talk to people they didn't come in with.  I've met interesting strangers in my day, but I don't want to get stuck in a seat I can't move from if the conversation starts getting weird, like this one did.  I was just about to shove my face into my brisket (or whatever it was Jane picked out for me), and this guy plops his suited ass across from us, and now he's all "Excuse me," in a loud and haughty way, like he's really affronted about something. 


"Excuse me, please!" 

Maybe it's something about the drawl (and to be fair, he had already rubbed me the wrong way), but I could hear both a whine and a threat in his voice.  A couple other people had looked at him the first time, but now the whole restaurant was staring our way.  (Everyone except Simon, who had his head buried in a game.  Why did we ever get him that thing?)  The bench felt hard and narrow all of a sudden.

He pulled his lips back into that smile again, with his teeth just barely showing.  "I think it would be appropriate to thank the Lord for such a fine meal, don't you?"  He spread his arms out, "don't you?"

I think he meant everyone, but he was looking at me.  "I ...guess?"

"Smart people never guess.  Let's begin."  He pulled his hands together and bowed his head with great solemnity, but ruined the effect a little by opening up his eyes at the end and scanning the room with them before starting in.  I was watching more than listening, and that's probably why I was slow to pick up on what happened next.  

"...and Lord, deliver unto this great land a true leader who can steer us away from the false gods of socialism, and protect the unborn from the predations of liberal..."

Oh shit, that's not a good topic to bring up around Jane.  She gripped my leg hard enough to bruise it. 

In the quiet moment between the murmured "amen" and the normal diner sounds resuming, I could hear my wife's teeth grind.  Mr. College-Texas was no longer paying attention though, and was now digging happily into his greens and noisily poking them into his mouth.

"You know," she said coldly, "I had an abortion once.  It saved my life.  And even if it didn't, I am sure I could live with the ...predation."

He looked up, his eyebrows arched and mouth slack.  "Well, you're going to straight to hell then."

I did my best, good husband that I am.  "Hey, who the hell do you think you are?"

"Sir, where did you go to school?"


"I am certain that it was no Princeton.  You are clearly no Einstein, no Madison.  Who am I?  Someone who without doubt has an IQ far higher than yours.  Do you really wish to get into an argument with me?"

I am not normally one to lose my cool, such as it is.  All those years listening to Jane's father and I never raised my voice.  But this guy.  "Bent fuck sad potato you!" I yelled.

"I rest my case.  Enjoy life with your harlot."  He dabbed the corners of his mouth with a napkin, let the grin slither across his face one last time, and got up.  As he turned his back, I got up too.  But Jane grabbed my arm.

"Please don't, Bob.  You're not that kind of person."

"I'm not following him, Hon," I said, rapidly deflating.   "I think I'd really like a beer though"