Sunday, February 21, 2010

Lunch at the Red Rooster Cafe



I’ve been comin’ to the Red Rooster goin’ on forty years now. Some folk come for the food, others like the company. I suppose I fall somewhere betwixt ‘em. Bottom line is most of us just glad to have someplace to go. As with any eatery some lunches are plain more memorable than others. Last Wednesday was one of them days, and honestly it does my heart good to relay the story to ya.

Two men was sittin’ at a corner table waitin’ on lunch to arrive. While I ain’t naturally given to the abstract, seemed like the condiment carrier between ‘em symbolized a line drawn along social class, dress, and demeanor. One sported a fresh, stylish haircut and appeared at home in a gray pin-striped suit and leather shoes. The other fitted in a greasy mechanic’s shirt with a name tag sewn in the upper left-hand corner. Everything about that boy indicated he was uncomfortable in his own skin. Few if any of the regulars in the diner realized they was brothers; twins in fact. Not only did they have the same mother, they occupied her womb at the same time. Poor old Mona musta had some kind heartburn.

Thomas stared beneath the table cloth, his nimble fingers punchin’ out a text message on his shiny phone while Tim made questionable use of his fork. Even in a small town, cleanin’ the grime from beneath your nails and wipin’ the tines on a napkin ain’t gonna get you too many dinner dates. Soon as he worked the pinkey finger over good he was ready for words.

“Look at you—punchin’ shit into that phone like a little robot. You got some kind a Goliath set of balls showin’ up twenty minutes late with no apology, and not even a word for your own brother!”

Tim’s attack drew no return fire. With an enemy unwilling to engage he seized the opportunity, this time in a mocking voice.

“Thomas, you’ll have to excuse me. Even though I find your company utterly delightful, suddenly I’m struck with an overwhelming urge to take a big, hairy, rooster-shit!”

As a friend of the family, I had on occasion had the opportunity to speak with Thomas. He’s one of them kind that has trouble listen’ on account of his ratchet-jaw yackin’ most of the time. Don’t get me wrong—I ain’t at all convinced he’s completely heartless—just internally misguided. Through conversation I git the distinct impression, in an odd, detached sort of way he does feel for his brother, but like spoiled milk some things are simply too far gone.

The waitress arrived with his salad and placed a burger platter in front of the empty chair. With Tim not havin’ returned from his business, I suppose Thomas saw no harm in plucking a few fries from his brother’s plate. Fer his trouble he was welcomed with a sharp slap to the back of his head—the kind that sets your teeth to rattlin’ and produces a distinct ringin’ in the ears.

“Stand up you thievin’, no-good son-of-a bitch. In case you’re wonderin’, there’s plenty more from where that came from!”

A bewildered Thomas turned to find his brother loomin’ over him. Tim’s fists were already doubled and his eyes boilin’ with rage.

“You calling me out over a couple of greasy fries?”

“Yeah Thomas, in your mixed-up world, that’s what I’m doin’! Take an ass-whoopin’ standin’ or sittin’….it don’t matter to me; I give you fair warnin’!”

It was along about that time Thomas realized the outburst had drawn the attention of every patron in the place. As their hungry settled upon him I believe he was attemptin’ to diffuse the situation with rationale, but the way he spoke drew snickers from the crowd.

“Sit down, Tim. If you continue these shenanigans you’re most certainly going to make a fool of yourself.”

Tim grabbed his pretty, blue, silk tie and used it for leverage. Each time he wound it around his hand their eyes came closer to touchin’.

“You completely forgot you’re upbringin’, Thomas. Everyone here knows the story—that’s how it is a small town. Hell, half of ‘em in here think I’m a fool for waitin’ this long to pound ya into puddin’. You think I forgot when you stole my girlfriend in the tenth grade, just cause you could? When you nearly broke mom and pop payin’ for yer ivy-league college? How ‘bout when you left me to take care of ‘em while you was off in China? Daddy passed and you was good enough to send flowers, now Momma’s bad sick and dyin’, Thomas, and small as a man you are, you can’t manage a phone call!”

Tim said what needed said and then he reached back somewhere into last Tuesday and delivered a mule-punch that sent his brother sprawlin’. Thomas was out cold, not even a quiver. I ain’t sayin’ it was the right thing to do, but the crowd erupted into applause. Tim didn’t pay no mind to none of us, seemed he had only one thing left to accomplish. You see, when Tim made contact, Thomas’ smart-phone went to skiddin’ across the hardwood like a young pup on a frozen pond. On his way to the door Tim placed a heel on that confounded device, as if it was the cause of everything gone wrong in his life. The whole place grew deathly quiet as Tim took to sobbin’, and cussin’ and stompin’. It ain’t never a pretty sight to see a man busted up like that, but what happened next sent us all home in a better frame-o-mind.

After the first stomp an operator’s voice come on the line clear as day, “We’re sorry your call can’t completed as dialed, if you’ve reached this recording in error, please hang up and try again.”

As a courtesy to the woman on the line, Tim leaned towards the floor and spoke slowly.

“Sorry to bother ya, maa’m, but it twert no mistake; I reached just where I was aimin’!”