My old pal, Blue, inspired this story. He was complaining about people who ride motorized shopping carts at the grocery store and it reminded me of this little set-to I had with my neighbor last summer. Of course, I got carried away with the embellishment part of the tale, and it got longer than I intended. My apologies for that.
Some new folks moved into the house next door last summer. They seemed like a nice, friendly couple, so we thought we’d spend a Saturday with them and get to know them. The wives decided the flea market in Livingston would be a fun place to go, and me and him didn’t get a vote, so off we went.
After walking a mile or two at the flea market, we (the wives) decided to try out a restaurant over in Onalaska we’d heard was real good. The new neighbor dude was driving, and when we got to the place, he wheeled into a handicap space right in front of the entrance like he had every right to park there. I was riding shotgun—the ladies were in the back, talking shoes and such—and I looked over at him and give him a half grin and “the eyebrow”. He grinned full, reached in the door pocket, and hung one of them blue tags with a wheelchair on it on the rearview mirror. THAT put me in one of my moods, so I give him the V-brow-no-grin-atall. It surprised the dickens outta me when he shot the same expression right back at me. Then… it got all of a sudden no-shoe-talkin quiet in the back seat, and I coulda swore I heard the theme music from The Good The Bad And The Ugly coming from outside the car.
I reached in my shirt pocket and got the piece of straw I keep there for such occasions, and began to chew on it. The music got louder then faded into the background as I said, “Why you got that handicap sticker?” I mean the guy looked to be every bit as healthy and able as me, so I figured it was a fair question.
He never blinked, just looked at me with steely eyes and said—real soft-like, with an undercurrent of meanness in his tone, “I ain’t got no toes.”
I blinked, and the straw fell onto my lap. “Oh,” I said.
He kept looking at me like we wasn’t finished talkin’ about it, so I said, “How come?”
He did one of those quick chin shots at me, and I blinked again and bumped the back of my head on the window. “Diabetes,” he growled.
I felt the wife’s eyes heatin’ up on the side of my head, so I decided I’d get out of the car. I gotta tell ya, for a fella with no toes he was quick, and he was staring at me over the top of that SUV when I got out and looked over that way. “We good?” he said. I don’t know how he pulled it off, but he was now chewin’ on my lucky straw.
I give him a quick nod then jumped back and opened the door for my wife. I don’t know how in the world she does it, but as she got out of the car, she was yelling at me without opening her mouth. I have learned there is no good response to such a look, so I beat-feet it around the car and went and held the restaurant door for the three of them. The looks on their faces said it was a good move and maybe I’d get through this.
We sat down at a table and ordered up some eats, and it seemed like everything was gonna be all right; the gals went back to shoe talk, and me and my neighbor studied the menu to see what might be good to eat. When the cute little gal come for our orders, I asked her what she recommended, and she looked me over real good, grinned and said “You’re gonna want the baby backs.” I was thoroughly enjoying her smile when the side of my head the wife was sitting on started to heat up. I snapped my eyes back to the menu, and waited while the gals ordered. It was difficult, but when the gal looked at me, I kept my eyes on the menu and ordered myself a full rack of baby back ribs, fries, beans, and a Coke. She said, “You da man,” then turned to my new neighbor. When he ordered a salad, I looked up over the menu at him, but my eyebrows remained relaxed and non-committal. The waitress shot a grin at me, and the side of my head began to heat up something fierce, so I jumped up and went over to look at the pies they had in a glass display case by the register. When I felt it was safe I went back to the table, and as I sat down, I said, “Gonna get me some of that pie!”
“Ah, no can do,” my new neighbor said. My eyebrow twitched, but a quick glance at my wife caused it to level off quick, as—her lips never moved—she fairly screamed, “NOT-A-WORD!” I’ve studied her when she does this, and best I can tell the heat comes from her eyes. I sometimes wonder if she might be an alien. One day, she actually told me she was, but I thought she was joking. Sometimes… well, I’m not sure she was.
I think my neighbor was thinking he had me on the ropes, so he goes into this sad spiel about all the things the doctors told him to stay away from. When he was done with the list, I couldn’t figure out why a fella would want to live if he couldn’t eat all that stuff—everything on his list was in my top twenty. I decided to risk one quick piece of advice.
“Seems to me,” I said. “What you really need to stay away from… is doctors.”
I guess y’all know they don’t have taxis in Onalaska, Texas.