The barbecue pit wasn’t the real name of the restaurant, it’s what the Gunny had called it. The name stuck with me and for some reason my friends as well. Cheryl decided that she would skip it after all. She liked the barbecue, but didn’t care for the Cop Out. I could understand her feelings, so I didn’t make an issue.
Once I got to the restaurant, I sat alone at a small table in the corner with a view of Aster’s small main street. “What can I get you, Max?” the middle aged waitress with the badly dyed red hair asked.
“I’m going to go with the large tray tonight. I have been having too many calories, the French Fries would put me way over my limit for today.” I said with a smile. The tray was just chopped barbecue pork and coleslaw with a vinegar and spice dressing.
“Didn’t you see the sign honey, check your diets at the door,” she laughed, but she didn’t make a big deal of it. “You want the sweet tea?”
“Of course, it’s half the reason I come here,” I said it smiling back at her. “Don’t forget to bring the extra hot sauce.” There was hot sauce on the table, but behind the counter there was a sauce not found on the tables. The reason was simple, if a customer used it by mistake, their barbecue would be thrown out. It was not for the weak of spirit or anyone with even a hint of a stomach ailment.
Gwen came in before the food arrived. “Where is Cheryl?” she asked.
“She decided to skip the Barbecue, since I’m headed to the Cop Out afterwards,” I admitted.
“She must have been pissed, when you didn’t offer to change your plans for her?” Gwen asked.
“Actually, not at all, she was fine with it. At least as far as I could tell. What’s going on with you two?” I asked. I was pretty sure I knew, but I might as well let her tell me. She was dying to talk.
“Cheryl is such a selfish bitch. Everything is about her. She will take and take then when there is nothing left to take, she just stops paying any attention to you,” The words came out in a gush.
The term what goes around comes around, came to mind. I had an almost uncontrollable urge to scream that at Gwen, but I fought it. Instead I said, “Most people are pretty selfish, if you get right down to it. Selfish is kind of the human default position. To be giving is exceptional these days.”
She was about to speak but the waitress arrived with my food. She also took Gwen’s order. I hated it, but I was in a bit of a spot. I could eat my food and be rude, or I could wait for Gwen’s to arrive, and risk my own food getting cold.
“Sorry if this seems rude, but I’m hungry,” I said as I shoveled barbecued pork into my mouth. I did try to eat slowly. Gwen got her food long before I finished with mine. I ate the over spiced barbecue with Gwen staring at me in disbelief.
“What?” I asked.
“How do you eat that stuff?” she asked.
“Tums,” I answered.
“By the handful I’m sure,” she suggested. Prissy Gwen was hardly into her food when I finished.
I waved for the waitress, it wasn’t considered bad form in the barbecue pit, “Would you bring me another glass of tea, and a side order of hush puppies?” I asked.
“Sure honey, I’ll be right back.” She walked to the order window stood about a minute, then returned with both my requested items. I made a dip of ketchup, lots of salt, and my hot sauce. I ate my second order of hush puppies with the dip.
When Gwen finally finished, I paid my bill and let her pay her own bill. “You know I liked it better, when I just walked out after I ate. Let’s go back to you just videoing me. We can get along, but we aren’t really friends,” I suggested. I was sorry immediately after I said it. Gwen looked devastated. I had no idea why, a month before she couldn’t stand me. I tried not to care what she was feeling, but I knew. I also knew that if I comforted her, she would be like a puppy. I would never get rid of her.
I forced myself to play it cool. I left her at the register and used my crutches to get to the cruiser. I managed to make it to the Cop Out without running over anything. Since it was my left leg that was injured, I shouldn’t have any trouble driving. I didn’t really, it was just a bit awkward and uncomfortable for some reason.
Since it was early, only a little after 8PM, I ordered coffee. There were several friends of Bill (AA members) who sat all night long drinking coffee. I didn’t plan to go that long, but I did plan to not get drunk.
“Hey Max, when is that TV show going to start?” the bartender asked.
“Melvin I have no earthly idea. I wish they would either get on with it or stop following me around like a second shadow though. The show can’t be as bad as the stupid promos, they are running.”
“Oh come on, the promos are fun. I just want to see if they will show you biting that guys prick off,” he said with a leer.”
“Melvin that is an awful thing to say,” a girl down the bar said.
“Yeah, it makes me cringe every time someone tells that story.” It was one of the cops I recognized on sight, but had never had a real conversation with, who made the comment.
“It wasn’t his whole prick, just and inch or so.” I said. “It wasn’t enough to really count.”
“Oh it counts,” another of the cops said.
“Damn, you guys are really hard on a gimp,” I said it as I showed them, my crutches.
“Well I guess you won’t be dancing tonight,” one of the female paramedics said.
“I guess not. It also looks like I won’t be drinking either.” I said.
“Okay you aren’t going to dance, and you aren’t going to drink, I suppose blow jobs in the parking lot are out of the question?” One of the older cops asked.
“Nothing is out of the question, but in your particular case, I wouldn’t hold my breath,” I suggested.
“That is cold,” was his answer but he laughed as well.
“So where is your blond friend, with the big boobs,” one of the younger guys asked.
“Sonny, she is old enough to be your mommie,” I said laughing.
“And that would make him what,” the female paramedic asked.
“Remember when you get me at a road block, I did not say that,” I said.
I waited a respectable time, then asked, “Where is Blevins? I don’t think I have ever been here this long that he didn’t show up.”
“You didn’t hear, Blevins is playing super cop again. They tapped him to run a statewide drug task force. We aren’t supposed to know, but he is somewhere down east.”
“Damn Jerry is playing Daddy and Blevins is playing cop, looks like it’s going to be a lonely summer,” I suggested.
“There are plenty of us around to fill in for them,” one the emergency med techs suggested.
“Like a relief pitcher or a pinch hitter,” I asked.
“Just like that,” the medic said.
Well you could change my dressing in the morning,” I said quietly.
“Oh yes, I do know how to change a dressing,” he whispered to me.
“You know, I’m twice your age,” I said.
“Yes but only driven on Sundays,” he said smiling.
“Honey, if you will believe that, be careful what you sign.” I said.
“So, want to go to someplace quieter,” He suggested.
“Sure, let’s go to your place,” I said.
“Well my place is a long way from here. Why don’t we go to yours?” he asked.
“I think that would be a great idea, if your wife joins us,” I said in a whisper.
“Oh, I guess you don’t sleep with married men?” he asked.
“Not unless I get to sleep with the wife as well,” I said honestly.
“I don’t think she would go for it,” he laughed as he stood to move away from me at the bar.
‘You mean, you hope she wouldn’t go for it.” I laughed at him and so did some of the others.
“Another conquest,” I whispered too low for anyone else to hear, but it would be on the tape. I turned on the bar stool, so that I could see the others dance. I would have preferred to have been dancing myself, rather than watching someone else. Time would right that, I hoped.
I saw Gwen sitting in the rear of the club. She had the camera in front of her, but she looked miserable. I was almost ready to feel sorry for her, but then I remembered all the reasons I couldn’t. I just didn’t feel nearly as good, as I should have, at her misery.
Since nobody interesting came into the cop out by ten, I headed home. I stopped to pick up a couple of diet cokes on the way. A couple of kids in the parking lot ask for a buck. I said, “Get a job.”
One of them drew back his hand like he was going to slap me. “Do you really want your friend to see you get your ass kicked by an old lady gimp?” I asked it smiling. I could see it in his eyes. He was going to try to beat me down and take my money.
“Fuck it,” I said dropping the crutch and pulling the concealed hammer S&W .38. “I could have beaten you with the crutch, until you were brain dead, but I don’t want to pull a stitch. So walk away, or try your luck at stopping a bullet with your chest.”
He made the smart choice and walked away. I looked over my shoulder and saw Gwen with the camera sticking out her car window. None of them would help me, they all just wanted to see me get hurt. or hurt somebody else. I wasn’t at all sure there was enough money to get me to do more than one set of shows.
I tried not to dwell on the fact that shit always happened to me. I mean those kids could have beaten down a hundred other old people, but they waited for me. God must really hate me, I thought.
I took my cokes and make it home by 11PM. When I opened my door, I heard the next door over open.
“It’s good to see you back. I hope that leg is nothing too serious,” Lois said.
“I hope it doesn’t turn out to be any more than the doctors have promised me. With these things you just never know. You want to come in for a drink?” I asked.
“Actually I did want to talk to you,” she said.
Lois was a sweet little old lady about 60 years old. An early retiree from the county government. She had sold her house and come to live at the Casa del Aster or whatever I was calling it at that moment.
“Sure come on in,” I said as I struggled through the door. “You do remember that everything we say is recorded for that silly TV show?” I asked.
“I had forgotten, could we talk in my apartment then?” she asked.
“Of course,” I replied. I left the microphone capsule in my apartment. I struggled to follow Lois into her place.
“I have to admit, you have a lot better taste than I do,” I said.
“Thank you, but I like your place just as well.” she said.
“So Lois, is something wrong with your apartment?” I asked.
“Oh my no, I have a favor to ask of you, that’s all.”