Fat Mack and Little Willie had started eating already by the time I got to the diner. I was a little late ’cause I had been in the middle of watching Kim David being led away to jail for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. I headed on over, smiling to myself. There was no way I wasn’t going to start this conversation.
Fat Mack had a huge plate with a whole chicken and a mountain of mashed potatoes and a hill of cream style corn covered by so many green beans it was just ridiculous. The corn looked like it was fighting just to stay on the plate. How he managed to get some of everything into his mouth at one time was beyond me until I realized he was eating with a mixing spoon.
“How in the world do you do that?” a voice echoed my thoughts to Mack from over my shoulder, as I slid into the empty seat across from Mack. It was Uncle G. Mack simply ignored him and shoveled another load into his mouth.
“Keep going,” Uncle G said to me, already starting to push his way into my side of the booth.
I sighed loudly and dutifully moved over to where I was sitting opposite Little Will. Little Willie doesn’t like being called Little Will. Or Little Willie, for that matter. He prefers to be called “Brother Muhammad.” He tolerates our continuing to call him Little Willie because he knows that for us, old habits die hard. We’ve all been best friends since grade school. Still, I sometimes wonder if secretly he gets as pissed off at us as Muhammad Ali did when people called him Cassius Clay.
“As-salaam-alaikum,” I said to Little Willie.
“Wa-alaikum-salaam, my brother,” he said to me, flashing that even-toothed, near perfect, bright white smile. “And how is the brother today?”
“I’m good,” I responded, thinking that I didn’t like being called ‘the brother,’ either. Tit for tat. Maybe he’d stop if I stopped. “But I’m a little confused. I guess I’m trying to make sense of the Kim Davis issue and why she gets to be called a hero for breaking the laws that say treat everybody the same.”
“Whooooa!” Little Willie sat back in his seat. “You’re trying to start something up in here,” he said, and I was really a little surprised by how quickly he peeped my hole card.
“Ignore him,” Fat Mack said over a stash of food that make his cheek poke out. “Ignore Uncle G, too, cause I know he’s going to have something to say.”
“Boy, did you say ‘Ignore Uncle G too? I’m not too old to jump across this table and wear your butt out with this here bad leg of mine.”
“What are you up to, Derrick,” my girl Shirley had silently appeared at our table with her order pad in hand, “and I know it’s you– ’cause it was peaceful over here until you showed up.”
“When are you going to marry me?” I asked.
“When are you going to propose?” She countered.
“Daammnn,” Fat Mack said. “You better quit while she’s ahead.”
People say it’s hard to talk with a mouthful of food, but actually that’s only half true. Actually, it’s hard to talk with a mouthful of food and keep the food inside. Especially with as much food as Fat Mack piles in.
“And you need a bucket under your chin,” Shirley shot his way. “Now, what do you want to eat?” she said to me with a raised eyebrow.
For a few seconds there was complete silence at the booth. It was like time stopped. I was tempted. So tempted. And everybody there instinctively knew it. Little Willie busted out laughing, and Uncle G quickly followed suit. When I started chuckling, Shirley threw us all an exasperated look and stormed away from the booth.
“Now you’re just gonna be hungry,” Uncle G said, whooping it up and high-fiving Willie M. “What-choo wanna eat?” he laughed some more, and suddenly what was funny became hilarious. Fat Mack was trying not to laugh, but food spewed out everywhere, and then there was something more to laugh about. It was infectious.
Shirley came back by the booth, stopped for a moment, started to say something, watched us laughing and promptly walked away. The laughter became uncontrollable. I wanted to stop but I couldn’t. My stomach was hurting, but I couldn’t stop. Uncle G was howling. Little Willie was rocking back and forth, bumping into Fat Mack, who was laughing so hard he had actually put down his spoon!
The people in the next booth started laughing even they didn’t know why.
Shirley came back two more times, and each time she simply left, shaking her head, without saying a word. And each time she did that, it sent us into another fit of laughter .
We laughed a long time that day. And I never did get anything to eat.