Sherrill thought he was in a good mood, but he must have been wrong. He just thought he’d check out the new restaurant that had opened. He drove uptown with an open mind and a book he could open. He liked to read a while before he paid up.
The women in that place rubbed him wrong before the door closed behind him. One was wearing earrings the size of peppermint lollipops. Sherrill had her pegged for the owner or, at least, the owner’s wife. She called him “Sweetie” before she ever looked at his face. It was like she said “hi there, Sweetie” any time the little bell went off. The waitress wasn’t quite as condescending but made up for it by being even more ingratiating. She insisted on calling him and quite possibly every other customer “Hun.” There weren’t many other customers, but Sherrill could tell she called everybody “Hun.” He thought about returning the favor and calling her “Sweet Tater” or “Honey Bunch.”
The food was excellent, which Sherrill made clear during the dozen or so times the waitress stopped by to give him the opportunity to tell her. It was obvious she thought he’d be tipping her by the word. Between the time the woman took away his salad and the time she returned with his pork chops, Sherrill must have snapped. It didn’t seem to him that he was unpleasant, but something in him decided enough was enough. The woman had decided she was going to make silly conversation over anything she could find. She observed that the weather was hot, young’uns were crazy, and she just didn’t know what the world was going to do.
“Nothing,” Sherrill said.
“The world. It ain’t gonna do nothing, ma’am. The world just goes around and around. That’s all. Spinning around and around is what the world’s gonna do.”
One would’ve thought that rejoinder would have sent a message. One would’ve been wrong.
“What’s that book you’re reading?” She didn’t give him a chance to reply. “Oh, Great American Short Stories. Me? I don’t like no short stories. I like long stories. I’m partial to big, old epics.”
“Hmm,” Sherrill said. “What is your favorite epic novel?”
“Lawrence of Arabia.”
“It’s not a novel, ma’am,” Sherrill said. “It’s a movie.”
“No, sir, I read the novel it come from. I did.”
“There’s not one. It’s based on a true story. A novel has to be fiction.”
“No, sir, that’s not right. I’ve read many a true novel.”
Sherrill could’ve let it drop. He was having fun, though, and the pork chops were not as hot as he would’ve preferred because the waitress was talking too much for him to try them.
“Well, ma’am, what’s another of your favorite true epics?”
“Oh, I really loved that book Tom Brokaw wrote.”
“The Greatest Generation?”
Sherrill left a nice tip, anyway, but when he walked out, the waitress turned to the cashier and said, simply, “Shitass.”