The rain, deluge is a more apt name for it, stopped around noon. Hank stood on his porch, next to a knotted piece of cedar that helped hold up the porch roof, and looked out at his project. Yesterday, he had managed to dig the trench, lay the line, and cover it up. Today, the area resembled a bog. There’s no point in me trying to get any work done today. The entire area is mucked up. I guess I’ll go eat lunch at Mable’s House of Grub.
Hank walked back in the house, secured his keys, and then drove to Mable’s for lunch. Jayson Nom and his friends were already seated by the time Hank arrived. A pretty hostess led Hank to a table in the back corner of the room, where long shadows covered the table and no people sat in close vicinity of Hank. From this area he could peruse the crowd without seeming to out of place, and if trouble should appear, Hank would see it approaching.
Nom noticed Hank but said nothing to him. Hank said nothing to Nom either and watched as the young men gawked at some women, licked their lips and growled at others. When one of the waitresses came by the table to check on the young men, the boys fell all over themselves trying to flirt with her in an awkward, teenaged boy kind of fashion. It was cringe worthy, and Hank felt a bit embarrassed for the boys.
Women were a mystery that would baffle men until the end of time. Hank watched as the boys grew uncomfortable trying to vocalize their feelings with words, and tried pawing the waitress to show her the depth of their ‘love.’ This led to a confrontation of words with the manager, and Hank grinned.
Nom noticed Hank’s grin and turned to him. His face flushed red with embarrassment, he snapped, “Hey, old man. Whatcha grinning at? You think you could do better?”
“Go away, boy. I don’t have time for your special brand of stupid.”
“What did you say to me?”
Hank cut his eyes toward Jayson and said, “I told you to go away. Are you deaf or just stupid?”
Jayson Nom and his friends stood and walked over to where Hank sat. They pulled out chairs around the table and sat down. It was meant to intimidate Hank, but Hank smiled and sipped his sweet tea.
“You don’t know who you’re dealing with, old man. How did you like that paint job we did on your truck?”
Hank said nothing to the young man, instead, he remembered how he’d been when he was Nom’s age. You’re reaping what you sowed all those years ago, Hank. Jayson Nom is the modern version of 21-year-old Hank Tanner.
He’d not been any different at that point in his life. Arrogant, full of pride, and more than a little obnoxious, Hank Tanner was an abrasive, self-important, stuck on stupid kid when he was 21.
“Are you ignoring me, old man? I’ll drag you out of this restaurant and beat the brakes off you!”
“You don’t need to drag me anywhere, son. Pick the place and I’ll meet you there.”
Nom blushed red again, embarrassed his threats hadn’t moved Hank to the corner like an ashamed child. He slammed his hand down on the table and yelled, “Outside, now! I’m gonna break you, you old fossil!”
Hank pushed his chair back and stood. Nom’s friends leaned back against their chairs, and their eyes grew wide. They watched as Hank threw a ten-dollar bill on the table for his tip, and then walked up to the counter to pay his bill. Every eye in the restaurant watched as the old man shuffled out the door and stood in the center of the parking lot.
Jayson Nom stood at the door and looked at the old man. He took a deep breath and could feel the eyes of everyone in the restaurant upon his back. He’d overloaded his mouth, said way more than he intended to, and now this old man waited for him to come out and put him in his place.
Mable’s House of Grub was silent as they waited for Jayson to do what he’d said he’d do. Hank looked at his watch and let out a sigh. He turned and looked at the door, at Jayson Nom, and gestured with his hands in a manner that said, “Well? Are we doing this or what?”
Hank waited five more minutes, and then turned and walked to his truck. Thank God, the kid was smart enough to stay inside. Maybe there’s hope for him after all.