One Saturday Morning at "Mammy's"
Arguably, when people travel outside their comfort zone, things get sticky. If these people do not lose their heads. The sticky things in which I write of, is aimed at some invisible, but formidable force governing service personnel and their obvious blindness to not serving healthy or suitable goods. I hope that you are blessed for reading this piece. Kenneth.
While The Above Paragraph
is not a drawn-out introduction, it will do. And not do, because there is a competition among thoughts here--about people traveling to strange digs and sub-par service personnel. I don't feel up to dragging this story out to such a boring level, people had rather get on their mouse, click a few times, and leave "this" commentary in the dust. My wife and I were blessed in our younger marriage days and blessed to do a bit of traveling--but mostly in the mid-south. That was our ugliest mistake of record circa 1981, summer in northwest Alabama, always a hot one.
It was Saturday. Lawn was cut. Trash taken out. Dog fed. I was very restless because in the summer there is no football--prep, college, or professional--God's way of punishing sports addicts for neglecting their wives. Needless to say, a very down time for me. Even as I recall these very events, I feel my hands begin to shake. My wife and I might have been in the Biblical "valley of the shadow of death," Psalm 23, and didn't realize it. God, although He was taking care of us, I ain't lying. Things got pretty dicey on that hot summer morning far away from our humble abode that I paid $60 a month for rent.
Our daughter was very shrewd. At the time of these events happening in this commentary, she was six and knew if she chose the right words, we would allow her the moon if we could afford it. She wanted us to allow her to play with my wife's baby sister while we were going on an outing and just get out of the house, our second ugliest mistake of this date.
In order for my wife to go with this outing which I planned, was for her as much as me. I was accustomed of having a big Saturday morning breakfast, but on the above date, I wanted to take her out for breakfast so . . .no dishes to wash and she could take the day off. The bottom line was: I was then, and now, a lousy cook. I make no excuses. In the kitchen, I am as unsure as a drunken bull that has escaped from a bull fight.
She kept asking where I was taking her for breakfast, and I kept putting her off by telling her, I will take care of it. That worked for a short while, but now it was 11 am., not lunch and past breakfast, so it was time to eat something no matter what the meal was named. And I was born with the appetite of a northwestern Grizzly bear after a winter's hibernation. I know my way around food.
We listened to the radio as we drove with the windows open and although we had only been married six years, it did seem like we were newlyweds for ever so often, we would look at each other and smile. This had nothing to do with finding somewhere to eat. I just added the first part of this paragraph for romantic license. I knew (but never said anything) that our intimate times were slackening because when we were dating, wasps and bees stinging us never thwarted those romantic moments.
As we entered Franklin County, a mere hour's drive, I came to the town of Russellville, a very popular place for people who act on their urges to run off with another woman or husband. Note: this sentence did not apply to my wife and me. Russellville might have "looked" innocent, but behind those floor-level motels lurked a living, breathing beast that even today in 2018, I haven't forgotten what this creature looked like.
I knew that we were getting to close to a restaurant that I had seen before during one my drinking buddies' alcohol sprees and I remembered "that" restaurant. There was a big sign sitting near the last cheap-looking motel that read: "Elvis Slept Here!" and a feeling of sadness filled my heart for I knew that his lying roach motel owner must have one, booked Presley in one of his early tours before he became famous and obese and two, these greedy roach motel owners "really" did book a room to (an) Elvis Pressley, and only lied about the last name. It wouldn't have mattered. How much of a relaxing time can you get for $22.00 a night? Not much, but I never stayed with the Elvis endorsed motel for I wasn't going to stay anywhere over night, just get my wife and I some breakfast.
There in front of me stood "Mammy's Day and Night Eats"--glaring at us with its fangs open saying (with a J.D. Sumner bass tone) "Hey! You there! You look hungry, so why not step in where the food is fine?" The restaurant itself was not really speaking, it was the way the restaurant looked on the outside--with a flashing sign that read: "Free Coffee with Breakfast" so bright that even at 11:30 am., in a summer morning, the flashing really gave me a stiff headache.
"Mammy's." Must have been a play on The War Between The States because some crafty store-designer had built three tall columns out of pine lumber and painted them while intoxicated. Our daughter was six, but on her worst day, she could beat this disaster. What were we about to get ourselves in, I thought. And oh how I resented myself for letting my sense of romance over-power my sense of logic for it was telling me to move on!
We parked, got out of the car, and I was going to let my wife go first when a middle-age (I think) woman with three layers of face make-up including mascara and two hair colors that were directly-opposed to the other. Halfway smiling and dazed she said, "you there! Come in there! If you are hun-GREEE, you are our kind of folks," I was scared for when anyone says things with their eyes not batting, I should have just turned and left. Note to self: all women please tell me the answer to why men are not known for rationality in our out of romantic moments.
As we walked by his friendly woman, I couldn't help but notice the heavy scent of nicotine on her breath for she spoke to me something about being "Mammy,"and at that moment I begun to wonder if this woman had ever visited Columbus, Vicksburg, or Gulfport, Miss.? These towns were key points of strategy in Civil War times. I would envision pretty girls with hoop skirts and holding their parasol's on their shoulders taking an afternoon walk sipping Mint Juleps. If these phrases are not Southern, I am related to the late John "Duke" Wayne.
I Should Have Known
to say no in a nice way to "Mammy," I suppose was her name, she didn't cause me to think of a mammy, which is short for momma in rural circles. That one no from my lips would have bounced off of that awful moment of entering her cafe that smelled like burned ground beef, but no one seemed to care. My wife and I were finding an empty table. "Which is it?" "Mammy" asked looking at me. "Uhhh, over there. You do mean table, right, 'Mammy'"?"
I don't want to over-play this rat hole-of-a-cafe, but we would have sat at most any table because there were only three paying customers either eating, drinking coffee, or smoking cigarettes--one lady was a pure, died-in-the-wool chain smoker. I smoked in 1981, but not this much. With every Marlboro she would put out, she would have one lit ready to put in her lips. My wife was instantly peeved at my gazing at the lady, I'd guess to be around 30ish, and dressed moderately, and carrying on a conversation with her husband--at least I thought he was her husband due to him really not looking like he was happy in this place called "Mammy's."
My wife and I had said four words. I can't recall which four, but the very moment "Mammy," now playing the role of waitress, came barging over to our table handing my wife a glass half-full of water and me a cup of coffee with a handful of cream containers. She excused herself for not remembering the menus and that was the break that I was hoping for.
"Pam! Don't drink that water!" I said in a scared whisper.
"Why?" she answered. She loved to ask questions.
"Trust me," I said quickly. "I believe that there is something living in the water. I think we need to go."
"Mammy" barged back with the menu's and I almost cried. The menu's looked to be something that was shiek in the 50s with honky tonk clubs on every corner with those neon guitars on poles with the wording: Dancing Nightly! Drinks Half Price!" I am not kidding.
While my wife and I perused the antique menu's, I could hear "Mammy's" mouth and lips snap with that cud of gum that she was chewing like a hungry beaver and her eyes were frozen--not batting an eye. I took a chance and told my wife, time to skittle . . .NOW!
We ordered our breakfast (against my better knowledge) and just sat at each other hoping one would say something really funny because "Mammy's" was in bad need of a face-lift. The windows were dirty and even if a professional window washer had been employed, it would be money down a hole. This cafe made me wonder how the Franklin County Health Dept, inspector could have inspected the place and not shut it down.
I should not have opened my mouth. But while my wife was sipping her water, also against my better wisdom, I asked, "Say, uhhh, 'Mammy,' where's the Health Dept. Inspection score?"
"Mammy" went from looking "out there" to livid. "What did you say? Where's my health sco?" she yelled that made the three customers look at us. The chain-smoking woman winked at me and went back to talking to her man friend.
"I am new to this place, and well, I, hold it. Let me to get "Ginnie Gin,"my half-sister who takes good care of 'Mammy' here, and I will see about your food, smart alec!" "Mammy" said very sternly.
My wife loved the scene. And to see me humiliated was probably the best surprise gift that I could have bought from any jewelry store. "Mammy" took her sweet time in giving us out food. And that girl, "Ginny Gin," who she said was her half-sister, never appeared to tell me all about her Health Dept. Inspection score.
"Kenny, you want to go now?" my wife asked very seriously.
"If you do, I do," I replied just waiting for her to open the door.
I took a sip of the now-cold coffee and started to dig in my left pants pocket to give "Mammy" a tip, but I only had a twenty. My wife said that was fine--to go ahead and eat and then give the woman a tip out of my change. Made sense.
In about ten more minutes, "Mammy" brought us the food that I was going to devour. I had not had breakfast because on Friday's, I worked late and was too tired to get out of bed that Saturday morning, so taking my wife to breakfast, plus a trip out of town, was going to be, I thought, an exciting change of pace.
"Here's the food!" "Mammy" said very cold. "The grits are cold, bacon is too crispy--cook named, "D.D." quit a while back causing us to make this food for you. "Ginny Gin," my half-sister said to tell you that our Health Dept. Score was 75, not a perfect score, but passing."
"Did you get your order?" I asked my wife.
"No, did you?" she replied almost bursting out laughing.
"There was grease on my bacon and now I am very sick," I said while we were both getting up to settle up at the cashier.
"Here's five bucks for the breakfast and here's another five bucks for our tip," I said to "Mammy," the cashier. She looked very defiant at us and slowly smiled and rang up the sale.
"Thanks, folks. Hope you come again," "Mammy" said in a low tone of voice. I looked back at her as my wife walked through the front door. She had "that" look of fear mixed with sheer, painful survival wrote on her face.
"Yes, 'Mammy,' we will. Great food and service," I said wanting to build her up.
"Sir, I done told you that my cook quit, wouldn't but you and the wife and those three at the center table, regulars you know, they only give me a few bucks to rent their butts in my chairs. Your ten dollars is more than I have seen in a week. But that you said about great food and service, naaah. Them was both lies--but sonny, thanks for trying."
As my wife and I continued our outing, she asked what " I had said to "Mammy" before I came to the car.
"Ahhh, just something about trying to build up and not tear down," I said.
"That was nice," my wife said. "And you telling her about the great food and service, what a liar," she said and laughed.
© 2018 Kenneth Avery