So I was waiting on a table recently. A real nice woman with her three children and a friend of theirs who was with her daughter. They seemed like they were all really close. They laughed a lot while the oldest son, about 18 years old, picked on his younger sister who was about 16 or 17. The older brother was tall and skinny and was wearing a turtle neck and a crazy hat that looked like it came straight from 1974. The younger brother was about 13 or so and was reading a book about Malcolm X. It seemed an odd reading choice for a kid during dinner out, but I figured he must have to write a book report or something. I took their order but the skinny kid said he wasn't hungry because he had already eaten at his job today. "Oh, do you work in a restaurant?" I asked him. He stood up and rubbed his barely-there goatee, cleared his throat and said, " I am the numero uno employeemundo at the Chicken Delight. Now dyn-o-mite!" His sister pulled his hat off his head and hit him with it and told him to sit down. "Uh, okay..." said I. I asked the youngest girl who was about 10 years old what she wanted and she smiled a dazzling smile. She looked like a younger version of Willis' girlfriend on Different Strokes. "I would like a hamburger, please, if it's not too much trouble." She was so cute. I asked her what her name was and she told me it was Penny. "Well, Penny, it is no trouble at all. Do you want cheese on it?" She looked at her mother and said, "Willona, can I have cheese too?" I thought it was weird that she called her mother Willona, but she was given the approval for cheese and Penny acted like she had just been given the biggest gift in the world. "Wow," I thought. "This kid acts like she never gets anything nice at all." Willona ordered a Cobb salad, little Malcolm X ordered a grilled chicken with no oil, steamed broccoli and brown rice, and his sister ordered pork chops. Their mom still had not decided what to order. "I just don't know. It just doesn't seem right to be here without James. I can't eat without my husband here." Willona chimed in, "Girl, it's time you faced reality. James is gone and he's never comin' back. He would want you to have whatever you want, so open up that menu and pick something." The rest of the table added their two cents. A chorus of "c'mon, Ma's" and "Willona's right's" echoed through the dining room. The mother took a deep breath and closed her eyes. She put her hand to her chest and then looked up to the ceiling. "Alright, then, James, this is for you. Can I have the t-bone steak please?" Her table applauded her efforts. No, I mean they actually clapped for her which made what I had to say next really difficult. "I'm sorry, ma'am, we're out of the t-bone. Maybe a strip loin instead?" The mother looked stunned, like it was just one more disappointment that she had to face in an entire life of disappointments. She didn't say anything for about thirty seconds. I didn't know what to do. Suddenly, she picked up a punch bowl that was conveniently on the table and threw it to the ground shattering it into a thousand pieces. She threw her fists up into the air as if to curse the world and screamed a guttural "damn, damn, damn!" I thought she was overreacting a bit. It was just a t-bone steak, right? Everyone at the table got up and hugged her as she moaned with pity and grief. And then it faded to black.
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