Remember, when I first began these stories, I nearly got gelded at J.C. Penney’s because I haven’t learned that the word “color” is synonymous with “You’re fat!”
By the time we got back to the car, My First Wife Chancie was in a much better mood. Tender husband that I am, I kindly, sympathetically led her out of Penney’s and down the sidewalk to the new store, “The Three Chocolatiers.” If you ever want to give Chancie a gift, there are three things you should consider: Milk Chocolate, Dark Chocolate and White Chocolate. Any one will make you a friend for life. All three at the same time guarantees your sainthood.
Well, naturally, all that power shopping at Penney’s and all those choices at The Three Chocolatiers made Chancie hungry. And it was time for lunch anyway. Luckily, we were across the street from “Buffee’s,” an all-you-can eat buffet. Buffee’s is the place where church folks gather after Sunday service. Doesn’t matter what church you attend here in Pancake Flats, we’re all family at Buffee’s after Sunday services. I often wonder why we need church buildings anyway, what with Buffee’s being so comfortable.
A few years ago, when April Fool’s Day fell on Sunday, Buffee’s was closed that day. Unannounced. All the Baptists and Methodists and Pentecostals hurried over there after church services to get in a line clear around the block. People just stood there like they do every Sunday, rain or shine, waiting to get in to load up on catfish and fried chicken for just $9.99.
There was restlessness in the line. “I know you’re hungry, sweetie, but today they’re just eating slower, I guess. It won’t be long.”
“Jimmy Whipmore! Put that tadpole down. You get over here and stand right here by me till we get inside. You wash your hands the minute we get inside. You hear me? I’m so sorry, Miz Bigget. I won’t let him tease your little Mandy any more.”
Meanwhile, the Volunteer Firefighters and the Police Association were hosting a big community BBQ and Chili cook-off in the park behind Buffee’s. There was pork, beef, chicken, chili—even lamb!—cooking up, oozing out of every pot within thirty-five miles. The smell of it was hanging all over Pancake Flats just driving people crazy. And, of course, just as soon as somebody blew the noon whistle there was beer, beer, beer. One minute everybody was sober; next minute they were all loving their neighbors. There was loud music and laughter and a little petting zoo and a few carnival rides for the kids and the aroma of that charcoaled meat and eleven loaded beer trucks. Made me wish I was young again. Made me wish I was an off-duty Catholic firefighter, so I could go over there and drink beer in the park on Sunday.
Every so often, then, one of the folks in line at Buffee’s slowly meandered over to the park, “…just to see what all that racket’s about.” Or “…to check the plumbing inside one of them blue outhouses.” Every one of them came back looking terribly guilty, especially Rev. Sedsoh and Bishop Elders.
Me? Well, I only went over there to look for Chancie. Seemed like she stayed over there a little longer than necessary, and looking back, I can’t say as I blame her.
Just before the sun went down somebody in the line around Buffee’s said, “You wanna go to the pie shop?” So we all went to Bertie’s Pie and Coffee Shoppe across town for coffee and pie, leaving our ministers to preach evening services to empty pews.That day the firefighters and policemen made a tidy sum for their community chests. Buffee’s made nothing at all. The manager said, “...it was worth it just to see all them church folks standing in line all afternoon!” (He's the former manager now.) Bertie sold enough pie and coffee to buy a new billboard out on the four-lane. Rev. Sedsoh and Bishop Elders both left the ministry and opened up the “Roaring Lamb BBQ Restaurant.” Hottest chili and coldest beer in Pancake Flats, served up by two of the finest and happiest Christian men you ever want to meet.