I’m at a restaurant which is a double-wide trailer. I have spent a morning, riding past scalped fields and condemned barns.
A table of old men is behind me. They meet here for coffee regularly—that’s what the waitress says. Same table. Same men. Every morning except Sundays.
She tells me they are Methodist men.
The eldest is eighty-six. He sits by the window in the sunlight.
If I’m fortunate enough see old age, I will sit by a sunny window, sipping coffee.
There is a little girl. A grandbaby. She’s sitting on an old man’s lap. The man across from her wears a cowboy hat. He’s showing her magic tricks.
When I am old, I will wear cowboy hats and do magic tricks for grandbabies.
The television in the corner plays footage from the Las Vegas mass shooting. Gruesome images fill the screen.
The conversation comes to a pause. They watch.
“What’s this world coming to?”
“Those poor folks,” says Cowboy Hat.
“What happened, Granddaddy?” asks the little girl.
“Folks is being mean to each other,” says Grandaddy. “That’s what happened.”
Next, the television shows NFL football players on knees, hooking arms. People on TV shout at each other.
One man clears his throat loudly. He says, “I ever tell you my grandson is JV quarterback?”
When I’m old, I will clear my throat loudly to change the subject.
“QB?” answers one man. “You must be proud.”
The men erupt in smiles. There are congratulations. You would’ve thought someone won the Florida Powerball.
“My grandson got his talent from me,” the man goes on. “I was pretty good, you know.”
Humility is not a necessary attribute among Methodists.
The television plays video of an oncoming hurricane. The white cyclone rolls on the map. Palm trees bend sideways.
“They say this is gonna be a bad storm,” Cowboy Hat remarks.
“They always say that.”
“Well, sometimes they’re right.”
“Hell, even a dead clock’s right twice a day.”
“Grandaddy, are we gonna be okay?” says the little girl.
There is childhood worry in her eyes.
He smiles and winks at her. “I promise, we’ll be okay.”
I will smile and wink at babies.
Two waitresses come bearing large trays. Every man gets his meal. The little girl gets a stack of pancakes ten feet high.
Cowboy Hat asks the waitress, “Can I get the ketchup, sweetie?”
Another says, “Some creamers, too.”
“I don’t have a fork.”
“Bring a few more napkins, honey.”
Then, the men remove hats, they join hands, and bow heads. So does the little girl. So do waitresses.
The eldest stands.
He prays for Las Vegas, he prays for hurricanes. For cousins, in-laws, policemen, firefighters, EMTs, pipe-fitters, soy crops, cotton crops, the price of corn, the price of timber, stick welders, farmers who work by day, those who work by night, wayward children, teen pregnancies, NFL players, grandbabies, and JV quarterbacks.
And he finishes with: “Help us be good to one another, Lord.”
“CAN I EAT ALREADY!?” shouts the little girl.
He sits. They eat. They smile. More magic tricks. More laughing.
I’m no Methodist.
But one day, I hope I’m lucky enough to be an old man.