Hell’s Hand Basket

People sitting at a bar will tell you what they think, the moment they think it—whether you ask their opinions or not. This is especially true in the South, where opinions are like livers. Everyone has one, and some use theirs more than others.

Ask folks how they like your shirt; get fifteen responses. Ask about SEC football; get fifty. And when you hit the subject of politics, I suggest hunting for a sturdy table to hide beneath. Because this is when the bologna hits the treadmill.

The white-haired man at the bar kicked off such a conversation by saying, “This country’s turning into pure and total…”

I won’t tell you which word he used, but let’s just say I spotted a nice strong table in the corner.

“I dunno,” said a skinny man next to him. “I gotta disagree.”

“What’s to disagree with? Facts’re facts, and this nation’s going to Hell in a hand-basket.”

The skinny man shrugged. “Well, I dunno.”

A few folks shifted in their seats when he said that. One gentleman used the opportunity to head for the quiet of the urinals. No one talks politics at a urinal.

“You know what I think?” the skinny man went on. “I think I worked hard today.”

That drew confused looks from at the bar.

“We raise chickens,” he continued. “Commercially. My brothers and me. We just started doing it last year, and it ain’t easy.”

“Huh?” the white-haired man said.

“Chickens?” the lady bartender asked.

“Yep. We started after my mama died,” he added. “And that’s something else. She lived until she was eighty-nine. I feel lucky about that. Lotta folks don’t get their mama as long as we did.”

“I don’t understand,” said the bartender. “What’s that got to do with anything?”

The skinny man sighed. “And my boys are healthy. Good athletes, too. God, I’m thankful for that.”

The white-haired fella shook his head. “What’n the God’s name are we even talking about?”

“Here, look.” The skinny man removed his cellphone, which displayed a picture of a nineteen-year-old in football gear. “See? He’s a quarterback.”

Nice-looking kid.

“Look,” he went on. “I just don’t think things’re as bad as folks say. I feel lucky with all that I got, family, work, my wife. Maybe I’m wrong.”

“Aw hell,” said the white-haired man. “You missed the whole point, son. I was talking about political stuff. The presidential race, not your family life.”

“Yeah,” said the skinny man. “I know. I haven’t been following it. Reckon I need to watch the news once in awhile.”

God no, son. Don’t start doing that.

You’re doing fine without it.

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