This is a sure enough dive. A bona fide fertilizer hole with old floors, sticky walls, warm beer.
I drove a long way just to eat here—my cousin tells me this dump has the best burgers in Mississippi.
I’d be surprised.
At the bar: several fellas in camouflage. One man in a ten-gallon hat. Another, staring at the TV. And since it’s still legal to smoke in restaurants here, they’re burning through as many Camels as they can before the Magnolia State changes its laws
There’s a woman in pink scrubs at the table beside me. Her young son is beside her, devouring a burger.
The kid says, “I made an EIGHTY-EIGHT on my math test, mom.”
“No way,” she says. “For real?”
The boy coughs, then blows his nose. “I’m SECOND smartest in my CLASS, MOM!”
She hugs the Dickens out of him. Then, she flags the waitress for pie and ice cream. They eat. They laugh. Her face is rough and tired, but her eyes aren’t.
Finally, the boy says, “When can I come live with you? I don’t wanna live with Dad anymore.”
She stops eating. I can see she wants to say something, but mamas can’t always say what’s on their minds.
“Eat your pie, sweetie.”
The mood goes from giddy to sour. His smile fades. She pets his hair. He hacks between bites.
After a few minutes, a man walks through the door. He’s wearing boots and he’s all smiles. She greets him but he doesn’t acknowledge her.
He pats the boy on the back and says, “You ready, man?”
The boy gets his backpack, then embraces his mama so hard he almost breaks her. He coughs.
“Make sure he takes his antibiotics,” she tells the man.
But he doesn’t answer. He walks out without glancing in the woman’s direction.
“Love you, sweetie!” she hollers. “Take those antibiotics!”
She might as well be mute. They’re already gone, and this place has gone quiet. No chit-chat. Her pie is half-eaten.
The woman walks to the bar and pays her tab. A white-haired man on a stool asks how she’s holding up. She starts to answer, but loses it. She’s sobbing.
So the man holds her. A few others join—massaging her shoulders, rubbing her back. Patrons use soft voices. They set beers down and form a clump around her.
It’s the kind of group-hug more common to Baptist churches than beer joints.
So Listen God:
I know you have a lot going on—with the universe going nuts and all. You’ve got world hunger, nuclear threats, fatal epidemics, and people’s lives getting ripped apart by things they find offensive on Facebook.
But if I could call in just one favor…
Help that boy remember his antibiotics.
And help that mama through tomorrow.