Cheeseburgers are God’s gift to humanity. You can quote me on that. Once, I traveled to Montgomery, to try what some call Alabama’s best burger—at a hole-in-the-wall place called Vicki’s Lunch Van.
As it happens, Vicki’s is not a van. It’s an old building. Furthermore, I can assure you, the rumors are false. This is not Alabama’s best. This is the best in the cotton-picking United States.
Anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself.
Long ago, when I worked as a house framer, I ate burgers every lunch. This went on for years. I ordered them with extra cheese and pickles.
My friend ate with me. He had a curly black afro and stuttered badly. Because of this, he usually wanted me to order for him. So, each day at lunchtime, I’d tell the girl at the counter, “Two burgers, fixed pretty.” She knew what to do.
We’d eat on the tailgate. My buddy would often say something like, “Y-y-you think you could g-g-get me more C-C-Coke?”
“What am I, your butler?” I’d say, then I’d get him a refill.
I remember the day he told me about a girl.
He said they’d gone bowling. And then, with great enthusiasm, he explained how she was a special girl. She had a young son, with cystic fibrosis. She lived with her friend in a bad part of town. Their relationship was, for all practical purposes, fiscal failure. Between them, all they had were a few nickels and a car payment.
He married her.
I showed up for the wedding. There were maybe five people attending. His mother, brother, and a few others who looked like they’d just gotten off work. His tux was cheap, so was her dress. Her son sat in the front row, crutches on his lap.
When my friend said his vows, he stammered so hard the preacher winced. His bride never quit smiling.
They moved out of town—she wanted to be closer to her mother, since raising her son was a handful. The whole thing happened fast, he hardly knew what hit him. After a few weeks, I was eating lunches all by myself.
I saw him yesterday.
Of all places, he was in the supermarket. He was with his family, visiting town for the weekend. His wife was just as beautiful as ever. His son: huge, and walking without crutches. My pal is happy.
“This woman is my angel,” he said, with no stammer. “Before her, I didn’t believe love was real.”
He and I hugged. I embraced him a little longer than you’re supposed to. Maybe I even got a little misty, I can’t really remember. I glanced in his cart.
He still eats ground beef.