[dropcap]I [/dropcap]stopped at a barbecue joint outside Salem, Alabama. A middle-aged man sat on the stool next to me. My first impression was that something was wrong with him. He made little grunts while he chewed his food.
The man turned and stared at me. Then he dug a notepad from his pocket and scribbled something down.
“Where are you from?” it read.
So I told him.
He bellowed a laugh, then flicked his ears. “I’m deaf,” he said, butchering the words.
He handed me the pencil.
“I’m from Florida,” I wrote.
He nodded. “I’m from Auburn.” Then he moaned, “War eagle.”
The waitresses giggled, and so did I.
He wrote again. “You look just like my son.”
“Poor fella,” I said. “He must have to swat the girls away with a stick.”
The man let out one of those awkward laughs again. He removed his wallet and showed me a photo. Then he flashed it to the waitresses. They smiled like they’d seen it a hundred times already. In the picture stood a young man holding a baby girl. He didn’t look a thing like me.
Not even close.
The man scrawled onto his pad. “Car accident. He’s been gone a few years.”
I didn’t know what to say.
The waitress brought my check and set it on the counter. Before I could reach it, the man snatched it up and winked at me. That old joker was going to pay my bill whether I liked it or not.
He wasn’t doing it for me.