Friday, July 27, 2018

Walter's Special and the Dalai Lama

By the time Jerry reached the Starlight Cafe, he needed more than coffee. He grabbed a copy of the Mobile Press Register and found a table in the far corner. A friendly waitress, wearing a name tag that read 'Lucille', came over with a cup and pot of coffee. "Cream and sugar?" she asked as she placed the cup on the table in front of him and filled it with coffee. To Jerry, she sounded as if she was asking 'creem and shugah'. 

"I guess you don't have raw sugar and soy milk?"

The waitress laughed, " 'Fraid not."

"Coconut milk?"

"No, but I've seen folks on TV shows order that kind of fancy coffee with half this, half that, and a dash of whatever. All we have is regular milk and sugar."

"Well, no thank you, black will do."

As she put the coffee pot back on her tray, she asked, "Breakfast? Walter's fix'n a special omelette this morning with cheese, bologna, peppers, and ramps."

"I'll pass."

"You, sure? It's real good. Harry McRae raises the best Ramps around and he rarely shares. Walter was able to get some from him yesterday." 

Jerry tried to be polite and dismissive at the same time, "I'm fine,"

"Well, if you change your mind, just holler."

"Oh, I will."

Lucille turned and left Jerry in peace. The coffee was surprisingly good. But then anything in this bazaar place that was half way decent passed as exceptional. He opened the paper. Above the fold was an article about the upcoming University of Alabama football season and a column concerning a bill before the state legislature concerning the extension of hunting season for squirrels and feral hogs.

Below the fold was mention of the US Senate's passing of the omnibus appropriations bill and the story of an attack on the US Embassy in Brazil, copied from an AP lead. It was quite obvious down here that Nick Saban and feral hogs trumped any international crisis.

Mike walked in for his morning cup of joe and saw Jerry in the corner. After he getting his coffee, Mike walked over to Jerry's table. "Mind if I have a seat?"

Of course Jerry minded, but did that really matter? "Of course not," he said as he folded his paper and placed it on the table. 

"I get the feeling you're not quite sure about Gallagher."

"Well, it's not that."

"Oh, I'm sure it is."

"I don't mean to offend you, but there is a whole world out there. This place is in a bubble." Jerry took a sip of coffee. He thought, 'I am so totally finished with this God forsaken place'. Out loud, he continued, "If you could just get out of here, you know, see more of the world. This place is its own little microcosm - a closed place. There is so much more."

Lucille brought an omelet and placed it on the table in front of Mike. "Anything else sweetheart?"

"Not now, but thanks."

"You got it!" Lucille smiled and walked away.

Mike picked up the pepper shaker. As he seasoned his breakfast, he continued, "So you're saying there is so much more than evangelizing cross carrying loin draped homeless men and Voodoo priestesses?"

"Well, yes, something like that."

"But what if we like it like that?"

Jerry was quiet. He took a sip of coffee. 'Talk about living in a bubble ', he thought. 'This is worse than I thought.'

Mike continued, "Well, you may think that, but a wise man once told me, 'Home is where you feel at home and are treated well'."

"Really, and who was that?"

"The Dalai Lama."

Totally frustrated with Mike, Jerry sarcastically asked, "The Dalai Lama, and you read that where?"

"I didn't read it. He told me when I had the pleasure of meeting with him several years ago in Tibet."

"In Tibet?"

Mike took a sip from his cup, put it down and added some more sugar. As he stirred his coffee, he continued, "Yes, that 'autonomous' region of western China, bit north east of India, the same one where I was working on my PHD."


"In history."

"History?" Jerry did not expect this.

"Yes, the 'History of Far Eastern Religions that have Faced Persecution'." 

Jerry shook his head. "And, then you came here?"

"No, then I went to law school. After that I came here. Basically, I came home, or close to it."

"To be a deputy sheriff?"

"That would be correct." Mike took a sip of his coffee. 

Jerry was more confused than ever. "Why?"

"Because I wanted to."

Jerry wasn't quite sure what to say or what to think.

"Jerry, you are the one who makes movies - stories of an imaginary world." Mike laughed, "You have to make it up. Here in Gallagher, we don't have to imagine anything, we live it."

Jerry thought a minute. "But you live here with men who dress in Confederate uniforms, witches who read cards, and men who carry crosses professing bible verses. Hell, this place has its own whore house."

"Yep, when you put it that way, sure sounds like the back lot of Twentieth Century Fox to me." Mike took a bite of his omelette. "You really should try this." 

"I'll pass." Jerry paused. "What the Hell are 'ramps' anyway?"

Mike looked up and smiled, "Wild onions. Could be the next arugula, edamame, or rolled ice cream." He took another bite. "You could be on the cutting edge."

"I'll pass."

"Suit yourself."

He cut another piece of the omelette and put it on his fork. "As for the Gentlemen's Club, my mother-in-law would take offense that you referred to it as that."

Realizing he may have gone a bit far, Jerry caught himself. "You're obviously well educated." He wiped his mouth with his paper napkin, crumpled it, and put in on the table. "Look, it's been fun. But, I've had enough fun. Who knows what would happen if I stayed any longer."

"Not sure, but I can tell you one thing."

Jerry looked at him, waiting Mike to finish his comment.

"It's all in the cards." Mike smiled and finished his omelette.

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