A Mouthful of WIP
Another piece of my Work in Progress for your consideration.
Shirley and her husband Richard were sitting at a six top with another older couple. While Shirley was the perfect southern belle, two decades past her prime with her platinum blonde bouffant, and frosted pink lipstick, the other woman wore her hair in a short, tightly curled cap, and her mouth was a severe line. The men at the end of the table were indistinguishable from each other, both balding and overweight, sweating through their Sunday best.
There were two empty seats next to the women at the table. Evelyn had to suppress a groan, there was no escaping sitting with them.
“Oh please, please join us! We haven’t ordered yet!” said Shirley. The other woman just watched, her eyes narrow.
“That’s so kind of you!” said Aunt Rachel, and moved to sit next to Shirley leaving the seat opposite her open for Evelyn.
Evelyn made herself comfortable on the vinyl seated chair while Miss Shirley held court. The other couple were the Webbs friends of the Whites visiting from Knoxville. Shirley introduced everyone and Evelyn was amused that to their faces all Mrs. White included in their introductions was that Evelyn was a recent high school graduate, and Rachel’s niece, and that Rachel was a seamstress. When Miss Shirley pointed out other friends around the room, their dossiers included much juicer tidbits. Rachel wasn’t much of a gossip, and she avoided being the subject of the talk at all costs. It seemed to be working. Evelyn took uneasy sips of ice water while watching her Aunt smile and nod.
Dinah, Bitty’s daughter, pulled up next to their table with a notepad in her hand. She was the skinniest middle aged woman Evelyn knew. She obviously didn’t eat at work.
“The usual Mrs. White?” she asked, words flying like bullets from a gun.
“Oh, yes please, Sugar,” replied Shirley. “Mr. White will have his usual too.”
Dinah looked up from her pad, her eyes settling on the Webb’s who were still browsing their menus. “I can come back.”
“Oh, please, no! If Richard doesn’t eat soon he’s going to get the woozies” replied Mrs. White, who then turned to the Webbs. “Have you eaten here on any of your other visits? The chicken is to die for. Or the shrimp and grits, those are really the only options.”
Evelyn thought she detected a hint of frustration through Shirley’s usual sunny facade.
“Is the chicken fried?” asked Mrs. Webb.
“Yes. Fried Chicken, mashed potatoes, collards, and green beans. I’ll bring you a basket of cornbread.” Dinah kept looking over her shoulder at the kitchen, a bell rang incessantly.
Mr. Webb’s eyes glowed. “I’ll take that,” and he handed his menu to Dinah.
Mrs. Webb was still studying the menu.
“And for you, Ma’am?”
Mrs. Webb sighed. “I guess I’ll have the shrimp and grits, but no bacon and no sauce. Just the grilled shrimp and the grits.”
“There’s butter in the grits.”
Mrs. Webb eyes nearly rolled out of her head. “That’s fine. I guess.”
“Oh! I didn’t know you were dieting dear!” Shirley said. “I could have recommended we dine elsewhere. This place is a guilty pleasure. Although, I don’t know what you’re worried about.”
Mrs. Webb, who was thinner than all the women present, save Dinah, said: “It’s a woman’s job to take care of her figure.”
Evelyn knew what her Aunt planned to order and could punch Mrs. Webb in the nose for the stricken look plastered on Rachel’s face.
“The usual?” Dinah asked looking at Rachel.
Evelyn watched the lump slide down her Aunt’s throat and her slow but firm nod. She hoped her Aunt ate her chicken with her fingers and licked the grease clean loudly. Before she knew it Dinah was looking at her with the same question.
Throughout the tense exchange she had planned to order her regular shrimp and grits. When Mrs. Webb started being a bitch she decided to ask for extra bacon, the walk from church making her ravenous. But just as she opened her mouth to agree, another waitress walked by with a huge omelet. Evelyn caught a whiff of the eggs, a cold sweat broke on her upper lip, her eyelids drooped and she nearly lost her cookies all over the table.
“Just a sweet tea, and a bowl of soup today, thanks.”
Dinah looked at her like she just spoken Chinese but jotted a note on her pad and ran away from the table.
“Are you feeling alright, dear?” asked Shirley.
“Oh yes, Mrs. White. Just watching my middle, like Mrs. Webb.”
“I think you look just fine, Evelyn.” said Mr. Webb, shortly before Mrs. Webb’s elbow met his ribs.
Evelyn thought that should be the end of it, but throughout the meal every time she looked up, Aunt Rachel’s eyes were on her. Her thighs stuck painfully to the vinyl as she shifted uncomfortably in her chair.