Meeting the in-laws grows complicated


That evening they stepped out on the town.

They’d gone to see that revival of No Place to Be Somebody at the Apollo.  Leafing through the playbill, he’d idly suggested that it was time he met his in-laws-to-be. She had simply nodded, seriously reading hers. Going over the bios.

The production was powerful. Greatly deserved the standing ovation it got. After, filing out with the crowd, they’d strolled the block or so over to Sylvia’s to have themselves a good soul food dinner. She laced her arm through his, leaning in, and said, “Honey?”

He never like it when she said that word quite that way. “What is it?”

“Now, baby, don’t be like that.”

Another dead giveaway that he wasn’t going to like whatever it was she’d eventually get around to saying. It was a good thing he was crazy about her. Because, unlike most beautiful women, she was probably the worst con artist in creation. “I ain’t bein’ like nothing. I just know you up to something.”

She pretended to pout. “Am not.”

He playfully scowled. “Am so.” Then, as the traffic light switched, he said, “Come on, let’s not get hit by a car.” They strode briskly across Lenox Avenue and up 126th St., stepping inside, gliding past the long line of folk hoping to sooner or later be seated.

The host fairly beamed, “Mr. Jackson, Ms. Hall! So good to see you.” Summoned someone to escort them to a nice, roomy, but not too spacious table just where Keith liked it. By a window. They’d got a few ugly looks from the line. Keith wanted to say, Well, pays to make a reservation, don’t it? Even if you have to do it at least a month ahead of time.

They sat and she gave him one of her most winning smiles. “Thank you for a wonderful evening.” She then, threw in —and he got it — “at the theatre.”  Lesli’d been greatly surprised at his suggestion that they go see a play. Instead of a movie. Had said, “I might just civilize you, yet.”

He’d been gratified to grant her that triumph, not divulging that one reason he wanted to go was that all three stars, Joe Morton, Anika Noni Rose and Frankie Faison, were among his favoritest film stars. “You welcome, darlin’.”

Another reason, admittedly, was that she’d got him interested in well-written plays. He’d always loved tightly scripted flicks. But, once she started dragging him to theaters, there was nothing like the riveting immediacy of a playwright who knew what he or she was doing.

They had a hell of a lot space in which to do it, and the good ones admirably rose to the task. This cat Charles Gordone, whose work they’d just seen, being seriously no joke. No wonder what that big famous prize it was he won.

Lesli’s jaw dropped, mouth wide open and, for once, nothing coming out. He followed her line of vision. Morton, Rose, and a few other folk had filed in, were on their away across the floor, headed to a table. He looked back at Lesli. “You gon’ catch a fly.”

She snapped her jaw shut. Not that they hadn’t come in for a meal and caught more than a few celebrities hanging out, relaxing. Every time, though, Lesli got star struck.

Their drinks arrived. A little while after that, their dinner. He had no intention of pulling teeth. She’d tell him what was so heavy on her mind or he didn’t need to know. In characteristic Lesli fashion, she put her fork down right in the middle of a mouthful of cornbreaded catfish and said, out of nowhere, “My mother is not going to like you.”


Next week: Dinner turns ugly.

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