The diners hold forth


Hank snatched up a cloth and began wiping the glass table down. “Would you start putting those burgers on the platter while they’re still edible?”

“Sure thing.”

“So, what’s my daughter got against Helen St. James? I saw the woman on a TV interview. Seems like a nice lady. Kind of on the sassy side, but still nice.”

“Oh, Helen’s fine. To tell the truth, Lesli doesn’t know her real well. Hasn’t taken the time. She… Well, she doesn’t like the fact that I like her. I mean, as a friend and all, but, well, Helen’s a special kind of gal.”

“Ah,” Hank said and tossed the cloth under the grill. “The green-eyed devil raising his head.”

“Yeah, you could say.”

“I wouldn’t let that throw you, son. Her mother was the same way. She’ll get over it.”

Keith winced. “You sure?”

Hank chuckled. “Just hang in there. Unless I miss my guess, she’s just not used to what she sees as a challenge. Women like her and her mother just aren’t used to seeing other women as competition. Real head-turners. But, even a head-turner’s gonna feel a little funny when her man is friends with a Helen St. James.”

“Yeah, I guess.”

“You guess? How’d you like Lesli to be hangin’ around and gettin’ real well with, oh, say, Denzel Washington?”

Keith laughed. “I see your point.”

“Thought y’ might.” Then he winked with a smirk. The same cute smirk Keith’d sometimes see on Lesli when she thought two steps ahead — which was why he hated playing chess with her: She always beat the pants off him.

He had a mental image of a house party. With Mari and Helen getting along so famously, she’d have to stop sulking and get to actually know Keith’s friend. Food for thought.

The food in front of them disappeared amidst a great deal of holding forth. Mari got to yapping about “Why are all these pretty young celebrity sisters marrying White men? Can’t they find rich, successful, pretty Black brothers just as rich and famous?”  She looked directly at Keith.

“You’re asking me?”

“You’re in the same business aren’t you, entertainment?” There was no getting around that, but it still didn’t mean he was accountable for an answer.

To be a pain in the ass, Lesli tipped her rum and coke and egged on, “Yeah, you’re in the same racket.”

He looked at Hank, who decided to join in on the fun. “Aren’t y’?”

“Now, wait a minute.” The three of them broke up laughing, then Mari went on. “I really don’t understand why it’s necessary. I mean, I could understand back in my day when Black stars were few and far between. What else was a woman going to do for someone to suit her stature? There’s no excuse nowadays.”

“What about love?” Lesli asked, for the pure hell of keeping the conversation going.

“Love may be colorblind, little girl,” Mari answered. “People aren’t.” It went on like that. The next subject was when would there be a Malcolm X Day like there is a Martin Luther King Day.

“About two minutes after hell freezes over,” quipped Hank. “We may’ve had a Black president. Even he knew better than to propose something like that.” Subjects changed soon as one ran out of gas. Before long even Keith got in on it. “One of the few things I’m grateful for?”

“Yes?” Lesli piped up with a dizzy grin.

“Besides you.”

“Oh. Well then, what are you grateful for?”

“This Internet business. Do you know, if I can’t get to the studio and have a studio at home, I can record my track and email it to the control booth?”

“You have a studio?” Mari asked.

“Nope. But, if I did, y’ see…?” She nodded.

“Well,” Lesli wanted to know, “what the hell is so great about that? Aren’t you supposed to get off so much on the camaraderie? On getting together with the boys? How much fun is that from home?”

“Don’t know ’til I try it.”


Next week: Hank and Keith reach an understanding.

Dwight Hobbes welcomes reader responses to P.O. Box 50357, Mpls. 55403. 

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