Hill Country Drama

A terrible thing happened last night on Keith’s and my Texas weekend road trip with Sunny and Beanie. We stopped in a well-known hill country town long-since frequented by hunters and ranchers whose idea of a menu special is a half-pound of deer sausage with their 24-ounce ribeye for a buck ninety-nine extra. We’ve been to this particular hotel a number of times in the past but the moment we walked in the door, it was clear that unwelcome change had occurred in the form of a fancy, remodeled dining room. I smelled trouble the moment I saw a well-coiffed waiter offer patrons at one table a sample of the house Chablis. Where in the world was the sweet tea?

Keith was hungry enough to be in denial so I kept my thoughts to myself. We were seated at a table (what, no booth?) with a white table cloth (not even red and white checkered) which Keith nearly pulled off the table when he somehow got it caught between his knees. The handsome young waiter then asked for our drink orders with an exotic accent, a fact that blessed my melting-pot heart but raised Keith’s eyebrow considerably. Don’t get me wrong. Keith just likes consistency. He would have welcomed this waiter at our favorite French restaurant back home but there in a dining room once decorated in deer trophies, it was his first dead giveaway that something was awry. “Waters. We’ll have 2 waters.” I might’ve wanted a Diet Coke, but I think Keith felt the need to reintroduce the waiter to the whole idea of a watering hole. “With lemon, please?” I asked sweetly but from the look on Keith’s face, I may as well have asked for a pineapple wedge, a cherry and a tiny umbrella.

Our gracious waiter returned with our two glasses of water and a little bowl of limes (that was okay. I like them just as well) then, the best we could make out what he was saying, asked for our orders. Keith requested the chicken fried steak, of course, because the restaurant has long-since been famous for it, and (it goes without saying) a side of mashed potatoes. “We don’t have mashed potatoes.” Oh, Lord have mercy. Say it isn’t so. Keith looked like the man had just slapped him with a white folded napkin. Then, the best the waiter could make out what Keith was saying, my man asked with a huff, “What on earth does it come with?” Then, it happened. The ruination of the evening. The culmination of Keith’s worst fears. Right there in Texas hill country surrounded by 25 square miles of some of the biggest deer in the Lone Star State.

“Rice pilaf.”

The next moments were almost too personal to describe. Words tried but failed my husband. Sounds came from deep within him that I’ve never heard. He was so vulnerable, I tried to look away. But so needy, I couldn’t. I looked around to see if people were staring. They must have been in a hypnotic trance because they seemed strangely unmoved by the trauma taking place at our table. Keith looked so shamed for Texas that I wanted to reach over and pull the bill of his Tri-State Taxidermy cap down over his face. I couldn’t. I was frozen. Guilt overwhelmed me. I knew I should have told him that I’d seen baked brie with raspberry sauce on the menu. It might have prepared him for the worst. We don’t always do our loved ones a favor when we try to protect them from the facts.

The only good news is that my man was too demoralized and weakened to hit anyone. He was a Samson shorn. He also didn’t curse, which I found greatly comforting, unless he sputtered something in an exotic language I couldn’t understand. Amid the deep gutturals, the only word I could occasionally make out was “nut.” For a moment there, I feared the waiter would misunderstand Keith to be asking what kind of nut was in the rice pilaf. I knew if he said “almonds” it was all over. Thankfully, we were spared.

After what seemed forty days and forty nights of awkward grunting, Keith finally made out some intelligible words, “Well, do you have any fries?” They did. “Do you think I could have a side order of them?” The waiter nodded cheerily. Keith’s rudeness had escaped him entirely. And he’d escaped Keith. God loves that waiter so. I wanted to ask him if he knew Jesus. After all, he’d nearly seen Him. Somehow we got through dinner and made it to our room. It’s all such a blur. Then, the sun came up again this morning and we got to start a new day. We didn’t even feel like lamenting our McDonald’s coffee. It’s at least fresh and that new “premium” brand really does have a hint of flavor if you close your eyes and concentrate.

A little later we stopped for a fulfilling breakfast in a tiny Texas town. Eggs, biscuits, and bacon, thank You, Jesus. A darling woman walked up to me in the parking lot and said, “My husband says it’s you and I just want you to know that I love you and in your Bible studies, you say you love me.”

Oh, man, I do. I so stinkin’ do.


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