Design for Dinner
Posted on: May 3, 2005 7:31 PM
"I'd like for you to come out to help me with my webpage, if that's not too much trouble, Karsh."
"Sure...I'll be down in an hour."
On the side from my nine-to-five, I do a little freelance design work for non-profits and small businesses. This client was a Muslim minister out in Stone Mountain who produces a line of children's books. It was a gig I didn't want at first; the last few jobs I did with the church folks sort of soured me when they wanted to pay me in Proverbs instead of Benjamins. Madam Shazzah, hopefully, would be the end of that. She seemed like a nice lady aside from the badly drawn children's books she self-published.
She met me at the station last Sunday afternoon and after a 15 minute drive, we were at her house. I tweaked the hyperlinks, aligned the columns, and uploaded some pictures.
"Are you hungry, Karsh?"
"We're going to have dinner in a while; you're more than welcome to join us."
The us in question were her brother Leroy and their mother. I figured I might as well get a meal out of the deal as well as my payment for updating the site.
I sat down at a small round table with a plastic marble finish. Leroy sat on my left, an elderly gentleman decked out in a University of Georgia baseball cap, jacket and pants. The mother was on my right, her expression frozen as though she smelled a foul stench from under her powder grey wig. The madam comes to the table with a serving dish of brown meaty pieces with huge chunks of raw onion. Alpo's finest. Leroy and mother scooped huge piles of it on their plates, gobbling up the mystery meat mixture.
"Umm...what exactly is this?"
"Giblets, gizzards and livers with some onion. Eat it...it's full of iron." It was like a flashback to 9 years old with me stuffing half-eaten liver into my napkin and then feeding it to the dog.
"Mmmfrmm mmumm fmfmmf," Leroy mumbled through a mouthful of dog food.
"The dinner will be ready in a minute, Karsh. Would you like something to drink?"
"Sure...what do you have?"
"Grapefruit juice and buttermilk," said the mother before exploding into a raspy laugh.
The madam passes me a warm glass of tap water and I chug it down without tasting it. Leroy and I make some small talk and soon the Madam brings a turkey to the table with flesh as pallid as a ghost. How it looked so raw but still had steam coming from it was beyond me. The madam also brought over a bowl of lima beans and a pan of beige cornbread. Leroy got up and grabbed the carton of Dairy Fresh cultured buttermilk from the fridge and poured himself, his sister and his mother a glass.
"You want some?"
"No thanks." Hell no, is more like it. People really drink this shit?
The plates were passed clockwise 'round the table and I took a bite of the white meat. Holy fuck, this is horrible. With my mouth still full, I shoveled in two scoops of lima beans. They're cold and slimy. Maybe the cornbread will help. The bite I took fell apart in my mouth like biting into a talcum brick. Stick with it, old man. I shuddered after the first gulp.
"Umm...can I use your bathroom?"
"Sure. Down the hall, second door on the right."
I was wrong to make the call to my friend to bail me out. I was even worse for taking the call during the frighteningly silent meal with a University of Georgia fan, a Muslim minister, and a smelly-faced elderly woman. But the worst insult came when Madam took me back to the station.
"I saved you a plate. Consider this your payment for helping me out on the site." She smiled and put me out at the station before I could even register the fact that I just got paid in a fucking Sunday dinner. I considered ditching the plate right there at the station, but I figured I'd at least get it home so I could have photographic evidence.
As the train lulled into Inman Park/Reynoldstown three stops short of my destination, a Black homeless barefoot woman with knotted Black hair stumbled into the car. She was shaking a styrofoam Zesto's cup furiously trying to free the half-melted cubes from the bottom. They fell into her hand, and she rubbed them across her face and bare feet.
"What the fuck?"
She jumped up and began her speech.
"Excuse me ladies and gentlemen, I just wanna ask y'all fo' a li'l change so a sista can get somethin' to eat this evening." An East Indian guy in a business suit raised his copy of The Economist higher so he wouldn't see the homeless woman. A teenager dug into his pocket and retrieved a quarter. Then she turned and looked at me. We both looked at the tin-foiled covered plate in my lap.
What the hell.
I gave her the plate, figuring the food could do better in her stomach than mine.
"God bless you, young man."
She peered under the tin-foil, took a sniff, and cringed.
"Damn...anybody got change for a soda?