Bad CompanyMature

While our waiter, rosy cheeked and round, rattled on about the Riviera’s Saturday specials, I pretended to know about my soon-to be aunt’s- college sorority chapter.  “Oh, yes. Did you say Phi Kappa Mu? I can only hope rush treats me so well!” My uncle-once divorced and Maureen Phillips- thrice divorced- had driven across the North Carolina state line into our charming little town in South Carolina for a visit. For visualization purposes, I should tell you that Maureen could have been mistaken for one of Hugh Heffner’s girls on that reality show, “Bunnies in the Hutch.” Disregarding the ears, I think that’s probably the most accurate description. Now, at this point, I was still in the process of sizing up Ms. Philips, not being able to help but notice her culinary selection and the sapphire ring so prominently displayed on that bony, finger.  “Well, it all looks so wonderful, Martha- I couldn’t make a bad choice. But, oh my, the lobster is calling me. I am so bad!” And bad she was- more accurately, bad mannered. Would you believe that slimy little leech ordered the single most expensive dish on the menu? Our server must have taken note, quickly there after suggesting she choose “something sparkly to help it go down a little easier.” The Monet variety, he assured, was “superb.” “Well, I guess this is a time for celebration!” Aunty Philips flashed her bulging rock, let out a phony little chuckle, and proceeded to feel up my uncle. “Moet- champagne it is!,” she declared. Our waiter must have been aching for a good tip; “Ah-ha! A fine choice for a fine lady!”  Maureen blushed and gave three deliberate eye lash bats. “Well, aren’t you a sweet-heart…and a cute one at that! Have you considered modeling?” Maureen gave the waiter a quick wink, and turned her scrawny neck towards my mother, her silicon breasts exposed nearly to the point of indecency. “Is that OK with you-Martha?” My mother’s countenance was overcome by an air of disgust; her eyes bulged in disbelief. “Of, of course, Maureen. You’re our guest. Anything you like.” Curious, I eyed the wine list. Man- o-man- I might as well have been squeezed flat by a semi-truck. At $36.50 a bottle, that irritated look in my mother’s eyes was certainly justified. Not wanting to contribute to the financial damage, I ordered the pasta marinara with shitake mushrooms from the children’s section. “No sir, I am definitely not thirteen. “Alright then, miss. Spaghetti bambin (Italian for children) it is.” I couldn’t help but think; this was when five foot two and no boobs came in handy. I watched my mother, so tastefully dressed in her good heals, pencil skirt, and single strand of pearls, the embodiment of simple elegance, making mental calculations as orders were placed; her red satin blouse beautifully complemented her creamy complexion and ebony locks. My mother, it should be noted, is a class A tight-wad, an anxious, almost neurotic woman in regards to money, who finds enormous pleasure in such activities as clipping coupons, perusing, but never purchasing, “Saver’s Weekly” in the grocery check out line, and boasting a wardrobe remarkably similar to that of her college years. The painfully practical, fifty three year old attorney, was becoming increasingly irritated with this, in her view, vulgar, Maureen character and hot with the thought of such reckless spending. Her hands shook nervously beneath the table cloth, and, when she did raise them to grasp her water glass, the ice clinked noisily. For a petite woman, the veins in her neck bulged with remarkable intensity. “So, Jordan, isn’t it?”  My mother looked irked. Was not this woman about to marry, God pity him, her brother? “It’s Caroline.” “Oh, right, Caroline! I knew it started with a ‘k’!” My mother forced a smile. “That’s quite all right, Maureen.” Now, one would think Ms. Philips would have silenced herself for several minutes, perhaps get back to ogling her fiancé, but Maureen was a babbler with a voice box stuck on auto-pilot, shutting down now was out of the question. “So, Catherine, are you thinking of re-marrying anytime soon? I am sure you’d have plenty of prospects, but, I personally think even women who have aged gracefully can benefit from the plastic surgeon’s knife. Of course, you’re so attractive. You wouldn’t need much. Maybe some fillers for those lips, a face lift, you know, just a nip tuck here and there to get you ready for jumping back into the dating scene. I can give you the name of my surgeon, if you like.” I don’t think my mother knew precisely how to respond, and, if she did, she was too much a lady to give the girl a good verbal thrashing, though she certainly would have enjoyed it. Such behavior, my mother holds, is to be reserved for the court room. “Strictly for the court room. Strictly for the court room.” She silently repeated her mantra. When our dishes arrived, Maureen took four bites of her massive ten-legged friend- her fork spending more time clanking against the plate than in her mouth- and, by the night’s end, had guzzled down six glasses of the finest liquor the Riviera Bar and Grill had to offer. “I have really gorged myself tonight. I must disgust you, Cathy.” “Yes, you certainly won’t need to eat for, at the very least, another week!” When the bill arrived, I could tell my mother, the miser, regretted having abandoned her go-to classic, The Waffle Shack. The Waffle Shack, first and foremost, was dirt cheap , and the scrumptious aromas of syrup and old grease permeated the air. A most delightful combination, indeed.  My uncle, while an inebriated Maureen Philips stood in the doorway picking split ends and re-applying gloss, oozed self-satisfaction. The Brown University anthropology professor radiated a sort of sickening smugness, a haughtiness typically reserved for car salesmen and serial killers; a psychologist might have speculated this characteristically modest fellow was enjoying a renewed sense of self-worth, presumably from Ms. Philip’s artificially “:good” looks, his ego swelling almost to Maureen’s cup size. Now, by this late hour in the evening, my mother was becoming restless, increasingly skeptical of her brother’s sanity. What he saw in this woman, save for a few cheap thrills and a maxed out credit card, was beyond her. Of course, such absurdity, she supposed, was inevitable. Her brother, the brilliant, University of Chicago educated professor, had always been lacking in common sense; anybody with a grain of it knows you don’t marry a woman working on her forth marriage- rest assured, there’s a reason the previous three didn’t last. Maureen started up again, this time with a little more wobble in her voice, her mental faculties not wholly intact. She needed Michael’s hand to steady herself.  “Oh Carroll!.... It’s been a real pleasure …I’ve had a….”, Maureen giggled,  “a, a real nice time with you and…Yeah, it’s been so fun…Now, you, you don’t be shy, now. You give me a ring if you ever want to pick up a…a man…and, and we can go out to to….” While the loon rambled on, my mother grabbed the waiter’s pen, and, not pausing even to verify the check’s accuracy (she typically spends a moment re-calculating to catch over charges) giving it a quick swipe of the hand- I don’t think I had ever seen her so eager to pay a bill, doubted I ever would, for that matter. “Thank you, ma’m. You all have a splendid evening!” My mother smiled. “And you too.” Maureen chimed in: “Oh, I, I am sure we’ll (Maureen looked at Michael) manage.” With that, my mother gave the couple her best wishes, Maureen a weak “congratulations,” and her brother, a take out box.  On the Styrofoam of the inside lid , written with a black Bic medium ball point, was the following friendly advice: “Michael, sign a pre-nup--- and enjoy the lobster. Affectionately, Caroline.”  

 

The End

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