Guests of Honor

Okay, the old guy is back in the coffee shop this morning. You remember him — the one who had the big bandage on his head a few weeks ago?

Only there’s no bandage on his head any more. I’m not sure what that says about a guy’s holiday season, but I’m calling it a victory.

His buddy, however — a fellow old guy (they both are deep into their 70s, if not already into their 80s) — now his buddy’s got his right ear heavily wrapped in a bandage.

I’m not sure if these guys are wild boar farmers or what, but I assure you that I am not making this stuff up. For about four months now, one of them has been sporting a bandage of some sort.

And the first guy?

He’s the one who always walks into the coffee shop and promptly scans the place for his next victim. Young, old, male, female — he’s not picky. If he can’t seem to find just one, he simply says things out loud, to nobody in particular — but to everybody in particular, right? That thick Southern drawl of his may as well be a crown perched atop his head.

So today, he walks in, stops, looks around …

“Dontchy’all worry, ah’ll only be heah a second,” he says, folks looking up from their laptops, newspapers, or conversations. “We’re jes’ trainin’ a new village idiot across the street, so thays given me the hour off!”

This is a man who knows what he’s doing.

One time, he came up to my table and asked if I was using the empty chair.

Me: “No. But it’s gonna cost you 3 bucks to borrow it.”

Him (instantly): <even leaning in, for effect> “Y’all take fresh fruits and vegetables, by chance?”

Now, I haven’t heard the fresh-fruits-and-vegetables line since it came out of my old man’s mouth about 25 years ago, before he passed on to that Quirky Old Dude Club in the sky. So I knew this guy to be a real pro. I knew his wit was just warming up after he blurted his Village Idiot line this morning.

He didn’t disappoint.

Within about five steps, he randomly stops at a table with two ladies chatting. He looks at one of them, then looks at the other. They stop talking and look at him. He leans in to one of them, resting a hand on her shoulder, then extends his other hand toward the other lady. He’s not heard a single word of their conversation, but that fact doesn’t get between him and his next funny

“Hey’all,” he says, shaking his head in feigned disappointment. “Y’all just gonna believe all that stuff she’s telling you?”

They laugh.

“I mean, some people!” he adds, backing away from the table.

And then he’s back to scanning the room, resuming his path toward the counter, crossing that stage of his.

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