As I Like It!

Saturday Serial, December 16



DECEMBER 16, 2016







Mike decided that trying to reason with Junior was like trying to teach a pig to sing; it’s a waste of time, and it pisses the pig off. He opened the bus door and said,

“What time do you plan to meet Bessie?”

“I’m going after work; probably get there about six. Why do you care?”

Thought I might drop by to see if I can talk some sense into the both of you.”

“Well, if you come, don’t plan on sticking around. Don’t need you messing up my evening.”

“Junior, just out of morbid curiosity, what are you telling Lucy Lee when you don’t show up after work?”

“I always tell her the truth. I explain that I’m on a service call.”

Mike just shook his head and closed the bus door as he left. He drove back to his office and decided to try to pay some of his back bills—now that he had the money. He surprised himself that he was able to pay everyone he owed, and, still have over $5,000 in his account.

It was close to eleven when he finished, and he decided to catch the noon AA meeting at St. Alban’s, and, he actually volunteered to share during the meeting. Afterward, Joe Spencer, his sponsor, invited him to have lunch and Mike met him at the Dinner Bell Café in downtown Leesburg.

When Mike walked into the café, Joe grinned and said,

“Okay, just what in the hell is going on with you? You didn’t pick up a white chip, you’re driving a new truck, and you actually talked in a meeting. Dare I hope you’re starting to get it?”

Before Mike could answer, the waitress came up to take their orders. Mike ordered two bacon cheeseburgers, a large order of fries, and a chocolate shake. He told the gal to put both of their orders on one check and to give it to him. After Joe had ordered the daily special he said,

“Okay, now I think aliens must have taken control of your brain. I’ve known you for two years, and this will be the first time you’ve ever paid the check.”

“The truck belongs to a client, I haven’t had a drink today, and the client has given me a very nice retainer. Like you always say, sometimes you’re the windshield, and sometimes you’re the bug. Well, today I’m the windshield.”

“What else do I always tell you?”

“Don’t get too excited or depressed; this too shall pass, and it will all be good in the end. If it’s not good, it’s not the end—along with a couple dozen more pieces of psycho-babel.”

Joe grinned and said,

“It’s nice to know that you’re listening. Who knows, you may even be ready to do something about your drinking.”

“What else can I do? I’ve admitted that I’m an alcoholic, I go to meetings, and I haven’t had a drink today. I thought that was pretty much the deal.”

“It’s the first part of the deal, but it’ll only get you dry, not sober. You have to decide to take the next step to get that.”

“What next step?”

“That you’re powerless over alcohol.”

“I’m not powerless over alcohol; I haven’t had a drink since picking up that last white chip. Does that sound powerless to you?”

“No, it sounds egotistical and delusional, but certainly not powerless.”

“Okay, what do you want me to do?”

“Keep coming back and don’t drink today. Here comes our lunch. Let’s eat it before you change your mind about the check.”

They finished lunch without further mention of AA, and Mike gave Joe a sanitized update on his new assignment. They agreed to go to the meeting tomorrow, and Mike watched as Joe drove away. He looked at his watch and saw that it was after 3:00, and he wanted to take care of one more thing before he started to Bessie’s hunting club.

He walked three blocks to Kaplan’s menswear and pushed through the door into the cool interior. Abe Kaplan saw him come in and walked over with a measuring tape hanging around his neck and a smile on his face. Beaming, he said,

“Mike, it’s really good to see you. I’d heard that you were back in town and my feelings were hurt that you hadn’t dropped by.”

Abe Kaplan owned one of the top men’s stores in North Mississippi, and also, was considered the best custom tailor between New Orleans and St. Louis. Abe had been taught the trade by his father and grandfather, and he adhered to the old world concepts of fine, high quality, materials and expert workmanship. He was also a passionate Mississippi State fan.

Mike was hard pressed to buy suits and sports coats off the rack. Not only was he as big as a grizzly bear, but one arm was longer than the other and one leg shorter than the other. No matter how expensive the garment, Lomax always looked like an unmade bed. If ever a guy needed a tailor, it was Mike.

Mike had first met Abe when he made the traveling squad at State. Abe donated custom-made travel blazers to the team, and when Mike saw his, he realized it was the first coat that ever fit him right. One of his first stops after cashing his NFL signing bonus was to Abe’s, and he’d been buying all of his clothes there since. Lately, he’d been too broke to come by, but he needed a suit for work, and he figured it was a good expenditure.

As they walked toward the fitting room in the back of the store, he explained to Abe what he had in mind. Abe told him to strip to his shorts and socks and climb up on the small carpet covered stand. Abe began taking measurements and consulting a clipboard. Finally, he said,

“Mike you haven’t bought a suit for the past two years. You’ve gained almost three inches in your waist and two in your neck. I’m surprised you can get into any of your suits and sports coats.”

“I can’t, that’s the problem. I’m trying to lose some weight, but I can’t wait until I do. I’ve gotta have at least one suit now.”

Abe looked him in the eye and asked,

“Are you really trying to lose?”

“I am. I’m going to AA, and I plan to start working out any day now.”

“Mike, the stopping drinking will help, in more ways than one, and working out will too. The sad truth is, unless you drastically cut back on the groceries, you’re not gonna lose.”

“I know you’re right; I’ve got to stay out of the fast food joints.”

“You can overeat at home. What you need is a plan, and I just happen to have one.”

Abe reached into a nearby desk and handed Mike a legal sized folder with several pages in it and said,

“This is a sensible, long-term plan for healthy eating. It isn’t a diet, but rather a lifestyle program that includes exercise and regular physical exams. It provides sufficient caloric intake to keep you healthy, and if adhered to, you’ll find your natural weight.”

Mike took the plan and replied,

“Okay Abe, I’ll give it a try, but I still need something to work in.”

“What I’m gonna suggest is that we pick a medium priced suit off the rack, and I’ll alter it to fit you better. As you lose weight, I can adjust it until you get back to where you were two years ago. You have a closet full of fine garments that I can make adjustments too then.”

“How long do you think it’ll take me to lose enough?”

“How long did it take you to gain it?”

“I ballooned up as soon as I left the Bears.”

“Well, I suspect it will come off within six months, and we can keep you respectable for that long.”

Mike agreed, and Abe pulled a dark blue suit off the rack and made all the marks needed to alter it. When he finished, he told Mike to get dressed and meet him at the cash register. When Mike came up, Abe handed him a bill and said,

“That covers the suit and all the alterations. I threw in three dress shirts in your size to tide you over until you lose the weight. I’ll have the suit ready by Friday of this week.”

Mike looked at Abe and said,

“Man, I really thank you for this.”

“Not a problem. I’m glad to see you wanting to do something positive. We’ve all been worried about you.”

“Thanks again. I’ll see you on Friday.”

Mike took the plastic bag with the shirts and tossed it in the passenger seat. He looked at his watch and headed toward Bessie’s hunting club. He pulled off of US 45 and turned east, taking a back road that saved ten miles. He came to the front gate and drove toward the club’s lodge, and soon noticed Junior’s truck parked next to Bessie’s BMW.

He got out and walked up the front steps to a large set of double doors, with the upper half containing glass panels. He rang the bell and waited, but when no one came, he rang it again. He peered into the dark room but saw nothing or no one. He walked around the corner of the porch just in time to see a figure dressed in warm-ups and hoodie vault over the porch rail and take off for the line of trees along the back of the property.

The figure had a good head start, but Mike swung over the railing and took off after him. Now, one might think it futile to suppose that a 300 plus, fat guy should be chasing someone, but Mike Lomax could run the forty in less than five seconds, and he had explosive acceleration. He was maybe twenty yard behind the guy, and gaining fast.

Mike might have caught him but for the three rail fence along the back of the property. The hooded figure cleared the fence in perfect form for a high hurdler. Mike cleared the first two rails and crashed into the fence, taking out two full sections. It took him a minute to regain his wits and unravel himself out of the fence parts. By that time, the guy was long gone.

Mike trotted back to the lodge and noticed the back door swinging open. He charged up the steps and burst into the kitchen, just as Bessie Lloyd leveled an over and under at him, so he skidded to a stop with his hands in the air. Bessie smiled at him and said,

“Let the bastard get away, did you?

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