The front door crashed open. Heads turned.
“Brad! We need to talk! Now!”
Husbands who are catapulted into unexpected arraignments will know the sudden sinking feeling that this simple phrase can trigger. But this was no plaintive, determined female voice; nor was it set in ruptured, tense domesticity.
Every eye in the pizza joint was focused on the man-mountain who had just burst in, and who would surely consume his target when he got to Brad’s table. Steve was too big for anyone to interrupt – or to try to slow down. But wait – surely he had not been crying???
Surely not; but he kept wiping his reddened eyes with a handkerchief that had a strange yellowish pattern.
Brad’s table almost disappeared in the shadow as Steve’s bulk stood before him, his face torn in a three-way battle for ownership between despair, anger and frustration. The silence was palpable, for that phrase “we need to talk” was so out of character for such a big lummox. Was there actually a softer side somewhere down in this giant, trying to get out?
“You said that encouragement would help to get me started with girls; but you were wrong!” His accusation deepened the silence that blanketed the premises. So there was a softer side struggling to emerge...
“Take a seat, Steve,” Brad replied calmly. Without rising, yet with sublime foot-skills, he slid a chair towards his friend. Steve responded by lifting his leg and swinging it over the backrest, before pivoting downwards to displace himself over what Brad had pushed out for him.
“Tell me; what’s happened?” he asked him, while motioning to Poppa Giuseppe for an extra coffee.
“It didn’t work – and you told me it would!”
“What didn’t work?”
“Encouragement - that’s what!” The table scuffed along the floor as he leaned forward. “You told me that if I complimented a girl or said something encouraging to her she would like it. Well, you can’t say I didn’t try!”
“Well, what did you try; and when did you try it?” Brad was aiming to keep things objective, especially as poor Steve was at least one salad short of a full buffet when it came to sensitivity.
“You know the waitress at the hamburger joint; the one who gives all the guys that cute smile?”
Brad smiled and nodded.
“I’ve just been in there. She was working the grill, and I could see she was hot; but when I said what I thought was the most encouraging thing I could say, she got really mad. In fact she grabbed a mustard bottle and she squirted it right in my face – so I had to get out of there!”
“Oh man, that must have stung!” Brad winced, “but what did you say?”
Every ear was tuned up to maximum anticipation of what Steve’s verbal gem might be.
“I just congratulated her for sweating a lot less than any of the other fat girls on the staff!”
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