I guess I could have just walked up to her porch and rang the bell. That is how my Uncle Deacon would have done it. Deacon could sing that song of his and everyone believed him instantly. If I tried it, I would have gone to jail at the very least.
I had been hanging around the medium size town just east of the Mississippi river for two days waiting for a chance. It came on Sunday after the evening services. I hadn't bothered to go inside, I had seen a thousand screaming Baptist ministers in my lifetime. I had avoided at least as many, I figured I could miss one more without doing too much more damage to my soul.
After the Service, the only slightly overweight Peggy Sue, drove to a restaurant located in the parking lot of the local mall. The parking lot was full, I expected that the food was the reason, rather than it being the only one open on a Sunday night. In my home town I might have thought the reverse. Peggy parked as close to the door as possible, then went inside. As close as she could get, wasn't all that close.
I left the over packed power company style Jeep in the parking lot a couple of minutes later. Inside the brightly lit restaurant I looked for Peggy, she was nowhere to be found. Of course, if you have ever tried to spot anyone in a restaurant you know how hard it is. Since I didn't expect to find her anywhere else, I decided that if I missed her at least I could have a meal that didn't spring from a can.
I followed the waitress past a couple of tables packed solid with grazing people. She led me past the crowded main dining room to the overflow section. The overflow area had not been visible from the door. There was very little difference between the main dining room and the overflow except for the small tables for two. There were four of them, two were located on either side of the door leading from the busy kitchen. Even though most of the dining room was empty Peggy Sue sat at one of those tables.
The hostess led me to the other. When she placed the menu on the table, she didn't seem to realize that she was placing me at arguably the worst table in the restaurant. I looked the waitress, then at the table, then back at the waitress.
"I'm sorry this just won't do."
"I'm sorry sir what did you say?" How dare me question her, was written all over her face.
"I said, I am not going to eat my dinner with the busboy. I would like a table away from the kitchen door."
"I'm sorry sir these are the only tables 'for one' in the restaurant, and this is one of our peak periods."
I looked at the table again, then back at the waitress, then over at Peggy Sue. "Young Lady, how would you like to have dinner on me and at a table where you don't have to hold you iced tea so that it wont be on your mashed potatoes?"
"I'm sorry what?" I could tell she was not only bewildered but extremely embarrassed.
"Ma'am, I haven't had a real meal in almost a week, however I refuse to eat with people tripping over me. I expect that if there were two of us, we could get a better table." I turned my attention to the seating monitor before I asked. "That is true isn't it? If there were two of us we could get a better table?"
The waitress glared at me before she answered, "Yes then you wouldn't be a party of one." I had been told that Peggy Sue was a docile thing, but suddenly there was spark in her eye. I just knew she was going to find her courage for a moment at least.
"I would be happy to have dinner with you Sir." She obviously had noted her chance not only to get away from the kitchen door, where she had probably taken most of her meals in that restaurant, but also her chance at a minor rebellion.
I extended my hand to her. "Martin Burke ma'am, my friends call me Marty." I didn't know at time that it was pushy as hell for a man to extend his hand to a woman. I had a lot to learn. Either Peggy didn't know herself, or she overlooked it. In Peggy's case it was a toss up.
We followed the waitress to a table set with four plates but fit only for two. It was still close to the kitchen door. I expect it was the hostess's try at regaining control of the situation. She had a very small fiefdom, but she obviously planned to defend it.
I walked past her to the best table in the overflor room. It was one of only three by the windows which faced the rear of the restaurant. I chose the only one without a view of the dumpster. The hostess angrily snapped down the menus before leaving.
Peggy Sue actually smiled when she said, "You know they may never take our order?"
"Ma'am, I wasn't kidding everything I've had to eat for the last week has been wrapped in paper and came in a bag, or it was reheated from a can. If she doesn't send someone for our order, I will take it to the night manager personally." She shrank back as though I was about to assault her. I didn't realize how cruel it had sounded.
I smiled to break the mood, "Or I could just go into the kitchen and cook it myself. In which case food poisoning would be in our future'" I smiled broadly to let her know that it was a joke.
"Why?" she asked. She noted my confused look. "You don't look like you should be eating from a can?"
"Oh that, I'm headed west. I've got a cousin living in New Mexico I am off to visit. I'm camping along the way."
"Where are you from?" She seemed to be curious and interested.
"Oh a little town about five hundred miles east of here, you wouldn't know it."
"So how come it has taken a week to go five hundred miles?" She was smiling as she spoke.
"Oh I'm stopping along the way to visit family that has kinda got lost over the years."
"And none of them offered you a home cooked meal?" She seemed a little shocked.
"Not yet, but I'm only five hundred miles into a two thousand mile trip. Someone may take pity on me. Just to change the subject, are you married, got any kids?"
"Separated, with one son Jeff."
"How old is Jeff?"
"Ah Jeff is five, he is with his father this weekend. His family is doing a reunion thing, so Don wanted Jeff to come along." She had looked down at the table as she spoke.
"Are you okay," I asked it because her demeanor had changed completely.
"You don't want to hear my troubles." She said it struggling to keep her grip. I backed off to let her regroup. I definitely was not going to be any good at this task.
"So what do you do that you can just take off, and get away with that beautiful long hair." I had forgotten to mention I had a hell of a lot more hair than she did. It was the early seventies after all.
"Ah the hair is a remnant of my failed college experience, I haven't settled into anything just yet. I'm just on the kind of journey that people write books about. Maybe I will do that." I waited a couple of minutes then asked, "So what do you do?"
"I'm a nurse. I work in the ER at the local hospital."
"Ah an angel of Mercy. I like that." I smiled at her. It was the smile that did it. Hell maybe it was the hair she kept staring at. No matter what it was, I could see her visibly relax.
"Hardly an angel."
"Now I like that even better." The obvious flirty remark convinced her to lighten up a little more. It wasn't until I was deep into dinner, and she had finished the single piece of chocolate cake she had ordered, that she began to really open up. It seemed that the divorce was not going well at all.