“Here’s your dinner,” I said to Woodrow.
He stared at the plate in fear. “What is it?”
“It’s a sloppy Joe.”
It hit me like a stubbed toe: My kids have never eaten a sloppy Joe. “You’re kidding, right?”
He angled away from the plate. “No. It sure looks sloppy, though.”
“Wait ’til you taste it,” I said, having already sampled it and confident that it was probably the best sloppy Joe ever made in the history of poor people.
“Can’t you tell me what it is first?”
“What, you’ve been going to Chester Karras negotiating seminars? It’s a fuggin’ sloppy Joe, the finest cuisine known to redneckdom. It’s cheap hamburger meat grilled in a pan and mixed with onion, green pepper, garlic, cayenne pepper, some more garlic, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, a bit of garlic, and tomato sauce.”
“That sounds nasty.” He sniffed the plate. “How do I eat it?”
“With a fuggin’ fork, for fuck’s sake! Sloppy Joe days used to be the best day on the school lunch menu back at ol’ Jane Long Junior High. That is some good eatin’!” I cut off a slab of toasted wheat hamburger bun that was groaning under the weight of the sloppy and jammed it in my mouth. “MMMMM, mmmm!” I said. And it was awesome. There is nothing like the rubberized gnawing on cheap ground beef to take you back to your childhood.
He cut off a tiny corner and placed it on his fork, then he sniffed it and carefully put it into his mouth. I waited for him to swallow and got ready to enjoy the explosion of satisfaction on his skeptical face. He swallowed. “Well?” I said triumphantly.
He cut off a slightly larger piece and ate it. “It’s okay,” he said.
“Okay? That’s it? Here you’re eating dog’s gift to American poor folks cuisine, loaded with ketchup and cheap fatty gristle meat smothered in ketchup with extra ketchup and the best you can say is ‘It’s okay’?”
He ate some more. “It’s not bad, Dad. Really.”
“Let me tell you something, Mr. It’s Not Bad Dad Really. I got a friend who is a fuggin’ expert at taking sloppy, messed up shit and turning it into filet mignon.”
“Really?” He knew what filet mignon was = I’ve failed as a parent.
“What’s his name?”
“Charon. Charon Smith.”
“That’s a funny name.”
“He’s a funny guy.”
“You throw him into a nasty, messy, sloppy, fucked up shark tank of idiots and supercharged bad bike handlers and he pounds the motherfuckers into a smooth slurry of fine cuisine and slices through them like a sharp knife through a soft eyeball.”
“Gross,” he said, polishing off the sloppy and getting up to make himself a second one.
“And I’ll tell you something else,” I said. “Ol’ Charon doesn’t let it get him down when someone says It’s Not Bad Dad Really, no sir, he does not.”
“People been telling Charon that he’s a fast old fart crit finisher but he can’t road race and he can’t outsprint the pros.”
“You should have seen him on Sunday. He skipped the leaky prostate race because he knew his teammate Leadout would be with him and he did the pro race. Talk about sloppy fuggin’ Joe. There were 122 sloppy-assed idiots on the line who were messy and aggro enough to eat nails and broken glass.”
“Hundred dollar primes, also known a biker chum. But Charon didn’t give a damn.”
“Nope. He hung on for ninety minutes while the shrapnel flew, the body parts banged, the shit stains squirted, and everyone threw a Hail Mary pass every five minutes.”
“Then what?” The second sloppy Joe was much reduced.
“He took all that sloppy shit and cleaned it up with one whisk of his snot rag. Blew through the youngsters so fast that instead of cash primes, next time they’ll be offering those tykes diaper primes. He won by a country mile, clean as a whistle.”
Woodrow scraped up the last of the sloppy and licked his fork. Twice. “Sounds like an awesome dude.”
“Damn straight,” I said. The plate, it sparkled.
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