Friday, August 22, 2008

Well, Shut My Mouth!

I look around me and count no less than three hundred tourists waiting for a table at tiny Barbara Jean's Cafe on St. Simons Island. The gods must be smiling on me, for I've managed somehow to snag a table. Joining me for lunch is Doris, Babe's Yankee cousin and her equally Yankee friend, Ginger. They're here on a mini-snowbird visit.
"Well! If this isn't the cutest, most awesome little cafe!" exclaims Ginger. She bats her mascared eyes without ever looking around or seeing even the first thing.

Fighting like cats and dogs, the two of them have been trying to out-do and out-talk each other since they arrived. I haven't opened my mouth in so long I've forgotten what my voice sounds like.

During a sudden lull, I quickly jump in and speak so fast it sounds like Pig Latin. "Everything on the menu is delicious. Barbara Jean never learned how to cook bad food."

Two sets of batting eyes stare back at me as though trying to figure out who I am and what I am doing seated at their table. But after a moment of silence, they resume their talkathon with mouths flapping and hands flying every which away.

Our waitress, obviously on her last nerve, lets out a Titanic sigh when Ginger says, "Listen, Hon! I got this recipe off the Internet the other day. You'll love it. Chop two large green onions tops and all and marinate them in grape jelly and . . ."

I tune out and shake my head at the young woman waiting to take our order. "Come back in a few years," I suggest.

Then, as if there are no other people in the restaurant, Doris's voice breaks the sound barrier. "Oh, shut UP!" she yells good-naturedly.

"No, YOU shut up!" Ginger replies, then they high-five each other and shout, "Awesome," in unison.

Before their Yankeeness can become a catalyst for the Southern diners to remember Fort Sumter and take revenge, I grab Doris by the arm and threaten to pinch her till she's cyanotic.

"Simmer down!"

"What for?" My cousin-in-law finally appears to recognize me.

"Because you sound like a couple of sixty-five year old displaced Valley Girls, that's why. You're too loud."

"This is how we always talk. What's wrong with that?"

I must have been crazy to think I could take these two out in public.

Ignoring my rebuke, Ginger pipes up with, "Ohmygod, look at this! Totally awesome."

I totally hate that word, but my natural inquisitiveness demands a peek at the menu item to which Ginger is pointing. It's today's special: Pork chops, black-eyed peas, collard greens. Yum.

"You people don't actually eat this stuff, do you?"

This is such a bad dream. Please God, when can I wake up?

"Oh, that's nothing," shouts Doris. "They even eat hog jowls and something called chitlins."

These people? I bury myself in the menu, scanning it for Anti-Yankee Soup. I am willing to sell my soul for a double order if they can bring it to me soon.

Ginger cries, "Awesome!" again and bobs her head of dyed red hair. Not many people know this, but Ginger's hair was the motivating factor behind the Chia pet.

She has a habit of batting her eyes and I can't decide if it's a case of near-sightedness or the ten coats of mascara pulling at her lids. In contrast, Doris doesn't wear any makeup, although a full day behind Elizabeth Arden's Red Door wouldn't do her any harm.

The two of them, best friends for years, are the spitting image of Lucy and Ethel. In addition to their loud mouths, they are both highly competitive and proudly hold the "One-Up Title." Jointly, of course

"Cappy, I've got a killer recipe for rhubarb pie. It's better than Ginger's."

"E-mail it to me," I say, holding back the urge to exclaim, "Ooh! You people don't actually eat that stuff, do you?" Obviously, she has no idea that rhubarb is not what you'd call a Southern staple.

Ginger interjects. "No need for E-mail, Honey. Doris is the American Express woman. She never leaves home without her recipe file."

My husband's cousin travels with her recipes? Gene Pool Alert!

Doris shoots eye daggers at Ginger who says, "Cappy, I re-named my dog Zucchini. Now when I feed him spaghetti, he starts singing Puccini." She takes a deep breath, settles back in her chair and fans away a hot flash with the menu from which she is never going to order.

The aroma of good food is making my stomach growl so loud that people at the next table look around for Ginger's singing dog. The waitress, engaged in a head-to-head with the security guard is gesturing towards our table.

"Well, that's nothing. My cat, Esmerelda, can open doors," Doris counters with a smug look that crosses the table and one-ups Ginger right smack in the kisser.

"ANY door?" I ask, my eyes fixed on the exit.

"Yepper. She just crawls up there, turns the knob and lets herself out."

I push my chair back. "Y'all excuse me, okay? I need to wash my hands."

I turn the corner and stride right past the Ladies Room on my way out the back door. I don't need Esmerelda to open it for me and I'll bet you a Cuban Cigar that Lucy and Ethel will never miss me.

Written by: Cappy Hall Rearick