Lunch (Chapter 32, Lou Grant)

13 09 2009

Chapter 32

Lunch

Rhoda and I met in the cafeteria line. I opened the door of the glass display counter and pulled out a salad plate with cottage cheese and put it on my tray.

RHODA: Cottage cheese, Lou?

LOU GRANT: The wife says I’m getting fat.  Calls me the fat hippy. I was never a hippy. Apparently I’m not as sexually attractive as I might be. The svelte shall inherit the earth.

RHODA: Oh, I find chubby men irresistible. I’m a sucker for dimples. And I get hungry thinking of all the different foods they must have eaten.”

I grunted.

RHODA: After all these years your wife is worried about your waistline?

LOU GRANT: Helen is going to Weight Watchers. She’s a re-born thin person. I was fat when we were married. I was fat when I met her. I was born fat. But like all zealots, my wife insists on rewriting history. She tells everyone that I had a twenty-eight inch waistline when we first started dating. The last time I had a twenty eight inch waistline, I was hanging for dear life off my mother’s teat.

I looked around the cafeteria.

RHODA: Something the matter?

LOU GRANT: I don’t know. Feels like something is missing.

RHODA: The laugh track?

LOU GRANT: That’s it!

Rhoda looked at me with a concerned expression on her face.

RHODA: Lou, I was just kidding.

The two of us, trays in hand, made our way across the crowded cafeteria heading for a vacant table which we managed to coral, moments before another couple with the same end in mind reached it. I growled. The other couple backed away. We sat down. I cleared the table of food-laden trays that had been left by earlier diners.

LOU GRANT: Look at this! Do they know the cost of food these days? If my dear mother, bless her soul, would see this, she’d drop dead on the spot. You could feed an army on the slop that’s left over here.

Rhoda laughed.

LOU GRANT: What’s so funny?

RHODA: Do you ever get through a day, Lou, without cursing someone?

LOU GRANT: Who me? Curse? I’m a lamb.

LAUGH TRACK

LOU GRANT: There it is.

RHODA: There’s what?

LOU GRANT: The laugh track.

RHODA: That was the air-conditioning, Lou. It just came on.

LOU GRANT: Son-of-a-bitch!

LAUGH TRACK

Rhoda shook her head as she took a seat at the table.

RHODA: You must be a joy the first thing in the morning.

LOU GRANT: An angel.

I finished clearing the table and took a seat opposite Rhoda. I dove into his cottage cheese. After a few bites I pushed the plate away.

LOU GRANT: How can anyone call that food?

RHODA: Would you like a few French fries?

LOU GRANT: Well… Just a few. A few fries wouldn’t hurt.

I stabbed at several fries with my fork and stuffed them into my mouth.

LOU GRANT: Now, that’s food.

I looked at the rest of Rhoda’s meal.

LOU GRANT: What is that you’re eating?

RHODA: Hot roast beef sandwich.

I grinned.

Rhoda looked at me, my eyes riveted to her dinner. She looked at the plate in front of her then pushed it toward me.

RHODA: You eat it, Lou. I can afford to lose a few pounds.

LOU GRANT: If you’re sure.

I pulled Rhoda’s plate toward me. I was shameless.

Rhoda wiped her mouth with a napkin and began to sip her coffee.

LOU GRANT: Nothing like a healthy diet.