The Soup of the Day

The pine straw had just been spread in a layer over the new plant beds. I stared proudly at the completion of my landscape renovation. Beautiful Ligustrum plants fifty or so in total would grow quickly and provide a privacy screen from two adjoining properties. A path beckoning and inviting was created that led to an old fashioned wooden swing, Hammock and a private peaceful hidden garden spot. Blueberry bushes were planted sporadically throughout the property. They added an interesting smell that complemented the native honeysuckle.

I poured my brother and i a glass of iced tea to cool down from the hot, humid Virginia morning. The newly completed patio makeover included wood posts, lattice & new plantation style furniture. The trickle of the fountain and the shade of the patio eased the excessive heat, and made for a pleasant few moments.

Suddenly a rumble and horrid roar erupted from the neighbor’s property, and Kent and I rushed to find out what the culprit were. It reared its ugly head just above the newly planted shrubbery. It was a frightening sight, its beastly shadow encroaching upon us. After sputtering, gasping and roaring through the grass of the neighbor’s back yard, it came to a stop. It was 20 foot long and 12 feet tall. It was we speculated later, the single ugliest beast of its species. Kent and I looked on in shock as my neighbors new Recreational Vehicle was parked facing my house and towering above my new landscape.

Kustom Kampers, with air-cooled Kab…. The cheesy logo on the side screamed. The lettering perfectly sized to be seen from my patio 25 feet away. Awesome! Taking in to account, my neighbors history with mechanical objects in his yard, I knew this would join the legion of riding mowers, cars and miscellaneous motorized items on wheels that never moved again. This was the first of many such follies.

Southeast Virginia is a world unto itself, a land where fancy words like zoning enforcement don’t have much meaning, at least not to the locals. To understand it is to comprehend a backwards universe where BBQ is served chopped to smithereens and topped with a clear vinegar and cole slaw not sauce, and always referred to as a pig picking. The region is full of Wonderful people and is a great area if you enjoy heat and humidity. And water, long referred to as Tidewater, until some fancy type tried to regionalize it by calling it Hampton Roads, a nautical/ civil war reference. Millions of advertising dollars and Chamber of Commerce efforts later, everyone still refers to it as Tidewater. There is however something inherently right about a place that stops traffic and raises a bridge for ships to pass along the intercostal waterway. Especially since no one complains, or seems to be in a hurry.

Look up: Good old boys in the dictionary and you have an accurate snapshot of the lifestyle of Southeastern Virginia.

The lifestyle and the people I came to peace with, and learned to enjoy. I also eventually warmed up to my neighbor. He was indeed a good person, and a constant source of humor. Saunders Wyrick was his name. He loved engines and he loved North Carolina the state of his birth.

He would speak of going to Carolina as though he were being called home by god. Mind you it were confusing when he did so even when driving the 5 miles from home to the border town of Moyock, simply to buy cigarettes and avoid Virginia sales tax. He spoke of Rockingham where the raceway was located, as though it were the pearly gates. I read books, he read user manuals, We had nothing in common.

He had an old boat; he loved to fish in the Chesapeake Bay. He often tried to convince me to join him. Something about the thought of being stranded at sea with Saunders, kept my feet planted on the ground. The boat had more patches than an old inner tube on a kids 1960’s bicycle.

He invited me to many fish fries, I nearly accepted on one occasion. I later found out from friends that the heavenly fish he was to serve at the fish fry were actually bait fish. “I got a mess of spot and croakers Kevin.” He would call over the fence. I somehow managed to avoid them for the time I were his neighbor.

None the less, we were neighborly and helped one another when called upon. One weekend I was called out-of-town and he insisted he would keep an eye on our dogs. I was hesitant since he didn’t care much for his own. He subscribed to the southern tradition of a dog box in the back of his truck. Somehow the thought of my groomed cocker spaniels in a dog box didn’t seem to fit.

After repeated offers and fearing I might alienate him or hurt his feelings, I accepted and offered a nice dinner out for him and his wife upon our return. He was generally appreciative and mentioned he loved a good steak. “You know like they have at Golden Corral.” I shuddered and offered an alternate spot that was local and specialized in prime rib. We agreed and made plans for the dinner to occur.

He and his wife showed up at my door dressed in their Sunday best. I had never seen Saunders without a hat before this occasion. He was a cross between Elvis and Liberace, the pompadour standing tall like a proud parrot. His Boots matched his leather jacket which was bathed in Old spice or mothballs; I’m still not sure to this day. The Mrs. was a very nice cross between Loretta Lynn and Mortica Adams.

We made our way to the Courthouse café. I was thankful it was both small and even more thankful dimly lit.We were seated immediately and ordered drinks. Saunders and his wife were kind, and a lot of fun. I was admonishing myself for my thoughts that it might be a dreadful evening.

We had a discussion explaining the difference between Prime Rib, and Prime USDA beef, “like they served at the Golden Corral.” Where he pointed out, it was all you could eat. I tried to make the analogy that a double wide trailer, was still a trailer. I finally convinced him to try the Prime Rib. I was feeling like an elitist ass. And Glad that we had settled on an entrée choice.

We studied the menu further and waited for the waitress. She arrived and took our order. We settled on Salads and the Prime rib.

Saunders leaned closer to me and he said, “You know Kevin, I would order the Soup du jour (He pronounced it: dewjer) but damn, no matter where I go it’s different every damn time.”


~ by onthedarkside on December 2, 2010.

4 Responses to “The Soup of the Day”

  1. Surprise ending. I like that. I actually laughed out loud, Kevin. Neighbors shape our lives don’t they?

  2. Kev, this is one of your best pieces of work, period. I could picture Saunder’s pompadour and the Sunday best’s outfits, they wore. Great ending too. I loved your place in VA, but I understood your angst with neigbors; school bus, etc. You went to the memory well on this one. Glad you did. Enjoyed the hell out of it!

  3. HaHa! Love this story Kevin! Yes, I do understand. A truly unique slice of American Pie down yonder, is Tidewater! Sadly the Courthouse Cafe (used to take my daughters there as toddlers for lunch) is now closed : ( It was a colection point for the Goodwill or Salvation Army for a while…but there is another little place nearby, farther down the road from the old courthouse, called The Wicked Sister’s Cafe, owned by a South Norfolk woman, run by her and her sister, hence the name. The theme is Good Witches. They have managed to P off a local (who at the possible age of 50+ still lives with or on his parents’ property) with the live folk type music on Friday nights on the patio. I hope they have cast a spell on him to sweeten him up and possibly draw him in for a brew. Will have to wait till Spring to find out. Thanks for bringing Tidewater to life so evocatively : )

  4. Very nice site!

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